Posts Tagged ‘music’


I bought an ocarina today.  There wasn’t really a reason other than how beautiful it was, but as I looked through the tiny song book that came with it, I found a song that I thought would make one of my friends laugh.  I came out to the landing of the hotel where I’m staying to use the computer, and what song should I hear drifting up from the lobby but “Dust in the Wind.”

That brought on a dose of instant nostalgia as I thought about fun times from high school tinged with the inescapable melancholy of the song, and it all mixed in with my feelings about leaving Taiwan.  I have less than 20 days before I go home and take on the next big phase of my life, which is one of the reasons I came to Jiufen for a little one day/one night vacation.  It’s lucky that Jiufen is so pretty or I’d probably be getting weepy right about now.

I’ll post pictures and more about the town itself when I get access to Bluetooth (tomorrow night when I get back home), but aside from the fact that all the stores are pretty much closed by 7:30, I have had a wonderful day in Jiufen and Jinguashi.  The weather held up nicely and the two towns are gorgeous, and where they’re not gorgeous, they’re excitingly twisty and mysterious.

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“Can you sing?”

Last time the read-a-thon rolled around, I was powering through The Return of the King, but as I read this conversation between Denethor and Pippin, I had to stop and ponder for a few minutes.

‘What would you do in my service?’
‘I thought, sir, that you would tell me my duties.’
‘I will, when I learn what you are fit for,’ said Denethor. ‘But that I shall learn soonest, maybe, if I keep you beside me. The esquire of my chamber has begged leave to go to the out-garrison, so you shall take his place for a while. You shall wait on me, bear errands, and talk to me, if war and council leave me any leisure. Can you sing?
‘Yes,’ said Pippin. ‘Well, yes, well enough for my own people. But we have no songs fit for great halls and evil times, lord. We seldom sing of anything more terrible than wind or rain. And most of my songs are about things that make us laugh; or about food and drink, of course.’
‘And why should such songs be unfit for my halls, or for such hours as these? We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it? Then we may feel that our vigil was not fruitless, though it may have been thankless.’

I perhaps didn’t think about it as much as I should have, and in July I was surprised by my Chinese teacher pulling a movie-Denethor!  We had no warning, but were told to sing a folk song for our classmates.  I foolishly chose “Little Sadie,” a gruesome and kind of hard to sing ballad, which was awkward to explain after I finished.  I feel I could defend it now, but off-the-cuff and in Chinese?  It was tough.

We don’t really have bards, troubadours, or song-of-greeting traditions any more, but I’m bringing it back for a day.  Here’s the challenge: represent yourself, your country, or your people (whoever they may be) with one song.  You don’t need to sing it yourself, but I’d still like to hear the tune, so provide a link or video and tiny explanation in the comments or on your own blog, and I will choose the winner after 3 hours.  That means time is up at 0700 UTC.

For prizes, see this post, but know that there will be a book for first place, and postcards for 2nd and 3rd.  It’s international, my friends!  Now, can you sing?

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Come on, Kanye

I’ve been lazy for a month or so, but when both classes were canceled today and the weather wasn’t horribly hot, I knew I had no excuse not to go to the gym.  It felt good, and, as usual, it was hilarious and weird.  The music is often a bit old and sometimes utterly unsettling.  As I was lifting weights (they ARE in kilos, by the way; I’m not as wimpy as I thought I was!), a song came on calling for a toast to douchebags and assholes, including such lyrics as “I sent this bitch a picture of my dick” and “24/7, 365, pussy stays on my mind.”  It turns out it’s a Kanye West song and I often enjoy his music, but that doesn’t change the fact that the words are supremely bizarre, unnerving, and unhelpful to hear in the middle of a workout.

When I finished, I went downstairs to check out the pool and “Steaming Rooms.”  The pool’s pretty big, and I might take advantage of it at some point, but the best part was the downstairs translation of steam room: oven.  There is a Gentleman’s Oven at my local gym, folks.

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Chinese waily-pipes

Noisy parades and festivals are very common here, but I usually don’t understand the reasons.  Today is May Day (and Labor Day), but my calendar doesn’t show any Chinese holidays on the schedule.  However, as I was coming home from the hash, I could hear all kinds of ruckus, and when I reached the top of the MRT stairs, I saw a fantastic parade coming around the corner through the drizzle.  It seemed to be in honor of a land god nearby, or perhaps a Daoist temple society.

There were palanquins and pagodas and marchers and musicians and horses and tapestry banners.  It was amazing!  I got some video and photos, and I learned at least one thing about ceremonial celebrations!  I talked to a musician as they took a break right by my lane and answered a burning question of mine.  See, until now, I’ve called the caterwauler heard at funerals and any other festive occasion “Chinese bagpipes” or just the “waily pipes.”  Being curious about their name and construction, I jumped on the only musician standing apart to take a closer look and ask questions.  They’re called Chinese shawms or 鎖吶 and they’re pretty sweet!  They look like a simple flared metal cone with a tiny fanned double reed.  Wikipedia says they’re made of wood, but I don’t know about that…  To be honest, as soon as I saw they had reeds, I should have guessed the English would be shawm, but to be fair, that’s not a word that I frequently have to grasp for.

The parade went on a little while longer, but the fireworks are still going in shifts every half hour, it feels like.  I sincerely hope they’ve decided to call it a night at 10:40pm, but my realistic side is telling me not to be a fool.

Unfortunately, my bluetooth is acting up again, and I’m going to have to take care of the photo/video part after some trouble-shooting.

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The elementary school just down the road from me plays songs on its bell system, and it’s been bugging me since I moved in that I couldn’t remember what a certain lunchtime song was.  Today, I finally remembered midomi.com and within 2 minutes, I had worked it out that it was Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Sweet success!

Now I just need to figure out how to conquer little Mr. ADHD in my Tuesday class (I’ll have him again on Friday), and how to get my junior high class to talk.  I think a lot of it is the textbook, which sucks pretty hard.  Hopefully, the next level will be better, since theirs is a pretty flexible curriculum.

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Musical endeavors

Earlier today, in the small break I had between Tree House and Kids Club, I went for a short walk around the block to get some air and clear my head.  I passed a music store I’ve probably passed 100 times, but this time, I went in, since I’ve been feeling a severe need for some non-internet hobby time.  I wanted to see if they had any clarinets, and when I saw they didn’t, we ran into problems.  I didn’t know how to say it, and it’s hard to describe with limited vocabulary (“It’s like this, it’s black!”), especially since I think the man I spoke with was the money guy, not the knowledge guy.  With 2 minutes to go before class, I told him I’d come back with the Chinese, and rushed off.

Around 9:00, I finished grading homework and headed back.  My phone has a built in dictionary, and I showed him what it popped up.  He was still clueless, solidifying my perception of him as the business owner, but he told me to wait while he got “the teacher.”  She was able to help me get the right word, but they still didn’t have a clarinet.  The owner called up his dealer/son and got some prices, but I wanted to know brands, especially since the lowest price he quoted me was $200 US.

The longer I hung around, the more people accumulated.  First, it was the man.  Then it was the man and the teacher and a little boy.  Then it was the man, the teacher, the little boy, and the son on the phone.  Then it was the man, the teacher, the boy, the son, and a customer and her two kids.  The customer helped us out a little bit, but the kids just kept knocking into my knees with their cases and trying to break their heads open or something.

I’m going back tomorrow, and hopefully he’ll have more info.

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