Birmingham: Maybe you SHOULD visit

Date: 25th March 2016
Good Friday

It’s 8am and I’m late.
I get to New Street Station by 8:15 and help finish setting up the banner and putting out the props.
We didn’t have props last time but we do now, it helps draw people in.

It was my second day volunteering with the Birmingham Museums Trust.
We were tasked with the slightly ridiculous but surprisingly useful task of walking round Birmingham’s largest train station in historic outfits handing out fliers and enticing people with artifacts/science experiments. One of my fellow volunteers called them victims. Probably a bit of a harsh way to put it, the kids seemed to enjoy the experiments and the parents were grateful that they didn’t have to stand around for half an hour waiting for the train with nothing to do.

The highlight of the day was when I bumped into a good friend of mine who said her family was visiting but she had no idea where to bring them.

This is not an isolated issue.

Had we been London, Manchester, Edinburgh the answer would be easy. The iconic sights: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, British Museum, not the British Library because as I found out a few months ago – it’s not much of a library. But Birmingham? Well….we’ve got the Bullring….that’s exciting right? Not when your family is from Singapore with links in Hong Kong it’s not, the Bullring is tiny compared to South East Asian malls.

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The face of excitement.

What then to do?

Birmingham, unlike London and other historical cities, does not have much of the aged splendor and seems at first glance to be, frankly speaking, a bit of a (insert expletive). For many years New Street Station was ranked most unsightly station in the country: the hulking brutalist chunk of concrete let no sunlight in and was topped with even more hulking chunks of concrete. Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction is also famous for being unsightly even though it provides great mobility across the midlands. Youtubers such as Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation (one of my favorite critics, highly recommended but not with children) and the School of Life have made fun of Birmingham with the latter using it as an example of a bad city that no one wants to go to – “No one’s ever willing taken a holiday to Frankfurt-am-main or Birmingham”.

Seems a bit mean for the UK’s second city which has the busiest train station outside of London (statistically flanked in both directions by London which means every single other city has to step up a bit).

They can’t be blamed though because as I found out, although the BMT own and manage nine (yes, NINE) museums across the city, no one seems to know. Our sites range from the Museums and Art Gallery in the City Center, famous for our collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings; to the Thinktank Science Museum which has just gotten a BRAND NEW DINOSAUR (and the world’s first steam engine but seriously…a new full sized fossil); to Aston Hall a Jacobean Mansion; to Soho House, the childhood house of Matthew Boulton and more.

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Also at the Thinktank:  Dinosaur Poo.
Birmingham’s story is in many ways, one of being an outsider. George Cadbury set up his factory in Birmingham because he was a Quaker and could not work in any major city. It has also in many ways been a story of industrialization: Birmingham has always been a market town even in its earliest days as a Warwickshire village. By the 1800s Birmingham had acquired the nickname “City of a Thousand Trades” because every industry you could think of was thriving in the small town. In 1889 Birmingham’s status finally became that of a city.  In the 20th Century Birmingham became one of the world’s leading manufacturers, the legacy can still be seen in the city with places like the ‘Jewelry Quarter’ and ‘Gun Quarter’ being named for their industries. Unfortunately, as industry became increasingly outsourced to cheaper markets, Birmingham’s factories closed down. The legacy of the closing down can also still be seen in places like Digbeth and Aston which are absolutely packed with unused, crumbling, once thriving factory buildings.

Birmingham’s history might not be at the forefront like it is in London but we didn’t become the second city out of thin air. Many of Birmingham’s has housed some of Britain’s post important people: James Watt, inventor of the first steam engine along with Matthew Boulton; J.R.R Tolkien, author of the Lord of The Rings trilogy spent much of his childhood in Edgbaston; and of course George Cadbury, whose name is now synonymous with chocolate, founded his factory in Bournville and created a town around it. There is as much history and culture here as any other city, you just have to look.

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Also also at the museums: A 1910 Cadbury box with three queens on it.

 

If you want even more of the story, come visit the museums. We have open days.
The Museum and Art Gallery is always free.
Open all day every day, no exceptions (except exceptions).

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And other things.

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Historical accuracy note: Many of these places weren’t actually within Birmingham boundaries at the time. Cadbury set up his factory in what was still Worcestershire, Watt and Boulton worked in Smethwick and Birmingham up until 1974 was formally part of Warwickshire, not as the center of the West Midlands.
But give me a break, this is a much better story.

Also note: We have currently stopped advertising at New Street Station. I did mean to write this weeks ago as a plug for that but I didn’t end up finishing it for several reasons the biggest one being procrastination and a smaller one being my file got lost. Much apologizing if any staff from BMT are reading this….

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For more information that I did actually check before writing this post see:

Historical maps, surveys and summaries from the City Council

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Lib-Central-Archives-and-Heritage%2FPageLayout&cid=1223092755542&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FWrapper

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Lib-Central-Archives-and-Heritage%2FPageLayout&cid=1223092760210&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FWrapper

and for even more information visit:

http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/

On there you can find links to all the BMT’s sites. All 9 of them.

And the following were referenced:
School of Life: How to Build an Attractive City
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy4QjmKzF1c

Zero Punctuation, Escapist Magazine
Specific video could not be found, it was a passing reference to the confusing thing that is the spaghetti junction
https://www.youtube.com/user/TheEscapistMagazine

New Street as UK’s worst station:
http://www.urban75.org/blog/birmingham-new-street-named-as-britains-worst-railway-station/

 

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Queen’s Pier revives! All praise.

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Queen’s Pier in 2003
via: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21603857

Good news. Breaking news. All the news!
After nine long years the Hong Kong government finally has plans to rebuild Queen’s Pier.

According to SCMP and the HKFP (both articles are linked to at the bottom of this article if you wish to peruse them), the pier will be rebuilt as part of the current Central Pier complex and will be sandwiched by piers 9 and 10, the two public piers. There seems to be no information as to whether Queen’s Pier will be open for use or whether it will be only be aesthetic.

Aesthetics.
Ah. That’s a good word. A big one too.

The pier that will be rebuilt is a modern utilitarian structure that is but 50 years old, it is not the aesthetic, nor the age, nor even the convenience that made the government keep it in storage for what will soon be a decade. The building is important because of its historical and cultural importance.

The place where Queen’s Pier once stood is part of a group of historically important structures which included the Edinburgh place Ferry Pier, City Hall and a within a few minutes down the road, the old Supreme court. The Antiques and Monuments board said that the historic and architectural value of Queen’s Pier had to be addressed on the grounds that it was part of an assemblage of government buildings most built in similar post-modern styles, by itself it did not possess too much. The pier itself prior to the handover of 1997 was used mainly as a ceremonial pier for visiting British dignitaries which included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Prince of Wales and every governor since the 50s. Arriving governors would land at Queen’s Pier, inspect the guard of honour then take their oath in City Hall. The Antiques and Monuments board also noted that the pier had great social/collective memory since it was used as the backdrop to many local films and was also used as a public pier and social meeting spot when nothing important was happening.

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Princess Alexandra and Lord Snowden in Hong Kong during their East Asia Tour, 1966
via: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/-E9u2WxDrlg/hqdefault.jpg

It should be said now that there has always been a pier at or around the site for ceremonial purposes. Originally there was a small wooden structure which was replaced in the 1920s with the first proper pier known as Statue Pier, later renamed Queen’s Pier in honour of Queen Victoria (though, as is often the case with Queen Victoria, Victoria was already dead). This pier was a lot more imposing than the to-be-rebuilt pier, it had the same triangular top but also a stone archway decorated with all the etchings, carvings and general stonemasonry you would expect from historic British structures. This pier was decommissioned and demolished in the 50s. As one pier went down, another pier, 1950’s Queen’s Pier, went up.

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1920s Queen’s Pier. Note the podium for Queen Victoria’s statue in the foreground.
via: http://gwulo.com/node/5120#11/22.3153/114.1185/Map_%28ESRI%29-Markers/100

All was good until 2007 when the government needed to reclaim more land. I remember the reclamation but at that time but thought nothing of it except that I could remember fondly walking from City Hall to the IFC for lunch during a day of rehearsal for a choral concert and could smell the Ocean. That’s not possible now, though luckily, the ocean is still in sight. Sort of. There’s now the world’s smallest Ferris wheel in the way. The reclamation claimed not only Queen’s Pier but also Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier which was owned by and used only by Star Ferry, the outlying Island piers were located elsewhere.  Both piers were demolished despite aggressive public protest which included banners, sit ins and even hunger strikes.

The government however promised to keep the clock tower from Edinburgh Ferry Pier and to rebuild Queen’s Pier though they did not give a date for either. There is still no news about the clock tower but the pier is now reviving.

This is of course without a doubt good news. As of late the government has not been very compassionate about historical sites and this is a step in the right direction. The issue is that their plans, although ambitious, are still a little ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Central Pier looks (and which Queen’s Pier will now become part of).

Central Pier was built in 2007 to take over from Edinburgh Place pier and to its merit, it’s an amazingly convenient complex. There is a footbridge linking from IFC, it is a small walk away from Hong Kong and Central MTR stations and has a bus/taxi/minibus terminal. There are restaurants and stores and even an occasional farmer’s market. It also houses 2 public piers, the Star Ferry pier, outlying island piers, discovery bay pier and now even the Maritime museum.

However.
And this is a big however.
It looks like shit.

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Central ‘Plastic’ Pier
via: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/17/HK_Central_Pier_View.jpg

 

Or rather as journalist Ng Tze-Wei described it “neither modern nor authentic – more like a something taken from a film set or theme park”. It was modelled on the 1912 Star Ferry Pier which was situated at the bottom of Ice House Street but like other ferry piers was demolished when the need of land grew larger and there was no choice but to reclaim more and more of the harbour. Star Ferry has spoken out against the Central Pier Complex saying that its distance from Central and Hong Kong MTR stations has reduced their passenger intake. The plan is to rebuild Queen’s Pier between the two public piers at the end of the pier complex.

As the architectural styles of the amusement-parky-mock-Edwardian pier and the mock-Victorian-utilitarian pier are incompatible, the government have released three different proposals to reinstate the pier. The first plan is to rebuild the roofs of the two public piers so that all three piers will have the triangular rooves which were common in colonial piers (see: Blake Pier in Stanley for closest comparison. The second will have walls built around Piers 9 and 10 so that different architectural styles will stand out against each other forming a old-within-new sort of aesthetic. There will also be canopies to link the piers. The final and cheapest proposal is essentially to do nothing at all and just plonk the old pier between the new piers. The three plans are estimated to cost HK$303, HK$248 and HK$230 million respectively.

The second option seems to be the best middle route. Assuming that the recommissioning of the pier will go according to plan, HK$230mil will be spent anyway, with only HK$18mil more Queen’s Pier will be given a proper place within the pier and its architectural and cultural difference respected. Plus, depending on how it turns out, even if the most expensive option were taken there is nothing to say that redesigning the 2007 pier will be a good idea. What would happen is piers 9, 10 and Queen’s Pier will becoming their own historic reenactment complex separate from the rest of the pier complex. Piers 9 and 10 are part of Central Pier’s mock-Edwardian architecture and a having a separation of the two aesthetics might prove to create a more interesting design. Having said all that, I can’t see how building walls around a pier is very practical.

queen's pier 3 plans

Proposals A, B and C respectively.
Images via: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/03/11/60026/. Via HKGov

 Of course, all this is speculation.

I look forward to seeing how everything turns out. Although the plans don’t seem to be brilliant, any move is a step in the right direction.

Maybe we’ll even get the Star Ferry clock tower back.


 

For further reading if interesting, the following were consulted in writing this post.

“An Architectural and Historical appraisal of Queen’s Pier Central”, Annex B. Report by the AMAAB. Available online.
“Public Hearing on the grading of Queen’s Pier”, 129th Meeting of the Antiques and Monuments Advisory Board, public meeting. Available online.
Kris Cheng “Proposals to restore Queen’s Pier”, Hong Kong Free Post
Sidney Leung, “Queen’s Pier Resurrected? Hong Kong officials considering design options near its former site” South China Morning Post. Available Online
Ng Tze-Wei “Not even HK’s storied Star Ferry can face down developers”, International Herald Tribune. Available online.
Trea Wiltshire “A Stroll through Colonial Hong Kong”, Form Asia Books

What Musical Theatre is to Me: Part 2 – Don’t dream it, be it

Last post I talked about musical expression in musicals. Now I’ll talk about how the theatre side of Musical Theatre can also be used as a form of expression. Despite being a huge fan and wanting to study the Art, I’ve not actually been lucky enough to see many musicals. Most of the ones I’ve watched were performed at the HKAPA, which despite being the best we have, is a rather pathetically small stage in comparison with other international stages. So what I say is slightly limited, although I do try to be objective.

One of my favorite musicals by far is Richard O’Brien’s “Rocky Horror Show”. Musically, it hasn’t got as much continuity as I would like, hence expression via the music itself is slightly lacking (note that I don’t mean expression through performance but solely the score). However, the dramatic side is astounding.

The Rocky Horror show is what my girlfriend and I often describe as ‘Theatre or Cruelty in a musical’, the way the characters are written, the plot, the costumes in addition to the music is what makes the entire show horribly uncomfortable but at the same time a timeless piece of art.

Theory preamble: Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty is a is a theatrical form categorized by a rejecting of social norms on stage. It is an attempt to showcase the darkest inner parts of humanity, according to Artaud the theater should not be an escape but a realization of our inner darkness. In every performance there is a general feeling of unease, disgust and fear amongst the audience; and that is what Artaud wanted. (see: http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/staffhome/siryan/academy/theatres/theatre%20of%20cruelty.htm).

Now in the Rocky Horror Show, the main antagonist, Dr. Frankenfurter, is a mad scientist creating a man, he has very little empathy, oh and he performs the entire show in drag. This already is uncomfortable for many members of the audience, I know I performed his title song “Sweet Transvestite” once and even only half in drag the audience were shocked.

However, there is one particular scene of interest that I think illustrates how the Rocky Horror Show, and of course expanding out to Musical Theatre, can be used expressively. (Note: I speak from the movie because I haven’t actually seen it on stage, I’ve watched some performances of the scene I’m about to talk about on Youtube but I think that the movie version is the most apt). Close to the climax of the Musical, Dr. Frankenfurter has hypnotized most members of the main cast and put them all in very revealing drag, especially the men, and they sing a sequence of songs in which they let out their inner sex drives. One particular song: “Don’t Dream It – Be It” is slow, lyrical, atmospheric, almost like a trance, however it is in this song that I realized how Artaud the entire show is – half way through the song, all the characters lose control and have an underwater orgy.

The scene realizes one of the greatest human fears: loss of control. Being put in drag by a mad scientist and then losing all your self control and giving in to your most animalistic, sexual desires. The scene is wholly unnerving. The music truly aids it by repeating the same slow phrase, slowly building up vocal and instrumental harmonies. Until Dr. Scott enters, the texture doesn’t change that much and even after his magnificent loss of control as he finds that he too is in drag, the musical texture quickly dies back down when Brad sings. The music almost beckons the audience to join in, it sounds so innocent, so pure, yet at the same time no one on stage has any self control.

As Dr. Scott says: We’ve got to get out of this trap
Before this decadence saps our will
I’ve got to be strong and try to hang on
Or my mind may well snap
Und my life will be lived for the thrills…

The question now is, can this sort of expression be done in another Art form? I would argue maybe, but not quite in the same way. Musical Theatre has the ability to bring together very talented actors and musicians, trained professionals in two very expressive art forms. It has the ability to portray a message through Music and through Theatre. The only question that remains now is: why doesn’t it?

Perhaps that’s not a question though, that’s a goal.

And that is what Musical Theatre is to me.

 

What Musical Theatre is to me: Part 1, actual music

A few weeks ago I participated in the Summer Musical School at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. For the past few years they’ve been performing shows written by their staff. This year the show was directed by award winning song writer Charles Teo (he’s taken ladies) and written by Louisa Caraffi (she’s also taken). (No not by each other you sick person).

The musical was called “New Kids on the Block”; a jukebox musical featuring memorable songs such as the not-annoying-enough-yet “Let it go” and classics such as “Big, Big, Girl” and “What Makes You Beautiful”. Usually I try to stay away from dance heavy musicals because I can’t dance, but in all honesty I had no idea what type of show this was, just that it would be good work experience for me. No seriously, I didn’t know what character I was auditioning for, good thing I got through eh?

Anyway, I’ve watched quite a few musicals, I’ve listened to a lot of musicals, I’ve been in a few and I’ve written one; so although I’m not professional, I’d like to think I have a leg to stand on when I talk about them. For me, NKotB was barely anything like anything I’ve seen before.

*disclaimer: sometimes I might go a bit too far with criticisms, in all honesty I really enjoyed being in the cast and I would do it again. The songs too, I didn’t like the song choice but GOD I loved the arrangements…*

Despite not being the most amazing show I’ve been in or seen, having a different experience on a topic I’m familiar with really made me think about what musical theatre really means…to me.

Our playwright and director, Louisa talked in rehearsal once about how to think about performance in a musical: “you have to deal with the acting which already a whole lot, then the music which is another lot, then the dance which is also a whole lot”. Yes, in a musical is a whole lot of lots. But seriously, it is. For me dance was never an integral part of the musical theatre genre, but I guess it still is for many people (see dance heavy shows such as: Chicago, Starlight Express and Cats vs Phantom of the Opera, Rocky Horror Show and Little Shop Of Horrors). However, this is just the practical side, what about the expressive side?

This question might come as a surprise to some common-goers of Musicals because the genre isn’t usually attached to being a vehicle of expression or criticism, contrary to a lot of modern art. The question therefore is, why can’t it be? I’ve said before that I totally believe, beyond reasonable doubt and to an overly enthusiastic and borderline insane degree, that music in itself can be treated as a language with the ability to express meaning. Theatre has often prided itself also in the ability to express, in fact a lot of modern abstract Theatre exists for this reason (see: Theatre of Creulty, for example). Postmodern Art, yet another example of how Art is used nowadays to express meaning and criticism; just a few days ago I was at an exhibition of Chinese artist Xu Bing who, using pictures, tried to create a universal language (I don’t think it worked but that’s a story for another day).

book from the ground

So back to Musicals. This genre, unlike any other, combines Drama and Music…minimum, often dance too. Sometimes, if particularly ballsy, visual Arts, electronic media etc also come into play. So why can’t Musical Theatre be used as a vehicle of expression? Personally, I would argue that this view is simply a social mindset that Broadway is for gays but then I look at the Musical Theatre boom and I get worried. On one hand, I’m happy that more people are looking into Musicals as an expanding Art form, on the other hand…everything has a Musical now and very few are particularly profound Musicals.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean when I say expression. Compare the ethical dilemmas of Les Mis. or Ms. Saigon against some more modern Musicals such as Matilda or Shrek. Take for example when Javert, after having his life spared by Valjean jumps into the river Seine and dies; of course Victor Hugo wrote the plot, but the expression is just as strong Musically. The song itself is instrumentally almost an exact replica as Valjean’s Solioquy, by sharing the same music but changing the lyrics, the audience contrast what is essentially Valjean and Javert’s inner monologues. The song then ends with an instrumental reprise of Javert’s solo song “Stars” playing as he jumps to his death, the lyrics of “Stars” was when Javert swore to never back down from finding and putting Valjean in jail, even to his death the music shows this. Here, for your perusal:

Now, a more modern Musical: Shrek (Jeanine Tesori, 2008), not a bad musical in it’s own right but not sharing the same musical strength as Les Mis. More often than not, what the song says shares little with what the music says: take for example the song “Build a Wall”, this song is sung after Shrek hears Fiora say “Who would love a hideous ugly beast” and subsequently leaves Donkey and Fiora (in the movie I believe this is during Hallelujah). Have a listen for yourself:

The song, like most of the musical, has a distinctly 70s feel to it although this one might crossover a little into punk rock. One could argue that the grungy feel of the song aids in showing Shrek’s displeasure with Fiora, that’s a valid argument but there’s not much more to say. The ending of the song does bring to mind the overture:” Big, Bright, Beautiful World” which is ironic of course because Shrek is putting himself essentially behind bars away from the world. However, this is barely scraping the level of musical expression that Schoenberg and Boublil were writing in Les Mis. This is just the musical side, without being lucky enough to watch either Musical, this is what I gathered from listening to the album alone. Now let’s add some Drama.

*Second disclaimer: I’m really not saying that all modern musicals are bad, I actually really like Shrek, I just find that some of the more famous shows express a bit better. There are also some old ones that I find express nothing at all, but that’s a story for another day.*

 

Music and Life

To break out of my long hiatus, I’d like to upload a piece of work that one my friends have written and asked to upload here. I personally find it a very beautiful piece of work and am very very honoured to have it first put here.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to enter him, Broomstick, to our writers alongside myself and the translator, Tiffany.

~tmx
ps: I also quite like his little nudge at me in it….

Music and life:

Talk to anyone who is dedicated to music, and they will often tell you that music is their life, or part of their life. Now, being an everyday student musician living in Hong Kong, I can definitely vouch for the importance of learning music in our society, how essential it is for us to spend endless hours practicing and perfecting our music and push the limits for higher marks on ABRSM music exams in our respective instruments. Therefore, it is possible to say that we have integrated music into our daily lives, and essentially, music IS our life.

However, as I prepare to start my life as a university student abroad, I can’t help but reflect upon my old life as a high school student, and realise that the generic phrase of “music being life” epitomizes not only the amount of time we spend on music, but also or experience of life itself.

“Life is full of ups and downs” is a common phrase that resonates through society, and it’s applicable to most people. I myself have always firmly believed in it and also experienced this throughout high school life. The variation in friendship groups , the making of new connections with people in later years that one would have never imagined to become close to or successes in academics are what one may consider the “ups” in life. However, nobody is perfect, and people will also lose friends, make bad decisions, leading up to stress, problems and what not. In short, life is a mixed bag of experiences.

You may ask, how is this relevant to music? Well, whilst reflecting on the ups and downs in my life, I couldn’t help but summarise life so far with Beethoven’s Symphony No.6. Being a former IGCSE music student(and I’m sure my fellow classmates would agree), the symphony comprises of different movements that are all unique in themselves, from the cheerful, upbeat Mvt. 3, “Merry gathering of the country folks” to the stern, frightening atmosphere in Mvt. 4, “the storm”. Despite being consecutive movements, the sudden contrast in the themes of the movements can connote the drastic changes we may face in life. The two movements in combination, therefore acts as a representation of life, comprising of both joyful, ecstatic moments, with a mix of fear, oblivion, and pressure.

However, this is just one way of seeing the connection; Try imagining a symphony with a number of movements, but all sounding almost identical to the next; Ultimately, this hypothetical symphony becomes dull and boring. The importance of having different themes in movements within a symphony becomes evident, as it is the variation in themes that makes a symphony interesting. Therefore, there must be a reason for variation. In the same way, we have a need to experience both good times and bad times, as having a variety of both good and bad experiences allows us to reflect and learn from our past.

People learn a lot from their bad experiences, but not only do they learn to improve and approach similar situations from a different perspective next time, they also learn more about the friends they’ve made. Friends are very important to one’s life, as they are the people that will support you in all times. Just like the chinese saying “在家靠父母,出外靠朋友(At home, you rely on your parents. Away from home, you rely on your friends”), the role of friends in life is to make your life a more fruitful and rewarding experience. Likewise, a piece of music wouldn’t be engaging to the listener without the proper dynamic markings, grace notes or tempo marks within the piece. Having said this, a song with an excess of the additions may make the song ever more confusing and complicated, defeating the point of the song as a whole. It’s always great to have a lot of friends, as connections are also key in society, but one may question who may still be there to support you when you’re in your lowest. It is these darkest moments in one’s life, where you realise and cherish the true friends who are there to direct you out, whether it’s to listen to your problems, or just to distract you from them. Sometimes, the people that accompany you in your darkest, most problematic moments may surprise you!

Music and life share one thing in common: both depend on what the person considers ‘good’ to be. The term ‘good’ itself is arbitrary; it can be replaced with any word that represents what we consider to be our ultimate goal in life. It could be Success, Fame or Fortune. Every person has their own perception of their life, and this shouldn’t be restricted by society. When I was a Music student, one of the sections required us to do some composition, and there was always a large variation of pieces, each portraying what the composer considers a perfect piece. I had a friend who composed music, which to me, sounded somewhat eccentric, but perhaps that’s what he considers ‘good’ to be. Similarly, what we perceive to be good may be different to others. For instance, being in HK, a good life may be a big house, with a lot of money, cars, good schools etc etc. On the contrary, a good life in Cambodia may just be a happy family with a roof and food to survive. Essentially, it is how we perceive life as a whole, given the circumstances we are in; If the circumstances are not going to change for the time being, there are only two ways to look at the situation: Live life and make the best out of the situation, or loathe everyday about the situation. For me, I’d choose the former!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you do not aim high and improve the circumstances. Situations change and it is crucial for us to have the motivation to improve our lives and live it to the fullest. There are people who have started from the bottom of life, and worked hard to be where they are today, and for sure, they have had their share of tough times. we should learn to variate our life, and explore alternatives. Compare it to all the variations a piece may have. Often, there are alternatives to the theme of the piece, which follows the general theme, but uses different notes, accents, dynamics to convey the same idea; Correspondingly, given that you have a certain amount of time to live, you might as well make life worthwhile and live with minimal regrets.

Just like how one may choose to perceive life, one can also choose how they do perceive the phrase ‘Music is life’. In the end, you may still believe that the phrase denotes the time and effort put into music, but I do hope that after reading this, you may gain an extra perception of what the expression means!

-Broomstick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.

This is rather beautiful.
It also sort of shames me that I’m a softcore Waterson fan but has never realized that the strip hasn’t been updated in years nor that Waterson is apparently half lochness monster.

You learn something new everyday.

Pearls Before Swine

Bill Watterson is the Bigfoot of cartooning.

He is legendary. He is reclusive. And like Bigfoot, there is really only one photo of him in existence. 

Few in the cartooning world have ever spoken to him. Even fewer have ever met him.

In fact, legend has it that when Steven Spielberg called to see if he wanted to make a movie, Bill wouldn’t even take the call.

So it was with little hope of success that I set out to try and meet him last April.

I was traveling through Cleveland on a book tour, and I knew that he lived somewhere in the area. I also knew that he was working with Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis on a book about Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson’s art.

So I took a shot and wrote to Nick. And Nick in turn wrote to Watterson.

And the meeting…

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Mudlarks: Quirky but polished

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Hello again everyone,

Instead of doing what I SHOULD be doing which is revising for my music exam on Friday (luckily I was in for a revision session today and I’m a lot more confident now, shout out to my teacher Mr. Stanley for taking time out to help us revise), I’ve been playing through a few games since now I have a bit more time. One of them has been the free indie game ‘Mudlarks’ by a company called ‘Cloak and Dagger games’, I believe it’s their first game. On first sight it’s a very simply point and click adventure game set in East London, however as you delve into the game you find that the developers had much more than meets the eye. All in all the game is rather quirky, but very well executed, a few issues nonetheless but very well done.

Because I haven’t finished the game, I’m holding back from putting in a lot of spoilers or to give a full review (there are a few really nice moments I would like to share when I’m properly finished though) but here are a few initial thoughts. The art style is rather intriguing in my opinion. Instead of conforming to the throwback pixel style that’s been dominating flash and indie games during recent years, Mudlarks ops for what I can only describe as an animated collage meaning that the art of the entire game is based around photographs cut out and ‘stuck’ onto the screen. This actually makes the game surreal in a lot of ways, for example because no photo is exactly the same, when a person speaks the entire head moves along with it (this is slightly hard to explain and I feel stupid trying to describe it, I’ll have some videos and links at the end of the article for anyone interested). As surrealist as it is though, using real photography also draws the player into the heart of London itself – you watch the river Thames surge, you can see the library, you can see the stores but at the same time it’s obvious you’re in a cutout world. This surrealist feeling fits great into the plot during which completely unrelated events link into one another, and by completely unrelated I mean COMPLETELY unrelated, just as unrelated as I am to an indigenous Brazilian singer (although, the plot doesn’t quite throw you around as much as one of my all time favorite games, Anachronox, which gets so weird you control an entire 6ft tall planet in a combat based RPG).

The plot itself I think has great development, however I find that it starts a little slow and to get hang of solving the puzzles takes time (I personally had to use a walk through for a good 1/4 of the game). But having said that, I’m not finished 🙂
Yes, I’ve kept back on a lot I realize. I know, I haven’t even said the character’s name. We’ll leave that for another time.
Thanks for reading and of course leave a comment on anything you find interesting,
Tmx

More to come on Mudlarks later on
Here’s are some links to more information if anyone’s interested
Walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFPQo08GVMY
Review from Jayisgames: http://jayisgames.com/archives/2014/04/mudlarks.php
Official download site: http://gamejolt.com/games/adventure/mudlarks/24964/

Picture from: http://i.gjcdn.net/imgserver/game-header/950/24964_2.jpg