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spikegifted - Music


The importance of music to people, cultures and civilizations cannot be underestimated. The effect of musical genius is as striking as that of art to human eyes. I have chosen to distinguish between art and music. Although music itself can be considered an art form, music and art, in my opinion, are two quite different concepts. As in the format of my other pages, here're some definitions of music, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Music
Main Entry: mu∑sic
Pronunciation: 'myŁ-zik
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English musik, from Old French musique, from Latin musica, from Greek mousikE any art presided over by the Muses, especially music, from feminine of mousikos of the Muses, from Mousa Muse
Date: 13th century
1 a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony
2 a : an agreeable sound
: EUPHONY <her voice was music to my ears> b : musical quality <the music of verse>
3 : a musical accompaniment <a play set to music>
4 : the score of a musical composition set down on paper
5 : a distinctive type or category of music <there is a music for everybody -- Eric Salzman>


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My musical journey... to date

I come from a very musical family - one of my uncles on my mother side of the family is a music professor, a cousin on my dad side holds a PhD in music and nearly every cousin of mine has learn to play one musical instrument or another.

I was involved in choirs from an early age. Before my voice broke, I used to have a clear, high voice. However, being a disruptive little brat that I was, I struggled with the rather regimental format of organized musical practice. For those who grew up in Hong Kong, they'd be able to tell you that a lot of kids from middle-class families in the territory spend their weekends in some kind of extra-curricular activities, usually music classes of one kind or another. Many kids have been, and are still being, forced to attend music lessons ranging from piano, flute, violin, clarinet to trumpet and saxophone. Some lucky kids love them, some don't mind or don't care, but a lot of them hate them. However, for the parents, this is another method of them to gather another 'trophy' at their kids' expense (and their own financial expense). My parents were not like that. My dad didn't mind whether I know music or not (his music taste is rather limited in range but high in quality - Pink Floyd and Kiss were his favorites). My mom was very liberal about it - she'd prefer that I learnt a musical instrument but wouldn't force me to attend classes if I didn't want to. When I was around six years old, she asked if I had a choice to go and learn a musical instrument, what would it be? I guess she was hoping it be something like the violin or the piano, but my answer was drums (not timpani). Woops, no music lessons, then.

My journey in music didn't really take off until I arrived in the UK for boarding school. For a new kid to establish himself in a new environment, I needed something that I could do readily and distinguished myself from the rest. (As if being one of five Oriental kids in a school of nearly 400 was not already so?) Anyway, I joint the school choir. No boys in a co-ed school will volunteer to sing in either sopranos or altos, so tenors it was and my voice was high enough for me to be a 1st tenor. At the same time, I picked up a musical instrument for the first time in my life - a violin.
I can't begin to tell you why I chose the violin, but I had a great teacher and spent the next two years having a great time learning the instrument

During the summer when I was 1
5, my voice broke overnight and I returned to school and found that I was struggling with the high notes of the 1st bass. From that time onwards, I was a 2nd bass. From the time I started singing in 2nd bass, I lost interest in the violin. I didn't feel 'as one' with the sound it produced. So I dropped the violin and picked up a cello. Six months later, I dropped the cello and went on to the double bass. Wow! That was an instrument! But I guess playing classical music failed to really ignite my enthusiasm, so I stopped playing the double bass also. Was I wasting my time and my folks' money?

When portable
audio tape players, commonly know as 'Walkmans', became cheaply available, I started to listen to music that I liked - mostly 'teenage pop' from various parts of the world - Hong Kong, Japan, the US and the UK. The 'New Romantics' were all the rage. The one part of modern popular music that really fascinated me was the drums. Since I would never be allow to go to drums classes, never mind owning a drum set, I started practicing 'air drums'. Yes, it now sounds like a joke, but it was no joke for me. I knew how a basic drum set was set up, I just didn't know how to play it properly. I practiced on a drum set for the first time when I first got to the school in the UK and I knew straight away I was in love with the drum set. From the age of 16, I was involved in one band or another playing the drums, always borrowing a drum set from somebody. For more details of my passion for the drums and my influences, please refer to the stuff of dreams section.

Although I stopped playing a classical musical instrument, I kept singing in the school choir. After a couple of years of singing as a 2nd bass, I was gaining confidence in my own singing ability. However, singing itself was not fulfilling my musical desire. Around the time that I stopped playing the double bass, I was looking for another instrument that would engage me musically. (The drum set engages me at a technical level.) After completing my 'O' levels, I returned to school and had a new classmate. He started a band and I was drumming for him; he also owned an electric bass, although he was more a rhythm guitarist. Out of curiosity, I picked up
the bass a few times and it felt strangely familiar. As a matter of fact, I felt great plugging at that bass, although I have to confess that I didn't have the tiniest clue as to what to do with it. However, after leaving school, I saved up some money from the summer job to buy myself a bass and started learning how to play the instrument.  For more details of my interests in the electric bass, please refer to the stuff of dreams section.

When I got to the final year in the high school, I was selected for the Chamber Choir. With the exception of singing solo, chamber choir is one of the biggest challenge a singer can face.
Just like a soloist, singing in a chamber choir means that you'd be on your own for your part of the music - that's it, there's no one to help and there's no place to hide. Not bad for someone who can't read music? That's right, I can't read music. I can play you a C on my bass, I can sing you a bass line from a piece of music, I can count the beats and the rest bars, I can tell you when a part is out of tune, but I can't read music. Music in its written form doesn't seem to make sense to me. I had a rough idea of what the note should be due to practice, but if I was given a new piece to sing or play, I would not be able to do so. But you must be wondering how I managed to learn the violin, cello, double bass and sing in a choir without knowing how to read music. I can't tell you how. When I played or sang something right, it just felt 'right'.

After I left school, I continued to be involved in choir singing. I was part of the Imperial College Choir
, again as a 2nd bass, because I couldn't joint the King's College Choir as that choir required new members to pass some tests including music reading. I was involved in several rock bands in my university days and immediately after I left university both as a drummer and a bassist. However, as the dream of creating a band and becoming rich and famous faded and the realization that there're more secured career paths to take, my involvements with bands also faded. However, even after starting to work in investment banking, I was occasionally asked to drum from my friends' bands. The longest stretch was when the drummer one of those bands hurt his hand in a motorcycle accident and I stood in for nearly 6 months.

To this day, I continue to practice my bass and play my air drums. I don't think I can completely remove myself from playing music, I guess it is in my blood. One day, somewhere down the line, I'd be involved again.


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While I've been attached to a number of bands, both as a drummer and a bass player, I don't actually have in my possession many pictures of me or my bands in action. The only pictures were taken back in my student days when a fellow student was trying out his new camera during one of our practice sessions in a small room in the basement of one of our university buildings... The bass I was using was the first bass guitar I picked up - a Gibson Epiphone (Japan made). It served me very well when I first stared learning. However, a band member had an accident when playing around with it, which resulted in a rather large crack developed along the neck, rendering the sound produced becoming inconsistent.


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My current musical instruments

This my current favorite musical instrument. This is the Fender Squire Series American Deluxe Jazz Bass (Japan made). It gives a lovely warm sound which, at the same time, can appear powerful and punchy. Since I've always been living in apartments, I haven't bother to invest in a practice bass amp, so this bass essentially is giving me the 'feel' of playing the electric bass.
This was a present from the Ruler_of_spike! It is the Tanglewood Sundance (Korea made) - handcrafted with 4-band EQ. As I mentioned before, I don't have a practice bass amp, so to play any bass at decent volume means I've to use this acoustic bass. It has an excellent rounded sound. When plugged into an amp, it produces a slightly rounder sound than the Fender but it is less punchy. It is usually tuned half a semi-tone lower than the Fender.
Korg GT-60X Guitar Tuner. Somehow, I have to get my guitars tuned. I picked this up at the same time as I picked up my first bass, the Gibson Epiphone. It's a great piece of kit - it has never let me down.
As any drummer will tell you: "You need sticks!" Since my drumming style is very much on the heavy side (rock music and heavy metal), snapping stick is not a uncommon occurrence. I tend to hang this Premier Percussion Stick Bag on the rim of one of the floor toms, so that I can pick up spares quickly. I also keep a drum key and a pair of golf gloves, which I wear when I'm drumming, in the stick bag.


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Having spent the majority of my life living and working in a big city, I've developed some anti-social behavior like listening to loud music in public transport. When I'm on the move, I enjoy listening to music...

However, I firmly believe that personal music players are probably invented with music freaks like myself in mind. First, during my school and university days, I invested large amount of money in cassette Walkmans. While CD Walkmans became widely available around the time I was in university, I didn't feel they're sufficiently portable (even if my pockets were big enough to handle a CD Walkman, I've better things to put into them...) When MD Walkmans become more popular, I jumped at these gadgets! The compression ration of MD (from CD) is around 7:1 which means that it is still better than the vast majority of MP3 compressions. While I want to have music in portable formats, I'm not going sacrifice the quality of the sound.

Of course, having chosen the format, I need to have a player for it. Until the summer of 2003, I was using a Sony player (without recording functions) that was about twice the thickness of a MiniDisc. However, once I found the ultra compact Sony MZ-E10, there's no turning back! It is about the same size as a typical MD holder! I can keep it in just about any pocket I choose to...
It really doesn't look like much when you see it on its own...
Then you suddenly realized how small the whole setup is when you see it with a MiniDisc popping out of the unit.
Now, you see it! The MZ-E10 is literally the size of a MiniDisc case.
One very beautifully designed piece of kit! It just really bug me to try and figure out where they put the motor...


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