June 02, 2006


blurb: With exams finally over as of Wednesday, I've not been too sure what to do with myself. Yesterday my housemates–to–be and I went on a boat race in Leamington. In row boats. It was hilarious to say the least… my boat ended up losing, though we nearly overtook on the turn around the bridge.
Still, the problem persists…so in order to try and make sense of myself, I've developed a list of things I should probably do: fix my sabre, watch films, work on italian, get going with Catastrope. With some cooking and Flower Duet in between.
I'm going to be trying the bannana and walnut souffle this evening.

May 20, 2006

Can't decide.

blurb: Having been recently engulfed in the fiery wrath of exams (next week will be hellish-- FOB, econ and MELS), I haven't had even a note to spend on the Flower Duet arrangement. However, on a note I'm willing to spare, I was thinking of the time I was asked by a friend about my favourite musical-- yes, you heard right musical— and why exactly it is that I still can't answer the question.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy musicals.
Actually, that's a too general of a statement. Let me rephrase: I like musicals that aren't crazy flamboyant pieces of nothing.
So, narrowing down all the good combinations of music and theatre I know, I'm still convinced it's a toss up between the following:

The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Harold Prince and others


Ok. I honestly don't care that people think this musical is overplayed and Andrew Lloyd Webber is overrated. I've seen the show at least four times, and I've enjoyed it every time. The reason? There are many. First of all, the story, written by Leroux in the early twentieth century, translates very well into a theatrical piece. It's got all the tensions and resolutions necessary to keep an interesting tale continuously flowing. That's not enough however. Just having the potential to be a good theatrical piece hardly makes it one. That's where the people behind the Phantom have been so successful. They've managed to recreate the atmosphere, spirit and story incredibly. Secondly, the music. Sheer power. There is drive to every song in the Phantom, and it sweeps you along with it. In fact, I'm again convinced of this as I listen to it right now. Most people can clearly associate the drawn out force of the organ filling the air with the famous theme (Dm…, Dm, Dbm, Cm, B, Bb) with the musical. It's convincing, and the raw drive of it leaves one with no choice but to become engrossed in the tale. Plus, the sweeping down of the big chandelier always gets me.
Favourite songs? Hard to pick and choose.

Les Misérables
Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Cameron Mackintosh (again) and others

Les Mis

I really have no idea where to start with Les Mis. It's such an incredible totality. Sure it takes a while to get through Hugo's book (hah, yes. it is a beast.)— but again, the musical's roots are strong. Like Phantom, the transition to theatre (I would argue) was successful in delivering the essence of the work. In fact, the tale has practically everything! The music from Les Mis is also incredible. I like it for its variety and it's capability to heighten every element of mood the musical tries to create (the lyrics help here). In fact, I don't think there is one song in Les Mis I don't like. I am of the belief that music is one of the best ways to spark emotion, and used well it can be an incredible tool for a creative composer. I used to sit at the piano (still do when I have the time) and play Les Mis songs as best I could, and even when taken out of context as such, considering what the songs were about as I played them, I realized what a great connection the music and story have. I actually am not too sure of what to say about Les Mis. It has to be experienced as is. I'm not sure if I know of anyone that hasn't enjoyed watching it to an extent…
As for favourite songs…I couldn't say with Les Mis either. I can say that the first few Les Mis songs I heard were the ones associated with Eponine (most people can recognized On My Own or Little Fall of Rain) and that playing them over always gets to me. Recently, I've also found myself enjoying some of the more obscure songs even more— Red and Black and Look Down, for example.

Between the two, I can't decide. I hum songs from both, find myself unable to keep myself from playing them and in the end, can't seem to put one aside for the other!

side note: I know a lot of people might say 'But what about West Side Story?' and somesuch. Having acted in West Side, I'm still confident that out of the three, I find it easiest to push aside.

May 17, 2006

Arrangement: Lakmé– The Flower Duet (even more) corrections

state: this is probably getting somewhat old, but I think my ear has been completely stupid in the past couple days. I had a relisten and matched out the chords relative to the key, realized I had no idea why I had the chords I had and proceeded to fix it. It makes a lot more sense, except for the little transition bit to the theme.

Flower Duet Sketch!

May 16, 2006

Arrangement: Lakmé– The Flower Duet corrections

state: I have just enough time for a quick update. I realized my chords were all wrong (and are possibly still so), as the phrase sounded by the roots of the chords in the introduction (relative progression) was coming out funky when I tried playing what I wrote. So I've edited it somewhat. Here is how it looks at the moment, with me still not so happy with the second chord of the second bar, and the first chord of the third bar.
Flower Duet Sketch

May 13, 2006

Arrangement: Lakmé– The Flower Duet cont'd

state: I've progressed slightly further with this, though the pianos are proving difficult as a medium through which to play what is originally a string/wind part! I guess the only way to deal with it is to keep the pedal down frequently. I toyed around with the first few bars today, trying to figure out the chord progressing for the intro to the piece. I'm still not entirely happy with what I have right now, but it's a start. I don't think it's exactly right, however. Also, because it's still quite sketchy, everything is being entered into the first piano. I figure I can get the harmonies sorted later— oh what I would give for some decent relative pitch.

Flower Duet Sketch #2

May 12, 2006

Arrangement: Lakmé– The Flower Duet

composition: arrangement
inspiration: Léo Delibes, Lakmé: The Flower Duet
intention: arranging the soprano duet for two pianos
tools: Sibelius, a piano, recording of The Flower Duet, a stubborn ear

blurb: Lakmé is an opera by Delibes, famous for the piece in question— The Flower Duet— written for two sopranos. I don't know too much about the opera itself, except that it's a tragedy about the suicide of an Indian girl named Lakmé. I was struck with the notion that it would be a fun project to attempt to arrange the piece by ear for two pianos (and a neat challenge) earlier this morning as I stared blankly at my economics notes.

state: Currently, I've done very little on it, and have nothing to show but a slight sketch of the main theme. I'm fairly sure the bass line needs expounding on, and that there are some harmonies I can add to the bass of the second piano.

Flower Duet Sketch

May 11, 2006

Composition no. 3: Untitled

meal: lunch, for one
inspiration: japanese cusine
intention: refreshing, cooling dish with subtle/sweet taste and a slight crispness in flavour
ingredients: light soya, dry sherry, sugar, wasabi, garlic-chilli, oil, tofu, cucumber, somen noodles

blurb: I think the desire for dish came out of the fact that it was a really nice day outside and I needed to do something to relieve the stress of reviewing. Usually for me, a warm day and the craving for a Japanese dish automatically means cooking up zaru soba, but I wanted to try something different, with a variation in ingredients.


  1. At first, slightly unsure of what I wanted to do, I decided to work with the cucumber. I had chosen the ingredient because it seemed the perfect compliment to the noodles—slightly crisp where the noodles were soft, textured where the noodles were not, yet at the same time cool and fresh. The cucumber was cut into a rectangular shape (the process removing slices with skin) and then cut into thin, long strips that were set aside for later.

  2. Having fiddled around from time to time with marinades from Japanese recipes in cookbooks, I decided to try to compose my own variant for the cucumber. Following standard procedure I poured some light soya sauce into a bowl, mixing in some dry sherry (in over two terms I have yet to find any mirin, which is what youre generally expected to use, but probably cant find anywhere in Warwickshire beyond one store in a dark alleyway somewhere in Coventry. I use Tio Pepe: Extra Dry instead) and some sugar, and then diluting it with water to remove some of the edge to the flavour.

  3. After placing the cucumber strips in the marinade, I removed some tofu (the firm kind you can buy at Costcutter) with the intention of using it slightly cooked or raw over the noodles. I drained the tofu and then cut it into thing rectangular pieces, placing it to press between two sheets of kitchen towel.

  4. Leaving the tofu to press, I turned to the somen noodles, which I had bought at a stall in Cannon Park some time last term. They seem very good for flavour absorption, and I felt that they would make a nice base to the dish (I somehow remember somen noodles tasting nice when cold). Cooking somen is a fairly simple process, simply involving adding noodles to boiling water, taking them out after three minutes, and then draining the water. In order to produce a refreshing sort of dish for the warm day, however, I then proceeded to soak the noodles in cold water.

  5. At this point, I realized I had probably left the cucumbers in the marinade long enough, and quickly removed them, putting them aside with the intention of not allowing them to absorb too much flavour. Subtlety had become my mantra, and I had decided to do my best to try and stand by it, for in my mind a Japanese dish has always been a guise for many hidden, subtle flavours to discover.

  6. Having set aside the noodles and cucumbers, I returned to the tofu, which I figured would be the trickiest bit to prepare. Removing it from the towels, I had a quick taste of the stuff uncooked.
At this point, the dish took a fairly sharp turn. Originally I had imagined the tofu to be soft and a perfect centerpiece to the dish (a sort of meditation on the flavours that would have been absorbed in it). Unfortunately, the texture of the tofu was dry and brittle, and I had to rake my mind for a new idea. Eventually, I decided to cook the tofu and garnish it with garlic–chilli, and add contrasts to the dish.

intention: adding complimentary flavour through a tangy, bold taste

  1. Dipping the uncooked tofu in the marinade, I covered both sides and let it soak while pouring some oil into the wok to heat. When the oil was hot enough, I placed the tofu in the wok and lightly friend it on about medium heat, slowly cooking it until all sides had been properly glazed. Not wanting to overcook, I removed the tofu from the heat just as it began to lightly brown and set it to cool in the wok.

  2. As the tofu cooled (and now finally with an idea as to what I was making), I mixed the somen with some water and the marinade (now sauce, which, interestingly, had absorbed the taste of the cucumber), making sure the noodles had absorbed the flavour before draining them of the sauce, as I didnt want the sauce to overpower the dish. I proceeded to plate the noodles and cucumber, adding slices of un–marinated cucumber as a palate cleanser or refresher.

  3. Removing the tofu, which had cooled down somewhat, I garnished each rectangle with a quick brush of garlic–chilli (I have to admit the idea of tofu with garlic–chilli is one that I've respectfully borrowed from a Japanese restaurant I like in Toronto) and added it to the plate to complete the dish.

verdict: Overall, I was pretty happy with the dish, as most of my intentions were realized within it, and it provided a refreshingly nice lunch. As for presentation, I'm not too fussed— it looks fairly sloppily thrown together, and it is certainly so (couldn't exactly be bothered as I was getting quite hungry). If I ever recreate the dish, I think I will add some more wasabi and a tinge of sesame oil to the marinade before mixing it with the somen. I also wonder how the dish might have come out had I been able to use silken tofu as the centre piece (Im positive you can buy it in the arcade in Cov), but I think those considerations are for another day!


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