A Collection of Flutes: Modern, Renaissance, Quena
It is common to find ourselves disillusioned or jaded with an activity after some time due to difficulties or certain experiences that shaped our perceptions. Hence, I often find it useful to revisit the reason why I started on a particular activity and I leave with a sense of inspiration and insight.
As my LCM Flute Grade 8 exam is around the corner, it means that I am at the height of practising for it. In the midst of my practice, I find it frustrating that I can't meet the standards of the examiners and thought that I should go back to basics to seek inspiration and encouragement. While it is awkward to conduct such a personal exercise in a public domain, I realise that it is also a good chance to share with my readers an activity that plays a large role in my life.
I first fell in love with flute or the idea of playing the flute for a childish reason. As a kid, I watched countless drama serials based on Chinese legends and pugilists. As such, I am often enthralled by the aspect of the mystical qualities of the flute in which one can summon animals, spirits or possess magical powers by playing it. Such a thought was definitely tempting and I pestered my mother to find a teacher for me. However, playing the flute was generally uncommon in those days and it was not until when I was 13 before I had my first lesson. In the meantime, my interest in the flute grew out of the childish notion and into a deep appreciation of its melodious quality and its earthy tones.
With youthful enthusiasm, I embarked on learning the flute and took various examinations and, in a flash, it has been 8 years since I had my first lesson. On hindsight, I often smile at the thought of my younger self and my wide-eyed wonderment with regards to this mystical instrument.
Having matured in character, thoughts and musicianship, this mystical instrument has evolved into a sensual as well as a spiritual one. The sensuality of the instrument stems not only from its earthy tones but the intimate relationship between the flautist and his listener. This is due to the fact the need for one's breath is a very personal aspect of oneself. Without breath, one cannot live and listening to the flute is akin to the flautist singing softly to you as you can feel the warmth of the flautist's breath on the nape of your neck. Furthermore, this idea is further enhanced by the idea held by many that the flute imitates the human voice.
My take on the spirituality of the flute is inspired by one of its greatest players, Sir James Galway. In one of his earlier biographies, Galway remarked that playing the flute is an act of paying homage to God; to play the most beautiful melodies in which the composer can only be inspired by God to be able to write such surreal music. What a beautiful thought! I was also reminded that as God gave life to us by breathing into Adam and Eve, I give life to music by breathing into the instrument and pay my homage to Him. Perhaps that is why the beauty of music transcends culture, language and time.
That is how I started my lifelong relationship with the flute.
Every once in a while, we are reminded of certain things we used to do as children that may seem silly or amusing to us now. But I often marvel at that young boy many years ago for his innocence, purity and the sheer altruism of helping people. I'd thought I would share one of those memory that I was brought back to as I was staring out of the car window.
As I was returning home from lunch today, I was staring blankly out of the car window and my gaze started to drift the the various number plates of the cars beside the vehicle I was in. As I was wondering what is with the number plates of the cars that caught my attention, I remembered that I had a habit of copying down the details of license plates of cars I saw. This habit was borne out of the intention of potentially assisting the police in an investigation should the need arises.
While the act was totally naive, the altruism of the intention, the sense of adventure as well as the keen conception of such an idea after noticing the license plates on cars reaffirm the sad fact that we live less and exist more as we mature.
Perhaps, that is why we often find ourselves insisting that children should have a proper and happy childhood and should not be forced to grow up ahead of their physical development.
Out of sheer boredom, I decided to visit my old blog and found an inspiring story that I heard while I was in hospital. The following is a recount that I wrote on my old blog..
Clearing the Cobwebs (24th Feb 2009)
I duely apologise to my gentle readers for not updating my blog in months due to my military commitments. The problem of national security has not made me at ease to share my experience through such an open domain lest I risk my form of literary expression being closed down. Yet, fret not as I attempt to clear the cobwebs from the nook and cranny of this blog and update my gentle readers on the ongoings of my life.
For those who do not know, I was recently warded at Changi Hospital due to a knee infection which was incurred during my outfield training. My knee swelled to twice its normal size and a minor surgery had to be done to remove the pus and infection. I am now discharged and am focusing on recovery.
My first experience as a patient in a hospital has indeed been a colourful one as I met many different personalities during my week's stay. I am not at ease to go into details of these colourful personalities but I promise that it will be left to another post. However, within the week of my stay in the hospital I was entreated to an inspiring life story.
There was this elderly man who was admitted to the hospital on my third last day (I was warded for a week) for a urinary tract infection. Towards the final two days of my stay, I got acquainted with this man as he went on to relate to me his life story and how he struggled to make himself a considerable success in life. That man was absolutely elated when he found out that I'm from AC as he was an ACS boy many years ago during the era of those ancient principals such as C.B. Paul and such. As a summary of his life, he was generally dwarfed by the many famous kids in ACS (kids of Lee Kong Chien, the Shaw Brothers, Tan Chin Tuan) but he still managed to struggle through and got rather decent results.
However, tragedy struck as he contracted tuberculosis from his uncle during a short stay. In those days tuberculosis was absolutely fatal and that would deter many employers from employing you as should the illness have a relapse, it would incur a huge cost for any company. Hence, despite having recovered from the illness, he couldn't find any decent job except to be a temporary staff of the City Council (I think it's the equivalent of the Public Utilities Board in those days). It was a relatively easy job and he had much time on his hands and somehow, after reading books from the library, he developed an interest in photography and began to self-teach himself through books on taking photographs.
After having refined his skill he decided to take the sights and sounds of the places around him (he was staying in Mosque Street in Chinatown) and write stories based on his pictures. This interest in photography got him recognised by the local newspapers after publishing a few of his short stories and prints in a weekend newspaper. Soon after, he was engaged to publish a weekly picture column and he proceeded on to be a freelance reporter for the newspaper as he got to interview royalties (the various Sultans of Malaya) and other noted personalities.
His biggest break came when he went to purchase a new camera from Kodak and the manager, seeing that he was extremely knowledgeable with regards to photography and has established contacts with various photo studios around the country, employed him despite the knowledge of his medical history. He was promoted within the next six months and his monthly income (his job as an advertising and sales manager in Kodak, his work at the City Council plus his contributions to the local newspaper) amounted to over $500! That is a lot of money considering that a plate of noodles was only 30 cents then (the stats was provided by the man himself). His experience, interest and determination thus led him to eventually outdo many of the rich ACS schoolmates (some of who went on to be bums and waste their family fortunes) he had then as he got to rub shoulders with the rich and famous through his work with the newspaper as well as making camera sales to these personalities.
This is a story of a man's struggle to make something of himself despite his predicament. The inspiration of story is that this elderly man took an interest, refine it and took a stab in the dark and see where it took him. In today's environment of pressures and expectations, sometimes it is most important to listen to our hearts, take a chance and see where it leads us.
The thing with writing a blog with no intentions of making money and getting famous is that you don't know who your readers are. This is mainly due to the fact that you don't advertise your blog nor shape it in a way to cater to a target readership. Rather, all one does is to present the most truthful side of yourself through your writing and hope that whoever reads it will return.
As such, I've often wondered who have chanced upon this blog and their reactions to it. I'm always under the impression that the only reader of my blog is yours truly and the rest are just passing by. However, as I checked the statistics of my blog, I realised that I have more than 10 readers the past month and most of them are from overseas!
So here's an official shout out to all readers out there! If you are not merely passing by, write something in the comments and let me know who you are! I am utterly curious!