Recently viewed / listened (Jan 2013)


Derek Bailey. Improvisation – Its Nature and Practice in Music

– lots of good insight on improvisation in all different context (Indian music, Flamenco, New Music / Experimental Music / Baroque Music / Organ Improv / Jazz / Pop-rock), the problematic relationship between composer and performer, and why jazz becomes more and more conventional and lacks the creativity it once had.

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這幾年沒想到反而一隻腳踏進了電子音樂的範疇。最初接觸電子音樂,是沿於中大時候盧博士的啟蒙。之後一直自己探索MIDI和錄音的東西。最初目的只為了製作demo,猶其是一些不需要樂譜的編曲工作,短片配樂,或者有時候有些學校音樂劇表演,沒有管弦樂團伴奏的話,就只能用電腦製作的demo。那時候主要關注的是怎樣用 VST 樂器用得真實。現在的虛擬樂器越來越真,但也越來越「大食」,佔據大量硬碟空間。而要把假的樂器聽起來真實,即使是依靠電子琴彈進去,有時候要花很多時間逐粒音去調整音量等等,極費工夫。

雖然人會演奏錯音,會有走音問題而電腦不會。若果能找到真人演奏的話,始終是真實的好得多。因此就開始鑽研錄音到混音的技術,也經常幫朋友的音樂會作簡單的錄音。而教 IVE 的那一年,基本上把大多數 DAW 的軟件都用過了,當時教 Logic Pro 根本是現炒現賣,只上了三天的課,但有 Pro Tools / DP 的基礎,Logic Pro 其實很方便也頗容易學。那一年從同事身上學到不少音響上的東西,但也更知道,音響是一門獨立的學問,若非不停實習,是不可能有能力去做錄音師的。但這些卻幫助了自己作曲編曲很多。古典音樂的作曲方法限於寫樂譜,電子音樂的好處就是可以跳過寫樂譜的步驟,想到甚麼,就在琴上即興,現在錄下來已經是一首曲,其實已不一定要經過樂譜一環。

來到英國這邊,畢竟大學是比較學術的地方。有專門做環迴立體聲的錄音室(一個完全沒有 mixer 的錄音),一個同樣可以做環迴立體聲的 Auditorium。單單在這方面,已經很多東西可以鑽研。也從新拾起 Max/MSP,雖然比較複雜的程式碼和需要大量計算的東西還是有點困難,但基本上引用別人已有的成果,做略加自己的心思,已經可以做很多事,包括視像和音樂的互動,環迴立體聲的 automation。也花了很多時間去嘗試 Logic Mainstage 和 Ableton Live,嘗試怎樣現場為樂器加上電子音效,實在好玩。下星期四和幾位朋友搞一個音樂會,環迴立體聲加上現場音效,已經好多野要預備。真是無心插柳反成蔭,電子音樂反而成了我的專長。

說電子音樂是一種類型,其實電子音樂豈止一類?很多人都搞電子音樂,各有專長,風格也差天共地。可以像 Stockhausen 那樣前衛,也可以是 DJ 那樣摔碟,可以是 Death metal 震耳欲聾,可以是 ambient 的音樂,舒緩放鬆。可以是自然的聲響,讓人感受環境的空間感,留意身邊的聲音。(待續)

Alphabet Songs

I wish I’d started learning different languages at an earlier age. Now I feel I’m too old to memorize any new vocabularies or grammatical rules. My tongue and lips aren’t well trained enough to pronounce any sound foreign to my mother tongue. (I simply can’t pronounce the Italian “r” or German “r”!). I admire anyone who can be fluent in many languages like this guy: BBC: The cult of hyperpolyglot

I guess I can never master more than two languages in my life. Nonetheless, I’m interested in how people introduce their own languages these days and watched a lot of cheesy alphabet songs. It seems alphabet songs are common in some countries but not all.

The most common English alphabet song is Twinkle, twinkle little star. However, quite a number of songs are used in other European countries. The same set of Latin alphabets sound so different in European languages, not to mention words like “euro” that is pronounced quite differently across the EU countries.
Alfabeto Español
Italian alphabet song
Portugese (Brazilian) alphabet song
L’alphabet en Français

German uses the tune “Frère Jacques” for alphabet song. This song is so commonly known for a long time that even Mahler uses it in his first symphony:
Das deutsche Alphabet

I only got to know some of the Greek alphabets from maths or physics lessons, but I can’t yet spell all the alphabets – what a shame!

I wonder if any Greek and Cyprus children are learning their alphabet from this song though:
Greek Alphabet Rock

Russian alphabets in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Cyrillic script looks a bit similar to Greek script to me.
Песня алфавита (with Japanese subtitle)

Arabic is hard in a way that alphabets linked together in a word, and the same alphabet looks a bit different at the beginning, middle or the end. A lot of alphabets look so similar except the placement of the dot(s). Arabic pronunciation is quite hard in a way that it contains a lot of throat sounds that are uncommon in other languages.
Arabic alphabet song

Persian and Urdu alphabets are similar to Arabic due to Islamic influence.
Person alphabet song
Urdu alphabet song

Uighur, a Turkish tribe lives in Xinjiang of Northwest China, with a language is similar to Turkish, but they used a script similar to Arabic, while Turkish is written in a script similar to Latin languages.
Uighur alphabet song
Turkish alphabet song

There are so many languages in South Asia that I find it intriguing. Here are some of them:
Hindi alphabet song
Bengali alphabet song
Tamil alphabet song

Tibetan who lived in China-occupied Tibet has to learn both Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese. While most Tibetan who lived in India would learn Tibetan, Hindi and English. Tibetan script looks similar to Hindi, although Tibetan language and Chinese are often regarded as the same language family.

Tibetan Alphabet Song

Although Japanese and Korean both borrowed a lot of Chinese words in ancient time, but actually they are from a different language family that the grammar is totally different. Some linguistic experts think that Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Manchurian, Turkish are from the same Altaic language family, sharing the same sentence structure and grammatical rules. A lot of nomadic tribes migrated from East Asia to Central Asia and Eastern Europe; probably that’s the reason why these languages are related.

Both Japanese and Korean invented their own alphabets at a later time, and thus their alphabets seems quite organized and logical. The 51 alphabets in Japanese are arranged in rows with different consonants, with each rows contains alphabets with the five different vowels a, i, u, e, o. Japanese pronunciation seems relatively simpler than a lot of languages and not too far from Latin too, which makes learning Japanese pronunciation much easier than Chinese for Europeans.

日本語 Japanese alphabet song (Youtube)

Korean alphabets are also well-organized and logical, in a way that a set of symbols are used for vowels and consonants are grouped into a few types of symbols. I can’t find any alphabet song yet, but here is a good explanation of its alphabets:
Korean Alphabets 한글 (Youtube)

Mongolian is complicated in a way that there are two different scripts. Cyrillic alphabets are used in Mongolia because of Russian influence, while the traditional alphabets are used in Inner Mongolian province in China. However, Mongolian people in China are required to learn Mandarin Chinese, and one would find Mongolian text alongside with Chinese in Inner Mongolian province. I can’t find an alphabet song with subtitles, but here are samples of Mongolian Cyrillic and traditional script. Traditional script are written from top to bottom.

Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabets
Mongolian traditional script

There is no such thing as “alphabet” in Chinese. That’s why Chinese is probably the hardest language to write. But the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese is relatively simple if one has mastered the phonetics. All the “Chinese alphabet songs” on youtube are actually songs of phonetics, and they are not commonly known at all.

This is a Mandarin Pinyin (romanization) song:
Chinese (Mandarin) Alphabet Song

I can’t find any Cantonese phonetics song, but here is a very good introduction to the pronounciation:
Cantonese Initials
Cantonese finals
Cantonese tones

Chinese children usually start learning how to write characters with the numbers 一, 二, 三, 四. And they learn how to calculate multiples by a memorizing this table called 九因歌 (The Song of 9×9 Multiples):

The Song of Multiplications (in Cantonese)

That’s all so far. Sorry that there are still a lot of languages I haven’t covered here yet, e.g. Scandinavian and a lot of Eastern european languages. I’ll update it later. Thanks for reading!

p.s. a lot of people has asked me the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. I guess I’d better write it as an FAQ so that I don’t need to answer this question again.

1. Cantonese is only used by around 10% or less of Chinese people who live in Guangdong province near the City of Gunagzhou, Hong Kong, Macau and part of Guangxi province. However, a lot of Cantonese people migrated overseas earlier than other parts of China. That’s why Cantonese is still often heard within overseas Chinese communities.
Mandarin is used by the majority in Mainland China and Taiwan, with minor differences in pronunciation though. In Taiwan, Min-nan (or Taiwanese Hokkien) is also an official language, alongside with Hakka and Formosan languages of aboriginal tribes.

2. Cantonese has nine tones. (Some scholars regarded it as six tones plus three tones with stopping consonants.) Mandarin only has four.

3. Cantonese’s pronunciation is much closer to classic Chinese in Tang and Song dynasty. “Entering tone” (words which stop with a consonant) is preserved in Cantonese and some other dialects, but not in Mandarin, which has been much affected by northern tribes such as Mongolian and Manchurian (that’s probably why it’s called Mandarin).

4. Cantonese and Mandarin are almost incomprehensible to each other. I would say the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is much bigger than the difference between Portugese and Spanish.
5. We share the same written language, with minor discrepancies and usage of words. Mainland China uses simplified Chinese character which is a new invention by the communist party since the 1950s, while the traditional character is still used in Taiwan, Hong Kong & Macau.

Playground 1.1

sound installation, presented in Chimera Promenade Concert, June 2011 and postgraduate forum, Feb 2012
Documentation (PDF)

This is a demonstration of the patch. Please listen with headphones to hear the binaural surround effect:

This MAX / MSP / Jitter patch uses webcam for motion tracking, and produce sound by means of cv.jit objects and ICST ambisonics panning.

cv.shift is used to compare two frames for the change in direction of an object and cv.jit.label to determine the size of the biggest enclosed area. The bigger the area, it triggers MIDI notes with a higher velocity. Then I used the MIDI data to load samples of metallic percussions in Kontakt.

More detailed description and patch available soon.

Back to the list of compositions


i. Ivit, Ivit
premiered by the 24, 6 Feb 2012 [5 mins]
Score (PDF)

ii. Village Song
(Score will be available soon)

iii. Impermanance
(Score will be available soon)

Ivit, Ivit

adapted from Sutra Cordis Magnae Sapientiae Transcendentis (Heart sutra, a buddhist text) and Latin liturgy In Paradisum

Ivit, ivit, transivit, totum transivit, Illuminatio tum sit. (the original text is a Sanskrit mantra, Gaté Gaté Paragaté Parasamgaté Bodhi Svaha, translated in Latin).
In paradisum deducant te Angeli

English translation
Gone, gone, gone beyond, altogether beyond, then it is the other shore, the truth, the awakening, fulfilled.
May angels lead you into paradise.

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Hong Kong Sound Map

This is a collection of sounds in Hong Kong. Just like photos and videos, soundscape can evoke our memories of a city. At the moment, the project is still in a preliminary stage. The goal of this project is to create a platform that everyone can contributes to the sound map, and share any sounds they found interesting as creative commons or public domain. If you are interested in this project or if you have any sound recordings of Hong Kong you would like to share, please leave me a message. I hope we can take this project further.

View Larger Map


十二月尾,無雪無霜,陽光普照,往 Yorkshire sculpture park 走了一趙。最有趣的是 Jaume Plensa 的透明頭像,有如復活節島上的雕塑,很漂亮。還有這一個 See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,不就是招財貓,或者三隻猴子嗎?(見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる。非禮勿視,非禮勿聽,非禮勿言。)到底是甚麼令到一個人不敢去看、不敢去聽,或者不敢說話呢?雕塑家 Jaume Plensa 把這句子完本的意思改變了,蒙著眼睛、耳朶、嘴巴上的字是 panic, stress, anxiety, insomnia, hysteria and amnesia。想起友人給我的猴子御守,日光東照宮的護身符,就是個掩著嘴巴的猴子,厄運去除,學業成就。這格言源出於儒家,日本把它變成了三隻猴子的寓言,這句格言也流傳到西方,但意義卻也改變了。

不看、不聽、不說話的猴子怎麼變成了守護神呢?網上資料說:那三隻猴子是日本某大名的智囊,要他們進言,他們途中遇上邪靈,他們知道邪惡有很強的感染力,怕自己會被傳染,進言時也會變得邪惡,於是一個不看,一個不聽,一個看到了、聽到了就掩嘴不說話,於是邪惡並沒有感染到人們。另一種說法是,三尸是天神派來的賞善罰惡使者(三尸腦神丹?),偵察凡間每一個人的惡行再報告天庭,天神就會按照一個人的行為決定他的壽數云云,是以若果猴子不見、不聞、不言,則是上上大吉。是以猴子是帶來好運的意思。但另一種說法是,猴子是用來告誡人不要八卦,少講是非則少惹禍。(don’t be snoopy, don’t be nosy, don’t be gossipy) 。亦有一說謂,人心有如空碗,盛載了甚麼就會變成甚麼(you are what you see/ what you hear),例如港人大陸人本質並無大分別,性相近,習相遠,橘越淮則為枳。所以掩眼掩耳掩口,是象無慾則剛,心淨則安。


Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich nicht protestiert; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie die Juden holten, habe ich geschwiegen;ich war ja kein Jude.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.


如此說來,三隻猴子實乃「各家自掃門前雪」之表表者,吾輩又豈能奉之為格言?孔子說:「非禮勿視」,但應該問的是,為何以不是非「仁」勿視,又或者「義、忠、信、道、德」,而是禮?當這句話傳到日本,變成三隻猴子時,意義已經變了很多,翻譯成英文,evil 和中文的非禮更是相差甚遠。其實本應有第四隻猴子,非禮勿動(do no evil)。只是大家都把它忘記了。其實第四隻猴子才是最重要的。壞的事根本不應去做,而不只是不看、不聽、不說。一個小的毛病,若大家都隱忍不說,就會變成大的災難,例如福島核電廠洩漏輻射。

在網上一查,Wayne shorter 有首曲叫 speak no evil,土耳其有齣電影叫 Three Monkeys,亦用了這個主題去發揮。土耳其電影實在精采,把這個主題刻劃得入木三分,劇中一家人正正是看見了邪惡,卻不敢說,最後變成越來越大的悲劇。