Category Archives: Life’s little luxuries

Fruit of hundred fragrances

Lunar new year was spent at my parents’ home. This is the passion fruit vine, one of the products of my father’s guerilla gardening. The passiflora edulis – its botanical name – is native to Brazil and Paraguay – many plants that grow here have travelled far! It is said that Catholic missionaries in South America gave the fruit its name because they thought the flowers of the plant looked like the crown of thorns that was placed on Christ’s head.

In Chinese, the passion fruit is sometimes transcribed as ‘百香果‘ which literally means fruit of hundred fragrances. 

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Evans, Satie & Chopin

This is not a music blog. Yet my recent posts seem to revolve around music. Maybe because I have been listening to music more often. Listening to familiar favourites can evoke past epiphanies. Sometimes new insight comes along. It’s like rediscovering a place that you thought you knew so well.

Here are 3 musicians who did not cross paths physically. And yet there is a common thread in all three works listed here:

  • They have a simple recurring bass line, where the same notes recur throughout the entire work. This is sometimes known as ostinato, or persistent repeats. Or basso ostinato, literally meaning obstinate bass.
  • The melody is carried out in the treble line. This sometimes blossoms into something great.
  • Piano! Piano! Piano!

In reverse chronology:

1. Peace Piece by Bill Evans (1929 – 1980)

A chance discovery on the radio in my teens, Peace Piece left a deep imprint. That also got me started on Bill Evans.

2. Avantdernières Pensées by Erik Satie (1866 – 1925)

Music of the master of minimalism.

3. Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57 by Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849)

Chopin fully utilised the treble line to show off his composer chops, and for a pianist to show off his or her dexterity.

A berceuse is a lullaby. There are moments where it feels like butterflies fluttering over calm waters.

Beautiful Sunday

Sunday morning. Cycled. Then came to P’s place. Tinkled the piano. A man walks by with his two-year old son and stopped at the door. I looked up. Man says his son loves listening to the piano and there is a “Welcome 🙂 ” sign on the door. That sign was from P’s Christmas party.

Note to self: what a great conversation starter that sign makes!

Under the Spanish sky

I haven’t played piano in a while.  The piano which I bought with my first paychecks years ago stands silently in the living room. There’s never a good time to play the piano: I’m either home too late at night or always out on weekends. Perhaps I need to change my schedule.  A stack of newly acquired music scores are just sitting on the shelf, waiting to be massacred by me. Among them is a collection of Enrique Granados’ piano pieces. The least I could do is flip through and read it. Play some air piano.

At the Patios de los Naranjos, the Cathedral, Seville, Spain. In October 2008

At the Patios de los Naranjos, the Cathedral, Seville, Spain. In October 2008

I’m reminded of one notable champion of Granados: the great Spanish pianist, Alicia de Larrocha. Although a small woman –  said to be only 4 foot 9 tall (shrunk to 4 foot 5 later in life) – de Larrocha played the big virtuostic works of Rachmaninov and Liszt to rave reviews. But it is the music of her native country that she championed the most and brought international recognition to: composers such as the aforementioned Granados, Albeniz and Manuel de Falla. On youtube are a handful videos of her playing with fire and spirit at the ripe old age of 78.

Seville, Spain. In October 2008.

Seville, Spain. In October 2008.

As I’m reading the scores, I have been listening to de Larrocha’s recordings of Granados’ music. Listen to the range of colour and tone, the instinctual phrasing, the effortless way in which the dynamics fall into place, the inimitable nuances. Is it in her blood? Granados’ music is already elegant enough. But de Larrocha makes a simple valse from Granados’ Valses Poeticos sound extraordinarily poetic.

De Larrocha once said Spanish music is very very hard to play. It is. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

Morning solitude & water lilies

The haze has cleared quite a bit and the light drizzle provided a brief respite from the heat. What a great morning for a ride! It was rather late in the morning but the roads were still relatively quiet. Had the roads almost all to myself with just a few monkeys. Perhaps less people came out due to the rain.

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Came across a water lily pond in the park.

I wondered if Monet was just feeling restless with a paintbrush. Or, is there something inherently uplifting about fleeting blooms and infinitely changing lights.

The Perfect Day

This post is inspired by bookjunkie’s here.

My perfect day: wake up with no pimples, go for a bike ride, have a cool shower then do some work. Laugh with family or friends over a meal. Chill out to good music at night.

Simple things really: waking up feeling good about myself, do the things I like to do and spend time with people I like.

What is your perfect day like?