April 15, 2017 at 6:25pm

Did you know that Happy Birthday had been arranged in different genre-versions? Give the following a listen and you won't stop laughing. While my first student loves the New Orleans version the most, my favourite is the final Hungarian Version! What about you?

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Sng Yong Meng

This is awesome! What makes you like the Hungarian version most?

April 19, 2017 at 1:44pm
Goh Zensen

Maybe lately I've been listening to lots of Hungarian traditional tunes and have identified some common styles among them; and the way the Hungarian version is arranged has captured that exact... See More

Maybe lately I've been listening to lots of Hungarian traditional tunes and have identified some common styles among them; and the way the Hungarian version is arranged has captured that exact style so aptly!

April 19, 2017 at 8:20pm
Sng Yong Meng

In yesterday's Adam Gyorgy concert, he played Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" in one of his encores - and we know Liszt was very heavily influenced by Hungarian Folk music!

April 22, 2017 at 1:11pm
Goh Zensen

Yes, exactly, and so is Brahms!

April 22, 2017 at 2:21pm
April 13, 2017 at 10:44pm

Musical Instruments Museum is the largest instrumental museum in the world (in Arizona, USA) whereby instruments are displayed geographically by continents and sub-continents. Its size is as big as Suntec City.

I've recently discovered that we can in fact perform a COMPREHENSIVE virtual tour of its entire museum (try it, can be addictive for several hours) simply via Google Maps!

And it is deadly accurate because we do see the Banjo and Sousaphone in USA, the Musette accordion... See More

Musical Instruments Museum is the largest instrumental museum in the world (in Arizona, USA) whereby instruments are displayed geographically by continents and sub-continents. Its size is as big as Suntec City.

I've recently discovered that we can in fact perform a COMPREHENSIVE virtual tour of its entire museum (try it, can be addictive for several hours) simply via Google Maps!

And it is deadly accurate because we do see the Banjo and Sousaphone in USA, the Musette accordion in France, Highland Bagpipes in Scotland, Mandolins in Italy, Tárogató and Cimbalom in Hungary, and the Shakuhachi and Shamisen in Japan and many more!

Remember to use your desktop PC (so that we can use the scroll button at the centre of our mouse to navigate) instead of your smartphone to best enjoy the tour!

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Sng Yong Meng

Wow, didn't know Google Maps can take you on a virtual tour of a place like that!! =)!!

The words on the wall, and those in front of the exhibits to explain them, are too small to see,... See More

Wow, didn't know Google Maps can take you on a virtual tour of a place like that!! =)!!

The words on the wall, and those in front of the exhibits to explain them, are too small to see, though.

April 15, 2017 at 10:11pm
Goh Zensen

That's why. How I wished in the near future, the resolutions are higher!

April 15, 2017 at 10:56pm
Corrine Ying

That's interesting, great for an ethnomusicology lesson.

April 17, 2017 at 10:39pm
Goh Zensen

Yes, or a music lesson infusing ICT in commemorating International Friendship Day!

April 19, 2017 at 8:21pm
April 14, 2017 at 3:16pm

Someone has recently raised the subject matter on the improvisatory nature of baroque and classical period composers. Many of them were in fact improvising AS THEY WERE composing. But they only (largely) documented ONE VERSION of their improvisation, which is the score archived till today for others to play. There are larger implications to music and music education, which many disagree with me. So far few people (e.g. Dr Leonard Tan, conductor of the Singapore National Youth Symphony... See More

Someone has recently raised the subject matter on the improvisatory nature of baroque and classical period composers. Many of them were in fact improvising AS THEY WERE composing. But they only (largely) documented ONE VERSION of their improvisation, which is the score archived till today for others to play. There are larger implications to music and music education, which many disagree with me. So far few people (e.g. Dr Leonard Tan, conductor of the Singapore National Youth Symphony Orchestra) agree with me.

The implications are: Why must we be having to have the DOGMA of having to play every single note (dictated on the documented score) to the last letter WHEN the composer himself could have used a slightly different set of notes if he had written the score using another improvised version of his work?

And it is exactly this dogma, passed through the centuries and generations, that the general conventional music fraternity is holding dearly to. Don't get me wrong - this definitely has its important purpose which we need to maintain. I'm more referring to the general player who simply wants to appreciate and enjoy playing classical music (not joining an orchestra or be a concert pianist) - why must they choose the "only" route on score-reading?

If we can embrace improvised versions of Mozart's Symphony No 40 in jazz version and Mambo version, wouldn't it be strange then, that we ask FOR THE SCORES for these versions? [That we want to rely on a precise score to play EVEN an IMPROVISED version of a work!] See the logical fallacy here?

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Sng Yong Meng

" .. when the composer himself could have used a slightly different set of notes if he had written the score using another improvised version of his work ... "

At the end of the day, would... See More

" .. when the composer himself could have used a slightly different set of notes if he had written the score using another improvised version of his work ... "

At the end of the day, would the composer still choose a final version he wants the audience to hear as the definitive?

For example, when you hear a recording published by the composer, would it be reasonable to conclude that, while he had tried many versions / many improvised versions of his work; he will still choose one definitive to be shown to the public?

April 15, 2017 at 9:54pm
Goh Zensen

Hmm, I would say it is a combination of yes and no. Someone recently mentioned the cadenza issue, which would shed some lights to it. As a classical composer myself, coupled with some of my other... See More

Hmm, I would say it is a combination of yes and no. Someone recently mentioned the cadenza issue, which would shed some lights to it. As a classical composer myself, coupled with some of my other classical composer friends, though there is a "final version" of our works which we would set on it (and document it), we feel we are quite fine if some of the "less important notes" (e.g. the way to produce or sound out the chords at certain junctures) are changed slightly, since it won't affect its overall musicality. But once they change things that are more pivotal (such as our counter melodies), then it is a strict no-no. But having said that, there are other composers who would want 100% conformance of playing w.r.t. to what they have written precisely.

April 15, 2017 at 10:55pm
Sng Yong Meng

"... though there is a final version of our works ... quite fine if some of the less important notes are changed slightly ..."

Since there still has to be a final version delivered to the... See More

"... though there is a final version of our works ... quite fine if some of the less important notes are changed slightly ..."

Since there still has to be a final version delivered to the public, it would best represent what the composer truly wants. Otherwise, if he has felt that a slight change in some of the notes would suit better, he would have chosen that as the definitive piece. Thus, the published piece contains the intricate musical qualities, and emotions, among other collaterals; that the composer wants the world to hear and feel it.

He might hope that this song would be played in its entirety to preserve his intentions. If he has wanted other variations, he might publish his works in variations. For example, Mozart's Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman".

What the future generations would perform, is something the composer cannot predict. Musicians now can perform it in its truest form, or improvised form, and whether it can be accepted depends largely on the current state of musical taste among the population.

April 19, 2017 at 7:11pm
Chris Khoo

At the end of the day, would it boil down to who decides which is part of the composer's authoritative / canonical works, and which is not ? The publisher of the works, the patron, a panel, the... See More

At the end of the day, would it boil down to who decides which is part of the composer's authoritative / canonical works, and which is not ? The publisher of the works, the patron, a panel, the composer himself ? Is it a matter of power ?

April 19, 2017 at 7:51pm
April 17, 2017 at 8:56am

While most people would ignore the following "contrasting videos", Dr Eugene, the Head of the Music Department at the National Institute of Education (NIE) was most intrigued by it! Would like to hear your comments, please!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qanSwhxhPKs

April 15, 2017 at 10:45pm

What makes one piece of music "beautiful", "captivating", "catchy", "moving", "memorable" etc, but not another piece of music?

(Pop music composers often talk about this "musical hook" that makes a song captivating .)

How does the mind decide what's a musical hit and what isn't?

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Corrine Ying

But I am still interested to hear about the quantitative method that Zensen spoke about.

April 16, 2017 at 1:26pm
Goh Zensen

Pardon me; as I've been reminded by my Master Trainers and potential investors about this; it is better that I run through all the various schools of thoughts in determining aesthetic quality via... See More

Pardon me; as I've been reminded by my Master Trainers and potential investors about this; it is better that I run through all the various schools of thoughts in determining aesthetic quality via my talk.

But in order not to whet your appetite too much, I will share the 4th school here, which is easier, reserving the 2nd school (quantitative method) at the talk, since it is rather sophisticated, requiring graphs and diagrams, etc.

The 4th school of thought hinges on the notion of nostalgia. There has been extensive research done on this field: Generally, people tend to like music that they listen to a lot during their late teens to young adulthood (20s), thereby finding these songs highly aesthetic. For example, my mum would feel pop songs in the 50s and 60s very appealing and beautiful, while those in my generation (80s and 90s) are no good. Interestingly, by the same token, I will have the tendency to find pop music in the 80s and 90s to be superior, and current hits are degenerating. Teens will feel otherwise!

The researchers attribute this to the phenomenon that during teenage and young adulthood period, we are most impressionistic about the music media we expose to, attaching lots of sentimental values to them, etc. However, as we grow older, many of us will be focusing more on developing our career, starting a family, etc. leading to the situation whereby we listen less to popular music thus feeling less receptive to the "new culture" or style.

There are several implications for this school of thought. For example, if we are organising a concert meant to let our audience indulge and enjoy the pieces, and if we know our audience are all around the age group of 70s and 80s, then probably we will choose our repertoire of oldies in the 50s and 60s (instead of say in the 80s).

April 16, 2017 at 11:52pm
Goh Zensen

So Corrine is right at the micro-level sense. But once we extend it to the macro-level, it will be a case of being beyond Person's A subjectivity vs Person B's subjectivity. Case in point: I am... See More

So Corrine is right at the micro-level sense. But once we extend it to the macro-level, it will be a case of being beyond Person's A subjectivity vs Person B's subjectivity. Case in point: I am about to go overseas (together with a team of others) for an exchange programme at their music fraternity. And I am supposed to select a few pieces of Singaporean works that are aesthetic to perform there, so that it will well represent the cultural superiority of Singapore.

What should govern my choices? If I simply go by my personal subjectivity, that's it. It will ruin everything. Why? For example, I personally don't like the melody of Home, but this will probably go into my repertoire because of several reasons (taking into consideration on other schools of thoughts in determining aesthetics beyond my personal subjectivity).

Thus the discipline or study of Music Aesthetics has widespread practical applications. It doesn't stop at personal subjectivity differences. It goes into factors that shape mankind's individual subjectivity (one of which is nostalgia).

April 16, 2017 at 9:27pm
Chris Khoo

Amazing!

April 16, 2017 at 10:22pm
April 15, 2017 at 5:43pm

If you have a toddler niece/nephew whom you truly dote on, you might wish to consider getting them this Korg Tiny Piano at their 1st, 2nd or 3rd birthday - it costs only $200+ and is extremely small and light (doesn't take up much space). It operates either with batteries (which thus can be played at the bedside) or AC power, and has 4 colours to match surrounding furniture. It has good acoustic piano sounds, as well as toy piano sounds! Can also perform octave shifts and many more!

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Corrine Ying

Nice. I only have the Kawai toy piano (which sounds more like a xylophone). Maybe I should get this as well.

April 15, 2017 at 6:39pm
Goh Zensen

Yes, you can either get it from City Music or the music shop at the top floor of White Sands Mall.

April 15, 2017 at 6:46pm
Sng Yong Meng

This is different from the Kawai one you mentioned, right?

April 15, 2017 at 9:48pm
Goh Zensen

Yes, the Kawai one is strictly acoustic, and the sound is like a glockenspiel. But this is electronic.

April 15, 2017 at 11:45pm
April 14, 2017 at 9:21am

As a piano newbie and novice, i learned piano by myself. I usually play by ears and memorization. Recently i play some songs and recorded it. i realised certain part of the songs the speed(Tempo) is not ideal. It could be a bit too fast or slow and as a result sounds a little bit messy. How do your play a song in an ideal speed (Tempo) and "Control" the whole songs seems like a hard skills to master. Any thoughts?

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Corrine Ying

How about adding some percussion (like a steady drum beat) to your playing if you're using a digital piano? Learners of classical music usually use a metronome to help control the tempo.

April 14, 2017 at 10:27pm
Sng Yong Meng

That's a nice suggestion for someone using the digital piano, since the percussion becomes an actual accompaniment to his playing.

At least, it is not as monotonous as a metronome for... See More

That's a nice suggestion for someone using the digital piano, since the percussion becomes an actual accompaniment to his playing.

At least, it is not as monotonous as a metronome for those playing on the acoustic piano, where the metronome has no musical participation, and it's purely for keeping the tempo in check.

April 14, 2017 at 10:42pm
Gan Theng Beng

Thanks for the insights and ideas. I am currently using acoustic upright piano. I also think that when you play the piano your mind need be calm and at peace and most likely you will get the '... See More

Thanks for the insights and ideas. I am currently using acoustic upright piano. I also think that when you play the piano your mind need be calm and at peace and most likely you will get the 'right' tempo.

April 15, 2017 at 12:11pm
Corrine Ying

There are apps that can provide different kinds of drum beats in varying speeds to accompany your playing. So it doesn't have to be a boring metronome beat.

Yes Theng Beng, when we are... See More

There are apps that can provide different kinds of drum beats in varying speeds to accompany your playing. So it doesn't have to be a boring metronome beat.

Yes Theng Beng, when we are nervous, our hearts beat faster and we tend to play faster.

April 15, 2017 at 9:07pm
April 6, 2017 at 7:12pm

Was feeling gleeful and jubilant after conducting the first run of the Advanced Harmony & Improvisation workshop! Participants were so enthusiastic and participatory in this "learning through jamming" session that many didn't want to go home even when it ended!

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Lim Jin Li

Yes!!! Hehehe, thanks for allowing me to crash course the workshop! As someone who went through the 'tao geh' learning, I find it very difficult to improvise and find the appropriate chords to... See More

Yes!!! Hehehe, thanks for allowing me to crash course the workshop! As someone who went through the 'tao geh' learning, I find it very difficult to improvise and find the appropriate chords to convey the right 'nuance' (like you mentioned in class). The materials mentioned in class will definitely help with my self-study and jamming in class made it real fun too! Thanks again!!

April 13, 2017 at 5:49pm
Goh Zensen

Am delighted that you enjoyed it and finding it useful! The 3rd and final session will be next Thursday!

April 13, 2017 at 6:35pm
Chris Khoo

During office hours again ?

April 13, 2017 at 7:07pm
Goh Zensen

Yes, all three are from 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

April 13, 2017 at 10:29pm
April 12, 2017 at 1:43pm

A truly special improvement in the piano! With improving materials and technology, instrument makers should make use of the new material characteristics and push the boundaries!

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Goh Zensen

This is good news! In fact another friend of mine had recently the chance to play on such a piano!

April 12, 2017 at 6:25pm
April 9, 2017 at 5:32pm

Many have asked me to unpack the meaning of "music appreciation". When someone asks you, "Are you able to appreciate this piece/genre of music?", what exact does that mean?

Music appreciation has different levels:

First Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can't explain why.

Second Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can only explain why I like it in non-musical (layman's) terms.

Third Level: I like that music / enjoy... See More

Many have asked me to unpack the meaning of "music appreciation". When someone asks you, "Are you able to appreciate this piece/genre of music?", what exact does that mean?

Music appreciation has different levels:

First Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can't explain why.

Second Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it but I can only explain why I like it in non-musical (layman's) terms.

Third Level: I like that music / enjoy listening to it and I can decipher/analyse why I like it by relating it using music concepts and terms.

Fourth Level: Not only am I of the above (3rd Level), I can also play it if a score is given.

Fifth Level: Not only am I of the above (4th Level), I can also play it by sight-reading and also by ear.

Sixth Level: Not only am I of the above (5th Level), I can also play it by improvising it so that it adopts the style of another genre.

(Source: My synthesis of Reimer's Aesthetics Philosophy, Elliot's Praxial Philosophy & Revised Bloom's Taxonomy)

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Sng Yong Meng

Classically trained pianists who learn mainly by reading scores might challenge the order of level 4 and level 5, which of course is another highly debatable topic of its own. Any thoughts?

April 11, 2017 at 6:15am
Goh Zensen

There are two parts to this. First, the defined Level 5 here is not just having the ability to play-by-ear. It refers to those who can sight-read PLUS possessing the play-by-ear ability (dual... See More

There are two parts to this. First, the defined Level 5 here is not just having the ability to play-by-ear. It refers to those who can sight-read PLUS possessing the play-by-ear ability (dual skills). In other words, they are progressive in nature. Incidentally, and statistically speaking, there are indeed more who are able to sight-read than those who are able to play-by-ear, thus portraying the right pyramid structure.

Second, according to the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy, playing-by-ear is a higher -order thinking skill-set because while a computer can play out a piece of music when a MIDI score is fed onto it, it lacks the ability to play-by-ear (relative pitch, not absolute pitch because the former requires musicality while the latter does not). It is akin to newsreaders who can read a passage extremely well (with good diction and intonation) but are unable to speak well in the impromptu/off-the-cuff sense (when relating an incident).

April 11, 2017 at 9:18am
Chris Khoo

I agree with Yong Meng. For those who can play by ear, most of the time it's pretty effortless (it's an innate talent which can be cultivated further I believe ), whereas playing by score often... See More

I agree with Yong Meng. For those who can play by ear, most of the time it's pretty effortless (it's an innate talent which can be cultivated further I believe ), whereas playing by score often takes hard work and concentration (unless of course you can sight read effortlessly :)

April 11, 2017 at 9:18am
Chris Khoo

There are those who can't read music notes but can play a piece by ear even better than one who can read the score !

April 11, 2017 at 9:19am

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