Thursday, November 13, 2014

Berlin impressions

I've been having such wonderful experiences with playing that I can hardly sit still to write about them!  Although awhile ago, those feelings are nevertheless fresh in my mind.

End of September I got together with my dear friend and colleague Amanda Markwick to perform two "shows", as I'd like to call them, because they really weren't concerts in the traditional sense.  I've been having a lot of fun telling stories in my new programs, and this time we've created "Die Kunst der Verzehrung", a program telling about the enjoyments of food and everything surrounding food.  We had two shows in Berlin (the most awesome German city!), one was at Café Botánico restaurant and the other was in a zen meditation space, where people were invited to bring mats and bedding to enjoy the concert lying down.  Ticket included one glass of wine afterwards.  Amanda told me that she knew places in Berlin which do that, so I thought, well sure, I'm up for it!  

I've always wanted to do salon concerts as such.  I mean, what can be more perfect than good food, wine, music, and getting comfortable??  Café Botánico is a restaurant which uses home-grown or regional ingredients from Italy.  On specific Fridays or Saturdays of the month, they would feature a music program which customers would enjoy after their main meal, while sipping away wine or coffee.  The mood was perfect, it was one of the most enjoyable audiences I've played for.  People laughed at our humor and couples snuggled close to each other as our music glowed with romance.  This is what music is all about!  And yes, even baroque music.

On sunny Sunday afternoon, everyone got all comfortable in the zen space, the atmosphere was low-key and harmonious.  People told us that because they were lying down and relaxed, it actually increased their awareness of the music.  They could really follow the counterpoint between the two flutes weaving in and out of each other, while the overtones were noticeable as well.  The space was very resonant to play in and I felt like it was almost a three-dimensional experience in sound.  

Yay Flutes!  

Overdue blogging still coming up next.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Le Mercure concerts

I just finished a series of projects with my ensemble Le Mercure.  The first two concerts took place in beautiful small towns in southern Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg.  Both concerts were extremely well received and it was a great start into our tour.  

I was particularly touched by one woman who came up to me after one concert, she was a recorder player who had just started to take up the traverso with Linde Brunmayer in Trossingen.  She explained that she was extremely touched by our playing but also somewhat "discouraged" in the sense that she felt she would need a whole other lifetime to achieve at least a somewhat decent sound on the traverso.  I told her that it is a life-long goal for everyone, disregarding one's starting point, and that I admire her desire and courage in exploring a new horizon.  I could not be more grateful that she came to the concert and that our playing could touch her soul.  

Performances are incredible in this way; musicians and audience members come from completely different worlds to one location, and for that short moment, both sides can connect through this medium of music, a language, an energy, whatever you want to call it.  And I do mean you "can" connect, because as beautiful as it is when it happens, it's also part of nature that it might not happen.  

I've been very fortunate to have had a couple of these deep experiences, and each incident has been unique in itself.  The bonding of joy and love is but the essence of them all.

Isn't that incredible?  Neither music nor love is something tangible, but it just exists in us.

The lady hugged me THREE times afterwards!!  It gives me tears to think about it.  

THANK YOU, Le Mercure!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Review

I was recently wonderfully surprised to read a review in The Boston Musical Intelligencer about a concert I was involved in. It wasn't so much of a review in the normal sense of an intellectual dissection of the music or the performer's technical capabilities, but rather, the reviewer shared his personal feelings about each piece inspired by the performance.  For the Leclair concerto, he wrote the following:

"Court musician of Louis XV and later of the Princess of Orange, Jean-Marie Leclair was 18 when Louis XIV died and 19 when Watteau painted his Fête Galante, depicting a return to a more Gallic, amorous and permissive society. Les Bostonades gave the Flute Concerto in C Major an engaging and slightly mysterious Allegro which moved away from courtly pomp to a more down-to-earth gentility. With Teddie Hwang’s sensitive phrasing on the traverso, the Adagio urged us to take interest in tender emotions and small but meaningful human interactions. The concluding allegro assai celebrated convivial gathering, in which human beings enjoy each other’s company through a shared curiosity in developing a new science of human emotions." (Leon Golub, May 24, 2014)

It is exactly this kind of inspirational storytelling which I've been going after recently in performances. I was happy to read that Mr. Golub caught on to our "stories", in addition to sharing his own. Despite feeling somewhat apprehensive before the concert, my mission was accomplished!

I certainly hope many audience members experienced the music in a similar way as well. Some of you may know that I've been experimenting with different ways in presenting concerts, and I'm certain that the most compelling performances are those that connect listeners personally or emotionally. There are ways to achieve this and to reach out to all sorts of people through classical music, crossing boundaries of class, cliques, and exclusivity. This is hardly about "selling" classical music, but rather, coming home to what music means on a fundamental level.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Learn to Forget

We work on certain aspects of playing in order to forget about them.  Technique has to be so internalized that it then no longer exists.  

Contradictions coexist – learn to forget.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Music Yoga

Developing sound is a continuous process, I suppose it's comparable to meditation or yoga where you seek to expand your limits to become limitless.  It takes a lot of trust and conviction.

I was asked this question today and it felt nice to be able to put it in words.  Thanks HD!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

the Essence

I've been working a lot on photography these days, intensely thinking about composition within the frame.  My work ranged from portraiture for musicians to documenting an oboe maker's workshop.  Before walking into the session I'd sketch out potential images I'd like to capture and prepare some ideas as to how to make those happen.  Once the session starts, it's just like a performance actually.  Interaction with people, being on top of the technicalities, and the ultimate goal to bring about the essence of the subject.

Like music is more than just showing the notes.

Having beautiful light is like having a beautiful sound.  

The essence becomes something visible, audible, almost touchable.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The one-minute bow

Sound production on the flute is comparable to bowing, we produce sound with the slowest and steadiest air possible. 

The eccentric conductor of my youth orchestra BZ always told the story of when he studied with the famous cellist Gaspar Cassadó, the students had to practice the one-minute bow.  60 seconds.

Not only is it a training, it's something to be enjoyed! Listen, experience, and believe.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Who ARe you?

One time my dear friend E said to me, "You know, I was playing for all these conductors like a chameleon, able to change colors, and produce all of their musical desires.  It was a great experience, but at a certain moment you forget who you really are!"  

Am chewing on that slowly....

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fascination Sound

Release the air, release the sound.

Feel like the sound emanating from the body.  Let sound flow out of the fingers.

Use the slowest air possible to produce sound.  It's like bowing with string instruments; the slower the bow the more difficult, but you gain in technique and increase your universe of playing.

Connect sounds through the natural tension of the music.

When everything is in place, you will experience music like an opening, a release, an inner massage.

You are the source of the sound and the sound becomes you.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Music is not a universal language.  It can, however, deal with universal subjects.

Step back and look at the big picture.  Most likely you will find nothing is absolute.  Perhaps we can only define music as a personal aural experience, and accept everything that comes with it.  So, as a musician, we choose our niche.

Choose your niche.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Expressive Virtuosity

I don't consider myself at all to be a virtuosic flutist. I am, however, attracted to certain technical passages which, depending on how it's written, make me feel like flying. Flute acrobatics, tumbling across, sculpting forms out of air. 

I think it isn't always a matter of speed, but rather, the energy behind the movement. I love to ride on this energy, it feels like perfection. For it is also this energy which gives the technique a certain expression. WH calls it expressive virtuosity, a truly beautiful virtuosity which not only impresses but also touches the senses.

I think to achieve this, one needs to 'appear' limitless. The key is in the sound. The sound has to be mature, centered in its limitlessness, containing all possibilities of sounds, the feeling that at any moment it would mould and morph into something else.

Where's my flute?? I wanna play NOW!! (sitting in a train back to FFM)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Floating in between

Concentration, wrap yourself around with sound and the music, and your nerves will go away.

The key is taking joy in finding what happens between the notes.  That is music.

Sometimes this also means finding the audience who will let you do so.  We are not here to educate, justify, or defend our art.

The following video is something I found by chance, it reminds me of this floating feeling.  I've almost forgotten about this idea until I heard this.  How exciting and refreshing to hear a group who's name I didn't know before!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It's so fun to discover new details in a piece of music!  

The composer weaves some secret into a composition, like one of those paintings with a certain detail only visible upon close examination and knowledge.  You discover, all of a sudden, that there's a little flower which previously went unnoticed in a myriad of swirls and curls.

Here's some impressive baroque-ry, photo courtesy of Patrick Damiaens who took this picture in Schloss Augustusburg:

Here's his site for more inspiration: Patrick Damiaens

Monday, January 20, 2014


While practicing CPE Bach's solo sonata, I tackled the jagged lines of the melodies by playing extremely slowly and discovering its rhythm along the way.  If you're not fit, this is really painful, and if you ARE fit, it takes a whole lot of concentration.  I dread either situation.  

BUT, if you can somehow "get on the ride", it then feels like a wonderful floating experience.  Floating between sounds, between colors, in and out of landscapes and enjoying every moment of it.  

With the flute you literally feel the air under you, like flying.  Sometimes I think wouldn't it be nice to perform in public in such a slow manner, but perhaps it would only make sense to the person playing, because it is such an inner experience, like meditation.

Practicing slow increases the deepness in sound and overall perception of the music.  

The Taste of Time

Question of the day:  Do we declare something as art only because of its age?  

Times are changing, tastes are changing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ancient Fantasies

I stumbled upon this recording by style of "research" is mindless wanderings on the internet:

Flash-friendly link for Apple mobiles click here.

It totally evokes for me childhood imaginations of ancient Europe, of idyllic fantasy-landscapes, a place so out of this world and so enticing to stay on, because you simply cannot stop admiring its wonder.  It is not just beautiful, it touches the deepest part of you. 

What Rameau felt in this moment?!

A Children's Tale

While reading aloud a children's story called Ferdinand (1936), I started to notice the illustrations that accompanied it.  Taking place in Spain, the black and white drawings reminded me very much of my own childhood books. 

The stark Spanish landscape with its southern European-looking houses - the drawings weren't complicated, but there were just enough lines for you to imagine the scenery yourself and go beyond what's shown, what's told.  Not to mention, black and white is so powerful, it forces you to imagine!

Isn't this like music-making?  We musicians hint and show, the audience feels and imagines.