25 February 2012

Moving my old upright piano

(Ronne, in front of his new toy–Wei's old toy under overhaul)

In 1985 Dad took out a loan of NTD 100,000 to buy me a YAMAHA U3 upright piano when he earned just more than 10,000 a month. It did cost him an arm and a leg. Although I didn't become a musician like Leonard Bernstein or Daniel Barenboim, I teach music at National Taiwan University, which has made him a proud and gratified parent.

Sorry but I really can't bother to fork out an extravagant amount (at least NTD 200,000 nowadays) to buy another YAMAHA U3 for Ronne. Thus, I decided to move the one old in my parents' apartment to my place. I have also engaged a piano restoration specialist to start an overhaul of this 27-year-old pianoforte.

Fortunately, this black sound-producing device is still in very good condition. Only hammer butt flanges (something numbered 25 in the diagram below) need servicing. It'll take the specialist about ten days to restore all the butt flanges of the 88 keys to working order.

The black wooden case, enclosing the soundboard, strings and the keyboard, is now in my living room awaiting the butt flanges. In must more than a week's time, Ronne will be playing with this new toy.

(Image from International Piano Supply)

19 February 2012

Mandarin cover of Jeanette MacDonald's 'San Francisco'

(Martha Su, or Su Mada 蘇馬大 in Chinese, image cited from Deng Xiaoyu)

(Listen to the Mandarin version of 'San Francisco' interpreted by Martha Su, on Regal (China) 41487B. Yes, it's in Mandarin Chinese. Can you identify any word?)

To usher in the new semester, I was reorganising all the files and folders on my MacBook Pro this afternoon. I found this long-lost 'San Francisco', a song adapted from the theme of the 1936 Academy Award winning San Francisco, set in San Francisco before and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. (Thanks to Edwin W Chen's information about the film.)

This song, now one of the two official city songs of San Francisco, was originally sung by the leading actress Jeanette MacDonal in the film, for six times at six scenes respectively.

I don't know much about Martha Su, the Chinese singer who covered 'San Francisco'. The Mandarin 'San Francisco' is one of the only two songs known so far she had ever recorded.

Martha's scat improvisation in this song is fascinating and unprecedented, as well as unparalleled in the 1930s and 1940s Mandarin pop scene. I can't think of any other singer from the same period that could improvise with wordless vocables or nonsense syllables to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo like Martha.

Make a comparison between Martha's recording and one of Jeanette's performances in the film embedded below.

Hand dragon lantern

(Ronne and the dragon)

Time flies; the nearly 5-week winter break has come to the end. Spring semester 2012 starts on 20 February.

Surely there are a lot to be noted down during the long vacation, but the only thing I am able to write about on the day before the new semester kicks off would be Ronne and his dragon lantern.

This year the lantern festival, which is generally regarded as the last day of the Chinese New Year and after which all lunar new year celebrations conclude, fell on 6 February. Although we didn't visit any lantern fair, lantern parade, garden party or something like that, we celebrated the festival at home.

A friend of Fanne gave us a DIY lantern set. We (of course 'we' on this occasion is a singular which denotes 'I') managed to assemble the cardboard dragon lantern and we (now this is a plural pronoun which indeed means the whole family) had a good time in the evening.

As we failed to take proper, sharp images in the dark with our old digital camera, probably manufactured before you bought yours, what are uploaded here were taken during the day.