Monday, June 30, 2008

Celebrating bloggers

According to the write-up at, "Studies have shown that seven out of 10 Internet users in Singapore writes a blog." Alright, I am one of those who writes a blog.

I am relieved to know that my blog isn't one of the nominees. Admittedly, I prefer to shy away from glamour and attention. On the other hand, I do appreciate readers telling me that they enjoy reading my writing especially those about my walks about various places.

On the side, to find out who are the nominees, I checked out every nominees on the list. Here's listing down the blogs on the nomination list that I personally read almost everyday, if not, at least from time to time:

Lion City. Jaymes 007
Good Morning Yesterday

Congratulations to the above-mentioned blogs for being nominated. Considering that there are so many bloggers in Singapore (according to the studies), it is in itself a privilege to be nominated the top 10 blogs of any category.

For anyone who is keen to blog for any of the nominated blogs, simply click the following button to be directed to the voting site:

Voting is opened from 30 Jun 2008 to 31 Jul 2008. I read that "Everyone is entitled to cast ONE vote in EACH category EVERYDAY!"

Let's see who are the bloggers who clinch the awards in the end.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Week 26 of year 2008 on the double bass

22 Jun 2008, Sun: It was a rainy day and poor health kept me indoors. Somehow, it felt like a practice day for me. I was in the momentum to practise. I managed to work through most of the cadenza written by Ludwig Streicher of the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. I also spent time practising the first and second movement of the concerto. It is a concerto that I have a liking for, and I could consider playing it for DipLCM if I could find other suitable pieces to play for DipLCM.

In the evening, I practised the first movement of Capuzzi's Concerto in F. The concerto sounds so much richer when played in the key of F major as compared to the key of D major.

After hearing my tutor playing an extract from the first movement of Bottesini's Second concerto last Thursday, I am inspired to purchase a copy of the scores to practise playing it myself. Here's a rendition of Bottesini's Second Concerto by Robert Ryan Ashley.

Bottesini Concerto No. 2 Bottesini for Double Bass. Performed by Robert Ryan Ashley on January 17, 2008 with UCLA Philharmonia Orchestra.

23 Jun 2008, Mon: I continued to practise the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. Prior to that, I was playing a few tunes from Hartley's Double Bass Book 1. Eventually, the bugging headache got me to stop before my head protests.

25 Jun 2008, Wed: It has been a while since I have double bass sectional with Mr GM, and like every lesson with him, his lesson inspires. He shared with me concepts of tuning the double bass such as listening for the intervals between octaves and fifths, and about harmonics. He even shared why electronic music while can be very perfect in intonation and rhythm, just sound not right. When playing on acoustic instruments, musicians often strive for perfection yet there is no absolute mechanical perfection. Strangely, I inferred that there is beauty in imperfection.

It has been enriching and exciting to learn from him during the sectional for he has the gift of making seemingly not-too-difficult orchestra parts come alive. He shared with me the possibilities of producing more interesting music simply by getting me to pay more attention to aspects such as articulation and dynamics. We spent the entire sectional working on Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" Overture and there was a lot to learn. I won't realise that the traditional way to play a particular passage is to use the sul ponticello technique (play below the bridge). It was enlightening when he told me so. Many thanks to Mr GM for his guidance.

Mr F conducted the orchestra rehearsal that followed after the double bass sectional. We played Rossini's The Thieving Magpie Overture and "The Barber of Seville" Overture, Smetana's The Moldau, and an arrangement of tunes from the movie Schindler's List. I have a liking for melancholic tunes and the music from Schindler's List just continued to ring in my ears. Hopefully, we would play these work for our upcoming concert in September. Mr F conducted in slightly different styles compared to our Resident Conductor. While I prefer a more reserved and refined style, it felt exciting to experience a different approach to music.

26 Jun 2008, Thu: During double bass lesson with MJ, I have got to work on the cadenza of the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. I prefer the second movement to the first movement of this concerto. MJ showed me how to play the arpeggio section that involves use of harmonics.

MJ also demonstrated to me how to play Osborne's Gargoyles. Hopefully I would soon learn how to play contemporary pieces at sight just like MJ did. I was impressed.

27 Jun 2008, Fri: I spent some time practising on the double bass particularly to work on the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto.

28 Jun 2008, Sat: It was a special day as I have a kind listener in Eastcoastlife. I think I would still need to practise more so as to achieve a level of playing that would capture the hearts of any listener.

It seemed that Eastcoastlife likes the first movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. I wish I wasn't struggling with some of the passages technically so that I could play the entire movement for her without much glitch. The answers to overcome the technical difficulties would be more rounds of effective practice to achieve better playing.

Thanks to Eastcoastlife for taking the time to listen. Many thanks to her and her husband for the treat to dinner at Al Forno thereafter though they should not have. The food there tastes flavourful. I've found out that the sauces were made by hand, and the pizzas are fire-baked over wood.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Music theory classes

I am glad that I have taken the initiative to take up music theory classes. My initial plans about three years ago was just to study some music theory so that I could at least understand what are cadences and to understand the concepts of harmony so that I could get by the aural tests during Grade 8 music practical. I didn't even plan to take up Grade 6 music theory exams when I first took up the music theory classes.

With the encouragement of my music theory tutor, I have not only passed Grade 6 music theory with Merit, but I have went on to study music theory at Grade 7 and Grade 8 level. This evening I was discussing with my music theory tutor whether to sit for the Grade 8 music theory exams this November or next year's March. I may be able to secure a pass if I sit by this November but I would not be sure if I would learn my concepts well enough if I were to rush doing all the past year's exam papers. Next year's March seemed a more comfortable option unless I wish to get the Grade 8 Music Theory certificate earlier.

During the discussion with my music theory tutor this evening, it struck me that giving music theory classes for grades higher than Grade 5 appear to be a niche market itself. Strangely, I was told that in Singapore, there are lesser people studying music theory beyond Grade 5 level than the people studying music (practical) beyond Grade 5. Whatever it is, reflecting, I am glad that I had taken the step to study music theory beyond Grade 5.

I am most pleased that learning music theory has helped me better appreciate the music that I am playing and listening to now. Music makes more sense and becomes more interesting to me because I could better see how the various elements such as harmony, melody, dynamics, form etc could affect how a piece of music composition would sound. I also noticed that I have greater confidence to analyse the music that I am playing on my own. I believe to much extent, having a deeper understanding of the music has helped me be a more competent music performer.

While I don't think I would be keen to give music theory classes (at least not at present), but I am glad that I have a professional and competent music theory tutor who have encouraged and guided me to achieve more than what I have imagined I could do. Many thanks to my music theory tutor.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ripping apart

For the past few days, I have been feeling the sensation of having knots in the guts and a feeling that I am ripping apart. Admittedly, I have been feeling very frustrated of late. The sense of mismatch and out-of-sync could have probably contributed to the feelings of frustrations.

My body seems to be trying to send signals to me. I have yet to make some sense of what my body is trying to tell me. I wish to hear the message that's deep down.

Pardon me if you hear me singing out loud. I have found that this is one way that helps to bring me some relief from that sense of pain and feelings of being ripped apart. *And I sing*

I am trying to bend and not break, even though I sense that I may be reaching the breaking point soon. I wonder if the recent challenges are merely to let me know that I can be stronger than I think I am? At the same time, I am careful not to push myself more than my limits could bear.

Thank you to those who have offered your kindness and listening ears.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time with the elders

A few days ago, I took time out to have lunch with my maternal grandmother who's now living alone. After the lunch, as she was looking for a piece of furniture, I gladly accompanied her out.

Strangely, what seemed to be quite easy for me, i.e. to travel about places in Singapore, particularly the Suntec City and Marina Square area, could proved to be a challenge for my elderly grandmother. She was trying to find her bearings throughout our journey. Then again, she seemed delighted to be out.

Perhaps setting time aside to spend with the elders could mean more to them than we could realise?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Speech by Steve Jobs in 2005

While I was visiting Angel's blog, I came across an inspiring speech by Steve Jobs in 2005 which Angel posted on one of her posts: Friday's Speech. Angel has included a transcript by Satjayeet Singh from India of this very speech.

I find it a very inspiring and encouraging speech that puts life into broader perspective. I hope to find what I love in life, and I shall keep looking. May I have the courage to follow my heart and intuition.

Thank you Angel for posting it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The power of a call

This afternoon while taking a break after a long practice session, I received a unexpected pleasant call from a good friend who had called from miles away. I'm pleased to know that she is happy with what she is doing now, and to hear from her.

She said that it is more cordial to call than to email. She proved to be right. I am touched to hear from her. I have been more comfortable in writing than using phone, yet her friendly gesture reminded me how powerful a phone call could be. It brought timely support when I needed some.

Thank you XS for your call. Good luck to you and take care.

One of the plans for the year is to make time to visit her in the land down under. May the plan be realised.

Pain relief

Experiencing pain.
Pain relief was taken
Yet it is taking a while to take effect
How does one bend and not break?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Week 25 of year 2008 on the double bass

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

15 Jun 2008, Sun: I practised one sight-reading exercise. This was followed by practising selected passages from the first and second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Concerto for the Double Bass.

Inspirations may be needed. I felt I needed to work more to be moved by the music that I have played. In hope to listen to how others play this concerto, I listened to a video on YouTube.

18 Jun 2008, Wed: The orchestra rehearsal started by rehearsing Smetana's The Moldau. I had played this work several years ago. It was heartwarming to realise that my standard of playing has improved, allowing me to play this work with greater ease and competence.

We also rehearsed Rossini's The Thieving Magpie Overture and "The Barber of Seville" Overture.

Prior to the rehearsal, I took some time to rehearse Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto.

19 Jun 2008, Thu: During double bass lesson, I worked on the first and second movements from Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. My tutor corrected a few of my rhythmic and tempo mistakes. Now, more practice from my end.

20 Jun 2008, Fri: I seem to be in the mood to practise on the double bass. I spent more than an hour practising the first movement of Capuzzi's Concerto in F major and selected passages from the first and second movements from Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. I wish I could achieve a warmer, brighter and more resonating tone on the double bass.

21 Jun 2008, Sat: I was feeling tired after a day out. Anyway, there was sufficient motivation to practise on the double bass. I did a sight-read of one of Bach's works, and spent the remaining time reading Rachmaninov's Vocalise. My double bass proved to be easier to play on after the recent repair last month, but I still have yet to achieve the desired tone using it.

This has been a blue week for me. I am thankful that playing the double bass has brought me some moments of relief.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's weekend

The work week had been not good for my soul. Thank goodness that weekend is here.

For yours truly who detest noises, it had been an unbearable week with the drilling that has been going on near my office. Somehow, the Town Council decided that it is necessary to have even floorings. In order to achieve this, workers have been posted to drill away certain concrete floorings so that a new layer of cement can be put on to make the floor even. I dread noises and even drillings from a distance away can get on my nerves. Thankfully, I had earplugs given to me by Mistipurple to provide some relief from the noise. Otherwise, I think I would go crazy from the noise.

Work wise, there had been ups and downs. I would like a better match between the tasks that I am assigned to and my current interests. If anyone knows of a better match, please keep me in mind.

It is weekend, I hope it would be a recharging on. I am feeling as if I am on the verge of breaking down. For the past nights, I have been waking up in the middle of the night, feeling out of sync with myself and overwhelmed. These are signs of alarm to be mindful of.

My consolation is that strangely, I am now in the mood to practise on the double bass. Playing on the double bass has helped to bring life to my disintegrating soul.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thanks Misti for the ear plugs

Many thanks to Misti for the ear-filters set (Xtreme HEAROS Ear Filters) that she gave me quite a long while ago. It came in very useful today.

I worked in an office which is based right on the ground level of a residential flat in Singapore. For most of today, there was drilling just right outside the office! The thing is that the noise from any form of drilling generally irks me.
Noise, when experienced over sustained period of time can be detrimental to a person's health.

I could have walked out of the office and take a seat at the nearby hawker centre earlier today. However, this meant that I would not be able to work on the tons of paperwork waiting to be done in office. The ear-filters from Misti helped make things less miserable for me and my sensitive ears. While I could still hear the drilling noises, the volume from the drilling was filtered down by the ear-filters, making things bearable.

The only challenge was that each time I have to answer a phone call, I would have to remove the ear-filters. I was hoping that no one would call me today since it was almost impossible to hear anyone clearly when there was drilling taking place. I could only be thankful that the workers who did the drilling had to take very short breaks every now and then, perhaps because they realised that the machines needed break! I hope that the workers were given good ear-filters to wear and protect their hearing.

The next thankful thing was that there was heavy rain in the mid afternoon and the wonderful thing happened: The noise stopped! Though only for about an hour. Sigh.

Anyway, many thanks again to Mistipurple for the very useful ear-plugs. The greatest thing about them is that they come with free ear-plug cases that makes it so convenient to carry them about. I have tried many versions of ear-plugs in the market and HEAROS ear filters by far the most portable. They come in very useful to filter out noises too.

If you want to get one of these HEAROS ear filters in Singapore, they are available here:

1 Selegie Road
#B1-01 Paradiz Centre
Singapore 188306
Tel: 63381210/ 63381220

(Nearest MRT station: Dhoby Ghaut)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Retracing the footsteps of Xu Beihong

On 14 Jun 2008, I took part in the Art Tour to Hundred-Fan Studio (百扇斋艺游) organised by the Singapore Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang. The speaker of this art tour was Mr Han Tan Juan.

The tour brought its participants to retrace the footsteps of Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953) when he was in Singapore. We had the pleasure to visit Jiang Xia Tang along Lor 35 Geylang, Singapore. Jiang Xia Tang was a place where Xu Beihong had lived and worked in when he was in Singapore, particularly between 1938 - 1941.

Before the group departed for Jiang Xia Tang by bus, Mr Han showed the group about the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang, and highlighted several paintings that were worked on at Jiang Xia Tang. One of the paintings that he had highlighted was Put Down Your Whip. He gave us an account of this street drama.

Above two photos: Taken at Jiang Xia Tang.
I heard from Mr Han that there used to be coconut trees growing around Jiang Xia Tang when Xu Beihong was staying there.

At Jiang Xia Tang, which is now known as the Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Huay, Mr Han shared about how the term Jiang Xia is often associated with people with the surname Huang. In short, Jiang Xia is regarded as the Cradle of the Huang Clan. For more about this surname, I've found this online source:

Mr Han also shared with us that Xu Beihong had worked on many of his paintings in this part of the building of Jiang Xia Tang. This part of the building is located on the ground floor.

At Jiang Xia Tang. It was at this part of the building where Xu Beihong had worked on many of his paintings.

Here, he also spoke about the portrait of one of the British Governors, Sir Shenton Thomas, done by Xu Beihong. Mr Han shared with us that Xu Beihong was given the chance to do a portrait for Sir Shenton Thomas through the recommendations of Lim Boon Keng. Sir Shenton Thomas had travelled to Jiang Xia Tang for Xu Beihong to work on his portrait. I was told that Sir Shenton Thomas had left behind his ceremonial attire for a while in Jiang Xia Tang for Xu Beihong's references. This enabled Xu Beihong to paint accurately the attire of the governor. This portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas is now on display at the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore History Gallery.

Mr Han also pointed the group to the location of the bedroom that Xu Beihong had stayed in when he was at Jiang Xia Tang. Look at the photo right above, the window from the second floor was the window from Xu Beihong's room. The group was given permission to take a look at the room that Xu Beihong had stayed in.

A glimpse of the room that Xu Beihong had stayed in while he was at Jiang Xia Tang.

After Jiang Xia Tang, the bus took us to get a glimpse of the former Great Southern Hotel, popularly known in the past as Nam Tin. Mr Han shared that the Great Southern Hotel was one place that Xu Beihong had met up with his friends when he was in Singapore. No prize, but would anyone want to answer what is the current use of the location of the former Great Southern Hotel?

Our last stop for the tour was at the Victoria Concert Hall, which used to be the Victoria Memorial Hall. It was at Victoria Memorial Hall whereby Xu Beihong had held an art exhibition in the year 1939 to raise funds for the anti-Japanese efforts in China.

Many thanks to Mr Han Tan Juan for his excellent and information tour, filled with interesting anecdotes related to the great master, Xu Beihong.

For information on similar programmes organised by the Singapore Art Museum, please visit for updates.

By the way, the exhibition, Xu Beihong in Nanyang will be held till 13 July 2008. Do check it out if you have not done so.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I wish for more peace

After a draining day at work, I wish for more peace. It is noisy to be home. I miss the times when the television was switched off 24 hours a day. That may only happen if I were to live on my own. I am missing the times I have spent in Scotland too.

Seagull flying in the skies. Taken at Scotland. (Actually seagulls are noisy too.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week 24 of year 2008 on the double bass

8 Jun 2008, Sun: The relatively unfocused state of mind in me made me choose to practise studies so as to focus on technical competency. Yet, I still need more refinement in my craft. I ended the practice with a reading of Marcello's Sonata in e minor. Admittedly, it was easier for me to approach a work written during the Baroque period than one that was written during contemporary time.

9 Jun 2008, Mon: I read the first movement of Marcello's Sonata in g minor. I wish for better phrasing.
Afterwhich, I sight-read the first and second movements of Dittersdorf's First Double Bass Concerto. I found that I relate to Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto better. Perhaps it is because I hear it more often?

11 Jun 2008, Wed: I practised selected passages from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" Overture. Some time was spent practising the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto and the first movement of Capuzzi's`Concerto in F major.

12 Jun 2008, Thu: I spent the double bass lesson sight-reading the cadenza of the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto written by Ludwig Streicher. My tutor kindly searched for his copy so that I could read it. It is a lovely cadenza even though it proved a more challenging version than that found in the Yorke edition.

Most double bass scores are transposed an octave higher for the ease of reading. However, the cadenza was written without transposition, at concert pitch. This endeavour got me to have to get my mind working hard to figure out what notes were to be played for I was so used to reading from transposed scores. The remaining time was spent playing the rest of the concerto.

14 Jun 2008, Sat: I practised the cadenza of the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto written by Ludwig Streicher. However, I could not quite make out some of the notations, and as such did not practise the entire cadenza. Some time was spent practising selected passages from this movement so as to improve the intonation.


Would I be ready to sit for a diploma exams in music performance? Actually this isn't the key question that I wish to ask. The question should be: Am I ready to perform a recital that would touch the souls of the listeners?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Along Joo Chiat Place

When I was at the Katong area last month, I set aside some time to take a look at a house that was located along Joo Chiat Place. It is a kampong house at 106 Joo Chiat Place, also known affectionately by some as Studio 106. I did not enter the site since it appeared to be private property.

After several past visits to the exhibition, Sculpting Life, held at the NUS Museum, I have learnt that Studio 106 was the art studio of the late Ng Eng Teng. I found out from one of the video-recordings that I had watched while I was at the exhibition that there used to be a kiln in Studio 106. This was the place where Ng Eng Teng had worked and created many sculptures.

I first learnt about Ng Eng Teng and his works during Art History classes when I was a Secondary school student. Much later, during my university years, visiting the Ng Eng Teng Gallery in NUS was one of the activities that I would frequently engage in in-between my lessons.

There is something unique and special about his works, though I couldn't exactly put in words. Somehow, Ng Eng Teng's works looked simple yet so creatively thought-out to me.

I wonder what the house is now being used for?

Directly opposite 106 Joo Chiat Place was the residence of the late Ng Eng Teng.

Meantime, for readers who would like to view the works by Ng Eng Teng, there is now an exhibition, Sculpting Life, that presents some of his works. At the NUS Museum, from 11 January – 31 December 2008. This exhibition is worth a visit. I have already visited the exhibition for at least three times this year.

Visitors' information can be found here:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just floaters

I saw the eye specialist today. Thank goodness those are just floaters. The doctor said that my retina is healthy. May things remain this way.

Thank you everyone for your assurance and wishes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eyes are in need of care

I have been seeing spot-like, thread-like shapes in my field of vision. Actually, they have probably been around for more than a month. It was just that I thought they would soon go away with time, and so I did not take much care into the matter.

However, lately, these shapes appear more prominent. They appeared more visible especially when I am facing the computer screen or looking at bright blank spaces. Of late, these have been bothering me because I have no clue what had caused them.

I saw a doctor today. He diagnosed those shadow-like shapes to be floaters. I was told that people with near-sightedness have greater chances to experience floaters.

He checked both my eyes and things appeared normal. However, he shared that the equipment in his clinic is able to see part of the retina only, and to be very certain to exclude retina detachment, he referred me to see an eye specialist. He said that only 1 out of 10 patients experiencing floaters would have the cause attributed to retina detachment. Yet, a thorough check is recommended so that if it was due to retina detachment, early treatment could be given before sight is significantly affected. Furthermore, early treatment of retina detachment tends to be more effective.

Hopefully things would be alright. My appointment date has been set on the end of the week.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Decisions and decisions to make

Deciding which music examinations to take, and which level to take can take quite a considerable amount of effort.

I had initially planned to sit for ALCM (Associate of the London College of Music) since I would have already practised at least three of the pieces. Then I realised that I have misread one of the works in the syllabus. It should be Marcello's Sonata in G minor and not Marcello's Sonata in G major. Either ways, I have played both sonatas, it is just that the latter would be a work that I have been practising more recently. The only thing is that the syllabus only requires the first movement to be played.

Interestingly, the syllabus for ALCM offers various options for the candidate. My preferred option would be to choose ALCM in Performance (Recital). This option would require me to present a 40 - 45 munutes programme. It is a must for me to perform a work by a living composer that is of ALCM's standard. There is an uncertainty if I would be able to keep up to the required performance standards at ALCM level. Is it an issue of a lack of confidence, or a practical decision to consider a diploma of a lower level?

The next option would be to consider taking the DipLCM in Performance. The requirements are to perform a 15 - 20 minutes programme, be assessed for Viva Voce and sight-reading skills. In terms of the syllabus, with my recent practices of the second movement of Dittersdorf's Concero No. 2 in D, I would at least have two pieces from the DipLCM syllabus that I have worked on. However, these two works (the other being Faure's Sicilienne that I have already studied do not make quite a contrasting programme if put together.

I realised I preferred to play it safer this time round. Another round of not passing the diploma exams would not do good to my confidence. If I wish to sit for the diploma exams offered by Thames Valley University London College of Music this year, I would have to register by this August.

I wish for better health, and better clarity of the mind.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Week 23 of year 2008 on the double bass

1 Jun 2008, Sun: I practised a few sight-reading exercises. This is probably one day when discipline helps. I practised the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto thereafter. Perhaps because I could relate to it, it was much easier to get started on Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto than to play any of the sight-reading exercises. I need more focus.

4 Jun 2008, Wed: What a strange thing. I was feeling exhausted for the entire work day. However, after practising just the first few bars from the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto on the double bass, while waiting for the orchestra rehearsal to start, a surge of positive energy came back to me. I wonder if music has reviving powers?

Anyway, for the orchestra rehearsal, we played various works. One of which was tunes from the movie, Schindler's List. Hopefully, this would be played in our orchestra's performance that is scheduled to be held in September 2008.

5 Jun 2008, Thu: I practised selected passages from Rossini's The Thieving Magpie Overture and "The Barber of Seville" Overture. Afterwhich, I played a few passages from the second movement of Dittersdorf's Second Double Bass Concerto. My goodness, I was feeling rather tired to be focused.

7 Jun 2008, Sat: I continued to practise selected passages from Rossini's The Thieving Magpie Overture and "The Barber of Seville" Overture. The challenge in playing the double bass appeared not to be technical but mental. How do I cope with the thoughts of inadequacy that strike me?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Colourful kuehs and the kaya

Sometime in May, Eastcoastlife graciously took time off to show me around Katong and Geylang area.

While we were at Kim Choo Kueh Chang - Restaurant/ Gallery, I noticed there were colourful kuehs that are for sale. For folks with a sweet tooth, these colourful cakes would surely bring delight to the palate.

I read from Tan Gek Suan's Gateway to Peranakan Food Culture that the Peranakans would use natural ingredients to colour their kuehs. For example, they extract yellow colour from turmeric, green from screwpine (pandan) leaves, and red from annatto seeds. Somehow, the colours make the cakes look very appetizing.

As for the green colour looking kaya, it is a kind of jam made from coconut milk and chicken eggs, flavoured by pandan leaf. For those who would like to try to make Nonya Kaya on their own, I came across the following recipes:
- Nonya Kaya, by thelazychef
- Nonya Kaya, by Sing Yin @ Serene

From what I gathered, many Hainanese coffeeshops also sells kaya, and I am aware that Hainanese chefs were employed by the Peranakan households to help with the cooking. I don't remember seeing kaya as a traditional Hainanese jam while I was visiting Hainan. Could it be that the Hainanese had learnt the making of kaya when they came to the Southeast Asia region, perhaps from the Peranakans? Would anyone be able to lend me some clues?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Checking out the ACM Weekend Viet Fest

On 1 June 2008, I met up with Carcar. We checked out the ACM Weekend Viet Fest that was held at Asian Civilisation Museum (Empress Place). Right above is a photo that I had taken while we were walking across Cavenagh Bridge. Do you notice that there was a van providing free Milo drinks, and many red pavilion-like tents in the background? One of the tents sold hats that were commonly found in Vietnam.

The organisers of the ACM Weekend Viet Fest deserve a lot of praises for the interesting programme that has been planned. We managed to catch glimpses of a demonstration on the making of Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls by IndoChine.

There was a lady who demonstrated the art of Cham Weaving. I am pretty amazed by the technology behind it. It may be simple compared to the technology of today, but it is nevertheless ingenious in its own way.

It was free admission to the museum that day, and both Carcar and myself took the chance to tour every exhibition halls in the museum. Of course, we made sure that we checked out the Viet Nam! From Myth To Modernity exhibition.

My favourite part of the ACM Weekend Viet Fest was the Stone Musical Instrument Performance by Phu Dong Traditional Band from Vietnam. It was simply refreshing and interesting to be able to hear how music from Vietnam would sound like. I was rather fascinated by instruments such as the monochord.

To some extent, the music appeared to be influenced by Chinese music. Somehow, it reminded me to some extent, of the Chinese music that I had played and listened to when I was playing in the Chinese Orchestra during my secondary school years. I was also impressed when one of the musicians used the leaves that were plucked nearby the museum as instruments in which he blew lovely tunes on.

The monochord is the instrument on the right of the white table.

One of the musicians playing the monochord.

I think the musicians from the Phu Dong Traditional Band had put up a great performance. Cheers.

At the Viet Fest, we also managed to treat ourselves to a few Vietnamese dishes. There seemed limited choices of Vietnam food fare at the Fest, and I overheard one Vietnamese visitor remarking that the mango salad that she had in Vietnam tastes much better than the mango salad that she had at the fair. She could be right. Furthermore, I suppose it would be cheaper to get food in Vietnam than in Singapore.

Meantime, NHB Museums have put up a series of events and exhibitions as part of the Vietnam Festival (April - July 2008), do find out more about the Vietnam Festival here:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I wish for a good break

I am feeling in need of a good rest.
It is just the start of the month and I am already feeling exhausted.
Now, I am already looking forward for weekend.
Do you?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I am grateful to have learnt to sketch. Sketching is an activity that is at many times therapeutic for me. The mere action of having to sketch what I see onto paper somehow brings me a sense of release. A release of the urges to express.

I used to carry a sketch book with me fairly frequently especially during my undergraduate days. Somehow, having it around gave me a good excuse to just walk about from places to places, watch life pass by, observe, and record things down on the sketch book.

I realised that I don't carry a sketch book nowadays. Perhaps the possession of a digital camera has made it so much easier for me to record my visual world on digital film. Furthermore, I realised that I prefer to sketch on sketch books that are at least A4 in size. Comparatively, it would be easily to carry a digital camera than an A4 sketch book.

Anyway, there are still a few occasions when I would take out my sketch book to sketch. Right below is a sketch that I had done a few months ago of the Singapore Art Museum.

In sketching, my aim is not in the realistic portrayal of the subject matter. Instead, one of my goals is to capture my impression of the subject matter on paper. I would tend to choose subject matter that I can relate to, and use the sketching process as a way to get to observe and to learn about the subject matter in greater depth. Sometimes, strangely, in the process of sketching, I could feel a special connection to the subject matter. The processes involved in sketching are in themselves more fulfilling than the end results. I suppose I just want to feel alive and connected?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My perspective

This is one of the ways that I see my world.
I yearn for peace and tranquility.

May you have the wish that you wish tonight.