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Category Archives: music

We are caught a bit off guard when the admin page of WordPress indicated that our next post will be the six hundredth (600th) that we published. As previously said several times, we are surprised that the interest in keeping up this blog has not fizzled out over the last 5 years. True it is, that we are still living in Europe and away from our friends and families, the primary reason for starting the blog. But we also find that this blog is a convenient medium to capture and frame memories of our time in Switzerland and our travels, and it became a habit and a hobby (at least for Chris).


The blog was launched on November 4, 2009. The first trip ever reported here was our visit of Playa de Carmen, Mexico in November 2009 (click here to see). We had not yet left the US at that time but were starting to pack our belongings and worried about the move.


Fast forward to now, posts on our quick tour of three cities – Taormina, Siracusa (Ortigia) and Catania – on the east coast of Sicily, taken during Easter, are under preparation now. Our most recent visit to Berlin and Copenhagen earlier this month has not yet been written up. Most of the photos are still in Raw format.


Since March 2013, we have been posting a series of photos on Facebook, one a day except Sunday and Thursday when the blog is updated. There is no theme – just something random and per se visually interesting. They are essentially pictures that did not make the blog for some reasons. We gave each a serial number, a minimally-worded title and a mention of where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the location). But we wanted to share them with the readers here too – so we started showing 5 of them in a post – somewhat irregularly. This is the first of the series – #1 – “the history of cool” –  Munich.


So far we have shown about 150 of them here, but on Facebook, we are at #444 – there is a backlog of almost 300 random photos! On days when we are not writing the blog, these photos could keep the blog going for a while. This is #443 – “dark 3” – Taormina.


The readership of this blog has stabilized at around 50-70 views per day. Apart from posting a link in Facebook, Twitter and Google+ each time a post goes public, we made little attempts to drive up the statistics. We also signed up Pinterest but have not seen much changes (perhaps we are not leveraging the site properly). But other people have pinned our photos on pinterest.  So if you do not feel like writing a comment, pin a photo.


Recently, we noticed that the page view of one of our posts in April on eating durian on the street of Petaling Jaya (click here to see) has gone through the roof (more than 120 views last week alone and maintaining the momentum). It must have caught the attention of certain netizens in Malaysia (as reflected in WordPress statistics), and got linked to an index or a popular site.


The reigning champion of page views is still our first post on HSBC’s poster ads as seen around major airports in 2010 (click here). Its two siblings are receiving decent traffic too.

This blog has changed its theme (a WordPress term for the overall look and feel of the blog) only once which happened within the first month of its launch. So the appearance remains constant for the last few years and it is getting a bit aged. But we are hesitant to change to a more modern theme as it could affect somewhat unpredictably the old posts. More experimenting is needed (if we have more time).


One day we might want to make a book (or several books) using these photos, like the ones we did for Yellowstone National Park and Iceland back in 2007.

We have been buying books showing photos of a city “then and now” or aerial views of an area.


Before signing off, we want to thank our readers for their interest and support, and Susie who has been responding to our posts consistently and ranks No. 1 with the highest number of comments.


Your feedback is important as it is the only way we know someone is reading the blog. So please comment, like, retweet, follow, clip, subscribe, pin, bookmark, repost or do some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. In the meantime, we will continue to share words and images of our adventures.



Continuing our exploration of this great hangout place in Georgetown …

ChinaHouse is a combination of 3 heritage buildings, linked by an open air courtyard and converted into 14 spaces comprising shops, cafes, restaurant, galleries, live music and bakery. Part 1 showed the Canteen from which we entered the ChinaHouse complex from Victoria Street.



In the middle of the complex, a moon gate leads one into a courtyard of shady trees and a rectangular pond. The mood is so very different from the Canteen we just exited.


One can order a hotdog and burger here in the courtyard. Different areas of the complex have different menus and price points for the food.


Individual visitor is invited to sit next to and at the lower left corner of the graphic to form a vertical stroke, thus completing the Chinese character for “fortune” –


Passed the courtyard, walking indoors again, one enters a cafe.


With bookshelves, long communal tables …


… aspirations and attitudes …



The cafe features a cake shop – the Beach Street Bakery – that serves home-made baked products in seemingly huge portions.





Off to one side of the cafe is an event room – suitable for meetings


There is even a bar for wine and whisky tasting.


Next to the cafe is a restaurant with an imaginative fusion menu. IT and I had dinner here one night.



Sharing the storefront on Beach Street with the cafe is a small shop that sells handicrafts.


All in all, ChinaHouse succeeds in offering something for every one … what a great place to meet people and hang out.


Wish there are more places like this.


The night before we left Budapest, we saw an opera with my colleague A and her husband M at the Hungarian State Opera House (i.e., Magyar Állami Operaház).


We saw Tosca despite the giant display says Cosi fan tutte.


The foyer was very ornate, reminded us a little bit of Versailles (see pictures here).


Months in advance, A booked the tickets online but we were lucky that tickets were still available online just a few days before.


We picked up the tickets up just before the opera starts. The house was full.


The horseshoe-shaped, three-floored auditorium is intimate and a dazzling construct of red and gold.


It was built in nine years and completed in 1884. Miklós Ybl’s neo-renaissance palace has remained virtually unchanged in the 130 years.


The boxes are decorated with gilded balustrades and arm rests.


Between the boxes are dividing guardrails made from gilded tin and shaped to resemble leaves and the head of a Greek or Roman soldier.


The round ceiling is decorated with Károly Lotz’s monumental cupola fresco.


Refreshments during intermissions.


The buffet hall where patrons can drink, socialize and walk outside to a terrace overlooking the main street.


There were several couples, dressed elegantly or flamboyantly (depending on your sensibility) in formal wear, posing for selfies on the grand staircase.


While in NYC, we went to the opera occasionally. But we really enjoyed this performance of Puccini’s Tosca. These are our Mario, Floria and Baron Scarpia. Bravo.


If you are visiting Budapest, seeing an opera is a really enjoyable and affordable experience, and it was convenient since they have a helpful website.

I(Chris) have been a Kraftwerk fan from when their music was played on the radio  in the 70’s. I have posted a German version of their 1977 international hit – “The Model” and Coldplay’s “Talk” which sampled it, here.

Kraftwerk is usually translated as “power plant,” but  one of the founders Ralf  Hütter said the band’s name can also be pulled apart for meanings: “kraft” is energy and dynamics, “werk” is simply work, or labor, and also (as “werke”) an artist’s oeuvre.

Since we are not living in NYC any more, I did not know until recently that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) organized a retrospective for the band:  Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  -:

Over eight consecutive nights, MoMA presents a chronological exploration of the sonic and visual experiments of Kraftwerk with a live presentation of their complete repertoire in the Museum’s Marron Atrium. Each evening consists of a live performance and 3-D visualization of one of Kraftwerk’s studio albums—Autobahn(1974), Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986),The Mix (1991), and Tour de France (2003)—in the order of their release.

I would have loved to see them perform or visit the exhibition in PS1. Here’s a video with hilarious subtitles for non-German speaking folks titled “Hitler reacts to Kraftwerk MoMA ticket limit”:



Their most “recent” album Tour de France was released almost ten years ago.  The gap between the last two albums (Tour de France 2003 and Electric Cafe 1986) was 17 years while they spent a lot of time touring the world.  I saw them in concert in 2005 (if I remember correctly) and my sis saw them in Hong Kong in 2008?. With industrial quality bass and concert hall acoustics, they sounded awesome! But I cannot wait for a new album to come out once every ten or twenty years.  Please hurry.

On Youtube, there is a video: “Musique Internationale” which was released purportedly by Kraftwerk and the visuals effects look like something they would use in their concerts. Some media has accused it as a fake.

It was uploaded by 2011Klingklang from Romania?!  Klingklang is the name of Kraftwerk’s studio in Dusseldof.

Ralf  Hütter said in an 2011 interview around the time of the MOMA  retrospective that a new album was underway and would be released “soon”.

Another video was released on Youtube in July 2012 – “Electronic Music”  – it also claims to be Kraftwerk’s creation and was uploaded by 2012Klingklang from the US.

Again the fans said that it is a fake.  The video looks a bit like a Windows 8 promo. Neither of these video received much hits on Youtube (180,000 and 33,000).

Overall, both songs are quite pleasant, and listenable –  I would consider both efforts as “Kraftwerk light”.

I wonder how much longer do we fans have to wait for Kraftwerk’s  next release, and when will we find out whether these videos are real or fakes.

I(Chris) have not visited London for many years, and while visiting during the Olympics, we heard a lot about the Spitalfields markets. So one morning we decided to check it out. This area of East London felt quite different from what I was expecting. The Spitalfields markets contain a new and an old section.

We wandered around the stalls, bought some stuff (including a London Underground shower curtain) and had lunch at Canteen. A pleasant, inexpensive chain serving British food.

Afterwards, I ventured further east and the streetscape changed to that which reminded me of Camden lock market. I did not have a chance to revisit Camden this time and am wondering if it has changed.

By chance, I stumbled into the flagship store of Rough Trade East just off Brick Lane – a record shop with a bit of history.

I bought their album of the month – Solo Piano II by Chilly Gonzales – a special edition containing an additional Rough Trade bonus track featuring some improvisation.


Here is a clip of video featuring a medley of the tunes on the album. Enjoy it while reading the rest of the post.

If you like it, go to his site – where several more videos are posted. The pieces are relaxing without being New Age-y – but a few are liable to be used as background music in Korean soap opera.

The front of Rough Trade has a cafe – the Broken Arms.

Rough Trade’s store front is disproportionately smaller than the inside. It is quite big inside, I guess the rent was cheap. Hope they signed a long lease.

Huh, Hang the DJ – Dance counter.

They have a photo booth, monochrome shots only – just 3 pounds.

They sell more vinyl than CD here.

They have mixers and keyboard for customer’s use and even a separate room for trying some synthesizers. I don’t think they sell synthesizers so I am not sure of the purpose.

Any one can go in to play assuming one knows how to operate the synthesizers. I have never seen this type of setup before but it is very cool!

There is a test listening area.

They also sell some books organized by the categories of Steidl, Caught by the line, London, Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll, Street art and Musical making and instruments.

They also have a “hobby” section – titled “Prick your finger” which sells knitting supplies for the ladies, and robotics kit “Technology will save us” for the boys.

This kind of stores are slowly becoming extinct but I hope this one can diversify and survive despite itunes, Spotify, … etc.

Electron is a four-day festival that ran from April 5 to April 8, spanning the Easter weekend of 2012. Below is this year’s poster – the city in the background is Geneva.

It is an annual electronic cultures festival that included workshops, contemporary art exhibits, concerts, conferences and parties. These events took place at various venue in the center of Geneva and continued with music acts which finished at 4am each night. One can buy a day pass or a festival pass which allows entrance for a day or 4 days.

We went on Good Friday, checked out a few DJs playing sets in the park where people were having drinks, skateboarding, etc. –  a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Cycloïd-E Black Box was an incredible piece of art  – a mobile sonic sculpture. The thing made with five stainless steel tubes, each one hinged at the end of another, each with a loudspeaker at the end blasting noises, and swinging and waving about in a darkened room like a giant metal snake – very menacing and mysterious.

We saw it in the basement of a theatre. The segments move independently of each other, sometimes folding themselves up, sometimes extending fully.

If its base can move, it will become a very scary robot, something right out of the pages of 1960’s sci-fi novels. It will fit right into Patrick Mcgoohan’s The Prisoner.

No photo can do this piece of art justice. It is the highlight of the festival for me. Experience it with my video here.  I found another video of it online, embedded it at the end of the post.

Later on, we saw Mike Ladd vs Thavius Beck at the Rez in L’Usine.. They were energetic and made the most watchable performance. Most of the time, they were bashing their keyboards facing each other, a bit of rapping in between. Follow the link to find their youtube videos.

Cristian Vogel  at the Palladium. Interesting stuff, strung it together well but somehow did not seem to work up the crowd (possibly too early, his slot was before midnight). For the curious, follow the link for youtube videos.

Opuswerk at the Palladium – not bad but not great, house music.

Light year – they sounded more mainstream, electropop, played at the Zoo in L’Usine.

One of the venue was Le Commun at the BAC (Batiment d’Art Contemporain) – where the music by Eliane Radigue – “Trilogie Adnos” was performed.  She is a legend of classical electronic music of France, heavily influenced by Tibetan meditation.  The piece was at least 75 minutes of warm, undulating electronic background noise with some notes sprinkled here and there.  It was played in a darkened room where many people lied down on the platforms (cushion provided) or the floor to meditate or fall asleep.  It was very relaxing. At the end of the performance, she appeared personally to greet the audience.

A sculpture at the bar just outside Le Commun.

Here is somebody else’s video of Cycloid-E on Youtube – a much more professional job. The sounds produced by the sculpture in this video is different from the one we heard. They used several cameras here. Enjoy the performance.

Another piece by Vangelis which is much warmer than and very mainstream when compared to the earlier posted Memories of Green – the piece that was used in the movie Blade Runner.  Other than the “Memories” in the titles, I do not know the connection between these two pieces, if any. It could have been used in the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire.

The images in this youtube video have nothing to do with Vangelis.

It is a very very soothing piece of New Age.  Perfect for me who is jet-lagged. Goodnight and sleep well.

                         Click on the cover to start listening to Oxygène IV.

Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre is one of my all-time favorite album.  I heard Part IV first on the British singles chart in 1977, and made me a fan of electronic instrumental music.  The album has 6 tracks, named by numbers sequentially, and can be enjoyed from beginning to end as one long piece (or two pieces when it was first released as a black vinyl LP). Made with numerous at-the-time state-of-the-art analogue synthesizers, the instrument list was closely studied by many.

Oxygène IV has been the most successful track and it opened the B-side of the LP.  Listen by clicking on the album cover above, put on your headphones. It will be breathtaking (pun intended).

The music is mersmerizing without putting one to sleep (as many of the current crop of electronic music will do).  Rather, it holds your attention and take you to a dynamic space.  Unlike many electronic music, the pieces do not feel cold.  It will make your head spin with its stereo effects if listening with headphones. It depicts the act of breathing without reproducing the exact sound of it.  Some of the bubbly/bouncy effects makes me think of the rhythmic action of a pneumatic medical device that is hooked up to a dying patient.

Not only is the graphic art on the album cover stunning and it accurately interpreted the music. Don’t know if you can see the white strands of connective tissue stretching and peeling/tearing away from the skull.  Certain hissing/sucking sounds in the music conjure up that very visceral image.

Given the sounds, the album cannot be better named.

The track which follows Oxygène IV in the album, Oxygène V (duh) is also available online. The first five minutes of it consist of calming church music but the remaining five minutes is pulsating and trance-inducing, and ends with a series of big wave sounds starting at 8:50.  It is a precursor to all the progressive trance and chilled music that was popular in the late 90’s.

“Oxygène 7-13” (1997) is a sequel of the first “Oxygène”.  It was released twenty years later, although Jean-Michel Jarre had made more albums in between.

As a bonus, below is Oxygène 7 (about 11 minutes long). This track opens the sequel and is the first thing in the series that fans heard after 20 years (hence, the opening 4-notes tease).  Have a listen and compare with Oxygène IV.  Part IV is still better in my opinion.

This music is part of the Blade Runner soundtrack. It matched the mood of the movie perfectly. The treated piano sounding a little bit cold and off tone is layered on top of a warm melody, which together suggests the sadness of the human clone and its slight imperfection.  The blips and woosh give it the sci-fi hi-tech gloss.

If it does not load properly, watch it on Youtube.

The entire length of the piece was not used in the movie and it was not included in the movie soundtrack. The music was released first in Vangelis’s studio album “See You Later” (1980) which I have not listend to from beginning to end even to this day.  The piece was released again in a collection of Vangelis movie music in “Themes” (1989).  I loved Blade Runner and remember searching for this track for a long time after the movie came out.

I wonder when they are going to make a sequel or prequel. Hurry up people.

Great performances. Small venue (Theatre d’Octagonal in Pully). No warmup band. The music started 5 minutes after the stated time – they are in Switzerland afterall.

Played from Lunatico: “Diferente” – the backdrop came from Diferente music video (see youtube video below).

This is the official video for Diferente on Youtube. Gotta love Argentine tango.

Also from Lunatico: “Mi Confesion” (they did not bring the rappers with them, see it here -> Mi Confesion on Youtube. A fine mix of electronica+tango+rap !)

From their latest album – Tango 3.0: “Rayuela”, “Tango Square”, “La Gloria”. They merged “Panamericana” (from their new album) with “Triptico” (one of their most popular).

Tango Square

I was hoping they would have some tango dancers.  Nope.

Their rendition of the Last Tango in Paris has been a crowd pleaser.  But they did not play it.  Watch it here.

They moved the lettering on stage: TANGO becomes GOTAN.

They did two encores, first with Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre) from La Revancha del Tango then Peligro.  The show was two hours long. I had a great time.

Kraftwerk has to be one of my all-time favorite.

This is one of the most melodic and widely sampled piece by Kraftwerk.  They released a German and an English version, and it reached No.1 in the UK singles chart in February 1982.

Coldplay sampled The Model’s melody, see you can hear it.

I saw them perform in New York during their Minimum-Maximum tour.  The sound is indescribable – clean, crisp, and rhythmic.

Here is another clip of the The Model sung in English at a concert in London in 2004.

Tangerine Dream is one of the bands that shaped my taste in electronic music.  Apparently, the key musicians still perform together but have changed their style over the years.

Their first few albums in the early 70’s are somewhat unlistenable as they are  mostly long pieces of electronic noises which sounded futuristic at the time. Nevertheless, there are some original interesting  stuff.

Force Majeure (1979) represents their best work in the period between mid 70’s to mid 80’s in my opinion.  The electronic sound is pure, depicts an empty landscape, and can be haunting and menacing at times. They have also consistently and successfully incorporated electric guitar as foreground in many of their pieces while electronic sounds fill the background.

By the 90’s, they have stuck to a distinctive sound and the releases tend to fall into the movie soundtrack or new age category.

If I can find more of their music on Youtube, I will post them here.

There are only three pieces on the Force Majeure vinyl, the title track occupying one side and “Cloudburst Flight” and “Thru Metamorphic Rock” on the other side.

I am very happy to find this clip of music on Youtube as I have not heard it for years.  I bought the vinyl LP when it first came out but do not have a turntable  anymore. The magic begins at around 1:30 after the bell, continues with a melodic change at 3:45.  The passage beyond 5:30 is a bit chessey, it is safe to ignore.  The video has nothing to do with them.

When you think of Swiss cowbell, you would imagine a quite annoying, loud – dong, dong, dong sound.  Apparently not so in the field.  The closest I can think of is the sound made by a wind chime.  It also evokes the musical sound of Indonesian Gamelan.  They make a continuous tinkering sound, dissonant and seemingly without a rhythm, and yet somewhat soothing.  While I believe the cowbells are mass produced, they apparently all ring at a slightly different tone.  In Switzerland, herds of cow are sent to roam in the mountain where the grass is green during the summer.  So it becomes quite interesting when a herd of cows – the performers – move around the mountain or when they dip their heads to munch grass.  Listen.

Sorry about the wind noise in the video.   It was made near La Chassarel, which can be seen in a distance marked by a Swisscom telecommunication tower.  At 5200 feet, it is the highest point in the Northern Jura mountains, and about 45 minutes from Neuchâtel.

Did the title by any chance remind you of the now classic Saturday Night Live skit starring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken “More Cowbell !”?  Check it out online, it is silly but funny.

Here is another video of Ollie working the deck at Bar 13.  Very focused, he managed to ignore the drinks, girls, noise, and lights.  I guess a DJ has to filter out all the distractions, and concentrate on counting the beats, lining up the tracks, … a matter of ear-hand-eye coordination.  Ollie has a Serato Scratch Live setup at his apartment and he demo’d it for me.  What a piece of toy to have around.  Like an instrument, he can practice at home.

I had put together a new dance playlist for every one of my parties – some of you may remember the New Year’s Eve parties at my apartment off Times Square.  For a short while, I actually considered enrolling at the same DJ school – Dubspot – which also teaches electronic music production. Well, I have to postpone that phase of my education for now.

Ollie played mostly deep house which is a genre of house music that I like.  Check out François K – a well-respected local producer who plays regularly at Cielo.  Here are some of his CDs that I have and can recommend, and a link to his store on Amazon.

My friend Ollie went to DJ school last summer and had started playing at parties and bars downtown. I went to see him spin at Bar 13 (University Place and W13th St) before I left NY.  Selina was his roadie-groupie/manager, bopping away, and handing out his business card.

I gathered that DJ-ing in NYC is very competitive, and getting a decent sound system with an audience is not easy.  That night, all the DJs were DJ school graduates from classes of different levels.  They took turns and the changeover was managed by one of the instructor, JP Solis.   Many students did not want to leave the turntable.  Ollie’s slot started at 9:45pm, played for about an hour, and was to spin again after midnight.  Ollie worked intensely, it looked like he was kneading pizza dough, but he was for sure having fun and the music was great.

This video of Manhattan cityscape created by time-lapse photography (I presumed) is fantastic – movement of the crescent-shaped moon, pulsing street traffic, the smoke, airplanes landing and taking off, and the sunrise.  I believe the view is that of upper Manhattan and the Bronx with La Guardia Airport at the back.

But before you view the video, start this song –  Water From a Vine Leaf by William Orbit as a soundtrack (click link to open new window, click play under ezt NYC Time Lapse Video soundtrack).  After the music starts, return to this window, begin playback of the video and switch to full screen (click button in window on bottom right).

Play it several times on full screen and you will notice something new each time.  The lights in some of the buildings go on and off throughout the night.  Can you spot the darkened room with a flickering TV which stayed on until about half time (look near the middle of the screen) ?

[flickr video=]

I am reading “Pattern Recognition” –  a sci-fi-ish fiction by William Gibson.  His style in describing all things near-futuristic can sometimes be abstract, to say the least. But it surely beats something that reads like a fanboy’s wish lists of next-generation gadgets.  The main character is a media consultant who is psychologically “allergic” to certain popular trademarks.  Here is how he describes her jet lag after flying from New York to London on an assignment :

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

I am going to post more about the book when I finish.  It started slow but now it’s getting exciting.

Lost In A Moment is a song that I think will go really well with the paragraph (and the above photo which I took in Iceland which happens to be in the middle of the Atlantic).

¤  Listen to an excerpt of the Strange World mix of the song by clicking the link below.  Press play in new window.

Lost In A Moment – Shrift

The song has also been used in a youtube video made by a couple of guys sitting in a kaiten-zushi bar (conveyor belt sushi) in Tokyo.  They put the video camera on the conveyor belt and turned it on while it slowly pans around the restaurant.  Truly mesmerizing. One of my all time favorites.  Enjoy.