Note: I was originally going to publish this around March or April this year but life got in the way.
This year, I decided to give in.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I feel I’ve been deprived the chance to express myself musically since childhood. Unlike very fortunate young boys and girls with overbearing Asian parents, my journey into music has been an uphill battle ever since. My earliest musical memory was when I was being commended for having played by ear ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on a keyboard at three or four years of age1. And then, silence. For a considerable number of years.
Fig. 1: Can I just say how much I DIG Chris Potter?
I belonged to a semi-musical extended family. Being of Race X, I lived with all my aunts and uncles and their sons and daughters and dogs (no one owned a cat in our little village) and I remember my cousins being frequently chastised by their mothers for having formed high school bands. It will “ruin their lives”, they said. So my cousins had all these instruments lying around: keyboards, guitars both wood and electric, perhaps even a drum set (I have to verify this with them next time), and so it was both exciting and aggravating for me as a kid to hear them perform in their bedrooms. Exciting, because hey, it’s music (though not necessarily good music) but aggravating, because as a kid I wasn’t really allowed to touch any of their instruments2.
Years passed until I got my first guitar when I was in sixth grade. An $80 wooden guitar coated with black (as black as my feelings at the time (yes, I had an amazingly embarrassing teenage period: a story for another time however)). I loved every single bit of it, of course, down to the painful calluses on my fingertips, but by then it wasn’t the music which led me to buy it. It was puberty.
Discipline was never my strong point. But when I wanted something, I got it. Within a month I was attempting to imitate Sungha Jung’s rendition of More than Words. This wasn’t as impressive as it sounds, ’cause really I haven’t any conception of high standards then. What constituted an “I can play Sungha Jung.” then was being able to evoke the idea of being able to play the thing. Heck, in my circle of friends then, being able to fingerstyle was the peak of achievement. I hadn’t yet the sense that more is possible.
But then again, it wasn’t really about the music. I had two girls to impress. And I convinced them to have lessons with me under our resident music teacher.
Okay, I’m fibbing a bit. The reason why I got my guitar that late in the game was that I was better as a singer. The reason why I didn’t actively pursue a singing career was that singing was for “faggots” in my school. I’m sorry.
Let’s go back to our original topic. With abject failure in leadership and people management staring me in the face, I decided to try my hand at something that isn’t a uphill battle for me, which is, well, music. I like to think that my strengths lie in my senses. I have perfect color vision (according to the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test). I can smell when people are hungry3. My cooking has (almost) never failed my friends of supposedly exacting tastes4. And I was surprised to hear that hearing multiple independent voices à la Bach is still something of a marvel (to be fair, I can only hear up to three voices simultaneously (with perhaps a fourth voice if I cheat and whistle) whilst Bach could, in theory, hear six).
Fig. 2: Yep. Six voices indeed.
So yeah, it seems my world is vibrant and colorful and loud and it’s fascinating how The Lottery of Fascinations led me to virtual reality — anyway, I decided to pursue something that I am actually maybe naturally good at for once and it has been quite a ride. Having a healthy dose of impatience has led me to a double-prong strategy to my “self-induced musical masturbation”: I am picking up FL Studio and the saxophone at the same time, learning a hell of a lot of theory and technique and all about this wonderful intersection of expertise and aesthetics along the way.
- Race X
- my ethnicity
- University X
- my university
- FL Studio
- a digital audio workstation (DAW) that until recently was considered a toy by producers because of its intuitive interface
- So it is very possible that my recollection of this is just a false memory. ↩
- There was this one time my dad threw a birthday party for me when I was six or seven and I distinctly recall two new experiences for me that day: eating mutton for the first time, and being reprimanded for fiddling with the drums of the band my dad hired (which was doubly worse ’cause, well, it was MY birthday after all). ↩
- It actually isn’t as difficult as it sounds. People’s breaths smell different when they’re hungry (see this r/AskScience post) and I sincerely used to believe this is something that anyone can notice once known, but I’ve been proven wrong about it enough times to change my mind. ↩
- This born of University X being situated near Maginhawa Street, one of the most intensely competitive concentrations of food businesses in Country X, where the six-month survivability of your concept restaurant is made or broken by the opinions of your first few college-aged customers. ↩