Saxophone Monday

It’s Monday and on Mondays, for some reason, it always seem to be that little bit more difficult to get out of bed and on the way to work.   The other day I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to listen to an inspirational story of how dreams and perseverance can lead to success. Yes, stories like these are good for the soul. My office had invited the owner and founder of “Vibrato” to give a talk about how the world’s first polycarbonate saxophone came into being.

Not a saxophone expert nor in the music industry, I have to admit I didn’t even realize such a thing existed. Last time I was in the school band (don’t ask me how long ago that was) we were still playing with brass and silver-plated saxophones. No such thing as polycarbonate saxophones existed.

Now that it exists, you might wonder, why wasn’t one invented earlier? Listening to the inventor, I have to say producing one required more than just capital and an idea.  It required a passion for saxophones, a desire to provide people with an affordable instrument, and a perseverance to see it accomplished. Not trained in mold injections nor design, he was armed with a passion for saxophones and a willingness, a push to see his idea take form.

Of course, it required faith and I think most importantly, positive thinking.

With over 300 parts in a saxophone, it took over four years of design before the saxophone ready for a trial. However, the molds required to make the saxophone were so expensive that he had to mortgage his house. A big risk to take, considering that when he did so, he didn’t even know if his idea of a polycarbonate saxophone would produce any sound.

It didn’t. Not the first time he blew into it. I imagine that his heart must have dropped to the ground in a loud thump.

He kept working at it though. Unfazed by the ‘tiny’ obstacle that the saxophone didn’t make a single sound. It took another two years before it would be ready.

Then when it came time to show it to the world, his story reminded me of what it must be like to be the first man on the moon. You are going somewhere, where you don’t know what will happen, what it will feel like nor what the outcome will be. Yet you take the risk.  You take the step.

And now, thanks to that risk, polycarbonate saxophones are sold worldwide to saxophonists. It’s affordable for the masses, it’s light, waterproof, and it comes in beautiful colours with accessories. (Don’t you just love that?) Colourful interchangeable buttons.

Oh, and it’s Made in Thailand.

I wish I knew how to play the saxophone, but with a price of roughly 300 dollars, I have to say it’s tempting for me to go try it out.   Afterall, music is good for the soul right?

I hope this inspired you!  It inspired me 🙂  Follow your dreams and just work at it!

Vibratosax founder and I

Steve Jobs: Not just any man

The past two days the hot topic on everyone’s lips has been “Steve Jobs has died.”  It’s strange that I should find out about this on my iPhone, a few  minutes after waking up.
When talking to others the first reaction is a little ‘gasp.’  Everyone knows him. Even those who are not Apple fans.  He’s dead and millions worldwide mourn his death.  Millions who have not seen nor spoken to him in person, yet we all hold a part of him in our lives.  We use his inventions to contact those dearest to us and as research even suggests, what we feel for our smart phones may not be merely addiction, but in fact ‘love.’

Yes, we have grown to ‘love’ our iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs and many things Apple related.

For me, the iPhone has become so much of life that it is the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night, and it is the first thing I wake up to in the morning.  It is my alarm clock, my organizer, my camera, my newspaper, and my source of contact to the virtual world of social networking.    I no longer have to carry around newspapers, books, notebooks, agendas, games, or other things when I travel.  It’s all in one.

Before the iPhone, a phone was a phone.  I used it to call people, answer calls and do a little bit of email here and there.  That was it.  There were no androids back then.  We had symbians and blackberry.  Functional phones.  When I was in highschool in Poland, we still used those telephones with round dials and operators to call international.  Now we use Skype and internet on our iPhones.  Amazing how fast technology has changed.

Now many lives have forever changed.  Children now play with iPads and iPhones as if it were the most natural thing on earth.  They play with it without any hesitation. It is intuitive and responsive to the human touch.  Looking back at my own childhood, I still remember playing summer and winter olympics on the Commodore 64.  Then we had Atari.  That was considered amazing.  5 inch flopping disks coupled with green and black screens. No Windows. No coloured screens. No internet. Computers were still not so approachable.  We feared it a little.  No longer.

Steve Jobs changed the technology world, but what do we mean by this?  I think what we mean is that his creativity and his visions have allowed us to experience what once could only be found in science fiction.  He let us believe that dreams can be accomplished, that anything was possible.  You just had to find it inside of you.

No longer do we have to settle for boring functional telephones and animations whose stories were targeted only for children.  Steve let you enjoy a bit of art and design in the iPhone, iPad and anything Apple.  Every curve, ever corner well considered, well thought out.  Crafted with love.

He affects us because his creations helped take the drudgery out of everyday worklife, where many seem to work without souls.  Steve worked with his soul.  Steve worked with his heart. He ‘created.’

If only we could all put our hearts and our souls into doing something we love, the world would indeed be a different place.  If only we could all find our ‘passion.’

Yes, we will all miss Steve Jobs and his visions.  The world will and has already remembered him. Good bye Steve Jobs. We’ll miss you.

Bangkok Night Out: Jazz @ Saxophone Pub

The weather is kinda blue, the sky is cloudy, the rain drizzles.  It sounds like a perfect evening for a night out listening to Jazz/Blues.  I’ve been in Bangkok for years and heard about this “Saxophone Pub” as the place to go listen to jazz/blues, but never had the chance.  Finally, one drizzling evening, I had the opportunity and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and listening to live bands playing the Blues.

It’s located right by the Victory Monument and withing walking distance from the BTS station.  If you drive they also have limited parking, but its by the roadside so you take your own risk.  At first glance, I thought I was somewhere else other than Bangkok.  It reminds me of Philly.  The outside has orange lighting and a small door leads you inside to a dimly lit room.  It’s more spacious than it looks outside and the high ceiling upon entering makes it feel comfortable.  The live band plays in the middle of the room and a counter surrounds it, allowing one to grab a seat and fully enjoy the music.  They also have a second floor and seats line the balcony allowing those upstairs to also peer down and watch the action.

A painting of Jimi Hendrix hangs on a back wall and the beer dispenser is shaped in the form of a Saxophone.  I love it.   The lights that hang above the tables upstairs are the old trumpet shaped sound projector part of antique music boxes.  (Forgive me, I cannot remember what you call it!)  The wooden walls and the somewhat rustic decoration makes you feel at ease.  It’s relaxing in here.  No ties nor suits.  It’s jeans and t-shirt.

The crowd is mainly those who love jazz and blues.  From my guess it’s mostly upwards from mid thirties.  Wonderful.  The no-smoking regulation makes it heavenly.  You can sit there listening to the live band playing without having to worry about getting smoke in your eyes.  Whenever I’m near a smoker, I tear and tear .  I tear so much people always stop to ask me if everything is “okay.”  With tears in my eyes, I reply “yes..thank you, it’s just the smoke.”  Now, I no longer have that problem. Yipee!

Apparently they have different bands playing on different nights.  The night I went there was  a man playing on a harmonica with the rest of the band.  It was awesome.  I loved it, if only the electricity didn’t suddenly die out on us.  Fear not, they had back up so there was no panic.

My only comment is that the decibel level was too high for me.  It averaged around 90-100 decibels and it made my ears ring.  I’m not used to loud noises, but if you are they it should be fine for you.  I wished I had ear plugs, but I did not.  I look around me but everyone seemed happy.  I guess it was just me.

Anyways, they have a website (being in modern day age)…here goes:

Music for the Soul

When it rains, the soul gets soothed especially so if you are indoors listening to music.  It is even more soothing when you are indoors and playing an instrument.  It’s been awhile since I’ve played the piano or touched my flute, but something about the rain made me want to play the piano today and so I did.   My soul was soothed.

Upon playing I realized that it’s been a very very long time since I’ve really just sat down and had some serious personal music time.  I don’t know if its the same for you, but going to college somehow ended the musical phase of my life.  I didn’t pursue anything musical in college, and together with classes and coursework, practicing on the piano or playing the flute was pushed aside.  It simply lost priority even though in highschool I was in the band.  Oh well, I suppose that’s what happens.

Then you move, pack your musical instruments away and hardly see them again.  Then more than a decade after you start working you realize you miss that music, that part of life where you get to spend time stimulating the right side of your mind.  That little part of your brain which emphasizes creativity.  Creativity that we all need sometimes.  Afterall, with a little creativity one can solve many

Tonight I gave the right side of my brain a little exercise.  I felt like little sensations were running through my mind and it felt soothing, it gave a tingling sensation which is quite a wonderful feeling.  I imagine that’s a little of what Peter Pan must have felt like when Tinkerbell sprinkled flying powder over him.  Of course I might just be imagining all this, but it was fun nevertheless.

If you’ve played musical instruments in the past, are you still playing them?  Or is it gathering dust in a corner?  If so, take some time out and have a little personal music time.  You might rediscover how pleasurable it can be.  Remember, a balanced mind is a balanced soul.

The Trumpet of Health

Ever since I’ve moved house earlier this year, I’ve had the opportunity to see another part of life I had never previously seen.  I now live next to a military base that is also open to the public. Cars pass through in and out to get to the main road on the other side of the base.  Most mornings and evenings that’s the route I’d take.  Unexpectedly though, on a quiet day you can be most certain to hear the sounds of soldiers in training.  Just half an hour ago as I lay on my bed relaxing, a beautiful sound came through the window.  It was the sound of trumpets playing a tune that reminds me of war movies.

It was 9pm.  Like an alarm clock, every evening and not a minute late,  the sound of trumpets playing a tune will echo through the air and flow through all the houses in the surrounding area.  It sounds magical.  If you wake up early, you’re hear the same tunes being played at the wake of dawn.  5am.  These are the times the soldiers wake up each morning and go to bed each evening. 

I have to admit its a healthy lifestyle.  8 hours of sleep everyday.  I wish I could always give myself that, but not being very disciplined, I’m always staying up later than I should.  Not only do these healthy soldiers sleep early and wake up early, they exercise and train all day.

During the mornings, I see troops running and exercising whilst I am just groggily going off to work.   In the late afternoon,  you can hear them march with synchronized shouts of “1,2” in Thai.  It feels and sounds powerful.

Watching and witnessing all this around me, I realize how healthy these soldiers must be to protect our country.  They have to be alert, bodies in top shape.  If not, an out of shape soldier would be hard to imagine running around.

Healthy, is how we all should be.  Of course, most of us probably won’t be able to afford spending all day exercising and training, but if we just slept earlier, woke up a little earlier, and did a little more exercise, how good life would be.  I have yet to sleep by the sound of the trumpet and wake up to its tune.  I wonder though how it will be.  Must be refreshing.  I’d also have an extra hour to go exercise before going to work.   Now my 7am workout is sometimes too close for call.

Vienna: A City with Many Faces

What better month to start my virtual trip to Austria than in the month of love?  Amongst the number of european cities I’ve visited, for me Vienna, Austria was by far the most romantic city of all.  Even more romantic than Paris.  You could wonder if it perhaps depended on whom I went on the trip with? My answer is no.  These were cities I went around exploring on my own and cities I grew in love with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris, but somehow I love Vienna more.  It’s one of those things you just don’t know why, but you do.

To understand a city, one must first know a little of its history so here’s a brief primer.  Originating as a Celtic settlement before turning into a major trading center under the Babenberg dynasty, the city became the Imperial city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The empire ruled from the 13th century to the 18th century and spread from modern day Italy to Russia and even encompassed Bosnia.  Threatened by the Turks, the empire survived and did not collapse until after World War I.  It was then later annexed by Nazi Germany in the “Anchluss” of 1938.  As a result, buildings were spared from bombings and their rich cultural past remains intact for all to see.

When walking around the old town of cobbled streets, you can feel history in the air.  Austria has a rich coffee culture which dates back to the time of the Turks, museums filled with artwork that just take your breath away and music that is second to none.  This is the country of Mozart, Johann Strauss and Beethoven.  This is where the debutante ball originated with the famous Viennese Opera Ball (still held every year) and the New Year’s Eve Concert is still played annually.

Not only did music strive in Austria, so did the arts.  This is the birthplace of revolutionary new styles of the Art Nouveau.  Gustav Klimt and “The Kiss” were created there.  Otto Wagner the architect and the Winer Werkstatte created beautiful buildings and pieces of furniture with curves and square edges.  I love their style.  This later spread on to Brussels where I first discovered Art Nouveau.  In that same period, Sigmund Freud too developed his theory of pyschoanalysis in Vienna.  I saw his house.

There are so many sides, so many aspects of Austria one could spend years, but I have only a few minutes of your time and so for tonight I shall end it here.  Tomorrow I shall take you on a brief tour of the Old Town.  In the meantime, let us pack our bags, clear out our minds and get ready for this virtual trip to Romantic Vienna.  🙂

A Perfect Evening With Chopin

Yundi, Winnder of the 2000 Chopin Competition

And so my week long vacation in Japan has ended and what a better end to the vacation than going to a live piano performance by Yundi, the 2000 Chopin Competition Winner, at Bangkok’s Cultural Centre which happens to be built with a grant by the Japanese in celebration of our King’s 60th Birthday.  All’s well that ends well they say. 

I was fortunate to have gotten complimentary tickets from a dear friend of mine who is a regular at these events and always manages to magically have free tickets.  Lucky for me 🙂  Thank you again! You know who you are 😀  And so a day after my arrival from Japan and a night before returning to work, I went to listen to Chopin at a cultural centre built with a grant from the Japanese.   The Japanese whom are also known to love Chopin. Chopin who was born in a country with which I grew up.  How strange it is when you think about all these linkages.

The world is indeed a strange place.  Everything is connected.

I love attending these concerts and try to go as often as I can, but as things often go, I don’t get to go as often as I’d like.  When I do, it’s always something I savour.  This performance was one that I enjoyed very much not only because Yundi played the piano with such enthusiasm and precision that it rang through your soul, but also because it reminded me of my childhood days in Poland.

His first piece was the Nocturnes: Op. 9, No 1 and I remember it well.  It was one I had learnt to play growing up in Chopin’s country, but the way in which he and I played it on the piano of course differed like night and day. So great was the contrast.  Yundi, played it with his heart and soul.  He was one with piano and played it like it was an extension of his body.  The audience, several hundreds in number, all sat quietly daring not to move an inch nor cough.  Silence was here and now and all we were to hear were the soft sounds of the nocturnes (music of the night) being played with their gentle melodies and humming bass of the piano.  The nocturne was graceful and elegant, like a lady waltzing by.  When I play it, it probably sounds like a lady coughing and suffering from the cold. No good.

Yundi’s performance of Chopin was undoubtedly one of the best I’ve ever heard.  Even in the softest tones, you could feel the passion in his fingers and then all of a sudden when the melody changed pace, you’d feel and hear the change in tempo.  He did it with such precision and brilliance it’s incredible.  I sat there astounded as I am sure did many people.  It’s no wonder he won the 2000 Chopin Competition.  Not only did he win first place, but he was also the youngest pianist to have ever won this competition at 18 years of age.  Imagine that.  18.  I was still just trudging my way through college at 18. Oh well that’s life.

And so I had a wonderful evening, a perfect end to my week long trip to Japan.  Quietly winding down to the gentle and elegant melodies of Chopin’s Nocturnes.  Sitting in the dark, with the notes echoing through my soul and mind, I was at peace.  At peace with the world and ready once more to face what come.