2013年6月29日 星期六

Saturday Fun (週末笑一笑)

Some say that photographers are violent: they frame you, they shoot you and they hang you up on a wall!

Photography can be an absorbing hobby. When it's 30 degrees, you wipe the beads of sweat from your forehead. When it's raining, you still want to take that shot of that crystal clear water drop dripping from a leaf, albeit under an umbrella.  You're prepared to walk 6 hours to get that spectacular angle on the landscape which you saw somebody else before you did. Photographers have the weirdest kinds of thought. They are jokes. But you think they care?

Now check if you're a photographer or got the potential to be one. But don't have any illusions, being a photographer is no guarantee that you'll be a good one! Whatever the outcome may be, have some fun.

1. Have you got got 30,000 family photos neatly categories in Lightroom but not a single photo of yourself?

2. When you see a new car, do you figure out the price in terms of how many 5D Mark IIs or your power bill in terms of how many monopods or tripods?

3. Are your carry-on backpack and shoulder bag on any flight heavier than your checked baggage?

4. Are you now on your fifth tripod and finally decide it’s time to buy a Gitzo?

5. Do you look at a desk full of tax returns, utility and other household bills and wonder how you could photograph the stack ?

6. Do you adjust the angle of your head or change your line of vision for a more interesting composition whilst doing daily work?

7. Do your friends tell you that they don’t take pics of their own kids
playing any more wherever you're around  because they know YOU will be there doing it
every chance you get?

8. Does everyone hand you their cameras at family events and say”take some photos for me”?

9. Does the image taken as a visual memo with your phone have a sophisticated composition?

10. Does the sign “no flash photography” means nothing to you and makes you laugh, because YOU don’t need a flash?

11. Do you think in f-stops?

12. Do you pity members of the public when you see them using their little pocket digital cameras with autofocusing?

13. Will you starve yourself and hold your urine just to get that last 30 minutes of the golden-hour of the day?

14.Have you finally become oblivious to the odd stares you get when you
whip out your camera to take a sweet shot that no one else seems to
notice but you?

15. Do you wish you had a camera installed in your retina ?

Now you know if you are or have got potential to become a serious photographer.

It's weekend. Shutter bug time! Happy shooting.

2013年6月27日 星期四

The Sun, the Clouds, the Sea (陽光,雲朵,海)

Shek O is a very special place. It's the best beach on Hong Kong island. That every one knows. But not so many people know that there are nooks and corners in that tiny village tucked away quietly on the eastern tip of the island which has that little something which makes it look as if it's almost not a part of Hong Kong. At least not that Hong Kong we are all familiar with.

A decoration between on a village fence

2013年6月23日 星期日

Rachmaninoff in Tsimshatsui (拉赫曼尼諾夫在尖沙咀)

Lermontov - The Rock Ledge (1841)

 Through the night, a golden cloud lay sleeping
On the breast of a gigantic rock ledge.
In the morning, early, off she hurried;
Through the azure, carefree, she went playing.

But a trace of moisture was still clinging
To the wrinkled rock ledge. Old and lonely,
He stood there as though in sad reflection—
In the empty spaces softly weeping.

translated by Guy Daniels, 1965, in 'A Lermontov Reader.'

This is the poem which Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) placed at the head of a composition called the Rock which he did at age 20. When he first showed this work to Tchaikovki, he immediately agreed to conduct it and include it in his next European tour but died before he had a chance to do so. It's a strange mix of strength, bleakness, hope and then melancholy and was the first work of the concert last night under the energetic baton and large swinging motion of the tall, lanky Perry So, our up and coming local conductor as part of an all Rachmaninoff programme. When I listened to it, all I could think of is that it can't possibly be true that God is just. If he truly exists, he definitely practises the most extreme form of favoritism.

Our next piece of the evening was performed by a pianist soloist from Macedonia whom I adore since I first heard him in Hong Kong: Simon Trpceski. It was Rachmoninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor Op 40, completely different from the kind of romanticism which we have come to expect from him from listening to his 3 previous piano concertos. It's full of fire, of passion and a desire of striking out into new directions in the exploration of his musical idioms and style. There are huge and most dramatic contrasts between soft phrases from the piano which suddenly got smashed by the colossal and massive thundering sound from the orchestra and throughout the concerto. The mood changes were simply unbelievably enormous from one passage to another and from one movement to another but one thing remain constant throughout: its power. And Trepceski was simply wonderful. Needless to say, the aplauses were thunderous. The audience knew they were not wasted. We got not one, but two encores!

The last piece of the evening was Rachmaninoff 's Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op 13 whose premiere in Russia was completely botched up by the conductor Alexander Glazunov in 1897 and a work whom Rimsky-Korsakov found "disagreeable". The result was that Rachmaninoff ordered that the work should never ever be played again. But it was, after he died as an exile in America in 1943. It's another work typical of the composer, whose musical emotions were always strong and highly strung always clashing with each other, evident from the way he uses the brass and the percussion to jab into the sound of the other instruments, sometimes explicit, sometimes more subdued but one could hear the sound of something dark, something powerful, lurking beneath the surface, breaking out from time to time to disrupt the surface harmonies until it came to final explosion at the end.  No wonder his music is often used in movies.

2013年6月22日 星期六

More jokes on/for would be philosophers (準哲學家的笑話)

If a smile, a chuckle or a guffaw should make an appearance on your face reading any of the following, give your thanks to fellow blogger Ms Bear at Lib. But for her, you wouldn't be reading anything! Have fun with the philosophers or would be philosophers.


Descartes takes his date, Jeanne, to a posh restaurant for her birthday.

The sommelier hands them the wine list, and Jeanne asks to order the most expensive bottle on the list.

"I think not!" exclaims an indignant Descartes, and "POOF!" , he vanishes into thin air.


When Plato first met Socrates:

"Socrates, why don't you ever have a girlfriend?"

"Plato, you ask too many questions."



A philosopher had a driver who would listen in awe to him whenever the philosopher answered difficult questions about the nature of things and the meaning of life.

One day the driver asked the philosopher if he was willing to switch places for just one evening. To his surprise, the philosopher agreed.

When the time came for questions, someone at the back of the room asked him, "Is the epistemological meta-narrative that you seem to espouse compatible with a teleological account of the universe?"

"Oh, that's such a simple question," he replied. "So simple, in fact, that even my driver could answer it."



Question: How many Marxists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: None. The lightbulb contains the seeds of its own revolution.



Upon waking, a woman said to her philosophic husband, "I just dreamt that you gave me a pearl necklace. What do you think it means?"

The man smiled and kissed his wife. "You'll know tonight," he softly whispered.

That evening, the man came home with a small package which he gave to his wife.

She jumped up and embraced him, and then settled on the couch to slowly and delicately unwrap the package.

It contained a book entitled, 'The Meaning of Dreams'.



Five Zen monks are meditating in a monastery when, all of a sudden, the prayer flag on the roof starts flapping.

The youngest monk comes out of his meditation and says, "The flag is flapping."

The second, more experienced monk, there for about a decade, says, "The wind is flapping."  

The third monk, there for about twenty years, says, "The mind is flapping."  

The fourth monk, the  second eldest who has been there for some thirty years says, "Mouths are flapping!"

The fifth monk, the eldest and most experienced who has been there for some forty years, asks, "What flag, what wind, what mind, what mouth, what flapping?"

Have a nice weekend, rain or shine.

2013年6月15日 星期六

Saturday Fun (週末一笑)

I've been reading a bit of philosophy. It's time consuming. No blogs for a week! Sometimes I wonder if it's not a waste of time. But whether it is or not, it makes difficult but on occasions fascinating reading. What do I mean?


Dean, to the physics department.
"Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn't you be like the math department - all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper."


The First Law of Philosophy: for every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher.

The Second Law of Philosophy: they're both wrong.


What is Mind? No Matter.
What is Body? Never Mind.


The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre was sitting in a cafe when a waitress approached him: "Can I get you something to drink, Monsieur Sartre?"
Sartre replied, "Yes, I'd like a cup of coffee with sugar, but no cream please".
Nodding agreement, the waitress walked off to fill the order and Sartre returned to working.
A few minutes later, however, the waitress returned and said, "I'm sorry, Monsieur Sartre, we are all out of cream -- how about with no milk?"


A boy is about to go on his first date, and is nervous about what to talk about.
He asks his father for advice. The father replies: "My son, there are three subjects that always work. These are food, family, and philosophy."
The boy picks up his date and they go to a soda fountain.
Ice cream sodas in front of them, they stare at each other for a long time, as the boy's nervousness builds.
He remembers his father's advice, and chooses the first topic. He asks the girl: "Do you like potato pancakes?"
She says "No," and the silence returns.
After a few more uncomfortable minutes, the boy thinks of his father's suggestion and turns to the second item on the list. He asks, "Do you have a brother?" Again, the girl says "No" and there is silence once again.
The boy then plays his last card. He thinks of his father's advice and asks the girl the following question: "If you had a brother, would he like potato pancakes?"
He ends up in the girl's bed,doing something else
and thinking about something else .


Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.
Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules.
Theology is a game whose object is to bring rules into the subjective.


A philosopher went into a closet for ten years to contemplate the question, What is life? When he came out, he went into the street and met an old colleague, who asked him where in heaven's name he had been all those years.
"In a closet," he replied. "I wanted to know what life really is."
"And have you found an answer?"
"Yes," he replied. "I think it can best be expressed by saying that life is like a bridge."
"That's all well and good," replied the colleague, "but can you be a little more explicit? Can you tell me how life is like a bridge?"
"Oh," replied the philosopher after some thought, "maybe you're right; perhaps life is not like a bridge."
He goes back into the closet..


Two freshman philosophy students see the following bulletin posted on the wall of their lecture hall: Crash Course in Logical Assumptions. Saturday, 15th June 2013. All Day.
Neither of them knows what it means and they are both curious.
The pair decide to find the professor and ask some questions.
When they locate the professor's office, the bolder of the two enter the building while the other remains outside.
Student: "Uh...Sir..What does Crash Course in Logical Assumptions mean?"
Professor: "Well, it involves taking information that you have, forming assumptions using logic, and then creating new information. Let me try to answer your question by asking you a question. Do you own a car?"
Student: "Uh...Yes, I do."
Professor: "Well, then I can now logically assume that you drive."
Student: "Yes, I drive. "
Professor: "Then I can logically assume that you drive on weekends."
Student: "Yeah, I drive on weekends, I go out on dates."
Professor: "Then I can logically assume that you have date partners."
Student: "Well, yes, I have a girlfriend."
Professor: "Then I can logically assume that you are heterosexual."
Student: "Uh...hell yes! OK, I think I understand what this course is about now. Thanks a lot for your time."
Once back outside, his friend asks him: "So, what's it all about?"
"Its about using information and stuff...Let me answer your question by asking you a question. Do you own a car?"
"Uh...Then you're homosexual, dude!"


Don't LOOK at anything in a physics lab.
Don't TASTE anything in a chemistry lab.
Don't SMELL anything in a biology lab.
Don't TOUCH anything in a medical lab.
and, most importantly, Don't LISTEN to anything in a philosophy department.


The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.


What's the difference between a philosopher and an engineer?
About 50,000 a year.


A philosophy professor walks in to give his class their final. Placing his chair on his desk the professor instructs the class, "Using every applicable thing you've learned in this course, prove to me that this chair DOES NOT EXIST."
So, pencils are writing and erasers are erasing, students are preparing to embark on novels proving that this chair doesn't exist, except for one student. He spends thirty seconds writing his answer, then turns his final in to the astonishment of his peers.
Time goes by, and the day comes when all the students get their final grades...and to the amazement of the class, the student who wrote for thirty seconds gets the highest grade in the class.
His answer to the question: "What chair?"


Definition of Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.


A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth.

How philosophers do it...
Philosophers do it deeper.
Philosophers do it a posteriori.
Philosophers do it consistently.
Philosophers do it conceptually.
Philosophers do it for pure reasons.
Philosophers do it with their minds.
Philosophers think about doing it.
Philosophers wonder why they did it.


Nietzsche: GOD IS DEAD.


Before marriage, a man may have no particular philosophy
After marriage, he may become a philosopher: through trying to understand his wife.

Have a happy weekend, not thinking, I hope.

2013年6月9日 星期日

An Anglo-German Affair (英德之戀)

It's been another very hectic week. So a strange sense of both relief and excitement washed over me when I stepped inside the foyer of the Cultural Centre last night not knowing exactly what I could expect but somehow sure that whatever it would be, it'd probably be something good.  When I set my eyes on the programme on the little table outside the entrance, I realized that it would be an all Anglo-German affairs. We'd have Britain's premier composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), a German who more or less adopted England as his home and the father of the modern symphony Franz Joseph Haydn (1732) and a Hungarian virtuoso pianist-composer who lived, loved and composed in Germany, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and the soloist and conductor for the last's two concertos are both English: Stephen Hough and Mark Wigglesworth.

The first piece of the evening, Sinfonia da Requiem, has a rather chequered history. It was originally commissioned by the Japanese government to celebrate the 2600th year of the ruling Japanese royal family but was later rejected because it was considered too gloomy for the occasion because Britten was just given 6 weeks to do so because of late arrival of the relevant contract although he was told that he'd been invited to submit his work for the purpose and Britten had to make do with a sinfonia work he already started to work on before its arrival. So he dedicated the work to the memory of his father As Britten was a music teacher, I don't think I could do better than allow him to describe the work in his own words:
 " I. Lacrymosa. A slow marching lament in a persistent 6/8 rhythm with a strong tonal center on D. There are three main motives: 1) a syncopated, sequential theme announced by the cellos and answered by a solo bassoon; 2) a broad theme, based on the interval of a major seventh; 3) alternating chords on flute and trombones, outlined by piano, harps and trombones. The first section of the movement is quietly pulsating; the second is a long crescendo leading to a climax based on the first cello theme. There is no pause before:
    II. Dies irae. A form of Dance of Death, with occasional moments of quiet marching rhythm. The dominating motif of this movement is announced at the start by the flutes and includes an important tremolando figure. Other motives are a triplet repeated-note figure in the trumpets, a slow, smooth tune on the saxophone, and a livelier syncopated one in the brass. The scheme of the movement is a series of climaxes of which the last is the most powerful, causing the music to disintegrate and to lead directly to:
    III. Requiem aeternam. Very quietly, over a background of solo strings and harps, the flutes announce the quiet D-major tune, the principal motive of the movement. There is a middle section in which the strings play a flowing melody. This grows to a short climax, but the opening tune is soon resumed, and the work ends quietly in a long sustained clarinet note"
The three movements of Britten's first large scale composition are played as if it were one movement. He described the first movement as "a slow, marching lament", the second as "a form of Dance of Death" and third "the final resolution".

The second piece was Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 in A, written by him during his "Platonic" cohabitation with Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein in Weimar out of which 3 children were born. This piece was the result of 2 dozen years of work (1839-1863) during which he wrote, rewrote and then rewrote. So there were many changes of mood in the piece ranging from grand, bombastic, lyrical, contemplative and even poetic. I like in particular the dialogue between
the piano and the cello. Stephen Hough, the soloist really looked a bit like the Franciscan Liszt, tall, slender but rather serious looking, with his hair combed straight back and dressed almost like an English parson. His play was however quite unlike his appearance: it was wonderful, soft, sensitive, poetic but where necessary, filled with power. If I were to listen to him with my eyes closed, I would probably have the impression that it was Joao Maria Pires at the keyboard.

The concert resumed after the interval with another piece by Liszt: his Piano Concerto No.1, a much more flamboyant work supposed to be written early in his life. You can hear that strange mix of passion and lyricism in the piece which is so typical of Liszt. This is one of Liszt's all time favourite. I learned from the Program Notes that in fact, the orchestration parts was probably heavily influenced by a composer called Joachim Raff, whom Liszt hired as the copyist and editor of his music after he himself stopped performing. The piece was originally written in 1830 for two pianos but it didn't reach something resembling its present form until 1849. It was presented to Raff for "editing" and additions of the orchestral parts in 1853 and was premiered in 1855. Whatever its true origin, it was a magnificent concerto with dazzling piano fireworks and like Britten's da Requiem, its three movements were played without interruption as if it were one.And just as there was a dialogue between the piano and the cello in the No.2 concerto, there's also a dialogue between piano and the clarinet in this one and for the first time, a triangle was used, something unheard of in any serious musical work at his time. Hough is known for his interpretation of Liszt's work. So it's no surprise that he did full justice to that great bundle of contradictions known to us as Liszt. As encore, Hough gave us one of Chopin's nocturnes (?).

The concert ended with Haydn's Symphony No. 90, which he originally wrote for another patron but gave to Comte d'Ogny as the work the latter  commissioned. It was a fairly typical Haydn piece, light, lively and happy. Wigglesworth is a smallish looking, very tense and disciplined conductor who pays great attention to small details. I like the way he treats the pianissimo passage in which the sounds of the orchestra are almost but not quite inaudible so that when the time comes for the big sound, the contrast is really dynamic. I really like the HKPO, it's such a malleable orchestra: like a chameleon, it changes so magically under the baton of whoever is conducting it, taking on so many completely different sonic characters that one wonders if one is listening to the same orchestra. I find it such a blessing to be able to listen to it every week.

2013年6月8日 星期六

Weekend Fun (週末小歡樂)

Remember those horrible days and sometimes nights when we got to cram all those stuffs we ought to have learned much earlier during those wonderful days we spent either watching TV, playing video games, sunning ourselves at the poolside or the beach or just hanging out with friends? We got to face that revenge which those teachers we ignored in class invented for the sole purpose of inflicting unmentionable mental torture upon us called 'tests" and "exams". But such punishment can be a source of fun too. Here're some which I just got from the net.

Miss Fung: I hope I didn't see you looking at Fred's test paper.
Jack: I hope you didn't see me either !

Miss Fung: You copied from Fred's exam paper didn't you ?
Jack: How did you know ?
Miss Fung: Fred's paper says "I don't know" and you have put down "Me, neither"!


Fred : Great news; Miss Fung says we have a test today come rain or shine.
Jack:  What's so great about that ?
Fred: It's snowing outside !


Father: What did the teacher think of your idea?
Son: She took it like a lamb.
Father: Really ? What did she say?
Son: Baa!


Father: How were the exam questions ?
Son: Easy.
Father: Then why look so unhappy ?
Son: The questions didn't give me any trouble, but the answers did !


Father: How did your exams go ?
Son: I got nearly 100 in every subject.
Father: What do you mean, nearly 100 ?
Son: I was just a digit out; I averaged 10!


Pupil: I don't think I deserved zero on this test
Teacher: I agree, but that's the lowest mark I could give you !


Father: Why did you get such a low score in that test ?
Son: Absence.
Father: You were absent on the day of the test ?
Son: No, but the boy who sits next to me was !


John returned home with his mid-term exam report card.  More reds than blues or black.
 After seeing it, his father flew into a rage, "Don't you ever call me Dad again. I don't have such kind of son."
 The following day, when John returned home, he greeted his father: "Hi, brother!" 

Aren't you glad that finally all exams and tests are over?  I hope not.

2013年6月7日 星期五

Derrière les murs(Behind the walls) (黑色孤星淚)

One of the last films of le French May 2013 I saw was in a class of its own. Derrière les murs.(Behind the walls), is the first feature film co-written and co-directed by Julien Lacombe and Pascal Sid, starring Laetitia Casta as Suzanne, a 1923 Parisian novelist seeking a refuge and a little breathing space in an isolated house in Auverne shortly after the death of her daughter who died of a fever because she did'nt return home soon enough on account of her busy writing and social schedule.

Susanne arrived all alone at that house, settled down to write another novel but could not find sufficient inspiration until she discovered Valentine a little girl of more or less the age of the daughter she lost, wearing a dress too large for her little body, being ill-treated by her mother, one of the rustic domestic maids. She offered to give her private lessons and treated her as if she were her own daughter and slowly an emotional bond developed. But one day, she thought she heard some noises in the night and when she got up to explore the source of the sound, she discovered, to her surprise in the cellar of the house, a hole in wall sealed with brick with a cat in there. When she removed the bricks, she discovered that it was a secret room, bare, dark and spacious. She began to move her writing desk and typewriter down there and inspiration poured out from her brain like a flood. Instead of writing her usual romantic novel, as she did on the two previous occasion, it was a tale of mystery. She sent the manuscript of the first chapter to her publisher. He liked it and gave her an advance to tide her over her removal and living expenses. The mayor of the city, who ran the town grocery store, a married man with a daughter Catherine, a close friend of Valentine, who offered to let her have her purchases on credit and kept, kissed and held to his breast a handkerchief she she accidentally dropped on the floor and shortly thereafter began to spy on her and visited during the night and visited her during the day on some pretext or other. Then some strange things began to happen around the house: she began to see mices coming out in hordes from a well in that cellar and on two occasion under her bed and in the bathroom she began to hear strange noises in the night and when she took a lamp to explore what it was, she discovered nothing. Before long, Valentine mysteriously disappeared and shortly after that, Catherine, too. A huge search party was organized around the countryside, all to no avail. Some towns people thought that she was a bad omen such things only began happening shortly after she arrived. She made some enquiries and discovered that years ago, two girls had also mysteriously disappeared whilst in the vicinity of that house and had never ever been seen again. Then one day, a man arrived (Thierry Neuv) from Paris, the nephew of the owner of her house, to take care of some affairs related to estate of his uncle. He began seeing her from time to time, a fact which did not escape the jealous eyes of the major, who began spying upon her. The town priest also was concerned and paid her a visit because she appeared obviously under stress. She began to have hallucinations because since the death of her daughter, she had been taking a prescribed psychotic drug who helped her imagination. Then mysteriously, Valentine and Catherine appeared in her house. They told her that Valentine went into hiding because she was ill-treated by her mom again and she was soon joined by Catherine. Did this happen? Was it a hallucination? Eventually, she set fire to the house and killed herself. Was the cave in that isolated house the crucible of her soul, the womb of her creation, the secret chamber of certain dark desires of self-destructive forces within herself? Or was it a just an ordinary cellar? All kinds of interpretations are possible. One doesn't necessarily exclude the other. Was it a love story? Was it a horror story? Was it a mystery story? All kinds of hints had been dropped. Was it a spoof on the horror movie genre: perhaps an embodiment of the way a director creates suspense with certain elements of the traditional "horror" movie? It's not a case of "either/or" but perhaps a Deleuzian "both" and a case of "and, and and and"  .Whatever the intentions of the directors were, there is little doubt that they succeeded admirably in keeping us guessing until the very end of the film.

It's a very strange film, done in 3-D, but Nicolas Massart, the cineaste didn't make any exaggerated use of its effects and it's obvious that a lot of work had been done in the composition of the screen images. Some original music by David Reyes had been written and specially recorded for this film which added quite considerably to its effects. The acting by Laetetia Casta as the posh, daring, independent writer afflicted by the guilt she felt for the death of her daugther and her inexplicable affection and generosity for Valentine, her secret fears etc.and her eventual break down whilst living alone in that eerie house were excellently portrayed by her. Not a bad effort at all for a first feature film by the writer-directors.

2013年6月2日 星期日

The Rite Centenary

It was another unforgettable evening at the Cultural Centre last night: the centenary of the the first performance of Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, a revolutionary piece of ballet music at the time. The concert was rendered much more enjoyable because I just saw the film Coco & Igor earlier in the week about certain background relating to that controversial piece of ballet music.

The concert however started with something far more classical: Mozart's Symphony No. 31, one of his most popular symphonies. At the baton was Oleg Caetani, a rather tallish gentleman who looks a bit like Michel Piccoli and whose slender frame hides a soul of passion. He whipped the HKPO into a very energetic performance of Mozart's symphony. The symphony started in a kind of grandeur which one seldom finds in Mozart's symphonies, followed by the  habitual soft, stream like flow of his graceful melodic lines and then various passages of very catchy melodies which I heard I don't know how many times  previously but each time with undiminished delight. Music really has to be heard and not talked about. What's the point if you don't hear it and feel its sound, its textures, its rhythms and its moods.

The second piece was another favourite, Chopin's Syphides, a suite of ballet music with very many pieces which have often been presented independently of the ballet but the arrangements we hear have been re-arranged by various composers as follows: Nocturne in A flat by Stravinsky, Valse in G Flat and Mazurka in D Op 33 No. 2, Mazurka in C minor and Prelude in A flat Op 28 No. 7 by Roy Douglas, Valse in C sharp minor Op 64 No. 2 by Glazunov and the final Grande Valse also by Stravinsky. Stravinsky described his two arrangements as "intoxicating". When first presented the ballet had the best dancers, like Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karasavina and the legendary Nijinsky . Such music is best heard with the ballet when we hear not only the music but actually see the movement of dancers on the stage: their grace, their elegance and sometimes, their power.

The highlight of the evening was of course, Stravinsky's Rites of Spring in which not only were there revolutionary choreography but also a revolutionary way of writing music, full of stridence, dissonance, silence and dramatic changes in the level and texture of sound, blending grace, a certain tenderness with harshness and violence symbolizing the kind of primitive, raw energy of some ancient race with almost insupportable tension produced by his sudden switches between softness and a weird harshness. It requires perfect discipline and lightning fast switches of mood whilst the timpanis and drums provide a strong, persistent primitive rhythm which never quite leaves the main action of the themes, sometimes louder, sometimes softer, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, sometimes more urgent, sometimes less but always insistent. Combined with the use of winds, brass etc, it was an overpowering experience that one can never hope to be able to replicate with no matter how good a home high fi system. The impact differs by magnitudes of several orders! It has to be heard to be believed. My friends gave it a standing ovation. I would have too had the space in front of my narrow seat not been occupied by my back pack. The orchestra and Caetani fully deserve the same. A simply stupendous and magnificent performance.    . 

2013年6月1日 星期六

Coco and Igor

Just heard Stravinski's Rites of Spring last night. It reminds me of a 2009 film Coco and Igor I saw last week as part of the French film festival. It's a film based on a novel and screenplay by Chris Greenhalgh, directed by Jan Kounen and starring Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky, Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel and Elena Morozova as Catherine Stravinsky.

It's a simple story of how at the first performance of the Rites of Spring in Paris in 1913, how mixed the audience's reactions were: some loudly protested whilst others supported it, requiring the intervention of the police. One of those who applauded it was Coco Chanel, a courturier. Then the scene switched to what happened 7 years later. Coco Chanel, whilst mourning the death of her lover Arthur "Boy" Capel., offered to put up Igor Stravinsky and his ailing wife and children at her villa at the suburbs of Paris after the Russian Revolution in 1917, an offer Stravinsky first refused but on second thoughts accepted. There, whilst Stravinsky continued to compose with wis wife acting as a sort of musical secretary and editor, a secret affair soon developed between them. Eventually Stravinsky's wife Catherine found it intolerable to continue to live under the same roof and took his children to live at Biarritz whilst Stravinsky continued to compose at the house. His music became more passionate, more violent and more barbaric  There was a new energy in his music. He rewrote the music for the ballet the Rites of Spring which Coco secretly financed. It was at that time that Coco also developed her world famous perfume, Chanel No. 5 which is still selling. It is a very special perfume with a mixture of feminine charm and savagery, just like Coco Chanel herself and just like The Rites of Spring.

I like the film. It portrays a Coco Chanel who is extremely meticulous, methodical, demanding, determined, masculine and full of passion beneath her extremely cool and elegant exterior and reveals a side of her and of Stravinsky's life that I never knew before. I also like the acting of Anna Mougalis who really brings out that curious mixture of both meticulous elegance and grace, daring and her "to hell with what the world thinks if I feel it's the right kind of things to do" kind of personality and her reliance upon the feel of the relevant material on the body of her live models at the time she created her collections which makes her such a success both in her fashion design and the creation of that unique blend of complex fragrances in her perfumes.I like in particular that scene in which a quarrel broke out between Coco and Stravinsky when she jeered at Stravinsky depending upon her wife to correct and improve on his music and he counter attacked saying that she was not an artist and she peremptorily ordered him to get out of her sight, showing nerves of steel. Elena Morozova was also excellent as the sick Catherine suffering  with equal composure but smoldering with a quiet anger and hurt beneath her calm exterior and so was Mads Mikkelsen as the tense and passionate Stravinsky. I like too the way the tension mounted between Coco and Catherine was presented with little more than the looks on their faces and eyes. The music was excellent: sometimes as Stravinsky was trying out his new composition, sometimes as background and sometimes as the actual performance of his ballet on stage. The second time the Rites of Spring was performed, with revised music and a new choreography, it was a resounding success.

Saturday Fun

We often think that it's nice to have friends. Friends help us when we need it, will tell us where we got it wrong and keep us company....But sometimes, you'll have no idea what they'll say or do.  What do I mean?


Two campers are walking through the woods when a huge brown bear suddenly appears in the clearing about 50 feet in front of them.
The bear sees the campers and begins to head toward them. The first guys drops his backpack, digs out a pair of sneakers, and frantically begins to put them on. The second guys says, "What are you doing? Sneakers won’t help you outrun that bear." "I don't need to outrun the bear," the first guy says. "I just need to outrun you."


Two buddies Tom and Harry were hunting for gold in the desert.
After roaming all day long under the hot sun, they set up their tent and fell asleep. Some hours later, Tom woke up his friend.
"Harry look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Harry looked up and replied, "I can see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?" asked Tom.
Harry thought for a minute and said.
"It tells me astronomically that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"
After a moment of silence, Tom spoke.
"It tells two things to me. First is that...you are an idiot."
Harry looked at Tom, surprised. "Why do you say so?" he said.
"Because it has still not occurred to you that someone has stolen our tent." replied Tom.


Tom and Timothy were in the same regiment in the army. They were inseparable and spent their evenings drinking together.
After retirement, they went to different states and settled. However, they kept correspondence through letters and e-mails.
To keep the memory of their boozing bouts alive, Tom always filled two glasses with rum and water and sipped from each alternately!
When somebody asked him why he did so, he explained: 'This glass is Timothy's; this one is mine. So I take a sip from each - one on behalf of Timothy, the other for myself.'
Suddenly one evening Tom was seen with only one glass on his table. He was asked what had happened. He replied, 'You see, I have given up drinking but Timothy has written that he has not. So I have put away my glass and drink only on behalf of my friend.'

It looks a wonderful day. Have a nice weekend outdoors.