Mourning gaining momentum

Lying In State

Wow the mourning week has been getting more and more interesting by the day!

It’s Friday now and I’ve just gotten out of the hall of Parliament House, still feeling slight regret that I did not have the heart to approach the coffin even though I didn’t have to deal with barriers and ushers being on the other side, but certainly satisfied by the 15 minutes that I got to keep vigil over the man, as the music I wrote was performed for the occasion. All this as the public who waited or 8-10 hours got ushered along without any opportunity to stop.

Also glad that even though no photography and videography was allowed, the recording of the music was not explicitly stopped. So much to process, decide, and then seek permission to release. And that’s not the end – there’ll still be another band dedication tomorrow evening. Probably only skipping the final day and staying with the TV.

The day time weather today was really unforgiving. Exactly 1 year ago, I recalled the weeks as we were preparing for Hwa Chong’s 95th anniversary concert around late March, with only rain upon us around concert dates. This year it felt the same – the showers came just last week, and now, back to the scorching hot sun.

This made the sight of thousands and thousands in the Padang area really unbearable to me, as I drove one huge round to find parking. I didn’t expect anyone to drive – the 8 hour wait would make parking unnecessarily expensive. But I was wrong – and even car parks as far as Central had 4 out of 6 floors full.

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This entire week I made a lot of small talk about the grand old man, and it’s really insightful, especially when talking to Singaporeans above a certain age, to learn about what is on the front of their minds.

For me personally it was less about the man (I hardly knew him), but all about the unbelievable mobilisation of the people which I described in my last post.

For some though, it was the lament about the victors writing history. There was no dedication from Ong Teng Cheong for example. Lim Chin Siong was mentioned and put clearly in the light of evil. And so on. Papers gave selective coverage of who visited, Chiam See Tong’s being the most poignant to me.

For some, it was the realisation and amazement that foreigners joined that queue they wished it was pure blood Singaporean, or, themselves the foreigners (PRs included) who did so. There were some interesting anecdotes. One came because her mother from Malaysia who rarely comes to Singapore _insisted_ that her daughter go queue up and pay respects for her. Another brought friends and family who were visiting Singapore through the ordeal.

Probably the most interesting one was a discussion on whether the grand old man is the leaf or the root. I had this lingering doubt when deciding on the style of music I had to write. To portray him as a big root, without which the tree will have to stand hollow on less reliable roots, would be to adopt absolutes, such as conclusive cadences, lament motives, and deep in minor harmonic choices. On the other hand, portraying him as a leaf would entail lots of fleeting harmonies that moves with the wind, but never actually resolving into a perfect cadence before it lands. I choice the later, (mis)using many modern sevenths progressions to lighten the feel, but still tumbled and roll around step wise bass walking line to add to the gravity of the matter (lest a piece be misinterpreted as impressionism). Add a sprinkle of augmented fifths when reaching out to the stars and hollowing out emotions, and diminished sevenths for the heartache phrase endings, and you get yourself a modern requiem.

But when I discussed this with another person, although he also concluded: leaf, it was said clearly as a sign of disapproval. It took a lot for the person to be honest, in private. The real gravity of the matter to him was precisely too many people will misinterpret this grand lying-in-state as the “root” story, prolonging the ruling power for another 20 years just like that, lest the tree comes crumbling down before you know it.

We sometimes listen to music and just let it wash past our ears. Have we even wonder why certain choices were made?

I do, always, but even more so as I grow older and more sensitive. That’s also because now that I have to pen things down of that have much more gravity, I can’t afford to neglect the tiniest of misinterpretations that might follow.

Another day beckons.

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Another well written piece

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