Case Study: adapting music for amateur choir

A trained soprano approached me recently about adapting a famous Buddhist song, arranged for four-part voice, for a 45-person amateur choir, pianist, cello, and saxophone. Continue reading “Case Study: adapting music for amateur choir”


Dome Church Sunday Service Domkerk Utrecht

Sunday service at Utrecht’s most famous dome church is a must-experience. There’s more music than church.

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Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection

Watching an art and music improvisation session reminded me of the various collaborations I’ve had with artists in London, Utrecht, Crete, and Brugges. It’s about the process.

As a finishing touch to my recent application for an innovation grant, I asked the Maui-based artist Mike Takemoto if he would consider having his students collaborate with mine. I was thinking along the lines of an exhibit of paintings of musicians, music instruments, or music notes. It would be an extension of the piano ensemble poster exhibit that I “curated” and organized with the photography teacher Harvey Reed and his photo and design students last spring. Such interdisciplinary collaboration raised awareness of the activities we wanted to promote.

Continue reading “Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection”

Ostinatrio electronified minimalist music

Ostinatrio, a minimalist piece written originally for three recorders in 2005, receives an electronic makeover in 2014 and once more for wind trio and piano ensemble.

What a delight it was to receive a request through Twitter to share a variation of my music!

I wrote Ostinatrio for three recorders and revised it for oboe after its premiere in Utrecht, Netherlands. Like most of my music, I forgot about it until I heard the electronic version which is a lot more, hmmm, what shall I say, relevant? for film music? exciting to play? for my piano ensemble?

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Hooked on dancing

Dancing makes me feel alive and free. And it also brings back many fond memories.

In the “mixers” the women line up and wait for their turn to dance with a man who leads in a dance around the room until it’s time to join the queue again. This is Maui on a Saturday evening on the parquet wooden floors of the Omori Dance Studios at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC).  In London, it was the opposite — the women were in short supply at Friday night CEROC dances, and the men had to queue for their turn.

The tall gentleman, who led me on my third waltz tonight, gently lifted my left hand from his shoulder and directed it to his shoulder joint. “There,” he said. “Isn’t that more comfortable?” On a previous occasion, an older gentleman kept saying,”Relax. Relax.” It’s been years since I last did ballroom dancing. I finally got the message when I was told, “You’re probably used to being around a lot of women. Please relax and let me lead.”

The regulars were polite and curious. Are you visiting? Where are you from?

I felt embarrassed when I replied that I lived close by and that I actually wanted to participate for quite some time. It was a chance encounter, while looking for my creative writing instructor in the English Lecturers Office, that I learned of “Advance Your Dance.” Verna, the secretary, said, “We meet every week. Several times a week. Are you on Facebook? You can find them there.” That was three months ago. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me on a Saturday evening. The first time is always the hardest. Who dares go into a room full of strangers?

Not disco dancing in Leiden but ballroom dancing in Maui
Not disco dancing in Leiden but ballroom dancing in Maui

The men and women who come dance here are serious about dancing. They bring their dancing shoes and water bottles. From 6 pm, they can sign in and pay $5 per person to dance until 9:45 pm. From 7 to 8 pm, a particular kind of dance is taught. The rest of the evening is a mix of music for jitterbug also known as East Coast Swing, waltz, quick step, cha cha, tango, salsa, West Coast Swing, and other styles. Last Saturday, my first time, I lasted barely two hours after learning three kinds of line dances. Tonight, it was intermediate foxtrot. The hosts Frank and Sandy Hook are back from Connecticut. Apparently, they also give dancing classes on Monday and Wednesdays in Wailuku.

Dance music brings back fond memories. I recall organizing a latin dancing evening so that I could learn new latin dances from my friend Tim, who was leading a fourteen-member band in London. I rented the church hall on my street and charged five pounds at the door. My friend, the late Ayyub Malik, checked everyone in. All was perfect, except there were too many guys and not enough ladies. I learned a few things that night. Guys were fine going alone to a dance. Girls would not go alone. They’d go with another girl or a guy. A girl was okay dancing with another girl. Guys didn’t do that. Not latin, anyway. Being the responsible host, I made sure I danced with every guy so no one was left out. I even threw in a raffle draw to give away my personal things to make it worthwhile. In the end, we broke even. Everyone was happy, except I couldn’t walk for a few days.

Graduation dance at Duke University?
Graduation dance in North Carolina ?

Last Saturday, someone asked me if I had been dancing regularly. “No,” I answered, wishing I was able to say yes. “Not continuously. Just off and on.”

I did ballet when I was six. It morphed into Chinese Folk Dancing. In high school, I was voted “Dancing Queen” at age sixteen. In college, I took a social dancing course to satisfy half of the physical education requirement. My partner and I worked out cha cha moves to KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up.” During my junior year abroad in Montreal, the overseas Chinese crowd got me interested in ballroom dancing. With this minimal experience, I was invited to organize social dancing classes in my second job in Singapore. It became so popular that my colleagues asked if that was my real job at the bank. Seeing how it flattened the organizational hierarchy and made a community out of my colleagues, I proposed to start a social club to engage the single foreigners from forty different countries at the London offices of another employer. And that’s how I learned to salsa, lambada, and merengue.

What is so fun about dancing? It makes me feel alive and free. It also brings back fond memories, such as the night I crashed a London Business School Annual Ball with a friend who was in town on business. According to Facebook, he is now a serious ballroom dancer.

My next mission? Bring guys so that the ladies don’t have to wait.

Dancing in the mother of all fortresses in Naarden Vesting, October 2005
Dancing in the mother of all fortresses in Naarden Vesting, October 2005

Reasons for attending a classical concert

My reasons for attending a classical music concert have changed over time. On Maui, it has become a social outing, to meet others with the same interests.

The reasons I attend concerts have changed over time. Initially I went out of curiosity. Several factors made it possible in London: I lived near a music college, and I was between jobs. I was looking for inspiration and direction.

Eventually, as a composition student, I went to concerts to learn the repertoire. As a chamber musician, I attended to observe best examples of performance.

Continue reading “Reasons for attending a classical concert”

Monument house for rent in Utrecht, Netherlands

The monument house at Keulsekade 25, Utrecht, Netherlands is available for rent: 4 bedrooms, 2 toilets, 1 bathroom and a separate garden house with its own toilet, shower, sink, and tatami sleep area. Front and back gardens. Floor heating. High ceilings. Everything you want in a central location, convenient for shopping and the central station in Utrecht. Available 15 Oct 2013.

A year ago Robert and I put up our house in Utrecht, Netherlands for sale and for rent. We wanted neither, of course. But we were on opposite sides of the earth, 12 time zones apart, dealing with a situation that required us to empty our home and take the first offer. Had we sold it, we’d be closing an important chapter in our lives.

Luckily the first couple who saw the renovated Dutch monument house fell in love with it and offered to rent it.

Whew! We didn’t have to sell it. Thus I never wrote part 2 of my blog: monument house for sale. But we still had to remove everything, including my beloved Steinway.

Now it’s up for rent again.

Available in mid-October 2013 – the entire house plus the garden house behind it.

I wish a musician would rent it — then we would move the 1909 Steinway grand back where it belongs.

The piano room in the Dutch Monument House in Utrecht
The piano room in the Dutch Monument House in Utrecht

From 2006 to 2011, we met our commitments to hold two concerts per year as part of the Monument House Concert Series in that lovely space. The last one on 2nd July 2011, only a day after the first one, was a good-bye to years of music making. I can’t watch the video in the next blog without tears, but I will try to use it in introducing minimalistic music in the “Introduction to Music Literature” class I’m teaching this semester at University of Hawaii Maui College.

For more information: visit Sabbatical Homes