Monday, June 25, 2007

FFVII on PS3 demo

How I wish they'll redo the game on PS3... that's one heck of a solid game - FFVII.

The soloist and the ensemble player

An interesting topic was brought up over dinner (with Owls and Barber) last night:

"Is it necessary for one to be a proficient solo guitar player, before he/she can be a good ensemble player?"

Not a new topic really. But certainly one which Suitcase man appeared determined to champion (and to prove).

I remember not too long ago, he requested for a presentation session with the (then) Genus Committee, along with Dr Casteels, Raj and our (then) CFA office representative, Shyan Hwei. There, he spelled out his master plan and project to instill a structured and comprehensive approach to revamp Genus - the main crux being, to ensure all our members learn and take guitar exams so that they become proficient solo guitar players FIRST, thereby improving as a guitar ensemble player SECOND.

I wont bother to go into details (again), suffice to say that this seems his #1 pet peeve about the Genus culture/structure. Accordingly to Barber, Suitcase man actually posed the same question to the Concert Master of the Rheine ensemble when they were in Germany for the recent guitar ensemble competition/festival. Guess what was the reply he got?

It is a no-brainer if you asked me whether a good solo guitar player can also develop into a good ensemble player. At the minimum, he would have less difficulties when it comes to the technical aspects of playing (e.g. how to execute a hammer-on or pull-off slur; how to do harmonics, etc..). As Owls put it, "someone who can play Caprichio Arabe should have little problems playing a single line melodic guitar part" - IF - he is also a good listener and team player.

And THAT - is where the problem usually is, for some solo guitarists.


假如郭靖,杨过,金轮法王,裘千刃,公孫止,等等, 这些一等一的高手联合起来和全真七子的七星剑阵对抗,我想他们未必占得了任何便宜. 原因在于,这个阵法一旦合成,威力便相等于数十位高手的力量,而不单是七子各自功力加起来的结合体. 因此,就算郭靖等人各自已是数一数二的武林高手,但假如他们无法,或是各怀各的心眼儿,所以没兴趣合作抗敌,结果也是徒劳无功.

Some solo players just aren't interested in playing in an ensemble setting, while others may be 心高气傲, thinking that playing ensemble is "second class" as compared to playing solo. The reasons are plenty...

An interesting fact I've noticed in the years I'd spent in Genus is that, we seem to have many ensemble players who, after enjoying ensemble guitar playing, then develop an interest in playing solo guitar. It's like a rub-on effect. And these players continue to enjoy playing in groups, even after they become more proficient in their solo guitar skills. In fact, I myself am one such example.

On the flip side, there really arent many examples of (already) proficient solo guitar players joining the ensemble, and STAYING with the group for many years. For some reason, they usually lose interest and leave after a year or two.

My conclusion is thus: while we can (and probably should) encourage our ensemble members to pursue solo guitar playing if they develop an interest in that direction, it is UNREALISTIC and counterproductive to ENFORCE solo guitar lessons and exams for Genus's present members, or to use Guitar exams grade (ABRSM or Yamaha) as a criteria for choosing new intake of undergraduate members. Simply put, I'd take in a person will little music/guitar background but a strong keen interest in learning teh instrument to play in a guitar ensemble, rather than a ABRSM Grade 8 (guitar) fellow who deems himself "too good" to play alongside others in the ensemble.

"Don't compare me with them" - A quote from someone, when asked to contribute to Genus by rejoining and playing in the group, together with the rest of the Alumni players. Sounds familiar?

Friday, June 22, 2007


I just ordered 2 CDs of the Tokyo Guitar Quartet, playing some popular music ranging from O Solo Mio, La Cumparsita, to Funiculi Funicular and Broadway music from the West Side Story. It should be interesting to listen to yet another guitar quartet (besides the evergreen LAGQ - sadly now missing Andrew York) play these transcriptions.

I've also ordered a set of quartet scores to test out with Guitaresque.

To be honest, I'm pretty eager to get the recording and the SAM performance (21 July) over and done with, as then we can truly start exploring new music. Not that playing the Bachs and the Vivaldis arent challenging, but it does get a little "flat" after a while, since none of us are full-time musicians (or even music students, for that matter) and sometimes I do find our interpretations of such period music rather 1 dimensional. The best we could do is to listen to the professionals and maestro play in their records, and try to imitate their style, their phrasing. Sadly (or not), that is often good enough in the local context of classical guitar playing, to rise above the mediocrity of the general lot of players.

Recently, a colleague after hearing that I am learning the cello, on top of teaching classical guitar in 2 local varsities, asked, "Why don't you think about doing music full-time, like start a small private teaching school or something?"

I laughed at his suggestion, "Com'on lah, how to 'survive' doing music in Singapore?"


That prompted me to think of my own career path... WHAT IF... I had chosen to study music full-time back then? Most likely would've gotten a music diploma/degree majoring in classical guitar. Then what? Become a full time guitar teacher or conductor in the various schools and institutions in Singapore? Or join Yamaha as a guitar teacher, taking private students?
None of these options appeal to me... What I really enjoy, is to be playing in a performing orchestra, playing with like-minded musicians and enjoying not just the music we make, but also the process of making it.

Obviously, you ain't gonna get that opportunity if you are a classical guitar player. Not in Singapore at least. The closest possibility is to travel to Japan and join the Niibori Guitar Orchestra as a professional performing member. *sigh* Maybe my dear friend Balraj can fulfil that dream one day...

Anyway, back in reality, Guitaresque is the closest thing I have to satisfy my appetite for music making alongside fellow musicians and friends. Perhaps that's why I've willingly taken on the role of 'task-master' for the group, studiously writing arrangements and transcriptions for the quartet, as well as always being on the lookout for new performing opportunities in this "barren land", as far as classical guitar performance is concerned.

Or perhaps playing the cello would open new doors in the future...

Who knows.. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


最近身体健康实在不佳,一直反复地病倒,康复,然后又再次病倒. 虽然不是什么大病,但是单是这两个星期里所吃下的药物就多到有点令我感到震惊.我想一天内应该不会少过十几颗药丸吧? 想想还真有点吓人!

Hopefully this will pass soon... god..

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It amazes me sometimes that there are people who would bother to write to newspapers, "showcasing" their petty gripes about any and every impending price increase.

Well, perhaps I am being over critical of these folks. God knows sometimes I also kao-bei a lot about such perceived 'injustice'.

But the issue here is: What do you hope to accomplish out of all that complaints?? BSesides being ridiculed as a "whining" and a "complaint king" nation.

Thing is, isn't it obvious to all these people that REGARDLESS of what they yak about, whine about, kao-bei about, there ain't gonna make any freaking difference in the outcome!?

Take the 2 most recent cases at hand:

1) NETS increasing their transaction charges to merchants.
2) STARHUB increasing their cable-TV subscription fees by (yes, i do agree) RIDICULOUS amounts...

Some people go crying to CASE (Cannot Act So Equivocate) thinking that it will make a difference. Ya..right..

CASE may have been able to able to do something to SMALL businesses who try to wringle a dollar or so more from a disgruntled customer through trickery or dishonest means. But so far, WHEN has CASE managed to persuade a BIG corporation(s) from increasing prices in what are obviously pure commercial decisions??

The point is: when a merchant chooses to increase it prices for its goods (or services) WITHIN the laws of Singapore, what good is crying "That's NOT FAIR!". Somehow, I don't think the shareholders of that company is gonna care - not when they their fat wallets are being fattened further by the obscene amount of money rolling in from such price hikes...

It is clear as day to me that if a PUBLIC transportation company can raise it charges seemingly at will (while the supposed "authorities" sit by and say "we do know..we dont care"), then what more a private company, whose sole objective is to raise the profit margin and answer to its shareholders?

So what can poor consumers do? Well, at the end of the day, if you are not happy with a company's price hikes, then just boycott that company's goods/services. e.g. not happy with Starhub's charges? Then dont watch cable-TV.

As for public transport costs.. well, remember to cast your votes wisely in the next GE, to ensure a "wake-up" call to the "authorities" lor.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Ok, Genus didnt get into the Top 3 in the recent Guitar Ensemble Competition in Germany. We got 4th.

Which IS somewhat disapppointing. Afterall, we have a World-class conductor, some very good players (considering almost all of them werent professional players) and a pretty interesting & diverse repertoire. Furthermore, according to Robert, the team played well enough.

Of course, it could mean that the other 3 teams (1st, 2nd and 3rd) were of really high standards. Something which ZJ and Moh confirmed during our tea session yesterday.

Still, it amused me to no end to hear that Suitcase-man actually shed tears after the competition was over.

A grownup man crying over losing a guitar competition??? Somehow, that is hard for me to comprehend. 难道这个人的得失心真的那么重?

(I can't help thinking back to the last time I actually cried. Hmm....i cant exactly recall the occasion, but i suspect it was over a touching scene in a movie. hehe.. not exactly very "noble" either lah... )

也许皮箱人是被感情之事而洒泪吧? 又或许他是因为在这漫长的两个星期内,竟找不到一个可以聊天,谈心的对象而感慨落泪.

总之,若是因为无法在一场比赛中得奖而伤心落泪,那也只能说这个人对胜负看得十分重吧. 我本身就觉得这样患得患失并非好事.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Contentment & Happiness

Met BL yesterday for an afternoon tea-break at our usual haunt. Had an interesting conversation, about - Contentment.

Haha.. yeah, it's really quite funny, given the fact that most our usual topics range from : recent (horror/gore/paranormal/"ain't no man!") movies or shows we watched; updating each other (well..ok. it's gossiping) about our mutual friends' recent 'mishaps' or 'adventures'; poking fun at the government's latest policies (this is getting to be one of our favorite topics, actually).

So, how did we come to discuss about such a... serious topic?

Well, it actually started from our usual grips and complaints about the rising costs of living in sunny Singapore (that, in itself is an UNDERSTATEMENT. the costs are just 'rising'. they're virtually flying off the charts ala Neo in the Matrix! ).

With salaries increasing (or not) at a pathetic 2-3% a year on average, look at how much the costs are rising. Every other day, we are bombarded about rising costs of:

1) public transport (need to increase the fat pockets of the shareholders of the transport companies mah! )

2) coffee/tea (need to compensate for the increased cost of milk powder and what-have-you mah!)

3) duck/eggs/vegies... (heck! something is bound to be "poisoned" somewhere in the world, leading to supposed shortage in supplies, resulting in distributors increasing cost, ending up with poor consumers suffering a 10-20% increase in price due to the "padding effect" )


And to top it all, we have also got to endure an OVERALL PRICE INCREASE of everything we buy, in the form of:

1) GST - going up by another 2% come July

2) NETS - probably leading to increased prices for all goods payable via Nets.

So, what does all these have to do with "contentment"?

Well, we both know of people who earn <$1k a month, and still manages to have a family of 4-5 kids! Simply amazing... when we think of the cost of bringing up a kid, having to cater to their education, meals, spendings..etc..

So, rather ironically, while we (middle-income folks) gripe about struggling to cope with the high and ever-increasing costs of living, there are people around us who seem to be coping just fine with, apparently, so much less....

And even more amazingly (to us, at least), some of these folks appear happier than us in their daily lives!

We figured that all that has got to do with "Contentment" = how one chooses to live, and how one chooses to feel and believe.

If we are always chasing after material things, it's really hard to find contentment because there's always SOMETHING which someone else owns that you don't. Be it that nice condo/house, or luxurious car, or even a designer wallet/bag.
But once (or IF) we are able to feel happy about what we already have, and truly believe that we are living a life we want and deserve, then we'll find contentment.

Happiness is only a step away. :)

Monday, June 04, 2007

4th place for Genus germany team

Got an SMS from Robert early this morning:

"Hello. We won 4th prize out of 8 grps. We played well. Level very high."

I guess we didnt do too badly, all things considered. Truthfully, I never expected us to be able to win the competition, given the fact that the team was only put together in the last 2 months or so. We also didnt feature all our strongest players (many of whom could not/ would not go to Germany due to one reason or another).

But I'm just a little disappointed for the guys in Germany, because they'd have gotten some extra pocket money and bragging rights, had they emerged within a top 3 placing. The money is negligible, to be sure, but being 3rd instead of 4th seem to make a difference. In most competitions, we rank the top 3 places, and the rest all belong to the "Thank you for participating" category.
So in that sense, 有一点可惜...

Still, the fact that Robert felt the team had played well is good enough news. I believe the mere experience of competing with other guitar ensembles around the world is a valuable one to take away from the trip, if nothing else.
Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS to the Genus germany team!

Interesting to just imagine, had we participated with our strongest lineup (think Guitarist network team, maybe plus/minus a few players) might we stand a chance to go nearer the top groups? :)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I like bears

I love bears. All kinds of bears - the big, brown furry ones (who are usually very hiong! arrrggghh.... nice) , the grizzly and dangerous ones (lagi more hiong.. just watched a documentary about grizzly bears attacking people. ), even the cute little ones.

This little polar bear - Knut - really looks adorable. Though i'm sure he'll grow up to be an equally powerful and hiong big polar bear very soon.

Like our very own Inuka! :)