No art, no he-art

“The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”

-Michelle Obama

Sometimes people ask why you buy books,  handicrafts, materials for scrapbook and painting, watch a play, a concert.  I wonder why people have to look for special reasons. I do acknowledge that there are more important things in this world but I don’t think that it’s a waste of money nor waste of time  to be involved in these art forms. I think art is an investment. Most of the time, we think art in terms of its cultural value. But art has a personal value and has a long term-effect to an individual (whether you are a sender or receiver of art). In the same way how food nourishes our bodies, art nourishes our senses. I am not saying spend more on movies and concerts and spend less on food and clothing. I am not saying go and watch an indie film. I am not saying buy a book even if you’re broke or start collecting comics and paintings. Engage in an art that is accessible and palatable to you. It may be a visit to a museum, studying make-up or reading a graphic novel.

Art is not for the middle-class, for the élite or educated. Some people are willing to spend for liquor and buffet meal but find it expensive to buy a book. Some people buy the latest gadgets but question you why you buy a ticket for a live performance. It’s strange because these are equally unnecessary for survival yet we find a high calorie dinner and an extra cellphone more acceptably rewarding.

So why is it not a waste of money and time?

Art is an experience
Experience may seem ephemeral but experiences cannot be taken away or stolen. An experience is personal, priceless and unique. You cannot copy experiences and you cannot borrow senses. Hence, a friend who shares you how convincing the movie is, how amazing the concert is,  is different from a friend who shares another apple to you.  What you notice a lot in a live performance, or what you see in a mural is not always the same with others.

wicked stage

Wicked Stage

Art makes us human
We are way beyond our biological functions. We are the only creatures that can appreciate design, craft, and showmanship. We sense. We feel. We favor certain sounds and colors. We critique. I guess we should practice what is innately unique in human nature. Let’s find beauty in shapes and sizes, find satisfaction in sounds, sights arrangement, and rhythm. Everyone has an inner artist.

found this painting on SM North

found this painting on SM North

Art gives us another way of looking at things
An example of this would be a bed scene or an adult scene. These are scenes that some people are not comfortable to watch and talk about. You try to close your eyes watching a nude scene because you think you’re not supposed to see it. I just watched Cock of Redturnip Theater and the adult scenes were very intimate. What’s interesting is that the actors are fully clothed and barely too close to each other.

cock

Art mirrors feelings, aspirations, and reality
As the common definition of art in textbooks, “Art is an imitation of life.” A piece of art is one interpretation of real objects, people, life events. He might be a designer, playwright, poet, makeup artist or a graphic artist. Sometimes, I watch a film, I discover not only new ideas, but new feelings, new dreams or maybe they are just suppressed thoughts that are overshadowed by daily routine. When you listen to music, or read a short story, you think there is a medium that identifies your emotions or represents your thoughts.

Art when done with good taste, it adds depth to humanity
I don’t want to sound too serious nor do I want to sound like an activist but sometimes art gives inspiration. A novel can call for a revolution. Paintings teach history and religion. Spoken word poetry (I’m such a big fan) makes beautiful life stories.

Art is a product of hard work, great minds, and talent
This explains why a piece of art is pricey. Every product of art has to go through a creative process and every artist deserves a talent fee. By supporting what they do, you are continuing the  legacy of a special breed of human race who are passionate in what they do.

 

My voice is always under construction

20130828_140159Included in my bucket list for this year is to enroll in Philippine Opera Company. I took voice lessons last July.  See I told you, there is power in making a bucket list.   I wanted to sing opera. Because I did not have much background in classical singing, I thought learning  from an institution for opera would be a good idea. Here are some of  little things I learn in voice lessons that have practical value.

It’s so difficult to breathe

Breathing is what we do most but it’s not an activity that all of us have mastered. When you are learning how to sing properly, that’s the only time you become conscious on how you breathe. It is difficult for me to learn how and when to breathe but it’s easy for me to learn how to stop breathing. I just look at the person I don’t like then I stop breathing (LoL)

Walking helps you relaxed while singing

If you are too tense in singing like me, you should walk, and do some movements to distract you from thinking too much on how to produce the right sound.

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There is an inner ear

I knew I had an inner voice, inner self, inner goddess but that was the first time I heard I had an inner ear. Sometimes when you try to listen on how you sound, you think that it does not sound  good enough but it can be your inner ear discouraging you. Hence, if you want to learn how you sound, you really have to have someone who can listen to your voice.

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There are so many things that happen in your mouth and in your body when you sing.

Who says singing is easy? It is not as easy as it sounds.

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Grunting is positive

It gives you support in singing

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Be grounded.

By pointing your fingers down while singing, it reminds you to use your entire body and to get some support.

Music knows no age. 

Jackie Evancho and Charlotte Church makes me feel embarrassed because I am only learning how to sing opera in my adulthood. But according to my voice teacher, it’s not recommendable to let kids sing classical or make them sound like Sarah Brightman. It can destroy your voice later in life. Anyway, my teacher is three years younger than me. Sometimes you learn more from those who are younger than you (#truestory) It’s never too late to learn something new.

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Your voice is unique.

opera1We often think that imitating your favorite singer’s voice is a measurement of a great voice. While I was rehearsing some classical songs, I listened and watched performances in Youtube and I ended up frustrated. I just couldn’t sound like one of them. I had a thin voice and it was different from how my teacher sounded. She had a thick and rich voice while mine was small. But she said the thinness of my voice is a distinctive quality of my voice. I have to love my voice and accept all its flaws and learn its advantages. By imitating, my voice sounded unnatural. By being true to my voice, I felt lighter and at ease.

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Note:  All photos are taken in Philippine Opera Company

Opera Haus 3657 Bautista St.

My Mental Exercise: If I should be a pop star

Photo: RCA Records

When I heard the news of  Miley Cyrus’ performance in VMA Awards, I was not shocked.  I haven’t followed her as Hanna Montana. I only know her as the girl who sang Party in the USA and The Climb. Lady Gaga had her first single when she was 22  years old but she was already Lady Gaga, the way we know her now. What Miley Cyrus is doing now  is not too different from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. People just could not get over the thought that Disney star is now twerking. I did listen to her two latest songs, We can’t stop and Wrecking Ball. In terms of sound and content, the songs are fine and have last song syndrome effect. They are ‘safe’ for kids to listen. It has no sex and swear words in the lyrics. But her music videos are very disturbing. Why does she have to lick a sledgehammer?

It’s interesting to study pop culture. For my own mental exercise, I ponder on the idea what can I do to be a pop star? You compete with a large population of people who can sing and dance.  American Idol shows a lot of young people who are willing to do whatever it takes just to have the limelight.  And it’s heartbreaking to see your favorite contestants leave the competition. You come to a conclusion, you really have to have “something more than talent”. And the idea of “something more than talent” requires creativity and marketing skills.

In 60 minutes of CBS News,  Anderson Cooper opened the show with the question, “Is Lady Gaga an artist or a marketing expert?  Lady Gaga said in that interview: “One of my greatest artworks is the art of fame. I’m a master of the art of fame. “ She inspires a lot of fans  with her message of self-empowerment. The controversies, outfits, music videos, are all part of  her scheme of getting attention and sustaining fame.  You see her dead in her music videos and live performance.

“That’s what everyone wants to know, right? ‘What’s she gonna look like when she dies? What’s she gonna look like when she’s overdosed?’ on whatever they think I’m overdosing on? Everybody wants to see the decay of the superstar,” Lady Gaga said.

“Do you think people wanna see your decay?” Cooper asked.

“What? Of course they do! They wanna see me fail, they wanna see me fall on stage, they wanna see me vomiting out of a nightclub. I mean, isn’t that the age that we live in? That we wanna see people who have it all lose it all? I mean, it’s dramatic,” she replied.

Take another example: Katy Perry. She was a gospel singer when she started her singing career. Because she did not get much success like Amy Grant, she  ventured to mainstream music. It’s somehow fun to sing a Katy Perry song, right? But music like movies should have some parental guidance. For instance, the song Teenage Dream can lead to teenage pregnancy.

Speaking of parental guidance, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass was once a big hit. Kids sing it and dance with it. But will you be horrified if your daughter tells you: ” He just gotta give me that look, when he give me that look / Then the panties comin’ off, off, uh”?

I do love all types of music, most especially pop music. In fact, I enjoy listening and singing some of the songs of these artists. I believe Lady Gaga is an excellent performing artist. I believe Katy Perry can write meaningful songs. I like the raindrop sound effects and the beat of Super Bass. As I have observed, the more eccentric you are, you increase your chances of surviving in this industry. But I am hoping that artists are recognized for their talent and not their packaging. I wish they didn’t have to be provocative to be appealing. I wish they could cross a message of self-empowerment without nudity. I wish they did not need to make a controversy to earn fame.  And I am hoping that we get to have more songs that have well-thought lyrics with less number of bad words.  I am hoping that when we like pop stars, we like them as artists and musicians not as celebrities. There is a fine line between an artist and a celebrity.

Lady Gaga does not need to strip to impress..

Wish Katy Perry wrote more songs like this

Singing in the street is fun

People think I’m crazy because they see me talking to myself, smiling and singing alone, comfortable in my own world. I tend to hop a little when I walk in the busy streets of Metro Manila. I sometimes catch a stranger’s attention. Do you know how? It’s either I tripped up stairs, slipped on the escalator. But on some occasions, I sing out loud while walking in the streets which I am really unaware of. When someone turns his back to see me, that’s when I begin to feel that my mouth is moving and releasing a big note.  Then, I come back to my senses and pretend that it’s not embarrassing at all. It happened when I was walking through  Ayala underpass. An NGO representative approached me and said, “Ma’am I believe you are singing.”

Sometimes, I’m lost in my own world. I create a moment on the streets as if I am in MTV.  And I get inspiration from my favorite music videos which center on a girl singing in the middle of the streets.

Who Says by Selena Gomez

This video has a lot of cute stuff, very sassy. I love the scene when Selena  with her long gown, runs along the streets barefoot. I hope a lot of young girls will listen to this song because  it has a good message.

Quotable Quote:

I’m no beauty queen, I’m just beautiful me
You got every right to a beautiful life, come on

Put your hearts up by Ariana Grande

This is a feel good video with simple choreography and bright colors. I like how it looks like a musical movie scene or a Disney film.

It’s Oh So Quiet by Bjork

I wish I could find a clearer a copy of this music video.  This is another music video that looks like it’s part of  musical film. But unlike Put your hearts up, this song sounds more like Broadway

Gravity by Sara Barilles

I also like melancholic songs (You see, I’m  crazy and bipolar. I like extremely sad and extremely happy songs.) What makes this music video unique is its cosmic theme which is very creatively done.

Who You Are by Jessie J

This is one of my favorite songs. I want to imitate what Jessie J did,  singing in the corner of the train station.  Of all the videos I mentioned here, this one is close to reality. When you sing  your heart out in a public place, the crowd don’t join you in singing. They  just stare  at you or ignore. I love this song (so redundant, am I?) I listen to this song when I want to reflect on what am I doing to myself (naks!)

Quotable Quote:

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.

Feel Good Music

When it’s an ordinary day and there’s no motivational force to make life meaningful, I just cover my ears with headphones and turn on the music in full blast.  When I  listen to feel good music, I end up smiling alone in my workstation.  It’s how I begin my day.  Music is my multivitamins. It brings positive energy out of nowhere.

Here are some songs  in my  feel good music playlist:

Like a Star by Corinne Bailey Rae

If you want to be sentimental for the day, listen to Corinne Bailey Rae’s song Like a Star.  Whenever I listen to this song, pleasant memories run in my head. It’s like a background music of a segment in my life.

Just like a star across my sky/ Just like an angel off the page/ You have appeared to my life/ Feel like I’ll never be the same

Hopeful by Twista ft. Faith Evans

Inspiring songs don’t have to be ballads. Sometimes, they are light songs that are radio friendly. Here’s an example.

’cause I’m hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
Take this music and use it
Let it take you away,
And be hopeful (hopeful) and he’ll make a way
I know it ain’t easy but that’s okay.

Brighter than the Star by Colbie Colbat

Colbie Colbat’s album was released in 2011 but I only discovered this song today. Thanks Solaire for spreading this music.

Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky

Shining how we want, brighter than the sun

Tonight by Jessica Sanchez ft. Ne-Yo

This song has an addictive beat that make me want to dance and of course I love Jessica Sanchez. It’s a good warm-up song to take your inhibitions and worries away.

Cause we ain’t even on earth tonight
We on a planet where the dudes got money and they not afraid to spend it
(Ayo, ayo)

Because you deserve to be less miserable

Source: Imdb.com

I cannot not blog about Les Misérables because I waited for seven hours in the mall, just to watch the movie. It was one of the longest days of my life! Much has been said and I think I have no right to give a critique on a movie that is million times bigger than I am. But allow me to share my penny of thoughts on why people who are not fans of the musical should watch.

It’s classic

It is based on the novel of Victor Hugo which is oftentimes included in the list of books you must read before you die. The novel has made so much influence as it talks about justice, poverty, and sacrifice. This is one of the literary influences of Jose Rizal. Then later on, it had a musical theater adaptation. And when you talk about theater, it’s one of the first few plays that come into your mind.

They sing truthfully

The music itself is one of biggest reasons why I wanted to watch it and why other Filipinos want it too. I’ve been singing the song On my Own since high school but I just could not nail it. Songs from this musical have been popular choices for audition. For us, musical theater fans,we are curious on how these songs we have loved will be interpreted in cinema. Generally speaking, I like the actors realistic way of singing. In the film, they are not technical singers who have too much vibrato, too much inflections, too much clean and clear notes. That’s difference between singing on stage and singing for movies. If you’ve heard the songs, you will understand them more after watching the movie. Not only you will learn the story behind the songs but also the depth of the character’s emotions. You will know the pain of a prostitute and of a dying loved one. You will feel the passion of revolutionists.

Anne Hathaway is an A+++ actress.

Having a soundtrack of Les Misérables anniversary concert and listening to a lot of thespians, I guess we all have our own preference or what others call “standards.” But I must say Anne Hathaway’s rendition I Dreamed a Dream is one of the most truthful performances.You can almost cry with her. She only had short time in the movie but it was very memorable. She really deserves an acting award.

At times, it feels like watching MTV.

There are a lot of scenes that look like MTV. On my own scene reminded me of the ones I watched in MTV, like singing and crying in the rain. I compare those scenes to music videos because Tom Hooper loves close-up shots. It is as if the actor is singing to the camera. This kind of shot is an opportunity for actors to show their acting prowess. I know some viewers don’t like these close-up shots but it was a refreshing way of reiterating a very familiar story. That’s also a privilege for us audience to see closely the facial expressions of actors. You cannot have that on theater stage.

Drama sells

I personally love tragedies. As you know, I like to watch men in pain and hear stories about death. I think we can identify ourselves more in tragedies than sweet happy endings. There are a lot of dramatic scenes. They say,”the movie will make you cry.” I did cry a little during the last few moments of the movie and stopped myself for crying more because I did not want my friends to make fun of me.

It’s too much

The story will not be beautiful if the storyteller does not know how to deliver and we owe it to the the people who worked hard for the movie. It’s a 157-minute film. You get your money’s worth comparing on how much you spend for a Starbucks coffee that lasts for less than five minutes. There are too many characters that you will fall in love with. There are too many songs that you want to sing along with. There are too many stories inside a story. There are many themes that make all the scenes relevant.  If you really want to heavy acting, lots of singing, and endless tears, go watch it.

Oh, and a friendly reminder:

Photo from Dennis T. Sebastian

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