Saturday, February 21, 2009


February is perhaps the most melancholic yet exciting month for me, eversince I moved to this country. I always get a little bit jittery and too anxious around this time. (what winter can do to a tropical creature who thinks having sunshine everyday is her birth right! lol) But to compensate for that, there´s the colorful carnaval to look forward to. Carnaval, as we all know, has pagan overtones but it is nevertheless a Catholic tradition.... at least, in this part of the world.

We always associate carnaval with mask and costumes, and mardi gras. In the olden days, it was actually a social statement. A reaction against the strong social division between classes. People put on a mask or costume to blur the lines between the rich and the poor. It was a day of eating and merrymaking before the fasting season of Lent. For one day, people are equal and can forget about the daily hardships and about being poor. Incidentally, the word lent or lente in Dutch means spring.

Here in the Netherlands, the tradition of Carnaval still in existence up to this day. The weekend before Ash Wednesday, is called the Carnaval weekend. As expected, there's music, parades, floats, sausages, hapjes (snacks), and beer. Tons and tons of beer. (Yeah... you gorge, feast and get horribly drunk before you fast! LOL) Likewise, it has become a family affair. So father accompanies mother, dresses up costumes from previous times but mainly as farmers. And thanks to Hollywood, some children are dressed up these days as Princesses, Spiderman, Cinderella, etc... They look really cute. :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

musicians 'n love.

There is something about musicians and their romantic interests that I can not put my finger on. It's almost as if, musicians are doomed in that department.

Beethoven was once engaged to a beautiful lady. They had plans of getting married, until her father opposed and married her off to a nobleman. When the marriage ended years later, she tried returning to Beethoven. But he was cold as ice.

Beethoven had another love affair with young widow. But the relationship ended because of the disapproval of Josephine's aristocratic family.

Then there's Johann Brahms. He had a lifelong, passionate love for Clara Schumann who was 14 years his senior. He never married, despite once being engaged and having loved other women. And even after the death of his friend Robert Schumann, Brahms never declared his love for Clara.

Similarly, Frederick Chopin fell in love with a 16-year old girl named Maria. But because of her tender age and Chopin´s health (he was 26 years old then), the wedding was postponed and their engagement was kept secret. Sadly, this engagement never led to the altar.

A year later came the French author, baroness, and feminist better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. My music history professor used to say that we owe Chopin´s mature works to this French Baroness, who did not only nurse him when he became too ill, but also wrote a book about them. Their 10-year relationship ended on a sad note.

But it was said that although there were other women after Maria, she remained his muse.

Another person with an interesting story is world class pianist, Ignacy Paderewski. He married a fellow Polish named Antonina Korsakówna and together they had a handicapped son. Antonina died giving birth and as for Paderewski, he decided to devote himself solely to music.

The Hungarian piano virtuoso and composer, Franz Liszt, had a somewhat different story. He'd desired to marry a Catholic princess who was previously married to a Russian military officer. The Princess managed to convince him to concentrate on his composition and give up his career as a travelling virtuoso. They had two children, Daniel and Blandine who unfortunately both did not outlive their father.

Debussy's love life was too French. He married the friend of his live-in girlfriend and later on left her for what he called intellectual limitations and lack of musical sensitivity. He then cohabited with the mother of one of his students, which almost caused the life of his wife who attempted to commit suicide. Debussy then moved to England until the hysteria subsided. He eventually married the mother of his student. Together they had a daughter who died a year after Debussy did.

Believe it or not, none of these mentioned musicians have surviving heirs. Neither did J.S. Bach nor Mozart. Bach who had 20 children; and Mozart, two. As for Handel and Haydn, they were never married and they kept their personal lives very private.

So you're probably wondering.... could it be that music is a demanding mistress?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

tv talk.

I never liked television. For one, I grew up in a town frequented by typhoons and storms. In those times, cable tvs were not invented yet. We relied on anthenas that were often blown away by strong winds. And sometimes if we were lucky, we didn´t have electric supply for a month.

There are of course those days when we produced a cacophony of sound, trying to sing while Ma played the piano. And because there were five of us then, my parents saw to it that we had enough board games like chess, monopoly, word factory, stockmarket game, scrabble, games of the generals, domino, snakes & ladder, checkers, and later on, came boggle, pictionary, millionaire´s game, and even bingo! When it was full moon, we played outside with the other kids. It was so much fun.

So there was no reason to stay in front of the television the whole evening.

But nowadays and especially in winter, the only source of entertainment here (at home) is the television. I can't play the piano after 8 PM because the neighbors can call the police and have me arrested. Everytime I get bored of watching tv, I go online and surf the net or check my mail. I can of course grab a book and read. But that's what old people here do.

Besides, it is very hard to get hold of English books here. They cost twice the amount because you have to buy them online and pay extra for shipment. The ones available at the local libraries are romance, detective, and psychological thriller books. I´m afraid I´ve outgrown them since I graduated from highschool.

A friend suggested I enroll online and study a foreign language like Hungarian or Chinese, and I was thinking: am I that bored?

I guess what I´m saying is that, I´m tired of watching TV. lol