Sunday, December 31, 2006

A no-gimmick New Year Eve

My ears are telling me that they would appreciate some peace. Crowds and noises are undesirable in my opinion. As such, other than getting myself a hair-cut in the later part of the day, most of the day today was spent at home.

I spent quite a bit of time practising on the double bass today working on G Major scales for much of the time. The G Major scales proved to come in very handy when I started to practise on my parts for the P.I. Tchaikovsky's Neapolitanian Dance (from Swan Lake) that I will be playing for the upcoming concert on 10 Jan 2007. There are some very challenging parts in that work, and practices do matter.

In addition, I work on my parts for I. Berlin's Ragtime. My objective was to memorise the solo part that my double bass part has, and to play it from memory. It was quite a satisfying practice.

The greatest challenge was perhaps to figure out how to play Dragonetti's Solo in e minor. My goal was to work out as much of it as possible on my own before I go for lessons with my double bass tutor. I figured that if I could try to accomplish as much of the technical details on my own, more of my lessons could be spent on learning to play the Solo in e minor musically.

At the back of my mind, I am aware that I appear to be a little behind time where preparations for the diploma practical exams are concerned. That makes me feel undecided if I should sit for the exams this August/ September or if I should do so only next May. I still have to work on playing three other works, preferably one each from the Baroque, Romantic and contemporary period. Then again, because Dragonetti's Solo in e minor is so demanding, I suppose if I were to manage it, I am almost one-third done?

Another thing on the back of my mind is whether I should play Kepyer's Romance & Rondo or Dragonetti's Solo in e minor. Both works are from the Classical period, and I would prefer not to play two works from the same era for the exams.

Romance & Rondo is generally less demanding technically than Solo in e minor, except that I have to work on making sure that I can be competent in playing the many passages in Romance & Rondo that require the use of harmonics.

On the other hand, Dragonetti's Solo in e minor is interesting in its own way. It does sound more difficult than it actually is. Having said so, some passages from Solo in e minor are very challenging and demanding to play for my level, be it technically or musically. If I could play this work well, my performance will likely awe the examiners listening to it. But if I were to play this, I will need lots of time to practice.

So here is my no-gimmick New Year Eve, with me spending the day and the evening practising. In the evening, I spent some time doing a page from a past-year music theory paper. I confess that I would prefer sitting down to analyse the works that I have been practising than doing past-year music theory papers. Then again, I suppose I have to do things one step at a time, i.e. to build a good foundation in music theory before I can have the skills to analyse the works on my own.

Meantime, wishing all of you good health and fulfillment for the New Year.

In case you wonder what you could do on New Year's Day, you might like to know that there will be free admission to several museums tomorrow. Check this URL:

Countdown Party @ the National Museum

If you aren't sure what to do for tonight, and you greatly wish to be part of a countdown party, do consider the National Museum of Singapore as a possible option. There are some interesting programmes lined up for all at the museum.

For one thing, the Project Bandaloop will be performing live there tonight. I watched its inspiring and fascinating performances yesterday at the museum, and have blogged about it right here: Project Bandaloop at the National Museum of Singapore. Please check it out.

You may also wish to read a post on the Countdown Party @ the National Museum found on

Taking photos of the chickens

(Nov 2006, Hainan)

I noticed something at the village of Hainan. The chickens were allowed to run wild! Actually, the word "wild" may not be the most appropriate word to use. The village is fairly secluded by itself and even if the chickens were to run away from their respective owners, there isn't anywhere to run to. Furthermore, I noticed that the families who own a great number of chickens would have dogs who help keep a watch of the chickens.

In addition, I think one good thing about living in this village of Hainan is that everyone knows everyone else in the village, and there is this sense of integrity not to take someone else's chicken without permission. All the chickens that you would see in the photos to come belong to a family that lives nearby my grandmother.

Perhaps because the chickens were allowed to exercise and run about, they did run pretty fast. Initially, whenever I tried to get close to any of the chicken to take a photo of it, the chicken would run away very fast. I suspect that the regular exercises that they had due to being able to run about freely had helped the chickens develop strong leg muscles for running away. As such, I initially had quite a difficult time "chasing after" the chickens to take photographs of them.

One fine day, however, I noticed that the chickens were attracted to the fairly large amount of leftover-food that was discarded at a particular spot near my grandmother's house. Initially, they ran away. After the while, perhaps they realised that I was of no harm, they just simply stayed and enjoyed their feast while I take photographs of them. Then again, were the chickens so afraid that the food may be eaten up by other chickens that they decided that they should eat their fill first than to run away?

Whatever it is, I was glad that I could finally get close enough to the chickens and take photos of them. Initially, I only used non-flash photography. However, when I tried to use flash photography and realised that the chickens weren't afraid of flash, I happily took photographs of the chickens with flash.

The next part of the story that revolves around the chickens is that of identifying whether a chicken is a castrated rooster, a non-castrated rooster or a hen.

I was told by both my aunt and my dad that in that part of the world, the meat from a castrated rooster is regarded as quite a favourite dish. Supposedly, the meat from a castrated rooster has a nice texture and taste to it, compared to the meat from a hen and normal rooster. Yet, perhaps breeding is necessary for the propagation of the chicken breed, non-castrated rooster will continue to exist. So does the hen.

My dad told me that one way to differentiate a castrated rooster from a non-castrated one is to look at its comb. While a castrated rooster has a comb, its comb is usually not as red and big as a non-castrated rooster.

Right below are photos of two respective chickens, try to identify which one is the castrated rooster.

The truth is, I don't really have the answer. However, my dad agreed with me that the chicken in the second photo should be a castrated rooster.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Yummy peanuts

(Hainan 2006)

The peanuts from the Hainan village also tasted very good. Fresh, that is the word. Crunchy too. When the peanuts were shelled and roasted, they tasted fragrant. I cannot help but to do justice to the yummy peanuts by writing a short post on the peanuts.

Being hospitable, my aunts offered to roast fresh peanuts for my parents and myself to take back to Singapore. How lovely of them!

In order to prepare the fresh roasted peanuts for us, my aunt and my paternal grandmother had to remove the shells of the peanuts. After which, I realised that there is actually a lot of care being put into making these roasted peanuts. When I helped out with the removal of the shells of the peanuts, I realised that after the shells were removed, the peanuts which were of too small a size were being removed as well. According to one of my aunts, because of their size, the peanuts that are too small tend to get burnt during the process of roasting. Indirectly, their being burnt would affect the taste of the general batch of peanuts.

Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is: The small things do matter.

Fresh vegetables

(Hainan 2006)

One thing I particularly like about my visit to the Hainan village (the hometown of my father) was that I had the privilege to eat fresh vegetables for every meal when I was there.

I was told that the vegetables that I had eaten there were mostly grown by hand by my relatives on a plot of land. The vegetables there are one of the freshest I have eaten. I heard from my relatives that no chemical was used to cultivate these vegetables. Home-grown food tasted good.

My liking for the vegetables there could clearly be seen at the dining table. For every meal, I would help myself to extra helping of the vegetables. I suppose having the access to fresh vegetables, right from the fields, can be quite a privilege to city-dwellers like myself? However, fresh vegetables really taste good. My wishful thinking is telling me: perhaps in time to come, every home in the city could have access to a small plot of land to grow their own vegetables?

The ride back to the house

11 Nov 2006, Hainan:

After a morning at the town, we took a similar three-wheels-lorry back to the house. Perhaps of the brighter sunlight in the later part of the morning, the photographs of my ride back to the village turned out more colourful than the ones that I had taken on my journey to the village.

When I was just outside the house, it felt heartwarming to see my paternal grandmother sitting next to the main door, greeting us with a smile. While I realised that I was not too used to living in the village, I like the architecture of the house and its generally tranquil environment.

11 Nov 2006: At the nearby town

(Hainan 2006)

On the morning of 11 Nov 2006, my relatives, my parents and I took a ride to the nearby town.

The vehicles in the suburbs and the rural areas of Hainan appeared to be works of improvisation. Look at the photo of the vehicles below. They appeared to be a cross between a motorcycle and a umbrella-like frame.

I was feeling hungry by the time we reached the nearby town. As such, I felt very glad that my uncle led us to a shop that sells beef noodles. We had breakfast there.

I noticed that instead of using fresh beef, dried beef was used. I wonder if the use of dried beef was due to the lack of availability of fresh beef in the district or the fact that the folks at the town prefer dried beef. Anyway, the dried beef tasted nice because of the spices that were used to marinate it.

After the breakfast, my aunt, uncle led us about the town. There were quite a number of constructions going on in the town. I took particular notice of people selling live ducklings and chickens along the streets. Such scenes are non-existent in Singapore now.

I realised that I was one of the few people on the streets who had a camera and was taking photographs. As such, there were many times that the passerbys turned their heads round to look at me.

I heard that these are the ploughs pulled by the bulls in the fields.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lunch with a German flavour

Before the double bass rehearsal yesterday, I had lunch with Emily and XM at Paulaner Bräuhaus. It prides itself as Singapore's only German microbrewery and restaurant. It is located at Millenia Walk, but I found it easier to walk to the restaurant from Suntec Singapore.

The restaurant has a nice ambience during the daytime. What I like most is the Executive Set Lunch offered by the restaurant. This promotional executive set lunch makes lunch at Paulaner Bräuhaus so much more affordable. For the price of S$$16.95 (excludes service charge and applicable taxes), one could enjoy a two-course meal with a choice of appetiser and main course, with a soft drink. (The Executive set lunch promotion is available from 12 noon - 2:30pm, Mondays to Fridays.)

Avocado Salad with Herb Feta Cheese and Char-grilled Bell Peppers

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Grilled Scallops

Wurst Küche - Paulaner Charcoal Grilled Sausage Sampler, from the Ala Carte Menu

One of the entrées

The main dish that Emily ordered

For the appetizer, I ordered the Creamy Asparagus Soup with Grilled Scallops. It was a nice combination and I love the warmness of the soup. Emily allowed me to try the Avocado Salad that she had ordered. I like the taste of avocado.

I ordered the German Home-style Chicken "Gröstl" and the sides that came along with it. However, I realised that I would have preferred my main dish to come with some green sides. As such, while I did finish every single bit of my main dish, I had wished I had ordered something else. I sampled some bites from the main dish that Emily ordered, and it was good! I like the texture of the rice croquette.

To end the meal sweet, we ordered and shared a Rote Grütze. The description for this dessert goes as such: "Traditional red wine stewed mixed berries
Served with vanilla ice cream". I love the mixed berries for their texture and bursting berry-flavour.

Emily overheard that the Grilled Pork Knuckle from Paulaner Bräuhaus is one of the recommended dishes. If I have a chance to dine there again, that shall be something I would consider trying.

With its cosy and quiet ambience, generally friendly service and the affordable lunch sets, I think Paulaner Bräuhaus is one good place to have lunch at, especially on special occasions. You can check out its website for more information:

Contact details:
Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore
9 Raffles Boulevard,
Time² @ Millenia Walk,
Singapore 039596
For enquiries and reservations, please call 6883 2572

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rehearsal today

The double bass ensemble rehearsed today. We had taped a segment of it down so that we can review our playing and work on improving our item. *Em* has posted the video clip on YouTube.

Quoting Emz: "Do come for the concert."

Here are the details:

A Journey Through Time
By NUS Symphony Orchestra
Wed, 10 Jan 2007, 7.30 p.m.
NUS Theatrette, Lecture Theatre 13 (LT13)
Free Admission

Also see:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The unseen, but the important

I have heard a Chinese saying that goes: "Tai2Shang4 Yi4Fen1Zhong1, Tai2Xia4 Shi2Nian2Gong1", which literally means "one minute on stage requires ten years of hard work backstage".

I could fully appreciate the meaning behind this saying today. We were rehearsing for the double bass quartet programme that will be performed on 10 Jan 2007. The entire programme that we were to put up on that day will be approximately 7 minutes in duration. However, we have at least rehearsed 4 hours today for our programme, and we will be having more rehearsals.

But the eventual product is not just a result of all the hours of rehearsals that we have had as a double bass quartet. The many other hours that we had spent individually to play scales, to play studies, to learn to be more proficient in playing the instrument, to learn to listen, to learn to play as an ensemble, etc, all contributes to the end product. It is humbling to know this.

The things unseen on the stage, can be the more important elements that we may often fail to give due credits to. Behind the scene, there could be unsung heroes (for example the tutors who have taken time to coach and guide us). Unseen to the audience, there are the many hours of hard work and refinement.

Perhaps in our lives, there could be many things unseen from the surface? Only if we were to become more aware, could we realise that what were unseen could have been the more important ones? What are some examples that come to your mind as you read this post?

Meantime, I wish I could have more time to practise and work on what will not be seen by audience, but will matter to my playing and my performance. It is very satisfying to play music well.

(On my mind: How to make the best out of the next rehearsal?)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas day out

Before meeting my friends, SH and JY, I went to check out the PageOne bookstore at VivoCity, Singapore. It was my very first time visiting VivoCity. In the morning at about 11 a.m., it was still a bearable place to be in. I managed to get myself a book containing double bass solo from the store. Thanks to Emz for giving me the tip about PageOne.

We had lunch at Food Republic, at VivoCity. I have SH and JY to thank for they were obliging to my request to try out the Food Republic. I somehow had a craving for the Thunder Rice Tea, and I knew beforehand that there was an outlet selling Thunder Rice Tea there. If you were to ask me, I would still prefer the Thunder Rice Tea outlet at China Square. The prices are cheaper at the China Square outlet. Furthermore, I find the Thunder Rice Tea set served at VivoCity quite oily for my taste.

After lunch, we walked about VivoCity a bit and took some photos. By that time, I could notice that there was quite a bit of a crowd at VivoCity.

Later, we had refreshments at Hong Kong Kim Gary Restaurant and had some time catching up with one another. It has been a pleasure to be in company of friends. I got to find out today that SH is a Hainanese, like myself.

Around 2 p.m., we parted for the day. I went to check out PageOne. PageOne just felt like one of the quieter corners of VivoCity, and I badly needed a respite from the crowd and the noise.

While VivoCity struck me as an impressive mega-mall with fairly interesting retail shops, it was way too crowded today for my liking and comfort. the architecture felt impressive and intuitive. However, the acoustic of the place just felt not right. I felt as if all the noises and sounds in the building had been magnified such that my ears felt rather uncomfortable while I was in the building. The noises seemed to made me feel unwell after too much exposure to it. Reflecting, I am beginning to suspect that too much exposure to noises can make me feel sick. If I were to visit VivoCity again, I shall try to visit it during the non-peak hours.

Later in the afternoon, I visited my grandmother. Maybe the noises had gotten me unwell? I felt quite drained that I asked to take a nap at my grandmother's place.

Dinner was good. Home-cooked food by my grandmother has made dinner a good one.

Meantime, hope your Christmas day has been a pleasant one.

Living for Fridays, barely: Kurt Wenner - google eye extraordinaire

Sometime ago, I have put up posts related to Kurt Wenner's works. If you are keen to see his works, you may wish to know that his recent work will be on display at the National Museum of Singapore till the end of Dec 2006.

Viv & Chewie have a good post about Kurt Wenner's work. Do check out the post here: Kurt Wenner - google eye extraordinaire

About a week ago, I saw Kurt Wenner working on one of his recent work at the museum. A week later, the work has been completed and is put on display. Do check it out if you happen to be near the museum.

Also check out:
Veron's post: Kurt Wenner at the National Museum

The ride to a nearby town

(Hainan 2006)

11 Nov 2006

After a night of rest at the Hainan village, I woke up, greeted by fresh air full of morning dew. In the morning, there could be so much dew that it is common for the villagers to wear a cap when they are outdoors in the morning.

Being a guest, I had not much clue what would be the plans for the day. I only knew that my parents and myself would be heading for the city of Haikou (in Hainan) after lunch that day.

I felt delighted to hear that we would be travelling to a nearby small town for breakfast. The fascinating part was that we would be taking a mode of transport that I have not seen in Singapore, but appeared to be a common mode of transport for the villagers in that part of Hainan. Please pardon me, I don't know what exactly it is called, but I have a photo of it to show you.

The vehicle looked like a lorry, but it had three wheels only. When the lorry passed by near the house, someone flagged for the lorry and it stopped. I had the privilege to sit next to the driver. A ride on this vehicle from the village to the nearby small town would cost 1 RMB (about S$0.20) per person.

It felt a little bumpy riding on the vehicle, but it was quite a thrill for me because of the novelty. I could not help acting like an ignorant tourist snapping away photographs of the sceneries that I saw on the ride.

If you should find this post interesting, please stay tune for more accounts of my Hainan trip.