Musical Awakening

I just had a really fun and good night.  After years of starting to really resent the piano and classical music in general, tonight I dragged friends along with me to a low-key performance in Princeton, and it reminded me of how much I loved music and playing.

I don’t know, I always hesitated a lot to label myself a musician, because I felt again like I was lacking in confidence and being a stage whore, which you kind of have to be natural with to a certain degree to enjoy performing for others.  But I definitely have a deep connection and to music when I’m in the zone, and with some encouragement, I went up after the concert to mess around with the piano, and I totally fell in love.  The piano is a Mason and Hamlin, and it just sounded so beautiful I kept playing and gathered a tiny audience again.  I improvised a lot and it made me want to go back to practicing and possibly teaching and/or playing.

One of the few things I am confident is in my musicality.  Maybe it’s my emotional side but sometimes I felt incredibly sad playing the keys, but in a good way.  You feel both worn out but relieved after you’re done.  I think I’ll try to go back to composing music and/or doing covers, and recording a few on my SoundCloud 🙂

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Healthy Habits: on coding, music, self

On my path to data science:

I’m not really sure why this feeling came over me and helped me decide my commitment to learning data science non-stop for the next two months.

Back when I was in college and started venturing out of all that I knew in piano and music, all I kept hearing was how powerful coding could be and how it could change the world.  The first time I took a website development course, I was completely baffled, stopped dead in my tracks… all these weird symbols and jumble of words, and all of them were supposed to mean something?!  It didn’t look like alien language because it was still in english, and everything was created right there from the keyboards at the tip of my fingertips.  Yet it certainly felt like alien language, and I had never felt stupider.  I struggled to decipher what anything meant, and even when something finally worked, it was with such heavy assistance from my professor that I was left with this feeling that I didn’t understand anything, and dreaded needing to reproduce any part of the work process.

During my gaming class where we had to create games, I was going through a really rough time outside of the classroom and all my creative juices were drained.  It was all I could do just to show up at class and stare at my screen like a vegetable for three hours.  I remember pulling an all-nighter to desperately write code for a simple maze, yet none of the code worked.  Running out of time, to show for the entire night’s worth, I basically copped out by embedding an image of a maze for my character to walk through:  an image. Not an actual maze with walls and boundaries.  The demo for my class the following day was embarrassing, and I felt pretty useless and talentless.

I am an easily stressed individual.  Even though I would sweat bullets and lock myself in the practice room before each performance, at least it was familiar to me.  The nerve-wracking feelings and symptoms were familiar, and all I cared about in the earlier years was to not mess up, forget my piece or stumble on the notes.  Through college, the standard was raised a lot to not just surviving through the piece onstage, but actually learning to enjoy the music then and now with the audience.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I learned how to connect deeply and emotionally with listening to the keys and what the music was trying to convey.  In comparison to what I’m trying to accomplish these days, this necessary empathy has always come much more naturally to me.

Now I’m trying to brush up on my life more technically-  practically, what is useful?  Data science.  I feel that I can bring the passionate, committed side of me to pursuing coding, even though the science itself is rather logical, and seems to draw from statistics and other aspects that I always found quite boring.

On the contrary, I am finding this stuff really interesting.  I don’t know if it was because I made the decision to devote myself to learning it bit by bit with a really reliant guide, or that the graphic visualization aspect appeals to my more artsy side.  It also doesn’t hurt that data scientist positions pay pretty well!  I can see a future in this for me, and that feels pretty calming.  I hope this is my calling.  Of course, I will still always have those qualities that piano has taught me:  passion, heart, and definitely discipline.  Habits where you don’t think of it as a choice to stick to it day by day.  You make the choice at the beginning of pursuing this goal, and then day by day it is a necessity.  You breathe it, live it, and only stop to eat, poop, and take short breaks to loosen the mind a bit.

I did feel this sense of accomplishment after a piano performance, especially at a larger, reputable hall like Lincoln Center, yet it still felt like it was so engrained into me to win and do well that I wondered if that took away from some of the satisfaction.  A fraction of it was for my parents, another fraction for the teacher.

But data science is entirely mine.  I made this choice on my own to develop myself further, and it feels oh so good to affirm that I can do (almost) anything if I put my all into it.  One of the to-do lists on my list before I die is to experience that utmost feeling of accomplishment when I get a well-paying job that I know I can grow into.


Speaking of other healthy habits on self-development, I have also made the commitment to building my body and pushing it at the gym as often as I can.  I felt this way around fall, but as it got colder and more factors made it difficult, my clarity in pursuing the goal began to fade and I got discouraged.  I have to decide to pick myself back up and keep trying to train and reach for the best version of myself as I can, mentally and physically, according to my own terms.

Gotta hit my target weight of 105 lbs, and eat healthier, stay away from processed foods, and CONSISTENCY IS KEY.  DEDICATION.  DRIVE.

Gym every other day.  If I don’t wake up feeling dead or something serious and there’s no real reason, I have to go to the gym by default.

Gotta get those ABS OF STEEL.  Slow and steady, like the turtle.

Hungry??  Don’t grab the chicken nuggets.  Grab the bell pepper and hummus.  At the grocery store and staring at yummy processed fat?  NO.  Do not even purchase it.

Also talked a bit with vegetarian / semi- vegetarian friends… I feel like lately I’ve had conflicting feelings when I think about or see meat.  I kind of crave it…but also feel a bit repulsed?

Thoughts n Questions to Ponder

  1.  What are the main differences between pity, sympathy, and empathy?  Are there two different levels of empathy?  A.  Having gone through the same, or very similar experience where you understand deeply B.  Can understand as explained to you, as you willingly strive to seek out understanding of another’s experiences
  2. What determines what is art and what is not?  Is it enough that it makes one feel an emotion, or an opinion?    What about if something is crudely done in controversy? Perhaps this is how famous celebrities (Kim K, Andy Warhol, Trump, the Pepsi commercial) garner publicity knowingly and manipulatively
  3. Everything in life mainly revolves around the goal of Efficiency, which will lead to Effectiveness.  Example: Why Marie Kondo’s book on tidying and organizing became a bestseller as we have so much waste and crap in our houses.  It is how I learned to memorize my music with intent and away from the piano, more intensely in less time, but more mentally draining regardless.  Creative design should also focus on minimize waste, energy, time.  Should the same concept be applied for empathy?
    1. Things that are wasteful but shouldn’t be… 40% groceries wasted away in the average American household- why??
    2. Taco Bell sauce packets
    3. Throwing away or not having anywhere to place reusable teabags…

What are my strengths and current goals? Curiosity, focus, and intense determination

  1.  Korean / Spanish language, teaching Mandarin to my friend daily and weekly
  2.  Coding for Python
  3. Looking into animation (create short) practicing piano again and writing music (create a great piece)
  4. Empathy, Pondering, Philosophy
  5. Creating greater efficiency in waste, energy, time
    1. Re-organize lifestyle and bedroom
    2. Establish regime – wake up before 12pm, sleep at 2am, take morning/bedtime calcium supplements.  Stretches, drink 37oz liquids, work out, floss, mouthwash, skincare, haircare.
    3. “Is what I’m doing beneficial to me in the long run? Am I learning something right now productive?” –>  TEDtalks, cooking recipes (next up, ba wan), Lynda tutorials
    4. Be better at planning events
    5. Minimize sound pollution, food waste
    6. Develop photography portfolio so I can develop photoshop photos
  6. Passions:  women’s rights, Asian American rights, Disability rights –> how to save energy
    1. Suitcase with wheels/ moving chair
    2. Accessibility (ex:  more elevators in the city, better “wheelchairs”)
    3. How do we increase efficiency in obtaining empathy in each other in a simple, direct manner that makes sense?  –>  perspective of woman translating well for men.  Struggles of Asian Americans and immigrants, their story to become understanding or more relatable.
      1. Watch movies:  50/50 on reality of illnesses, The Godfather on moral dilemmas, Master of None on feminism, immigrants, ageism, hook up culture, racism, etc.
  7. Me:   Sound of heels clicking cleanly across the floor with a slight echo, rustling of a turning page, old smell of sheets of paper, fresh cut grass, moisturizing lip balms, Lupicia cookie tea and chocolate strawberry tea, slicing cucumbers, sizzling oil, matcha bubble tea, onigiri, ramen, glistening sashimi, glutinous gelatinous ba wan, emotional energy channeling through fingertips into keys, deep breaths, whirling thoughts, racing heartbeat, derp.

It Never Ends

I spend all week feeling some type of way, trying not to feel so much because it’s too much to handle- I feel like Tommen in Game of Thrones some days.  Of course, compared to that world I guess this one is okay, but any worse and I’d want to jump off a cliff too.

What is the light at the end of the tunnel?  Maybe this week’s is meeting new people and friends and attempting some norms like laughter and blending in with everyone else.  But once the day approaches, I’m feeling another type of way. Anxiety.  Fear.  Feelings of doubt- why do I bother, why do I try, why can’t I turn off my thoughts, why is it so hard just to, be?

Is it supposed to be this hard for everybody, because I don’t think it’s the same?

This week’s two favorite pieces of music:

  1.  A new discovery, which is “Save Me” by the korean boy band BTS.  They’re not perfect, but I’m impressed with the vibe of the song and the dance.
  2. An old favorite, which is “Forrest Gump” by Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE, also my favorite color… while we’re at it, my other songs that I like by him are “Pink Matter” and “Lost.”

Sigh.  I’m in a sad place right now, but I won’t talk about it here until I’m ready.

 

Best Movie Soundtracks and Composers

When I was five, I began figuring out how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the upright piano.  My mom then heard me play “Memory” from the musical “Cats,” and deemed me a musical genius from that point on.  She sent me to piano lessons, and I played the flute for a couple years in middle school.

Throughout my love-hate relationship with music and piano, it became both a source of peace and stress.  I practiced hours a day before competitions, and my mom and my piano teacher were both one of those strict tiger moms who disciplined me hardcore:  piano and I shared many moments of tears and breakdowns where I wanted to quit.

There is one aspect of music that never failed to cause me grief though, and that was listening to soundtracks.  There is something about the magical realm where my love for film meets music, and deciphering how the composer creates a memorable, distinctive theme that belonged to no other but the movie and its message.  When you hear it, within seconds you know right away it’s Jaws, or Star Wars.

That said, here is a list of the classics and some of my personal favorites.

The legendary John Williams (who often writes the music of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas)

  • Jaws 1975 –   ominous half step, two-note motif
  • Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 – heroic, cheeky trumpet, orchestra, brass, percussion
  • Star Wars 1997-2015 – opening theme – fanfare, welcoming, march
    • +Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) – dark, march of impending doom
    • +Across the Stars (Love theme between Anakin and Padme)-opening by oboe solo accompanied by orchestra: somber, romantic, minor key. Repeated by orchestra, harp
  •  Harry Potter (Hedwig’s theme) 2001-2011 – beginning mysterious triangle (?) theme in minor key, repeated by orchestra.
  • The Patriot 2000 – calm, higher range violin takes melody in counts of 3, legato, slight celtic sound with orchestral back up
  • Jurassic Park 1993 – 2015

Hans Zimmer – experimenting with unconventional ways of producing abstract, ambient sounds (Christopher Nolan)

  • Inception 2010 – brave, wandering, and dreamy, soft timpani with cautious orchestra. Complemented with higher guitar string two-note repeat.  Ebb and flow.
  • Interstellar 2014 – dream-like, piano-organ combination with experimental sounds with woodwind and choral elements.
  • Gladiator  2000 –
    • + “Honor Him” timpani, orchestra, minor key, noble.
    • +”Now We Are Free”

James Horner – (James Cameron) classic, hopeful, hopeless romantic, emotional.   R.I.P.

  • Titanic 1997 “My Heart Will Go On” sung by Celine Dion – originally orchestral, but became vocal; beginning flute trill
  • Avatar 2009 “I See You” sung by Leona Lewis
  • Troy 2004
  • A Beautiful Mind 2002

Ennio Morricone 

  • The Mission 1986 “Gabriel’s Oboe” – hopeful, beautiful, calm; oboe theme also in vocal, cello versions
  • Others:  The Hateful Eight, The Best Offer, other Italian movies

Nino Rota – 

  • The Godfather soundtrack series  1972-1990   – wistful, somber, threatening, sustained melody

Klaus Badelt – 

A. R. Rahman – (Danny Boyle) eccentric, vibrant amalgamation of Asian with European, electronic and acoustics

  • Slumdog Millionaire  2008 – “Jai Ho”- rhythmic, pulsating, blend of Indian Bollywood, Spanish, and other elements
  • 127 Hours  2011 – with Dido- “If I Rise- gentle, ethereal vocal accompanied with quiet rhythm and guitar strumming
    • +”Funeral” – Band of Horses

Mark Isham –

  • Life as a House  2001 No Reservations 2007   –“Building a Family” – homey, piano with oboe, strings

Cinematic Orchestra 

 

TV SHOW THEMES 

John Lunn – 

  • Downton Abbey 2010-2015 – “Did I Make the Most of Loving You”

Bear McCreary – 

  • Walking Dead 2010-current theme – anxiety-ridden, unsettling, orchestra rifts, distortion, apocalypse sounding
    • +”Mercy of the Living”

Ramin Djawadi –

 

And of course, I got to give a celebratory shout-out to the amazing Asian films, especially those that have blossomed in recent years, such as the Taiwanese movie industry!  It all began with the movie that revived it all, Cape No. 7. We also can’t forget the wonderful Joe Hisaishi, who has written so many for the Japanese films, particularly legendary Hayao Miyizaki animations in Studio Ghibli.

  1. Cape No. 7 2008 – “Love Letters”

Joe Hisaishi has his own category:

  1. Kikujiro 1999 – “Summer”
  2. Howl’s Moving Castle 2004 – charming, waltz-like, spiral-y strings with piano
  3. Other notables:  Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away,  Castle in the Sky Laputa

 

Happy listening!!!  Let me know which ones are your favorites and if I missed any 🙂