Home

#60 Sweet D-Flat

In the world of equal temperament, the extra-musical meaning associated with a key is an hommage to a composer, isn’t it? (Pianist friends, please educate me if you have thoughts on this) I have always been drawn to “sweet” music, and slowly over time, I have realized that quite a few of my favorite pieces…

#59 Chorei

Been indoors all day rehearsing. As I got home and the sun was still out, I couldn’t help and went for a bike ride. Not only was it too cold, but at some point, tears started dropping for no reason and I couldn’t open my eyes. Air was too chill? Staring straight at the sun?…

#58 Ernest Shand

The guitar has always been my true love, and although I have been having an affair with the mandolin in the past few years, I just can’t help myself and fell in love with the Portugues guitar. As I was busying looking for the method, A Complete Method for Portuguese Guitarra by Havelock on the…

#57 The Lick

Made some long drives over the weekend with my buddy Mike, and as the driver, he also had full control of what we listened to. He showed me a live reggae show that he enjoys: Rockpalast Live 2019 by Richie Spice and the Element Band. While I loved how tight the band and the arrangement…

#56 Why reggae – episode #3a

It must just be a self-romanticized thought, but I have always felt an indirect connection between Jamaican and Hong Kong – both were British colonies, and both are islands with extremely hot and humid weather. Yes the connections are superficial, but for a Chinese teenager to make a reggae connection, that was more than enough.…

#55 Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez

Listening to Leo Brouwer’s arrangement of the Adagio (second movement) of the Concierto de Aranjuez (from the collaborative album Leo Brower Con Irakere), I was reminded of two arrangements of the same piece performed by jazz musicians: Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio) by Miles Davis (on his album, Sketches of Spain, arranged by Gil Evans); and…

#54 How it all started – 7

Back in the day (90s and early 2000s), students in Hong Kong had to do two public exams: the HKCEE and HKALE. They were the type of exams that could determine one’s life, as the results would count toward university application. I took my HKCEE in 2000, and having achieved a big task (without knowing…

#53 Leo Brower con Irakere

Visited the Bop Shop the other day, and thought I would spend some time to dig through the classical guitar and “world” sections. It turned out I did not check any classical guitar records at all, because there were already too many cool “world” records I would like to buy. Of the 4 records I…

#52 Jules, why? – 3

(Continue from Jules, why? – 2) Giulio Regondi did not leave us a guitar method. Just for fun, I looked a bit at his New Method for the Concertina and Rudimenti del Concertinista, hoping it might give hint of his musical insights. Maybe even an explanation of why a guitar virtuoso picked up the concertina?…

#51 Obituaries for Giulio Regondi from The Musical World

Below are two obituaries of Giulio Regondi published in The Musical World on May 18, 1872 (p.315) and May 25, 1872 (p.332) respectively. The original is actually quite readable. I just typed it out for my own reading convenience. May 18, 1872 It is almost two years since the above well-known name was no longer…

#50 Jules, why? – 2

(continue from Jules, Why? – 1) Another mystery about Regondi: why did he pick up the concertina? And, if he needed a second instrument, why the concertina? It’s so unfair: Regondi ended up writing two concerti and a method book for the concertina, but not for the guitar. (At least there are pictures of young…

#49 Jules, why? – 1

One of the most beloved pieces in the classical guitar repertoire is the tremolo standard, Reverie, Op.19, by Giulio Regondi (1823-1872). I have mentioned him a bit in previous posts, where I talked about the first tremolo piece and Madame Sidney Pratten. With much delay, I have finally decided to collect my thoughts and write…

#47 Random Thoughts on Teaching

My classroom this semester is a large space, filled with instruments, and usually reserved for large ensembles to rehearse. Upstate New York is getting cold, and the heat hasn’t been turned on yet, so the room was empty and chill. The rainy weather made it even cooler today. After teaching two lessons, I decided to…

#46 Dilermando Reis, Darcy Villa Verde

Nothing captivates me more than Brazilian music. For the longest time, I had a hard time deciding whether Garoto or Luiz Bonfa is my favorite. But amongst all Brazilian guitarists, Dilermando Reis holds a special place in my heart , as his repertiore contained numerous romantic waltzes. Now one can find so many of Reis’s…

#45 Hong Kong 1980

Last October, I attended my first annual convention organized by the Classical Mandolin Society of America. It was the 22nd or 23rd convention, held in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. I had to arrive late, as I had to finish my teaching in the morning. The drive was 11 hours long, and it took me through Pennsylvania, Ohio,…

#44 1959

When studying for my doctoral comprehensive exam, I looked up a bunch of Youtube videos. How nice would it be if I can study by watching a Youtube video? That was just wishful thinking, but I did come across a lot of cool music documentaries. One of them was 1959 The Year that Changed Jazz.…

#42 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #7 Her students – Walter and John Lindsey Leckie, Frank Mott Harrison, Edith Tulloch

(picture: last known portait of Madame Pratten with Dr. Walter Leckie) (continue from Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #6) Apart from Ernest Shand, I tried looking up as much as I could about other students of Madame Pratten. I have mentioned about Dr. Walter Leckie and Dr. John Lindsay Leckie, whom I have learned much…

#41 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #6 Her students – Ernest Shand

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #5) School has just started and I am quite happy. I missed teaching. I always want to know what other teachers do, learn their tricks, and make my teaching more fun. A glimpse into Madame Pratten’s teaching can’t come more timely: Be flexible, systematic, have integrety, and encouraging……

#40 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #5

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4) Madame Pratten came from a musical family, with her dad Ferdinard Pelzer being a renowned teacher and sister Giulia also a child prodigy (the Los Romeros of 19th century England?). Why didn’t she use her family name? I wondered about why did she keep the name…

#39 First time

Do you remember when was the first time you swear? Growing up, my brother and I watched a lot of TV. Not only that, we would record movies on VHS and rewatch them over and over. The Back to the Future I was part of that rotation. Not too bad if I learned my first…

#38 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4 – Frederick Hymen Cowen

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #3) Chapter 3 of the book provded details to a few concerts Madame Pratten played after the passing of her husband. One of them describes her playing Giuliani’s third concert for terz guitar, with the piano accompaniment by Giuliani’s niece: As mentioned in my previous post, it…

#37 Why Reggae – episode #2

(continued from Why Reggae – episode #1) Although I went to Indiana University Bloominton to pursue a business degree, my mind was on music, and every semester I would look for music classes to take. As a non-music major, there weren’t a lot of classes about music making and analysis that I could join, so…

#36 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #3 Robert

(Continuing from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2) Robert Sidney Pratten was a talented flautist and a perfect match for Mademe Pratten. Unfortenately, he died quite young – at the age of 44, after 14 years of marriage with Mademe Sidney Pratten. Would they have played (or even performed) as a flute/guitar duo? If…

#35 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2 the Crimean War

(Continuing from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #1) Many people teach, but not many begins teaching at the age of 17, and even less would have their apartment being paid for! There is a detailed wikipedia page on the life of Lord Fotzroy Somerset, who was the commander of the British troops in Crimean…

#34 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #1 child prodigies, the terz guitar

From Wikipedia, “Catharina Josepha Pratten (15 November 1824* – 1895) was a German guitar virtuoso, composer and teacher, also known as Madame Sidney Pratten.  She was born Catharina Josepha Pelzer in Mülheim on the 15 November 1824, the daughter of the German guitarist and music teacher Ferdinand Pelzer.  On 24 September 1854, she married the…

#32 All By Myself

Over the years, I have compiled a list of music called “music that makes me cry”. On the top of the list is Glenn Gould’s arrangement of the Prelude to Act 1 of Meistersinger by Wagner. Toward the end of the piece, Gould overdubbed a second piano part to the prelude. In a Rolling Stone…

#31 How it all started – 6

I eventually got my first acoustic guitar as my 16 year old birthday present at 新星堂, a Japanese music chain that had a store in Hong Kong – Japanese rock was really popular back then, thanks to the many Japanese tv shows. I drew the John lennon self-portrait this dreadnought-style guitar. I grew up watching…

#30 Jean François Salomon, the harpolyre, guitar playing and singing

(Picture: Harpo-lyre (ca.1830), André Augustin Chevrier, The Met, NYC) The following entry of Jean Francois Salomon is taken from François-Joseph Fétis’s Biographie universelle des musiciens (see the original on p.387 of the this PDF). This is translated with the help of the trusty Google Translate, so… please pardon my French. I have also attached Salomon’s…

#29 Pasquale Taraffo

In the process of figuring out who was the “Paganin of the guitar”, I came across the Italian guitarist Pasquale Taraffo (1887-1937). I am always skeptical of what were the criteria for a guitarist to be called the Paganini of the guitar. Apart from his virtuosity, Taraffo shared at least two more things with Paganini…

#28 Berlioz, La guitare

(The Berlioz picture looks a bit like this Schumann picture?) In my previous post, I wrote about the French music critic François-Joseph Fétis disliked the guitar as an instrument. As a contemporary to Fétis, Hector Berlioz also wrote about the guitar in his Treatise on Instrumentation and Modern Orchestration (1843-1844). There was bad blood between…

#27 Fétis, from Paris without love

For many years, I have learned that Fernando Sor was called “the Beethoven of the guitar”. I was always perplexed as to what is the connection between the two composers. Who made that claim? Quite a few websites mentioned it was François-Joseph Fétis, a famous 19th century music critic, who made such a claim. No…

#26 First tremolo piece for classical guitar? – #2

My quest to look for the first guitar tremolo piece was not easy – I looked at a lot of scores and method books, but could draw no conclusion. I decided to examine a few guitar history books I own to see if any of them discussed about tremolo on the guitar, and sure enough…

#25 The Paganini of guitar

The guitar in the picture: early romantic guitar (Paris around 1830) by Jean-Nicolas Grobert (1794-1869). Instrument top shows signatures of Paganini and Berlioz. The guitar was loaned to Paganini by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in 1838 and later given by Vuillaume to Berlioz, who later donated it to the Musée du Conservatoire de musique in 1866. Today…

#24 The failed hip hop DJ

The legal drinking age in Hong Kong is 18, so it felt quite strange that I was not allowed to drink when I came to the States at 19. It didn’t matter too much though, as I am not a heavy drinker anyways. But turning 21 was still a happy event, because I started going…

#23 A brief chat with Hector about the mandolin

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (K was led to see B in his study room. K was reminded that B might just kick him right out. They knocked on the door, and greeted B courteously. Disturbed from his work, B stood up and walked toward the table for water and snacks.) B: Let’s get started. I don’t have a…

#22 First tremolo piece for classical guitar? – #1

Tremolo on classical guitar is a special technique. It creates a “continuous” sound by repeating a particular right hand fingering pattern: thumb (p) -> ring finger (a) -> middle finger (m) -> index finger (i). The thumb arpeggiates notes in the bass register, and the other three fingers repeat on the same note. Recuerdos de…

#21 How it all started – 5

Although I didn’t join the the school orchestra in secondary school (approximately middle school and high school in US?), I continued violin lessons through my secondary school, until I was 19. I often had my violin with me, so that I could go to my teacher’s home after school for lessons. I recall being scolded…

#20 How it all started – 4

My brother and I began our violin lessons when we were 6 and 7 years old. We did two years of after-school group violin classes, and were suggested to take private lessons with the head violin teacher. I was intimidated at first, as my teacher seemed strict. We were so young, so at first our…

#19 Stage Fright

After many years of performing, I still can’t get over the nerves. I don’t feel as nervous in a band setting. But it still gets me when I perform solo on classical guitar. In a way, I like it. It gives me a hyper sense of focus. It’s just that my hands shake a bit…

#17 Gnossienne #1 by Erik Satie

I have always loved the guitar arrangement of Gnossienne #1 by Roland Dyens. A really cool reggae version came from Adelante (would Satie have loved it?). It is also arranged as the Azuma No theme in Beat Takeshi’s Violent Cop. Maybe it would work for a mandolin orchestra too?

#16 Why reggae – episode #1

Back then, HMV in Hong Kong would do a crazy sale every summer. A lot of CDs were around HKD 30 to 40 (USD 4 – 5) a piece (maybe cheaper?) – perfect for a student who didn’t have much spare money. As unexciting as it could be, the Legend by Bob Marley was the…

#15 Valses Poéticos by Enrique Granados

I took piano lessons through my teenage years, but I was a bad student. With much shame to say, I didn’t practice much. Maybe I spent too much time playing basketball? Time seemed to have passed by so quickly, and the next lesson always came before I could find time to practice. My parents would…

#14 Guitar de Mexico – Dona-Dio Quartet

I love this record. The arrangements are amazing. And a quartet versoin of Recuerdos is just epic… But I couldn’t find much info about the quartet. There’s a short writeup of the album from the 1960’s Billboard: “Low price Latin American”?! Apparently, records were categorized by genres, and their potential to sell: “very strong sales…

#13 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings – a mandolin orchestra from Rochester?

Amongst the instructional vinyls/booklets from the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Mandolin Instruction: Old Time, Country & Fiddle Tunes by Michael Holmes is worth a separate post, because it contains a picture of a mandolin group from Rochester in 1927! I was told by Mr. John Bernunzio – owner of Bernunzio Uptown Music, that the mandolin…

#12 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings – teach yourself guitar?

Like many, I began playing guitar by teaching myself – thanks to my training in violin, at least the left hand (thought it) knew what to do. That was before the age of the internet, and I spent much time, rewinding videos of my favorite guitarists, trying to learn solos note for note. As Youtube…

#11 Sheet Music by the Pound

Came across the old magazine for banjo, mandolin, and guitar, the Cadenza, Volume 4, #1, 1897, p.12. “That’s a jolly idea they have in Berlin of selling sheet music by the pound. You go to one of the shops where music is sold in this way and give them a lot of the pieces you…

#9 Tito Livio De Madrazo

Checking out some guitar music, and I was captured by the above image – the portriat of Manuel Sarrablo y Clavero, by T.L. de Madrazo. The style was so cool! Couldn’t find much on the internet. Tito Livio de Madrazo (1899-1979s) was a Spanish artist, whose works worth a lot. Here is a site with…

#8 How it all started – 3

My brother and I ended up playing the viola in the primary school orchestra. We never took a viola lesson, but our teacher would transpose all music from alto to treble clef so that we can play it like a violin. I remember in a Christmas performance at school, the viola parts didn’t have to…

#7 How it all started – 2

I played in the school orchesra for 4 years since 8 years old. The first piece I played was the second violin part of the famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart. Along with my choir experience, it showed me how musical parts are being put together to form a whole piece. Orchestra was really fun,…

#6 The Nimble Fingers of Jean Pierre Jumez. Spanish Romance

(listening to Paul O’Dette’s live stream as I was writing this) This obviously belongs to the category of funny album covers, and many have posted about this before. But I did find out quite a lot of fun facts through this album. 1. According to Jumez’s website, “ABC records may have had the rights to…

#5 How it all started – 1

My mom told me I asked for piano lessons when I was 5. I faintly remember, I asked my mom for piano lessons on my birthday (…?), but lessons didn’t last long, because I didn’t practice. I was in the school choir between 6 to 10 years old – an experience I am grateful for,…

#4 Fluke

fluke2[ flook ] noun an accidental advantage; stroke of good luck: He got the job by a fluke.an accident or chance happening.an accidentally successful stroke, as in billiards.what my friends from my teenage years might call me. (from dictionary.com) They don’t actually call me “fluke”, but rather, they would call me fluke in Cantonese. So…

#3 Double Bass and Guitar, David Russell and Dennis Milne

What made David Russell decide to record a guitar/double bass album as his debut in 1978? Why not a solo album? More info on the album here. It was my first year in Rochester, and I had a chance to see David Russell up close – he was one of the guests of the guitar…

#2 Ken, Kenny, Kenji, Kenneth, Kendall, Kennedy, Kentucky, Kenjamin

“What’s your name?” “Ken.” “What? Come on, tell me your real name.” Although the story of how I acquired my English name seemed a bit forced, I have come to liking my name gradually, and today I am still called Ken. It’s simple, crisp, and easy to remember (or easy to forget). A few of…

#1 – Ken, or Gibson?

It’s extremely common for people from Hong Kong to have a Chinese and an English name, but I didn’t have an English name till 17. I just happened to have not picked an English name when I was young. I knew my dad always liked the name “Henry”, but it didn’t click for me (once…