31 May 2010

Drumming to soothe my son

With the help of Google, we can find out millions of web pages offering theories behind why a baby cries and practical guides to calm and soothe a crying baby. However, I have my own musical approaches.

If my son keeps crying even after his physical needs are totally met, I would try the following two:

a) Playing Arabo-Andalusian classical music CDs for him, just as I played for prenatal education and during labour and delivery.

b) Singing Mongolian khoomei or chanting Tibetan mantras for him, again as I did during pregnancy, labour and delivery.

These two usually suffice.

Nevertheless, in order not to bore him , recently I have developed a new approach: playing the Uzbek frame drum doira. It works very well. Once the travelling pressure wave set up by the pulsation of the vibrating drum membrane reaches him, he stops crying and then gazes into my swaying hands and the doira.

Rather than the complicated Uzbek classical rhythms,I usually play for my son some Arabic rhythmic patterns, which can be easily heard nowadays because of the growing popularity of the so-called belly dance. Among the various drumming patterns, he seems to prefer the maqsum.

How does he look?

27 May 2010

Course package uploaded to Course Database of General Education

The package of course materials I made earlier this year has passed the evaluation procedure and is finally uploaded to the website of Course Database of General Education, Taiwan.

The PowerPoint sides, audio-visual clips, handouts, reading lists and other necessary materials of the course are now available for university lecturers to download. The whole package is also accessible to the general public and thus those who would like to learn at home may use these on-line materials.

The construction team of the database has again commissioned me to make a video course for this package. How encouraging it is. I shall be very busy this summer.

18 May 2010

Singing karaoke continuously for seven hours

I went to Holiday KTV with three research assistants yesterday morning at seven o'clock, and we stayed there until two o'clock in the afternoon. No joking. We had been singing for seven hours.

It's absolutely great value for money; it cost only NTD 341 (roughly just more than USD 10.00) each person.

A 'KTV' is a type of karaoke establishment which consists of several individual rooms equipped with karaoke machines and audio-visual systems to be rented out for time periods.

Whereas in the West, speaking from my own experience in Britain, people who enjoy singing in public usually use karaoke equipment at restaurants, pubs or other similar venues, in some Asian countries, such as Taiwan, China and Japan, apart from such places, people may go to KTV to sing in a cosier, private atmosphere.

Right, but what does KTV have to do with karaoke? I've done some research and drawn an inference.
Karaoke=kara ( 空 ‘empty’) + ōkesutora (オーケストラ ‘orchestra’)

MTV = Music TeleVision
(originally referring to music video but later on the term for establishments with rooms to hire for watching videos)

KTV = Karaoke TeleVision = Karaoke + MTV
I think this is how the term KTV came into being.

Just like 'google', originally a noun but now a verb, 'K' becomes a verb in Taiwan and 'to K songs' simply means to go singing in a KTV. Thus, we had been K-ing songs yesterday for seven hours from morning to afternoon—what a luxury start of a day.

14 May 2010

¡Feliz Compleaños! Jing-Ting

My teaching, as well as research, assistant, Jing-Ting was born 24 years ago today.

Therefore, I am writing to wish him a very happy birthday and hope everything goes well with him in the coming 365 days until the 25th anniversary of his birth, on which I shall wish him another wish.

The picture was taken on the last day of 2009, when we had a New Year's Eve party in the Graduate Institute of Musicology, for which the dress code was 'creatively ugly' (You can see in the photo below how 'ugly' I was).

It's really a pleasure to have such an assistant, from whom I've also learnt a lot.

Sometimes I even find my own reflection in him—perseverance with what should be properly explored and learnt, fastidiousness about accuracy and detail, and the belief that everything has its place in a divinely designed way (actually our own way) which could not be questioned.

Although sometimes perseverance and fastidiousness are both just another form of stubbornness, with such determination we keep the standard and quality.

Anyhow, as he is learning to sing a flamenco alegrías, with great 'perseverance', on his 24th birthday I send him my best wishes, Feliz Compleaños!

(How are my Japanese wooden slippers?)

11 May 2010

Three days' single-parent

(Behaving good with Dad a home)

Yesterday was mother's day and Fanne's own first mother's day. We celebrated it by working overtime at home while Ronne was having a siesta—Fanne prepared the budget and strategic plans for the next five years for her business, whereas I worked on a paper which I should have submitted a century ago.

We also shared a cup of coffee, but she gobbled down a custard before she remembered to spare a bite for me. There was nothing else for this special day. However, she received something as a special gift from me: three days out of town on business while I look after the baby.

I don't think it is a tough task to take care of a child on oneself for just three days, as there are so many single-parents who have to rely on themselves for several years.

I have to feed Ronne once in the morning before we take a taxi to the baby school. He then stays at school all day while I preach to students. We taxi home in the early evening. The first thing back home is to bathe him and feed him. Then I cook dinner for myself while Ronne has a nap. After bedtime feeding is done before eleven o'clock, I can call it a day.

Hence, if a single-parent can care for one or more children without the assistance of the other biological parent in the home, then I can't find any reason for which I can't look after the baby when Fanne's is out of town for three days.

(After a cosy bath)

06 May 2010

Is my son a weirdo or is it just the magic power of Arabic music?

(Sound, sound sleep)

My son Ronne turns two months old today and he has managed to sleep through the night for several days. He goes to bed at 22.00 and wakes up at 06.00 next day, which means a full night of uninterrupted sleep for Fanne and me.

According to National Sleep Foundation:
For newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the need to be fed, changed and nurtured.
By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night; 70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age.
Hence, I believe Ronne is a bit ahead of the timetable, which is a bit weird.

As the saying goes, 'like father, like son'; I am a weirdo, so is Ronne. However, I somehow believe it may have something to do with the Arabic music I have been playing throughout Fanne's pregnancy, labour and delivery, and since Ronne's birth.

Perhaps there is certain mysterious power in Arabo-Andalusian classical music, which imbues peace and tranquility from all around our home.

Nevertheless, it is really unusual that a two-month-old baby sleeps through the night without the need to be fed before the dawn.

(Father and son, both asleep, just like how the father would fall asleep anytime, anywhere)

05 May 2010

A bagpipe on the bottle of ale from Café Bastille

Yesterday afternoon, in business hours, my teaching assistant and I went to Café Bastille, a bistro which serves food and a wide range of Belgium beer, near National Taiwan Normal University. Certainly we were there for a bottle (unfortunately not a 'pint', as beer is not sold in pints in Taiwan); however, we were actually on a mission (i.e. serious business) and thus we deserved a bottle.

Look at the painting behind us. Not clear enough? Then look at the one below.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In order to have a good start and grab students' attention right away, I always show a painting that carries some 'music' (music instruments, most of the time) every week at the beginning of my 'Musical Cultures Around the Globe' class.

The artwork for the this week's course 'Europe' is The Peasant Dance by the famous Netherlandish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel, in which it requires some efforts to discover the 'music'—a bagpipe at the centre left on the canvas. This Flemish bagpipe, called doedelzak or pijpzak in Dutch, has two single-reed drones which face directly up when played.

Still not clear enough? Then look at the bottle of Brugel Amber Ale on which is the male character who plays the bagpipe in Brugel's painting.

I just want to emphasise to the students that there are indeed various types of bagpipes in Europe and the Scottish great Highland bagpipe, to which most people are familiar, is just one of them.Therefore, we went to Café Bastille to take a photo for us and the replica painting, as well as to have some ale so that we can take away the bottle and show it in class.

What a good afternoon—working while making merry in business hours.