Thought Bubbles! 有感
Updated 20 Apr 4月20日更新
"Western Classical music" in its broadest sense has long ceased to be a Western phenomenon but has become cosmopolitan ‒ has been performed, studied and practised in non-Western countries for a long time and in every continent. Nowadays, those who write about or perform works from Gregorian chant to contemporary Classical music can be of any nationality or race.
Thank you to Dirceu Braz, Brazilian composer/writer/trumpeter, for translating this into Portuguese:
A "música clássica ocidental" há muito deixou de ser um fenômeno ocidental, mas se tornou cosmopolita - tem sido executada, estudada e praticada em países não ocidentais por um longo tempo e em todos os continentes. Hoje em dia, quem escreve ou executa obras desde o canto gregoriano até a música clássica contemporânea pode ser de qualquer nacionalidade ou raça.
The Internet has become part of many people's daily life and their source of knowledge. I have watched/read many Chinese TV dramas and web articles in Chinese. I feel that relying on TV dramas and web articles to understand history, classics, and people past and present, can often be one-sided and even specious. It's much better to read books. To read a (Chinese) book, it's better to buy a copy than to download it from the Net, as I often find Net versions with errors and omissions. The formatting can be tiring on the eyes.
Why don't they eat Pâté?
My creative work often combines music, dance, drama and visual arts. The work has no life until it is performed yet realization is expensive. Time/energy consuming funding applications may not be granted or part-granted, i.e., not enough to make ends meet. I often get a work/project done under near impossible conditions, and then move on to the next. Those who don't know many artists who have to work with next to nothing ask why didn't I do this and that (all requires lots of money). This reminds me of the story of a king on hearing of poor people dug up weeds to eat, said: “Why don't they eat pâté?”. Yet waiting for optimum time risks nothing happening at all.
Life is full of surprises: My good friend the soprano Lisa Nolan, before she left London for Australia, entrusted me her husband Uli’s favourite plant – two separate stems of cactus in a pot. After a while one stem withered away and I felt bad. However, a new stem started to grow on the top of the remaining one. I was delighted - in a way, it’s still two stems but in a different arrangement (click image to enlarge).
This was my early morning hasty translation of Love Lotus by Zhou DunYi of the Song Dynasty that I memorized when I was in middle school, as a reply to a LinkedIn contact's post on Lotus:
"There is a variety of lovely flowers in the world.
Tao Yuanming in the Jin Dynasty loved chrysanthemum only.
People love peonies since the Tang Dynasty,
But I love lotus as it is clean despite growing from mud.
It is not seductive despite bathing in clear water.
It's clear inside but outwardly straight with no vines or branches.
The farther, the cleaner the fragrance,
It's to be appreciated distantly and not touched erotically.
I say that the chrysanthemum is a hermit in flowers,
And peonies, the wealthy nobles
While the lotus is one with noble character.
It's rare to find someone who loves chrysanthemum like Tao,
And who would love lotus like me?
Yet almost everyone loves peonies!"
Photo by Red-Boat boat-friend Jin Ming
(Red-Boat is a Cantonese opera website)
2020: 28 Oct 10月28日
When COVID first started at the end of last year, living in England, COVID seemed far away. Then from early this year, the UK has been listed amongst the top 10 COVID countries. People from all walks of lives have been badly affected, and not just health-wise, yet where I live most people still don't wear a mask. I have been in self-isolation to protect myself. Strangely I feel sort of peaceful yet also a sense of impermanence. However carefully one plans, the world is unpredictable.
2021: 28 Jan 1月28日
I feel more and more difficult to cope with the impact of the COVID lockdown on life and work.
At a bookstore I came across the third volume of poems by the prominent Southern Song Dynasty poet Lu You (1125-1210) and bought it (I don’t know why only this volume was available). There are thousands of poems in this volume alone. I wondered how many volumes there are? It seems that the great poet had been writing poems all his life. In comparison, I feel that I have not worked hard enough. I think apart from being grateful for one's gifts, one should try to give full play to one's abilities and not be the lazy servant of the biblical story.
The tradition of disrespect for personal artistic creation:
I first read Dream of the Red Chamber when I was fifteen ‒ the 120-chapter version. I felt puzzled after reading it as it is obviously a great work, yet there are bad writings here and there ‒ like an expensive and beautiful dress with cheap and ugly buttons and pockets that do not match. Years later I learned that there are different versions, so I bought a copy of the incomplete hand-copied manuscripts known as "Rouge versions (Story of the Stone)". Although it has only the first 80 chapters and the standard of the handwriting was uneven, I was hooked reading it. In the 120-chapter version I read when I was fifteen, not only did the last 40 chapters fail to meet many of the hints in the first 80 chapters, but also in the first 80 chapters, some characters description, plots and writings are inferior to the "Rouge versions (Story of the Stone)". The "Rouge versions" led me to read books of Redology ‒ the academic study and research of Dream of the Red Chamber. I even read Redology related materials such as the imperial commentaries of Emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng. There are too many mysteries about the author and the incomplete original. As we do not have the complete original, everyone can have a different Dream of the Red Chamber in their mind. It’s a pity that past dynasties looked down on novels. Many novels were revised, altered and with parts missing. The novels of the late Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, few can survive in their original, and scholars still argue about their authors.
People are less favoured than cats:
I saw on YouTube a video of a cat-crazy mother in mainland China who has 27 cats. The cats messed up the house and the kitchen's very unhygienic. Her son would rather go out to buy food and eat. The son only occupies 1/28 of her heart. Yet she is blessed to have a son who would find an architect to solve the problem ‒ to build a "cat apartment" at home, so that cats and people can live comfortably without disturbing each other. This son is amazing, so is the architect's exquisite design. Many people who live in a crowded environment may not think of looking for an architect to design and improve the environment to remove conflicts between people. I also love cats. Once I had a meal at a couple's who lived in a small place with five cats. The couple did not mind eating with their cats' litter trays nearby, but it was sort of disgusting for me! I have a cat-crazy friend who always drives with her two cats. She has two cat litter trays in the back ‒ where people should rest their feet! Once when giving me a lift, she had two cats sitting in the front seat. Her friend and I were sitting in the back. Apart from the smell, I really didn’t know where to put my feet. Although I wore shoes, I didn't want to put my feet on cat litter in the tray! There are many cat videos on the Internet, even if the cats are not beautiful or badly filmed, there are hundreds or thousands views. Yet videos of painstaking artistic creation, often are watched by few.
12 Feb 2021 was the Lunar New Year of the Ox that's celebrated in many countries and especially by ethnic Chinese. I wished my friend Margaret Morley ( sister) a Happy Year of the Ox and her reply made me think. She said: "Having just looked up the characteristics of the Ox year, it seems a very suitable sign for this coming year. It will not be an easy year, so much economy to be recovered, new lifestyles to be sorted out and a lot of patience to be exerted. So I think the greeting "Happy" for this New year is hardly a suitable one. Perhaps "successful" or "rewarding" might be better wishes! Stick with the stoic, persistent Ox!"
Thank you to Sue Wise for her sermon on wounds and scars and healing by showing an example of Kintsugi – repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with seams of gold, thus making the object more beautiful and even more unique than it was prior to being broken. Instead of hiding hurts and scars, to make a feature of them.
Christmas 2021 & New Year 2022: Photo on the left is a handmade harp-Christmas card that I bought at Guy's Hospital charity stall ‒ now on a decorated Christmas Tree. This is my Season's Greetings and "Thank you" to all those who visit my website. The forthcoming Christmas and New Year will be scaled down in England (where I live) because of the new COVID variant (when will all this end?!). For a long time it has been difficult to plan much. However, one can enjoy life still, just in a different way to what was planned, I suppose!
21 Dec was the longest night, which means from now on, daylight is getting longer. On that day I received a bunch of Winter tulips ordered online by old friends in Hong Kong, which brightened my untidy place! After what we'd been through in the past two years, an old friend wished me an Uneventful New Year!
Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra cancelled their 18 March Tchaikovsky concert. Not because of Tchaikovsky being Russian but due to the programme including the military themed Marche Slave and 1812 Overture (with the sound of cannon fire), and Symphony No.2 (nicknamed Little Russian) ‒ all inappropriate during the invasion of Ukraine, and also in consideration of an orchestra member who has family connections in Ukraine. I watched on YouTube an inspiring performance of Hobart Earle conducting the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra two months before the invasion, of La Mère Gigogne, Waltz of the Flowers, Adagio, Coda & Finale from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, in the Philharmonic Hall, Odessa. Later, I saw in the news the people of Odessa preparing to defend the city. I pray that the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra and musicians will survive, and thrive. War triggers hatred and revenge. Cruel wars in the world seem endless. Yet despite suffering and misery, there are people who retain the good side of human nature. They are the hope of the human kind.
2023 April 20 update 4月29日更新
The happenings in Ukraine inspired my making the music video