2016年10月30日 星期日

The Splendour of Autumn (秋之風采)

Autumn is come. I expected to find only dry leaves, brittle twigs, ground full of the crumpled remains what was once standing proudly in the air.

Sure enough I found some withered leaves

2016年10月23日 星期日

Julia Fischer's Brahms (尤莉亞. 費莎妁的布拉姆斯)

It's rare to be an accomplished violinist. It's rarer to be both an accomplished violinist and pianist. We know that most academically trained musicians nowadays are required to learn more than one instrument. But to be good in both is a completely different matter. Yet that's what we found last night at the City Hall.  We had the inimitable double-talented Julia Fischer, master musician from Munchen, Germany, who not only performs, records but teaches music at the Munich Music Academy. She came from a very musical German-Slovak family: her mother and brothers are all pianists.. She started with the piano at age 4 but was already in the Munich Music Academy at 9! She has never left music since. When she was young, she admired the performance of Gould  and Kissin as pianist and Vengerov as violinist. She has appeared with numerous world class conductors and played concertos of all the major composers. I don't know how she did with the baroque composers but from what I heard last night, she's really good at the music of Brahms, which I am sure she simply adores. It's impossible to do well with the music of a composer one doesn't love. 

Her first offering of the evening was a piece by a Dvorak (1841-1904) composed in 1893, The Sonatina for Violin in G, Op 100, whilst he was in America as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. As all Latin-based words, "ito/a" means a diminutive version of something of normal size. So "sonatina" actually means a little Sonata. This sonatina was written for Dvorak's 6 children. It was intended a fun piece, a bit rough in the first movement in Allegro risoluto, with some pretty strong rhythm and a bit uncouth but playing around with some light lilting passages and a bit nostalgic for his native Bohemia in the slow and heavy second movement in larghetto. This was followed by a much brighter, faster and much and  a bit cheeky third movement, a Scherzo in molto vivace and a very energetic finale which recalls some of the earlier nostalgic motives. I don't why. Fischer seems to emphasize the lower notes much more than those in the higher registers, giving the piece a heaviness which I think ought not to be there in some of lighter and brighter passages. The piano accompaniment Martin Helmchen does little to brighten up the piece. To me, there's far too much use of the pedal. It felt as if it's all brume and fog and hardly any sunlight. 

2016年10月22日 星期六

We're all fools (我們都是儍瓜)

We think we're clever. But we're all fools. Some one makes fools of us all.

It's not someone who has life. But it nurtures all forms of life.

And it acts as if it had a mischievous mind

2016年10月15日 星期六

Every Grain of Sand (每一粒沙)and Not Dark Yet (還未黑齊)

In the days of old, there's hardly any poetry recital without music. Poetry is often recited in front of a small circle of friends gathered around a fire, to the rhythm and the soothing melodies of the gentle lyre. Times have changed. The lyre has been replaced first by the classical guitar and now by the electric guitar. But the different paragraphs of a ballad are still arranged like the stanzas of a poem. But of course, the strict rules for meters and end rhyme have been much relaxed, giving rise to much freer meters and rhythms favored by the much larger mass audience, as high culture is replaced by pop culture. No matter how much the form and contents of poetry have changed, something of its origin may still be detected in the so-called urban ballad, if one looks for it hard enough. The words sung by the singers to the sound of the music are still called "lyrics",even today. Could that be the reason why our idol of the 1960's, the man who started a quiet revolution in the way urban ballads are written and sung to convey the joys, the sorrow, the hopes and fears, the ups and down of the petty non-descript and nameless and almost characterless individual of the contemporary urban masses, has just been declared the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature?. He is of course the inimitable  singer-performer-composer of urban bluesy ballad, Bob Dylan. I don't think that there's anyone out there who hasn't heard of his "Blowing in the Winds", a favourite of the anti-Vietnam War era.

2016年10月11日 星期二

Deep Autumn (深秋)

The humidity is gone. But not the sweltering heat. Lucky if from time to time, there'll be a little breeze.

The color of deep autumn

2016年10月10日 星期一

Murray Perahia in Hong Kong (梅理. 柏拉雅在香港)

Music is not just an experience, it is the life of man in sound, in rhythm, in melody, in harmony and sometimes in cacophony. Just as it is impossible not to continue to live, it is impossible not to continue to live without music. So last night I found myself again at the Cultural Centre. There in the hall was Murray Perahia, the very accomplished and almost 70 year-old New York American pianist, educator and recording artist of numerous CDs.

The program started off with a piece by the so-called father of modern classical symphony, Joseph Haydn.
(1732-1809).  It was a piece written by Haydn in 1793 for a Mozart pupil. It's got two variations, the first in F minor with some syncopation and the second in F major, with some trills, with soft passages and louder passages. Perahia however gave him a make-over, in the Romantic style, emphasizing the contrasts and the dynamism of the piece. It's can't be called a purist's Haydn-Haydn version. It's become a Perahia-Haydn version. It may not be to every one's taste. Perhaps there is some wisdom in the claim that we must make music come alive for us. One way of doing that is to play it according to our preferences, our tastes, to give the old a new look and in short, to make it relevant to our times. I believe that Perahia did that.. Whether every one likes that is very much a matter of personality and taste.

2016年10月9日 星期日

Sha Lo Wan (沙螺灣)

I haven't  gone out for a while. It's time to be up and about.

In the meantime, little plants have grown;

2016年10月8日 星期六

University of Sevilla (西維爾大學)

Spain is a very special country. Its people are very conservative. But those who are not, are very radical in what they think and what they do. There is only one Deláquez. There is only one Cervantes. There is only Lorca. There is only one Picasso. There is only one Dali. There is only one Miró. There is only one Gaudy. Whatever the truth maybe. They all got to eat.

The Spanish love fruit. They know how to make them taste good, whether fresh or processed.

They know how to make lines look beautiful in their bridges

2016年10月7日 星期五

Sevilla--Flamenco Dance (西維爾--弗郎明哥舞)

Flamenco is a complex song (cante jondo with its characteristic vocalizations called jaleo), dance (baile) guitar music(toque) art form originating from certain areas of Andalucia, Extemadura and Murcia of Spain, complemented by distinctive rhythmic support through handclapping (palmas) and finger snapping(pitos) and castanets and/or a hand-drum (cajon), incorporating within it also elements from the music of the Romani gypsies in Spain. Some of its rhythms may in fact be traced to places as far away as those of the gypsies of North India. This style of music probably started in late 18th century Andalucia but since 2010, has been declared by the UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Some scholars say that the name "flamenco" could be associated with the "flame" or "fire" one experiences in the voice and movements of the Gitano (gypsy) singers, dancers and guitar players. But in his 1933 book Orígenes de lo Flamenco y Secreto del Cante Jondo, the historian Blas Infante suggested  that the word "flamenco" owes its origin to the Hispano-Arabic term "fellah mengu", (meaning "expelled peasant" ie. the  those Moriscos (Islamic Andalusians who were forced to convert to Christianity to avoid religious persecution)  who joined the Roma gypsies.
Whatever the truth may be, we now have more than 50 flamenco styles called palos  determined by the kind of rhythmic pattern, mode, chord progression, stanzaic form and geographic origin: some are sung with guitar accompaniment and some without; some of them can be danced, and some not; some are for men and others for women and some by both. But there are signs that such traditional distinctions are breaking down eg. the Farruca, once a male dance is now frequently done by women..
There are three kinds of flamenco songs, depending on how serious they are, ranging from the  saddest and most serious cante jondo (deep song) to the frivolous cante chico (kid's song)  with some falling between the two, called "intermedio" (in between).
The flamenco cante often includes both Spanish and Arabic  folk melodies, mixed further with elements from the Persian and Jewish musical traditions. Usually, flamenco  songs, whose contents and melodies may be quite different, carry no individual song title but are simply referred by their class names  with titles such as 

Alegrías (happy) 
Bulerías( with rhythms like (1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10] 11 [12] or 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 [7] [8] 9 [10] 11 [12] ) or broken down into 6/8 followed by 3/4 like ( 1 [2] 1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10] -[12] 1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10] 11)  and Bulerías por soleá (soleá por bulerías),
Caracoles(darn/damn/oh my goodness!) 
Cartageneras ,  
Fandango (a row) Fandango de Huelva, Fandango Malagueño, 
Peteneras (side-stepping into other things), 
Rondeñas (going round and round),  
Rumba (buzz), 
Saeta (arrow, dart), 
Seguirillas/Seguiriyas ( [1] 2 [3] 4 [5] 6 7 [8] 9 10 [11] 12  ) 
Sevillanas ( derived from an old folk dance Castilla called Sequidilla, a dance in 4 parts)  
Tangos and Tanguillos (Little Tango)
Tarantos (dazed, bewildered),  
Tientos (care, caution 
Many flamenco songs are accompanied by guitar music but with such accomplished performances by Paco Peña, Paco De Lucia, Ramon Montoya, Manitas de Plata, Pepe Romero, Pepe Martinez and The Romeros, flamenco guitar music has gone centre stage, as stand alone music genre.
A typical flamenco recital with voice and guitar accompaniment, comprises a series of pieces (not exactly “songs”) in different palos. Each song of a set of verses called copla (couplet) tercio (third ), or letras (lyrics) are punctuated by falsetas (guitar interludes). Sometimes, the guitarist s provides a short introduction which sets the tonality, compás (beat) and tempo (speed) of the cante before it is sung. . 
In certain palos such falsetas are played with typical structures e.g. in the  sevillanas with an AAB pattern, where A and B (likr A but with a slight difference in the ending).
Flamenco music is done in the so-called Flamenco mode (which some describes as a modern Phrygian mode (modo frigio), a harmonic version of that scale with a major 3rd degree, in addition to the major and minor scales used in modern Western music. The Phrygian mode occurs in such palos  as the soleá, most bulerías, siguiriyas, tangos and tientos.  A very typical chord sequence, usually called the "Andalusian cadence" may be viewed as in a modified Phrygian: in E the sequence is Am–G–F–E.. According to Manolo Sanlúcar E is here the tonic, F has the harmonic function of dominant while Am and G assume the functions of subdominant and mediant respectively. 
Guitarists tend to use only two basic inversions or "chord shapes" for the tonic chord (music), the open 1st inversion E and the open 3rd inversion A, though they often transpose these by using a capo (a bar across the guitar strings which when suitably placed on the neck of the guitar will enable the guitarist to play with the fingering positions of one chord but produce a chord in a different key and thereby simplify the fingering positions of different when different chords are required).
Modern guitarists such as Ramón Montoya, have introduced other positions: Montoya himself started to use other chords for the tonic in the modern Dorian sections of several palos; F♯ for tarantas, B for granaínas and A♭ for the mineras. Montoya also created a new palo as a solo for guitar, the rondeña in C♯ with scordatura. Later guitarists have further extended the repertoire of tonalities, chord positions and scordatura.
There are also palos in major mode: like most cantiñas and alegrías, guajiras, some bulerías and tonás, and the cabales (a major type of siguiriyas). The minor mode is restricted to the Farruca, the milongas (among cantes de ida y vuelta), and some styles of tangos, bulerías, etc. In general traditional palos in major and minor mode are limited harmonically to two-chord (tonic–dominant) or three-chord (tonic–subdominant–dominant) progressions. However modern guitarists have introduced chord substitution, transition chords, and even modulation.
Fandangos and derivative palos such as malagueñas, tarantas and cartageneras) are bimodal with the guitar introductions in Phrygian mode and the singing part in the major mode but modulating to the Phrygian at the end of the stanza.
According to Dionisio Preciado, the flamenco singing is characterized by:
 (1)  Microtonality: presence of intervals smaller than the semitone.
 (2)  Portamento: frequently, the change from one note to another is done in a smooth transition, rather than using discrete intervals.
  (3) Short tessitura or range: most traditional flamenco songs are limited to a range of a sixth (four tones and a half). The impression of vocal effort is the result of using different timbres, and variety is accomplished by the use of microtones.
  (4) Use of enharmonic scale. While in equal temperament scales, enharmonics are notes with identical pitch but different spellings (e.g. A♭ and G♯); in flamenco, as in unequal temperament scales, there is a microtonal intervalic difference between enharmonic notes.
  (5) Insistence on a note and its contiguous chromatic notes (also frequent in the guitar), producing a sense of urgency.
  (6)  Baroque ornamentation, with an expressive, rather than merely aesthetic function.
  (7)  Apparent lack of regular rhythm, especially in the siguiriyas: the melodic rhythm of the sung line is different from the metric rhythm of the accompaniment.
  (8)  Most styles express sad and bitter feelings.
  (9) Melodic improvisation: flamenco singing is not, strictly speaking, improvised, but based on a relatively small number of traditional songs, singers add variations on the spur of the moment.
According to musicologist Hipólito Rossy
 (10) Flamenco melodies are characterized by a descending tendency, as opposed to e.g. a typical opera aria, they usually go from the higher pitches to the lower ones, and from forte to piano, as was usual in ancient Greek scales
(11) In many styles, such as soleá or siguiriya, the melody tends to proceed in contiguous degrees of the scale. Skips of a third or a fourth are rarer. However, in fandangos and fandango-derived styles, fourths and sixths can often be found, especially at the beginning of each line of verse. According to Rossy, this is proof of the more recent creation of this type of songs, influenced by Castilian jota.
The compás (meter or time signature) is the soul (duende) of flamenco: the rhythmic cycle, or layout, of a palo. Without a guitarist,the compás is done by hand clapping (palmas) or drum beats from a cajon or simply by hitting the table with one's knuckles. The guitarist  will use such techniques as  strumming (rasgueado) or tapping the soundboard (golpé) and would sometimes  mark the important downbeats with a chord change..
Flamenco music is performed with three basic kinds of beats: Binary, Ternary and a form of a twelve-beat cycle that is unique to flamenco. There are also free-form styles including, among others, the tonás, saetas, malagueñas, tarantos, and some types of fandangos . Whilst the 
tangos, tientos, gypsy rumba, zambra and tanguillos are done with rhythms in 2/ 4 or 4/4,  the 
fandangos and sevillanas are done with rhythms in 3/4/4 thus suggesting their non-Roma origins since the 3/ 4 and 4/4 measures are not common in ethnic Roma music.
The 12-beat rhythms are usually done in various amalgams of 6/ 8 + 3/ 4 and sometimes in 12/ 8. The 12-beat cycle is the most common in flamenco but different palos may use different kinds of beat accentuation which doesn't correspond to the downbeat of classical music. Alternating of groups of 2 and 3 beats is also common in Spanish folk dances of the 16th Century such as the zarabanda, jácara and canarios.
There are three types of 12-beat rhythms, which vary in their layouts, or use of accentuations: 
(1) soleá, seguiriya and bulería.
(2) peteneras and guajiras: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12. Both palos start with the strong accent on
      12. Hence the meter is 12 1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11.12.....
(3) The seguiriya, liviana , serrana, toná liviana, cabales: 121 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12.
      soleá, within the cantiñas group of palos which includes the alegrías, cantiñas, mirabras
      romera, caracoles and soleá por bulería (also " bulería por soleá"): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
      12. For practical reasons, when transferring flamenco guitar music to sheet music, this 

        rhythm is written as a regular 3/4 .
Some performers prefer to stick to the "flamenco puro", considered to be closest to its gitano origins. In this style, the dance is always performed solo, with improvised rather than choreographed steps  Some purists even frown on the use of castanets (even though they can be seen in many early 20th century photos of flamenco dancers). But most Spanish flamenco dance companies adopt the "classical flamenco" style derived from the Seguidilla, a traditional Castillan folk dance: the men holding their body upright with head held high whilst the women's back is often held with a marked back bend. Unlike the more gitano influenced styles, there is little movement of the hips,  the body being tightly held and the arms  extended away from the body, as in a ballet In fact many of the dancers in these companies have also been trained in the ballet, not just the flamenco dance
There is now also the so-called "modern flamenco", a highly technical dance style requiring years of study. Here, the emphasis for both male and female performers is on lightning-fast footwork performed with absolute precision. In addition, the dancer may have to dance while using props such as castanets, shawls and fans.
In addition, a style called "Flamenco nuevo" has emerged recently, characterized by pared-down costumes (the men often dance bare-chested, and the women in plain jersey dresses). Props such as castanets, fans and shawls are rarely used. Dances are choreographed and include influences from other dance styles.
In traditional flamenco, young people are not often thought to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende (soul) of the genre. Therefore, unlike other dance forms, where dancers turn professional early to take advantage of youth and strength, many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.

El baile flamenco is justly famous for the way it shows up dramatically the pride, the grace of the human carriage and the swiftness, decisiveness and the grace of its motion, the way it can switch postures in a split second and the way the rhythmic stamping of the feet on the wooden floor board to create very complex rhythm with lightning speed . movement. As with any dance form, many different styles of flamenco have developed. The Roma form of flamenco is considered the most "authentic" but the gypsies of Spain have adapted some of its movement so that they become more sensuous: curving around the head and body rather than extending, often with a bent elbow.

2016年10月6日 星期四

Evora --Town Square(依奴拉古城--城市廣場)

There are still many cabriolets in Portugal. Evora is no exception.

After the visit to the St. Francis Church and the Chapel of Bones, it was time for the town square some way off.

2016年10月5日 星期三

2016年10月4日 星期二

Back to Lisbon (返回里斯本)

After Obidos, we were taken back into the modern world.

and had a glimpse of how some got their power 

2016年10月2日 星期日

Obidos, hidden in the byways of History (隱藏在歷史小徑中的奧比杜什)

After lunch at a Fatima restaurant, we set out for our next destination, Obidos, a small town in west Portugal which had been a settlement even in the late Paleolithic age and since been occupied successively by the early Celts, Romans, the Visigoths, Moors and now Portuguese and had been trading with the Phoenicians for hundreds of years.


Our first glimpse of the little town of slightly more than 3,000 people, Óbidos and a total of more then 11,000 counting the surrounding areas. The town probably got its name from the Latin word "oppidum" meaning "citadel" because it had been used by the Romans as a fort. The archaeological evidence indicated that there was once a forum, some Roman baths and other building under the settlement.The Romans left around the 5th century and the place was taken over by the Visigoths. Then like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, the town was overrun by the Moors of north Africa who built a fort on its mountains  In 1148, it reverted to Portuguese control under King Afonso Henriques and in 1195, the town got its charter. In 1210, King Afonso II gave this village to Queen Urraca since which time until 16th century, Obidos has so often been patronized by various Portuguese queen consorts that it was called "Vila das Rainhas (meaning Queenstown) because of donations by them..

2016年10月1日 星期六

The Mysteries at Fatima (花地瑪的奧祕)

Fatima is a birthplace of legends: facts mixed with the stuffs of imagination and subjective good wishes, politics and the propensity of ordinary people to believe in the exotic and the "supernatural". In 1916, three illiterate Portuguese shepherd girls claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary dressed in white whilst tending their flock at the Cova da Iria,at Fatima, a small village of less than 8,000, some 116 miles south of Porto and 76 miles north of Lisbon. They claimed that as early as 1916, they had been thrice visited by an "Angel of Peace" who taught them to say some prayers, to make some sacrifices and to spend their time adoring the Lord. Then Mary appeared to them on 13th May, 1917 wearing a white mantle edged with gold, holding  a rosary in her hand and looking "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun". They said she asked  them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to say "the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war." (WWII having already started in 1914). The "Rosary" is the set of prayers recited with the help of a string of beads with a cross  attached to its lower end. It starts with the sign of the Cross and the "Apostles' Creed", then 1 "Our father", 3 "Hail Mary", 1 "Glory be to the Father", followed by contemplating the   "mysteries"of faith viz. Joyful Mysteries, Luminous Mysteries, Sorrowful Mysteries, Glorious Mysteries, (each consisting of 10 "Hail Mary" followed by 1 "Our Father" and ending with 1 "Glory be to the Father"). There 3 girls were Lúcia dos Santos (later known as Sister Lúcia of Fátima) and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. They claimed that that they were told to return to the same place on the 13th of June, 1916. They did. On that occasion, Mary allegedly told Lucia that Jacinta and Francisco Marto would soon die but that Lucia must remain so that she might spread the message of devotion to the Immaculate Heart. However this later claim was made only after Jacinta and Francisco had actually died of the Spanish flu  Francisco Marto died at home on 4 April 1919, at the age of ten and Jacinta died in hospital, at the age of nine on 20th February 1920. They are buried at the Sanctuary of Fátima, and were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 13 May 2000.
A total of 6 visions were reported, though later, after two of them had died, the survivor Lucia amplified her claims by adding in more previously undisclosed details and more Marian apparitions in some of her 6 "memoires", each adding in more previously undisclosed details.
Lucia became first a sister of the Dorothean Order and later the Carmelite Order and lived to 97 She died in 2005.  
According to her, at the age of fourteen, she was sent to the school of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar. In 1928 she became a postulant at the Dorothean convent in Tui, just across the border. She continued to report having private visions periodically throughout her life. She reported seeing the Virgin Mary again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain). This time she said she was asked to convey the message of the First Saturday Devotions. She also reported an apparition in Rianxo, Galicia,in 1931, in which she said that Jesus visited her, taught her two prayers and delivered a message to give to the church's hierarchy. By her account a subsequent vision of Christ as a child reiterated this request
In 1929, she reported that Mary returned and repeated her request for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The lady also allegedly revealed to the children a vision of hell, and entrusted to them a secret, "that was good for some and bad for others". The local priest Ferreira later stated that Lúcia told him that the lady told her, "I want you to come back on the thirteenth and to learn to read in order to understand what I want of you. ...I don't want more."

This is the sign at the entrance to the square at the square in front of the shrine at Fatima