Category: Music

On music.


Recently I decided it was time (after three years) to backup my mobile phone photographs. I only started taking mobile photography seriously after getting my Note 3 and that enthusiasm swelled with my iPhone 6 Plus. In all I had about 1,300 photographs made since I got my iPhone — just the photographs I wanted to save, the total number of photographs is greater. And I looked around for an ideal backup and storage solution with which I could maintain my photographs.

The first option a lot of people suggested to me was Loom, but that is not available where I live. (Loom happens to be US-only.) And then there was Everpix — was — which was free and shut down as fast as it became popular. In all honesty, Everpix was an excellent solution, but faced the biggest problem with cloud storage solutions: they shut down, mostly because they run out of money trying to give storage free. Lesson: never opt for free cloud storage.

Then I tried Picturelife about three months ago and still love it for a lot of reasons. Some readers asked me to talk about my experience with the product and how I went about moving my photographs to the cloud, so this is it.

Update: After this article was published and discussed around the web, Picturelife got in touch with me and offered a generous 20GB of additional free storage for life. Thank you. And here’s to Picturelife for being one of the top cloud storage solutions for all of us.

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“The Beatles still sell for €5,99” and other tales of everlastingness

I noticed on my visit to the music shop today that a new batch of low-price The Beetles CDs had arrived. Now I already own all of The Beatles, so I really had no reason to pick up the disc set to inspect it, but I did and one thing stood out: a €5,99 price tag; which is roughly $8 or £5 or ₹500 I suppose.

It is fascinating how a rock band that was active for ten years sells, nearly forty years later, for the same price as Beiber’s enhanced My World disc on Amazon.

Without meaning disrespect to anybody, I think that this shows just how popular The Beetles had become by the time they broke-up. In contradistinction, it is an issue of concern that every music group’s gospel — performing every single one of the Beeth’s excruciatingly hard-to-perform symphonies — sells far cheaper than the mediocre music made today solely for cash. Perhaps that is because everybody does it; but should repetition of a classic make it any less of a classic?

Speaking of Beethoven, I recently answered myself a question that had been bothering me: what on earth does Beethoven mean? As it turns out, Beeth is beetroot (yes), and hof is farm. So that gentleman we all so admire is Ludwig from Beetroot Farm.

But are classics really held far less worthy, or does everything modern generally take precedence when it comes to setting prices, or are our tastes as a society changing, or should there exist a very different kind of motivation to last, as former US Labour Secretary, Lynn Martin, put it:

No matter what your religion, you should try to become a government program, for then you will have everlasting life.

Even more interesting is that most of what we listen to today may be heavily modified; whether it is really done that way or not, nobody can deny that we have enough technology today to make person X sound a million times better than he really is, especially if that Mr X agrees to hand over the producers a greater percentage of profits than the better-sounding-poorly-sharing and more deserving artiste, Y.

I have, bookmarked, this 1919 photograph of Cxechoslovakian violinist and composer, Jan Kubelik, from sometime back. It really is a reminder that we came from a time when state-of-the-art music refinement was done using cones taped to reduce reverberation.

Jan Kubelik (R) with Bruno Seidler-Winkler at the Piano.
Photo courtesy Flickr/painting in light

Today, refinement has come from meaning getting musicians’ unadulterated sound to helping them by making it sound better. It has become Photoshop for audio.

A counter argument I can suggest myself is that the term classics is too loosely defined. Our renaissance classics were modern works during the renaissance. While desperate efforts were being made to save the then-classics, what was really being celebrated — being the centre of attention — during the renaissance was the day’s absolute modern attempts at art.

It then does not seem far fetched to say that Beiber may become a classic singer around the 2050s or later. And we are only paranoid in saying the classics are on a decline. Or that they are in any way comparable to today’s approach to art and society — both of which have inherently changed a lot between the 16th and 21st centuries.

But even such an argument does little to explain why The Beetle’s low-price disc should sell for close to €6.

 Cover image: Flickr/erin 

A Swiss treat: thoughts on an absorbing guitar-flute concert

I last spoke of a violin-piano concert I had attended in October last year, so I thought I would re-visit the topic talking about a guitar-flute concert I had the privilege to experience recently.

The concert spanned an hour and a half, with around seven to eight pieces being performed. It, was, all-in-all a very refreshing and absorbing evening. We will go into the details soon.

The players

There were three Swiss and one Indian musician performing on-stage. Two played the guitar, one the flute and one a relatively lesser-known Indian temple instrument known as (I apologise for not being able to confirm the name or spelling) Idikyam.

Mrs Dauwalder (L) and Ms Wysser on stage
Mrs Dauwalder (L) and Ms Wysser on stage

Michel Rutscho, a classical guitarist and professor at the University of Berne, was accompanied by his wife, also a guitarist and a teacher at Basel, and a flemenco dancer, Mrs Christine Dauwalder.

They were accompanied on the flute by Ms Anita Wysser, an acquaintance and colleague from the couple’s hometown in Switzerland.

They were on a world tour to “rediscover the finer aspects of music”.

The ideal

The concert was unique not in that it was a Guitar concert, but that Prof Rutscho et al attempted — as they have done for the past six years — to bring together Western muisc with an Indian instrument in accompaniment.

Michel Rutscho (L) and Christine Dauwalder at the concert
Michel Rutscho (L) and Christine Dauwalder at the concert

The instrument in question (as previously mentioned) was played by Vidwan Nandakumar. It added a sense of explicit rhythm and bass to the leading instruments and together they gave off a feeling of harmonic confluence with surprising ease.

The second important scope of the evening’s performance was the style of music played, and that truly made the concert worth every moment spent listening to. The musicians played classical Baroque guitar pieces from Spain, Portugal, the mediterranean nomadic lands and even as far West as South America.

It was sprinkled with a couple of modern-era guitar songs, what with the guitar being a relatively modern instrument.

The music

I will not go into every single piece in detail, but I will speak about some that I particularly enjoyed.

One of the first pieces performed was Bach’s famous Partita II in D-minor. You may be familiar with it as a violin piece, which it is (because Bach wrote for the violin), but few are aware that Eythor Thorlaksson re-arranged it later for the Guitar, so that was what I heard that evening. And boy was it fun!

Here is a video of the guitar version (because I could not find a properly played guitar version audio):

A second composition by Bach also made it to the musicians’ list: Sonata in C-major for flute and continuo.

Again, I mention this because it is one of my favourite pieces and I listen to it often. I particularly like the flow of the flute in this, and if you know anything about playing the flute (or any percussion instrument, really) you will know just how difficult this can be!

The last piece I wish to talk about is Argentinian composer Piazolla’s famous Libertango. I was thrilled to hear this, and I could not find a better piece to end the evening with.

Libertango is a piece written for liberty, hence the words liberty and tango come together to give libertango. Of course, this is not baroque, but was one of the few more moderns ones performed. This piece also marks Piazolla’s attempt at tango nuevo (the modern style) rather than his usual classical one.

Let me end this article with a small present for you: the final part of the concert filmed for everybody who was not there to witness it in person.

Until next time, and after, stay musical.


Featherwave goodies: The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks and new opening credits

2013 has been a good year for my short films. A lot of finalisation of Telltale was complete and that book was closed. Then my friend, Raghul, and I, under the Featherwave banner successfully produced our latest, and arguably best, work till date, The Abel Photographer.

New opening credits

Starting 2014, the second year for our planned Featherwave project/s, we welcome two new members on-board our small team. With The Abel Photographer, although the house debuted with its first short film, the opening credits were never judiciously worked on.

As a necessity, the same sequence was re-worked maintaining a similar idea but with very subtle enhancements. What lies beneath this video represent Raghul’s and my beliefs and approach to making a film.

It has been lengthened from 7s to 10s, includes a brief new soundtrack while maintaining the same geometry as the first sequence. This will be our permanent opening credit henceforth. It is very simple, so it does not fight with the film itself for more attention.

Update #1: corrected opening credit sequence

After I put up this credits sequence, I got a few emails from my readers. Thanks to some of their patience, I was able to point out the problem, which was one of two things: some of you only saw a black video, while most others found the title disturbingly invisible around the edges.

The second problem was because the video was getting sized wrongly on some browsers, mostly due to caching. It is very likely that you experienced one of these problems, and now that it has been rectified, I request that you spare another 10 seconds and appreciate it in its actual form.

NB This is in 3.2 kbps, our films will use a higher 5kbps version. (Why? Too huge to upload; bear with me).

On behalf of Raghul too, I thank you very much!

Update #2: the spirit behind this video

I was fighting against myself to speak nothing of this, but when over ten to twelve readers asked me the same (or a similar) question, I thought I would add it in here. The question, paraphrased, was an interesting one: what does the sequence represent? or, as one reader asked me, what was your thought-process while imagining this credit sequence?

Firstly, interesting and well-put. Secondly, the answer itself: if you observe the video rather than watch it, you notice three stages of development; under other circumstances, I would have chosen to represent this physically using several characteristics, but this time I decided to throw all the responsibility on a single property: colour.

The video goes from near-grey scale to blue to orange-yellow. It is merely a representation of what we believe in behind the scenes, the yin and yang, that a film must contain the good and the bad, the dark and the bright, the greedy and the generous, the horror and the joy, the question and the realisation; and a grey area between it all where the viewer stands, deciding the meaning for themselves.

While this is what intended/worked with, like all of Featherwave’s productions, this one, too, is open to your interpretation.

The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks

We have, lined up, an abstract-drama production to be filmed in early 2014. As most of our other works are doing their rounds, we’d like to give out the four soundtracks from The Abel Photographer short film to end 2013 and start the coming year afresh.

Abel’s theme

Abel is a fictional photographer in the film. A very famous, almost legendary figure, the entire story begins with Adam discovering one of Abel’s lost works. This is the late Abel’s theme.

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Adam’s theme

Adam Weathers, the main character in the film, is a photographer in professional capacity, who soon learns that he has a very long way to go after a realisation comes over him in the film.

Actor Raghul Selvam (Telltale) takes on the role of Adam Weathers. This is his theme.

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Fermez les yeux: the Judgement day theme

Abel’s lost photograph discovered by Adam is popularly known as Judgement Day. This piece, following the photograph, is stormy, inspiring and structurally complex to abstractly represent the picture itself.

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Les poèmes sans parole: realisation

This is a minimalist theme that reflects Adam’s realisation; it makes him stop, think and understand much better exactly what it was he was trying so hard to do. The piece ends on a ringing note summing up the entire production of The Abel Photographer.

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We hope you enjoyed whatever bit of our work you saw, heard or watched. It has been a long time since I replied to some of your requests both through this website and elsewhere who so our film, who expressed their wish to listen purely to the music. You can download that as well:

From Raghul Selvam,

Actor and co-founder of Featherwave

Fresh off the closed tab where I saw Featherwave’s new opening credit, and I must say it’s simple and yet appealing. I keep getting reminded of the niche that our films are creating. This just makes me more excited about our future projects. The way we shoot and work together, is on a different level. Starting from the very less use of words on-set and the understanding between me and V.H. Belvadi is uncanny!

I am always the lazy one, trying to push the film faster and to get over with it as soon as possible. But V.H. is a perfectionist. He will get what he needs out of the shot in a very subtle way, as in, he knows how to get work done out of people. And I hope that will be helpful with the addition of the two new members of our production in Origami! I have no words or expectations as to where we might go ahead or how big this “Featherwave” will become. I, for one, am an optimistic, and I don’t think we would stop churning out films until our house turns into a big production house. I think V.H shares the same enthusiasm in films as much as I do. And I know he won’t stop short of my expectations.

I have heard a lot of short films do not care about documentations in India, and one of the new recruits was elated that she had to sign for a film, which meant legal rights and et al!

My efforts and intentions are big for Featherwave, and I hope V.H. Belvadi shares my thoughts. After all, we do share a lot in common!

And back to me for a few closing words:

There is a lot of truth in what Raghul says — we have good communication and understanding, and that goes a long way in making a film. And there is some lie — he is not as lazy as he thinks he is, although, yes, he does try to finish a film as quickly as he can and I can only attribute it to an enthusiasm we share to watch our finished work as soon as we can!

We intend to grow big, no doubt, but that can only be achieved by keeping up all we have so far and adding to it. Introducing two new members to the team is just a start. They are the many faces of Featherwave.

2014 promises to be a good year for Featherwave, and I for one hope that this is just a start of a successful journey for our humble four-man team.

And, if you have not seen it yet, do not miss the trailer for The Abel Photographer:

Have a great year ahead and join us for more short film fun!


Music project: The tragedy of Macbeth

I believe no Shakespearean work ought to be studied formally. Shakespeare meant his work to be enjoyed, and the only way one can do that is to lock one’s self in a room and act the play out aloud.

As it happens, I studied Macbeth as a minor in my undergraduate curriculum and, in order to balance it out, I took upon myself a music project that I had been procrastinating about since nearly a year and a half. Ideas were flowing in my head, so were tunes and rhythms and lines from Macbeth.


So, around June this year, I decided I had put it off long enough and finally got down to beginning my piece. I intend to capture what Macbeth is to me while also doing justice to the play. Here are a few interesting points I will be incorporating into my work, titled Les péchés de Macbeth:

  • The piece, following the play, will consist of 5 acts set in E-flat Major
  • It will be divided into 28 extremely brief movements (on an average, 2 min each)
  • The following instruments are being used:
    • Two violin groups
    • Violincellos
    • Double bass
    • Harp
    • Piano
    • Oboe
    • Trumpet
    • Bass drum
    • Glockenspiel
  • Acts will be named descriptively, movements will not
  • Yes, since we have strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion, this is an orchestral piece; but I will not be making an opera out of it
  • (I cannot believe somebody actually asked me this, but) no, there are no guitars in an orchestra

Read and listen

Alright, now that we have got that cleared, below is a look at the completed first two movements of the first act (about 5 minutes long.) Below is a 1:45 min preview of the music, and right after that, I have given you a brief idea of what happens during this section of the piece.

It starts with an eerie ring as the three witches appear. There is a brief rhythm for the witches’ chants, and then comes Macbeth, the triumphal’s, leitmotif. As we go on to the next act, I will introduce the main recurrence of the music — Macbeth, the evil’s, theme.

The section of the piece I have provided above goes onto the Witches prophesy and eventual disappearance, which leaves Macbeth and Banquo very lost. And the music ends with a note of finality.

Listen to the section yourself:

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As you probably noticed, for the most part, the piano is very silent. I intend to make up for it in coming movements, including one dedicated entirely, while breaking orchestral norms, to a lengthy violin-piano duet. As always, let me know how you feel about this. Until next time, and after, stay musical.


Discover new music: December 2013

What is the Discover new music series?

In 2012, for about six to eight months, I ran a weekly series known as the Discover new music series where I shared some of the artists I listened to and one of their songs you might like (or at least I do) and dedicated the article to somebody.

I have decided to re-start the series, completely unconnected to the last, and this is the first post of the new series. The only difference is that this time it is going to be monthly, and each edition will feature two songs instead of one.

If you are visiting this sometime after December 2013, you can also browse through the entire list of artists and music.


This first edition of Discover new music is dedicated to my good pal Firstname Lastname who, on a recent Hangout, prompted me to re-start this series. So I find it apt that he should receive dedication for the first edition (especially since he did not receive one in the previous series)!



Cover for Enigma’s album, The cross of changes.
Image used under fair use rights, sourced from Wikimedia commons; copyright rests with the graphic artists/record label.

Enigma is a German band formed in 1990, comprising Romanian,  Michael Cretu, David Fairstein and German, Frank Peterson, which performed largely instrumental French and German songs with prominent use of sythesizers, shakuhachi flutes, drums and keyboard. (Yes, a curious collection, I know!)

Sadeness Part I

The first song I have today is Enigma’s Sadeness Part I from their album MCMXC a.D. Note the spelling of Sadeness; not sadness. That is so because the song has nothing to do with sorrow.

Instead it is a dark and haunting philosophical piece that questions the sexual nature of Frenchman, Marquis de Sade, whose life was full of controversial incidents back in the late 18th century. There are lyrics in French and Latin, but you will hardly notice them.

Did I bore you with a history lesson? Quite contrarily, trust me, once you listen to this, this will be a song you will remember as long as you possibly can. Listen especially closely from 1:10 onwards. And if you listen very carefully, you will even recognise how, at one point, he says, “Sade, tell me.”

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Shadows in silence

This is a song from Enigma’s 1996 album, Erotic dreams. I particularly like the beginning percussion beats that go on to become flat out string breves that are followed by a chant.

If you are wondering who the predominant female voice is in both of these songs, it is German singer Sandra Cretu, Michael Cretu’s wife. (Pictured above.)

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I hope you enjoyed the first edition of the new Discover new music series. We’ll meet again with more in January.

Let me know what you think of the series as well sometime.


The quest for a music cassette, “The power of love”

Everybody’s childhood has something they hold onto even after considerable years. Mine lives in a bucket under the stairway at home, but that is only one part of it. The other is missing.

A thing of the past

Funnily enough, what I call a part of my childhood was never really mine; it even dates back nearly a decade before mine. It was a little, red music cassette known as “The Power of Love” and belonged to my parents.

Once I got around, I used to carry it with me and play it over and over again in-between my classic children’s tales cassette on my personal Phillips Walkman. I was no older than six years of age. And I understood very little of whatever they said in those songs, but it did not matter: for me, it has always been about the music, the rhythm, the tone, the pitch and the feel.

When things begin to change

The songs in that cassette stayed for a very long time until, when I was just reaching around nine or ten, we moved house and a lot of cassettes and large, black, gorgeous looking vinyl records (among other things) either got unwound, broke or were lost. This was one of them. There was also a large, posh-looking gramophone from my grandfather’s era that we got rid of.

Sometimes, when I walk around in melancholy, I can still hear those tunes at the back of my mind. But I realise it is only an illusion; an innocent (freudian?) manifestation of my yearning to get that cassette back.

Amazon lists this under the name Power of Love but neither the art nor the songs match the one I am looking for.

It is most prominent when I come across select songs, and I seem to know them. It is not a déjà vu, it is quite real, because I can pause playback and hum through the song (sometimes right to the end) even when I am listening to it the first time. Of course, this does not happen with every song, just a couple of them, or three at best, in an entire year.

My explanation is that I listened to those songs for so long, it is in my subconscious — just like how we remember bits of history even if we never took out a book and dedicated years to study it. Now, when I actually want to buy that cassette, I cannot: nobody makes cassettes anymore. Things have begun to change, but that is not even the weirdest part yet.

Another novel quest

If you remember I was once stuck with a song playing itself repeatedly in my mind and a brief quest and a lot of examination later, I learnt that it was a Japanese song used most popularly in the film “In the mood for love”. This was back in late 2010. About a year later, during a local film showcasing, my friend, Raghul, and I actually watched that film and I, for one, loved it.

Now that made me launch a quest back in 2011, to search for this cassette and buy it at any cost. I have looked up and down, turned the earth inside out, asked people, poked them to answer, tweeted, traced sources whenever I heard a familiar song and generally jumped around in vain.

A.K.A. fine times
Photo courtesy: Flickr/Freshly Diced

Having searched for two whole years now, I can confidently state that that music cassette does not exist.

How does something just vanish into thin air? I even remember the cover art and a couple of songs, so, as yet another try, I am going to describe the first and put down the latter before you.

Roses and wings

I distinctly remember that the cassette cover had a red rose on it, with the letters The Power of Love written in white. It was, I think, volume 2, but do not quote me on that. I remember the font was something very similar to Elephant.

Several aggregation, chronicling and e-store services from to Amazon list a product by name “(The) Power of Love”, but none of them are the one I am looking for. My indication? I am positive there was no Luther Vandross song in my old cassette.

And how do I know what was in there? I recognise some faintly, while others my mother or my father (both who owned the cassette in their youth and adulthood and not as kids of six years) who are clearly better judges at recalling their own (rather vast, I should say) music collection, tell me in passing that some song I happen to be listening to was in their collection way back when.

Photo courtesy: Andrevruas (own work) [CC-BY-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

I can say for sure that some of my current favourites (none of which are current songs) were in it: there was Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after time”, Bette Middler’s “Wind beneath my wings”, George Michael’s “Faith”, George Benson’s “Nothing’s gonna change my love”, Kieth Whitley’s “When you say nothing at all”, Paebo Bryson’s “Tonight, I celebrate my love”, MLTR’s “Paint my love”, Chris deBurg’s “A lady in red”, Richard Marx’s “Right here waiting” and a version of “Green, green grass of home”, among many others.

From the songs, it is apparent that the cassette was an early- or mid-80s release, and that timeline fits perfectly. I actually have a list of more songs somewhere, but these are the ones that come to mind right now, as I write this, too lazy to fetch the list itself.

Unfortunately, my quest to track this cassette down has not been very successful so far; but it is far from over. My sole reason for writing this and requesting you to take your time to read this is if you already know, or happen to stumble upon this cassette anywhere, do send it my way.

A favour begets a favour. Besides, this will fit in a lost piece of a jigsaw perfectly.

 Cover image: Flickr/Coralí Cros 


Learning to exalt: thoughts on an enriching violin–piano concert

Music, alongside science, constitutes perhaps the only languages universally acknowledged — from the tribes of the Kalahari, away from modern society, to high Paris, the very centre of it. When it touches you, you know; when it does not, hoping it will is only futile. And I am lucky to be among those touched.

Last evening I spent over two hours at a concert listening to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Piazollo. And it was blissful; it was wholesome; it was rich; it was classic; and it was refreshing.

The players

Rasa Zukauskaite
Copyright: Stiftung Podium Junger Musiker

The players at our concert series were Rasa Zukauskaite and Natalia Kapilova. Rudolf Kammermeier was supposed to play the grand piano, but after he was requested back in Germany, Ms Kapilova had to fill in for him.

Ms Zukauskaite was a student of Prof Raben Schalag and is now part of the quartet, Infinitum, as well as the Lithuanian State Orchestra. It was simply a pleasure listening to her, watching the bow move and fingers vibrate in a feverish rise and fall.

Ms Kapilova’s relationship with the piano was clearly otherworldly. A sense of peaceful elegance injected with gusto pierced the air with every depression of the keys and press of the una cordia and sostenuto pedals. A warm echo swept the room and everybody could keep listening to all day long.

They have not the capacity to make their works exalt — they meditate, protest, analyze, reason, calculate, brood, but they do not exalt.

— Sergei Rachmaninoff

The concert

Session 1

We started off with Ms Kapilova’s solo rendering of Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major for piano, Op. 12 No. 1. It was divine. The movements were played with a stallion-like elegance and reverberated through the walls. (And the acoustics of the place certainly helped.)

The piece that followed was played as a violin solo: the famous 2nd partita in D Minor, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.

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The third and final piece of the first session was a warm rendering of Mozart’s Sonata in G Major, K. 301. I managed to sneak a brief video (and, in my defense, so did about half of them present) and you can watch it further down the page. Mozart was played, aptly, under bare candle lights. The room was beautiful, the soulful music even more so. The violin ebbed with the composition as the piano provided a uniform, pleasing backdrop; and the instruments occasionally switched places in one of Mozart’s landmark works.

Having listened to music for a good hour or more, we took a brief rest for about 12 minutes. While we were all thoroughly enjoying ourselves, Beethoven and Bach and Mozart can cause a sweat like an athlete running a half marathon.

Ms Zukhauskaite (L) and Ms Kapilova (R) at the concert

Ms Zukhauskaite (L) and Ms Kapilova (R) at the concert, having just played Mozart’s Sonata in G Major

Session 2

We began our second session with Tchaikovsky’s Melodie. We were not clearly informed which of the so-called melodies we would be listening to, but once the grand piano went in the familiar one-two-three-one, one-two-three-one rhythm and the violin’s eight note motif floated through the air, I was convinced it had to be the serene Op. 42, no. 3.

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And now, we came to the part of the concert I had (I confess) been waiting for all these days. It was my favourite on the playlist for the evening, and well nigh one of my favourite classical pieces ever; as our host himself stated it, very few had listened to it being performed live and, yes, I was lucky; I was lucky and excited enough to put away my phone, not shoot a photograph or video, shut my eyes and lend my ears to the music arising before me, like wind whistling through Oak. This piece is so beautiful, I need hardly say more than its title: Jules Massenet’s Thais meditation.

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Now we break off for a minute as I give you the video I talked about earlier:

It’s stunning how just half a minute of that music can transport you to a whole new world!

The third piece was an equally stunning, solo piano work, thundering through the walls: Sergei Rachmaninov’s eerily beautiful Musical moment no. 4. If you hear this live, you will want to pay the musicians double and have them play it all over again.

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Finally, listening to another Rachmnaninov, Vocalise Op. 34 no. 14, we moved onto slightly more modern times. The last piece of the day, the final sounds of the concert were the 20th century Argentinian classical composer, Astor Piazollo’s, Adiós, Nonino.

Meaning “Farewell, grandad” this piece is tango-infused classical music and one of Piazollo’s best known works, written in memory of his father days after his father’s passing. I had heard to this piece before but never wholly on violin accompanied by the piano and this take was refreshing, clean and heartily lovable.

It sounded no different than the version played at King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima Zorreguieta’s wedding.

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A lasting effect

The concert was refreshing; but no words can truly some up such fine music. And it was wonderful to be entertained by two talented musicians from halfway around the world. In a way, anybody who had a musical eye (or hand) would most certainly have found a new spirit of creating after last night’s concert.

When I spoke to the musicians, their humour and charm and infectious enthusiasm was vibrating around them just as the walls and the panes and the door frames had been since the past hours. And, to me, one thing was clear: music, like physics, can make better men of us all.

To-morrow, I resume my affairs in bettering my vibrato. The day after, I hope to do it again.

Listen: “Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes (the Glitch Mob remix)

I am indescribably excited to watch G.I. Joe Retaliation this year (I have a bucketful of G.I. Joe action figures == yes, I am a nerd.)

So, while I wait, I thought I’d share this absolutely marvelous song by White Stripes, remixed by the Glitch Mob. It is used as the title music for the movie, and by Jove, it cannot get better than this!



Today’s Violin Lesson: how to deal with annoyed neighbours

AS AN AMATEUR violinist, I am well aware that the one thing you have to be prepared for is an annoyed neighbour (or several of them) whenever you play — and that often happens to be at the worst time of their day.

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It all begins

It happened to me a week or so ago. The lady behind my house began caterwauling with herself (you read that right) about how annoying my violin playing is. Her tactic was simple: should I hear her complaints, she expected me to stop playing.

So I switched from Ave Maria to the Hourglass Song (in case you don’t know, that’s like switching from a triangle to a high-pitched bass drum) and that just irritated her more. I, too, was driving a point here: violin playing is not against the law. if she cannot tolerate it, too bad. Besides, I probably would have started playing the Hourglass song in a few minutes anyway.

That drowned out her complaints for the day.

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Raising the bar

The next day I picked up my violin at about the same time and began playing The Beautiful Blue Danube. The woman probably had some unresolved fight with John Strauss II so she darted out of her house and began complaining to herself again. And one would have thought the previous day’s events would have told her something.

About half-an-hour into my playing session she came up with a new tactic. Threats.

She moved closer to my room window (so I could hear her better over the sound of my violin) and promised to set up a loudspeaker directed towards my house and set it off all day long at full volume. Now, as far as I knew the law, doing that meant she would be breaking it big time. To top it all off, this was a closely knit residential area, at least in terms of bricks and mortar.

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A solution

The next day the same thing repeated until she finally sent her son over to my house (he is about as old as me) to let me know in advance that she was setting up a speaker. So us at home sat down and patiently explained to the boy the dilemma and asked him to provide a solution.

He had three options readied: one, to brick the windows facing their house (Ha!) Two, to not play later than six in the evening (which I never do anyway.) Or, three, to close the curtains while I play (I’m still trying to figure out how this would help.)

Since that day, there have been no complaints. Perhaps the woman gave up, or perhaps she realised her wrong approach, or — hopefully —  she learnt to enjoy the violin.

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A world-wide problem

The reason why I wrote this article is not to relate my anecdote to the world, but because this is a problem beyond national barriers. If you play your violin, or any musical instrument for that matter, and you live in a close neighbourhood, the chances are everybody around you has heard you practice, heard your mistakes, heard your beautiful vibratos and, I would not be going too far in saying, appreciated it.

There will always be those who choose to have problems instead. This is a lot like the lady we saw just now. These turn out to be more troublesome to the violinist than a sticky bow, a loose string or a cracked chin rest. And the reason they are troublesome is not because they are irritated and bother the violinist with it, but because the way almost all of them approach the problem delivers a direct blow to the violinist’s confidence.

Civilisation is all about getting along with each other, and the violin is sophisticated music to listen to while you do that.

There is always the possibility that they come up to you, sit down and talk it out like civilised adults; but they would rather ask you to “Shut that noise off,” or “Stop that howling,” or say, “I’m going to call the police on you if you don’t stop wailing with that violin!”

This inevitably makes many violinists lose their confidence and begin to doubt their own style of playing and their capabilities.

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Violins, Cellos, Drums and Bagpipes

The only way to get through this is to believe in yourself, in your ability and the fact that you are playing well. And most of all, if you stop practicing because of the sore complainers’ sake, how on Earth are you going to get better.

Frankly, I could not have cared less for that lady and her complaining; but I soon realised there are probably other violinists who do, and who, therefore, let it affect them in adverse ways.

What I did was pretty simple: I ignored her and continued playing, and this was for several reasons; the lady does not matter to me, her thoughts do not either; the woman cannot deter me from achieving a degree of perfection in the violin; and if that lady cannot tolerate the violin, there is nothing I can humanly do about it: the Earth was not built for her, her wish is not my command, and if she cannot get along with neighbours, she probably has no hope for herself in society, because civilisation is all about getting along with each other, and the violin is sophisticated music to listen to while you do that.

My bigger plan, of course, is to play the violin so well one day that she’ll want to come and listen to it and I’ll bid her off. (I never said I was the all-forgiving God many people fervently believe in.)

This problem not only spans nations, but also instruments. Viola and violincello players have the same problems as violinists; and the biggest problem is for those who play Drums and Bagpipes, because they can be a little louder than the violin if played right.

I’m going to leave you with some food for thought: if you are a problem to your neighbour, play more often. Your neighbour may need you one day. Here is a quick anecdote about a Baroness to inspire you:

At the funeral of her only child, Baroness Ertmann realised she could not find tears. So her husband, General Ertmann, brought her to the Master. The master spoke no words but played music for her until she began to sob, so her sorrow found an outlet and comfort.

The Master is whom we now know as Ludwig van Beethoven. [vhb]


Singer/s : Renaud, Axelle Red

Language : French

This is a beautiful French song written by Renaud, composed by Jean-Pierre Bucolo, and sung by Renaud in duo with Axelle Red, in the album Boucan d’enfer (2002.)

It was written in the aftermath of the incidents of September 11, 2001 and the War in Afghanistan. The song was very successful in France and Belgium, reaching the hit top five.

Especially for those who do not speak french, I would love to hear what you think of the song. What do you think it means?

À nos actes manqués

Singer/s : Jean-Jacques Goldman, Carole Fredricks, Michael Jones

Year : 1991

Language : French

This is a 1991 French song recorded by the trio of Jean-Jacques Goldman, Carole Fredericks and Michael Jones, and was one of the summer hits in France. It has also been re-recorded by others as recently as 2011 and has seen good success.

I hope you liked and enjoyed this song if you had not heard to it before!

Buy / Download this song!

5 more classical music pieces you’ll love!

Following from my first article from a long time ago in my attempt to spread interest and involvement with classical music among everyone (and it seems to be working on my good friend, Raghul Selvam, so far!) here is the second collection of my 5 favourite compositions which I think you will like! In this list we will listen to the fast, the slow, the moody, the dreamy, the haunting — feel free to use the nicknames as you please — and perhaps something else? Why not decide for yourself?

1. Violin Concerto in E Minor I (Allegro molto appasionato) by Felix Mendelssohn

This is Felix Mendelssohn’s most famous and the world’s most performed violin piece till date. In his the first movement of Violin Concerto in E Major — his last orchestral work, lasting nearly half-an-hour — Mendelssohn presents his typical conservative music taste, then much loved in Britain but often frowned upon by other European composers, especially of the stature of his contemporary, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner.

Listen to Mendelssohn below as his cadenza builds up to vast speeds requiring ricochet bowing from the soloist. Yes, this is a solo violin piece!

2. Symphony no. 2 in C minor “Resurrection” I (Allegro maestoso) by Gustav Mahler

Considered by many to be a master of haunting orchestral music, Mahler is considered one of the greatest conductor, and interpretor of the works of Mozart. His symphonies had been performed at least 260 times during his own lifetime!

Listen to Mahler below and awe at the echoes of Resurrection.

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An extract from 'Suite Bergamasque'

Suite Bergamasque

3. Danse Macabre by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns

Many people, even those in the heart of the music community, will tell you that this is the most haunting piece ever written. Often you will find people recommending Danse Macabre (it is a French word, so macabre is not really pronounced as macabre.) Anyway, Saint-Saëns had these curious relationships with his contemporaries, along the lines as being terribly close to Franz Liszt and utterly hating d’Indy; or praising Jules Massenet’s musical talent and then writing in his book that he had no use of the fellow; or the famous trivia that Saint-Saëns hated Debussy’s music — yes, that is indeed true!

Listen to Danse Macabre below; and to elevate your spirits, here is a little factoid: Danse Macabre is French for the dance of the dead. Perhaps that tells you why the piece is haunting!

4. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt

I would not hide the fact that the reason I included this piece in my list is mostly because it is my favourite of all Hungarian Rhapsodies by Liszt. It is fairly fast paced; complex, yet beautiful; and, in spite of its length, retains its freshness and keeps echoing in your mind once you listen to it.

Liszt was a benefactor to many other musicians of his time including some iconic people like Alexander Borodin, Edvard Gerig, Camille Saint-Saens and Richard Wagner. Known for his piano skills, Liszt’s fame lies in his representation of the New German School and in popularising music among the masses by transcribing many pieces to the piano.

Listen to Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 below and sit awestruck at the impact of this gorgeous tune.

5. Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy

If you asked my opinion of the greatest piano sonatas every written, I would rank Fur Elise (Beethoven,) Claire de Lune, and Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven) — all three — in the first spot. Claire de Lune is french (again!) for Moonlight: a subject the Moonlight Sonata itself is based on. But Caire de Lune is vastly different in its melody and mood, and was written first in the 1880s when Debussy was still an infamous composer. By 1905, when he had grown considerably famous, he had also grown fairly hateful of the late-80s style piano in Suite Bergamasque. In his edit in 1905 before he finally published the work, he renamed one movement — earlier called Promenade Sentimentale — to its present title of Claire de Lune.

Listen to Claire de Lune below and drown in the slow, dance-worthy music that will transport you to calmness.

So this is my collection for this time. I’ll come up with a third set soon, until then keep reading our other articles!

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