Monday, April 16, 2007

More street-singing in Singapore

Singing "Hitomi wo tojite", one of my favorite japanese song from a really moving movie named "sekai no cyushin de ai wo sakebu"

Singing "if", a Danial Chan cover.

Singing "Over the rainbow"

Singing Simon & Garfunkel's timeless piece "Sound of Silence".

Singing Damien Rice's "The professor, la fille dance".

Singing "一生何求".

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why street-sing?

My buddy Wei Jin (the bass in my ex-acapella group skritch) pointed out this excellent article by Washington Post to me. Evidently, they did an experiment by asking an internationally acclaimed violinist (Joshua Bell, who just a few nights ago played for a crowd who paid $100+ ticket to see his performance) do a street-performance (playing a $3.5m instrument) at a train station at DC and see what'd happen. In the end, nothing much. What followed was in my opinion, an excellent article on the psyche of the street-performer, and how he interacts or rather ignores his surrounding in pursuit of a musical high. There're so many lines in this article that really captured how I feel towards singing on the streets; I'm really not much of a writer, so I'd let this journalist speak on my behalf:

"Each passerby had a quick choice to make...Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?"

"It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears...he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts."

""It wasn't exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies," he says. "I was stressing a little. When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."

"So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there's another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money."

""The awkward times," he calls them. It's what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn't noticed him playing don't notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord -- the embarrassed musician's equivalent of, "Er, okay, moving right along . . ." -- and begins the next piece."

"There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."

"Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he's not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: "I'm surprised at the number of people who don't pay attention at all, as if I'm invisible. Because, you know what? I'm makin' a lot of noise!"

Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don't take visible note of the musician, you don't have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you're not complicit in a rip-off."

"Hessian was one of those people who gave Bell a long, hard look before walking on. It turns out that she wasn't noticing the music at all. "I really didn't hear that much," she said. "I was just trying to figure out what he was doing there, how does this work for him, can he make much money, would it be better to start with some money in the case, or for it to be empty, so people feel sorry for you? I was analyzing it financially.""

"Souza (a shoe-shiner who works at the station) nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look. "People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?""

"(Picarello, a passer-by said,)"Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day."

""It was the most astonishing thing I've ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn't do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?""

To end off, just watch the following video of Bruce Springsteen singing on the street. If a mega star like him still does this, I think it says a lot about busking. To me, it is a journey and feeling unlike any other.

I've found my (street-singing) home!

Yes! After my first 2, rather unpleasant, experiences busking on Orchard, I think I've finally found the spot that will keep me happy for at least the next few busking trips! It's at the underground tunnel that connects Wheelock's place (borders) and Shaw Center. It's still Orchard but the crowd traffic is actually just nice, not over-crowded but not so dead either. What's more is the awesome acoustic of the tunnel, plus it's air-conditioned too!

Actually I've known that place for a while now, but if I'm not wrong that tunnel is not among the 100+ ocations that National Arts Council has spelled out in this very-specific list. However, I realized that actually other buskers do their thing there quite regularly so I decided I'd just give it a go, and boy it was ecstasy!

For the first time in half a year I felt that I'm really connected to my music again. I didn't give a damn if people would drop me a coin, I just want to keep playing and playing. And in the end I played for more than 5 hours straight!

I also made friends with several veteran buskers who frequent that tunnel. Peter is a full-time busker who street-sing everyday while Stanford does this on weekend. They were really friendly folks and we jammed together for a good hour. It was great! I felt liberated, and when I closed my eyes jamming to the tune of Bob Marley's Redemption Song I could "see" myself doing that same song in front of the Bart Station in Berkeley. It's hard to explain, but despite the enclosed surroundings, I felt free.

Tammy, always my biggest fan, came down to film me for a bit before I "closed shop". My friends adeline and brandon also swing by together with their other-halves :)

Interesting anecdote:
- A young boy (probably 5 or 6 yr-old) came up to me after I sang "I'll remember you" and asked in his innocent voice "Are you a man?" To which his embarrassed mum hurriedly apologized for her son. Haha, I must have had this question asked more than dozen times over the course of my street-singing career...i personally find this boy pretty courageous compared to those whom I'd overhear saying "is he a he or a she? ohoh..look at his throat...sld be a guy..right?" hahaha

- Tammy's relatives from Perth (whom I just met for the first time a few months ago while in Australia) were actually in Singapore for a few days of vacation and they actually bump into me at the tunnel! How small can this world be!

Singing "I'll Remember You" by Tanya Chua

Singing "Blower's Daughter" by Damien Rice

Singing "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley

Singing "I'm yours" by Jason Mraz

Still uploading more song...will post them in the next post~

$$ advice from an ex-CEO turned blogger~

I've been following mr Tan Kin Lian's blog for a while now. Initially I tracked his blog cos he's one of those few C-level executive (albeit a former one, ex-CEO of NTUC Income) in Singapore who actually blog. After a while, I read it for the sound advice he actually responds to his readers' specific questions. And he seems really approachable too~ He replied my email to him (i just wanna let him know I appreciate what he was doing with his blog) within an hr and he actually offered this woman to call his number directly to seek advice from him....sounds like a nice guy eh?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thinking about Middle East

It's amazing how life changes. One moment I was worrying so much about A-levels, the next moment I was carrying M16 in a Brunei jungle, and then came all the day-dreaming in America, and finally, just when I thought I'm finally back in Singapore for good, I now find myself with the prospect of working in UAE, a country in a region that I hardly know anything about besides being blessed with oil wealth.

The world is so big, so many places to travel, so many languages to learn, yet so little time...I do hope to make the most out of this opportunity thou. It'd be a great "excuse" for me to really spend time learning about the culture of the region, perhaps pick up a bit of Arabic too? Who knows, they might have a vibrant blogging or web culture there too!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Virtual vs Indoor "Sky Diving"

Skydiving in Second Life.

Skydiving in an indoor wind tunnel!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Street-singing in Orchard

Just a quick post on my second time street-singing on Orchard Road. The experience is largely similar to the first time; hot, humid, sweating and trying my best to fight the surrounding noise. A friend told me about the tunnel linking Wheelock's Place and Shaw...I checked it out and it looks quite promising. Enclosed area (which means good acoustic) and optimal human traffic...I think that's where I'd try next.

Interesting anecdote:
A woman actually came up to me half-way through singing "Vincent" and asked me "Son, why are you doing this?", to which I applied, "for the love of music". And then she gave me $2. That felt great :)