What good music does for the soul
Guest conductor Hu Bing Xu, one of the most outstanding conductors in the Chinese music fraternity
It makes you want to cry. It makes you smile. It makes you want to quickly record down your thoughts about it before memories become fuzzy. It makes you feel younger by at least 10 years. These are the effects of good music, and today I was fortunate to hear one. “Capriccio” (时空随想) was truly one of the best performances I have heard in a long while from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO).
Conducted by guest conductor Hu Bing Xu (胡炳旭), the music director and principal conductor of the Guangdong Chinese Orchestra, the 100-minute concert featured a meaty offering of six songs. This was my first time watching Conductor Hu work his magic, but he makes such a difference to the performance of the orchestra as compared to SCO’s music director Tsung Yeh (叶聪).
The world’s rollercoaster ride through tumultuous upheavals in economy and finance, international security and politics has largely bypassed the mountainous fortress of Tibet. But a quake reminds us why the alpine nation shouldn’t be so easily forgotten.
One of the many solar panels seen in Tibet. Tibet has abundant solar energy resources, with an average of 3,000 hours of solar radiation annually, or about 6,000 to 8,000 megajoules per square meter.
Hours into the early September 18, 2011 morning after I boarded my flight from Kunming, Yunnan province’s biggest city in southwest China, the earth started to rumble. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake was about to strike the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, with tremors rippling across neighbouring Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. My flight from Kunming was a conclusion to a week-long vacation to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). It was delayed for three hours and no clear explanation was offered by the airline. I only knew what happened after arriving back in Singapore and receiving text messages from friends asking if I was safe and saying an earthquake had occurred around the Himalayan region near the time of my departure.
My initial sense of relief from the close shave was soon overtaken by worry.
Seeking hope with Jia Aili
The artist posing with a gas mask
Schooled in consummate western classical painting technique, Jia Aili (賈藹力)is a Chinese artist capable of weaving wonderfully sublime and transient narratives on canvas. Yet when it comes to talking about his work in an hour-long session after his opening show at the Singapore Art Museum, the 33-year-old comes across as reservedly guarded and cryptic.
His latest solo exhibition “Seeker of Hope” features laconic and desolate dreamscapes of abandoned industrial spaces, bogs and plane crashes conceived from an intermix of reality and imagination. The paintings, pregnant with western romanticism and Caravaggio-lesque drama, reflect dualities of birth and destruction, hope and despair.
When asked by an attendee how ‘real’ these depictions are, he says :” I have no power to link my paintings to reality. What is real to me and what is reality is different and separate. In fact everyone has their own perception of reality.” There always seemed to be a sense of something left unsaid or unresolved in his answers. Nothing is over explained, in fact the more he elaborates the more questions emerge. It doesn’t help when almost three quarters of Jia’s artworks exhibited are untitled. The reason being, as he good naturedly owned up (to a wave of chuckles in the room), that most of the time, he honestly has no idea what to name them. Hence, most of his works have been left open to interpretation.