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2013年1月31日 星期四

Pandas (小熊貓)


Pandas are cute. Perhaps that's why they are using the Panda as a theme for the Chinese New Year decorations at IFC. I took advantage of it after lunch






Panda with a colorful ball




Panda staring at the ball. What's he/she thinking about?




Panda trying to go over the fence.





Panda eating bamboo at the Panda Conservatory in Chengdu, Sichuan in my visit there in October last year .




Um. yummy, yummy.




This is a really difficult one to chew. So let me have a spare, just in case.




Ah, so many of them. Which one shall I choose?





I'm really hungry. So I better grab as many of them as possible




Me, I have had enough. Let's have a bit of fun. This tree is tricky. Mum always says that a little extra care won't hurt. 



Mum and babe at the entrance of the Panda Conservatory in Chengdu

2013年1月30日 星期三

You Don't Believe (你不信)

William Blake (1757 – 1827) is a poet I like. He was an art engraver, copper plate etching artist, painter and print maker who did lots of Bible illustrations. He paints with light colours and flowing lines, long before Matisse. But above all, he is known as a poet. He longed for revolutionary changes and actually joined an abortive one. He was home taught and read widely on subjects which interested him. In his own way, he believed in the reality of the human body which he thought must be perfected with spirituality. In his own way, he was a deeply religious man who claimed to have visions of God, who appeared to man in the form of his imagination but was opposed to all forms of organized religion. I like his Songs and Innocence and Songs of Experience.









You Don’t
Believe





You don’t
believe—I won’t attempt to make ye:


You are
asleep—I won’t attempt to wake ye.


Sleep on!
Sleep on! While in your pleasant dreams


Of Reason
you may drink of Life’s clear streams.


Reason and
Newton, they are quite two things;


For so
the swallow and the sparrow sings.





Reasons
says, “Miracle”; Newton says “Doubt.”


Aye! That’s
the way to make all Nature out.


“Doubt,
doubt, and don’t believe without experiment”:


That is
the very thing Jesus meant,


When he
said, “Only believe! believe and try!


Try, try,
and never mind the reason why!”





William
Blake





你不信



你不信--我不會令你

你睡著--我不會叫你

睡吧!睡吧!在你愉快的理性夢中

你會喝到生命的清溪。

理性與牛頓,是兩樣頗不同的東西;

因燕子及喜鵲是這樣唱的。



理性說:「奇蹟」;牛頓說:「質疑」。

是的!就這麼理解整個大自然。

「質疑,質疑,沒實驗不信」:

耶穌的意思剛好是這般

他說:「只用信!信和試!

試試,不用理甚麼因由!」



威廉·布萊克  : 艾梳羅




2013年1月29日 星期二

Lorin Maazel and the CSO (馬捷爾與芝加哥交響樂團)

The Cultural Centre played to a packed audience last night. The reason? Lorin Maazel and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Mozart's Symphony No. 41 (the Jupiter) and Brahm's Symphony No. 2  in D, Op 73.

Maazel is now almost 83 but he still appears in full control not only of his own physique but also the CSO. A Russian Jew born in France and raised in Pittsburgh, son of singer and pianist teacher and grandson of a violinst grandfather, he started conducting at the age of 8m appearing as a violinst at 15 and has since been actively involved in conducting various world famous orchestra, having been  the chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin(965 -1971) and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1965 -1975), music director of Cleveland Orchestra (1972-1982), chief conductor of Vienna State Opera (1982-1984), music director of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1988 to 1996) chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1996-2003 ), music director of NY Philharmonic (2002-2009),music director of the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana (2006-11) chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra since 2011. He has also conducted the music for three operatic films, Don Giovanni (1979), Carmen (1984), and Otello (1986) and written an opera of his own "1984" based on George Orwell's novel of the same name. ompleted his Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, on 10 August 1788.[1] It was the last symphony that he composed, and also the longest.

The HKPO has also done the Jupiter recently but Maazel has a slightly different interpretation of this last symphony of Mozart in which Mozart put everything he knew about orchestration into it, including playing around with different motifs in the fugal form The 4 movements in Allegro vivace, 4/4,  Andante cantabile, 3/4 in F major;  Menuetto: Allegretto - Trio, 3/4 and  Molto allegro, 2/2 , is one of the most popular works by Mozart. Maazel has made it quite romantic, emphasizing and bringing out the very subtle tonal textures of the different sections of a small baroque style chamber orchestra. One doesn't find the usual verve and spark which one has come to expect, rightly or wrongly, of Mozart, in Maazel's very personal interpretation of the piece. I like it. It feels very intimate. I wonder if age has anything to do with such an interpretation.

Next we had a rather heavier piece, Brahm's No. 2 in D. The first movement was based upon a lullaby theme which was varied in different ways, the second is a bit contemplative and has a plaintive melody, its third in Scherzo form is much less langorous and much more lively and the final movement has two themes which intertwine until they merge in the final climactic finale. Although written in a period when Brahms was feeling quite happy the piece also has its sadder moments. There are certain passages of very tender reminiscences which doesn't seem to take away from its emotional power. To me, this piece seems to fit Maazel's style much better. To reward our enthusiastic applauses, we had two encores including a Hungarian Dance..


2013年1月27日 星期日

Classic Broadway (百老匯經典)

I didn't expect to be moved. I was. When I flipped through the programme notes of "Classic Broadway" before the concert began at the HKPO's concert for the evening, I saw the titles of various songs from Rogders and Hammerstein's musicals like The King and I, State Fair, Very Warm for May, Showboat, Boys from Syracuse, Babes in Arms, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and Oklahoma and that HKPO will be conducted by a young Oklahoma guy called Gerald Steichen, described as "one of America's most versatile musicians", doing symphonies, chamber music, operas and Broadway. The names of the singers for the night were all new to me too. Heading the list was Lisa Vroman (1) who sung Chrstine in The Phantom of the Opera and both Fantine and Cosette in Les Miserables. It was followed by Gary Mauer(2) who has sung as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera, Ravenal in The Showboat. The last singer was Williams Michals (3) who has sung Javert in Les Miserables, Trapp in The Sound of Music and title role in The Phantom of the Opera. They all looked seasoned musicians. But after all, it was just Broadway. I would be pleasantly entertained for the evening and then take the MTR home, perhaps with certain lyrics and the music lingering in my head to the sound of the rumbling of the wheels of the trains interrrupted occasionally by the "next station" announcement and the dull and the rather jerky sound of the opening and closing of the train doors accompanied by those the high frequency but totally mechanical and lifless sound of the "bleep, bleep, bleep.". But I was wrong. Some of the music really touched me. Perhaps there's a bit of the American in every one of us: a certain innocence, a certain hope and certain longings in every human soul so well conveyed by Broadway musicals.

The fare for the evening was rich. It represents a fair sample of the favorites of Rodgers and Hammerstein and some of his numbers which I am sure everyone will have heard a million times. It's impossible for me to describe how they struck me one by one. So I'll list them out as they appear in the Programme Notes:

The King and I: Overture

State Fair: It's a Grand Night for Singing (1 + 2+ 3)

Very Warm for May: All the Things You are (2)

Show Boat: Make Believe (1+ 2), Ol' Man River (3)

Boys from Syracuse: Falling in Love with Love (1)

Babes in Arms: Where or When (2)

The Sound of Music: The Sound of Music (1), Lonely Goatherd (1+2+3), Edelweiss (3) and Climb Every Mountain (1+2 +3)

Carousel: Carousel Waltz

South Pacific: There is Nothin' Like a Dame (2 + 3) , A Wonderful Guy (1) and Some Enchanted Evening (3)

The King and I: Shall We Dance (1+2)

Carousel: Soliloquy (3) 

Oklahoma: Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' (2), People Will Say We're in Love (1+3) and Oklahoma (1+ 2+ 3) 

The quality of the singing was much much better than I expected. Lisa Vroman has a clear and very expressive voice and wonderful body language to accompany her songs. A most attractive young singer in her prime. So was the giant Gary Mauer whose powerful and almost impeccable tenor voice matches his height in every way. William Michals too has a good baritone tone voice which he uses to great advantage. What I like best is the way the singers were able to make use of the very limited space at the front of the stage to create an atmosphere of fun and gaiety where needed to match the moods of the various songs and the way they made use of their facial expressions, their bodily postures, their hand gestures and their dance to get us involved with the music. The size of the little conductor from Oklahoma was totally deceptive: his love of the music turns him into a veritable tiger as tall as Mauer and he would po his hand at the relevant section of the orchestra with the targeting precision of a cat. One sees the highly infectious joy in the music he conducts. Perhaps it's the way the all the musicians threw themselves into the music and the performance which makes it such a moving experience for me. A truly great evening at the Cultural Centre.




















2013年1月26日 星期六

Saturday Fun (週末歡趣)

Except for the concert master, orchestral players seldom get the kind of attention they deserve. Some of them may have a really hard time getting any at all. So if there were a basic training manual for orchestra players, it might be a good idea to include somewhere in there not only tips on on how to play the music as part of a huge ensemble, but also a bit of one-upmanship too. It seems as if many young players take pride in getting the conductor's goat. The following rules are intended as a guide to the development of habits that will irritate the conductor.

1.Never be satisfied with the tuning note. Fussing about the pitch takes attention away from the podium and puts it on you, where it belongs.

2.When raising the music stand, be sure the top comes off and spills the music on the floor.

3.Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space, or a draft. It's best to do this when the conductor is under pressure.

4.Look the other way just before cues.

5.Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or extra reeds. Percussion players must never have all their equipment.

6.Ask for a re-audition or seating change. Ask often. Give the impression you're about to quit. Let the conductor know you're there as a personal favor.

7.Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every opportunity, especially when the conductor is giving instructions. Brass players: drop mutes. Percussionists have a wide variety of droppable items, but cymbals are unquestionably the best because they roll around for several seconds.

8.Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses. Horn, oboe and clarinet players are trained to do this from birth.

9.Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune. This is especially effective if you had no C# or were not playing at the time. If he catches you, pretend to be correcting a note in your part.

10.At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is emoting) be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.

11.Wait until well into a rehearsal before letting the conductor know you don't have the music.

12.Look at your watch frequently. Shake it in disbelief occasionally.

13.Tell the conductor, "I can't find the beat." Conductors are always sensitive about their "stick technique", so challenge it frequently.

14.As the conductor if he has listened to the Bernstein recording of the piece. Imply that he could learn a thing or two from it. Also good: ask "Is this the first time you've conducted this piece?"

15.When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face and shake your head indicating that you'll never be able to play it. Don't say anything: make him wonder.

16.If your articulation differs from that of others playing the same phrase, stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.

17.Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others will become restless and start to pack up and fidget.

18.During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at all. Better yet, nonchalantly put away your instrument. Make the conductor feel he is keeping you from doing something really important.


Players are welcome to add to the list. Be as inventive as you can. It is time that players remind their conductors of the facts of life: just who do conductors think they are, anyway? Happy rehearsals.

2013年1月25日 星期五

Leonard Cohen's Suzanne 李歐納·柯恩的「蘇姍」


I like Leonard Cohen's songs. They're simple. In his songs, he often sings about people forgotten by society. And he sings about them with sensitivity, with understanding, with feeling. He is not only a song writer. He is also a poet. And he writes and sings like one. One of his songs I like best is "Suzanne". Here it is, with his beautiful lyrics and my translation of them.







Suzanne

Suzanne takes
you down to her place near the river

You can hear the boats go by

You can spend the night beside her

And you know that she's half crazy

But that's why you want to be there

And she feeds you tea and oranges

That come all the way from China

And just when you mean to tell her

That you have no love to give her

Then she gets you on her wavelength

And she lets the river answer

That you've always been her lover

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that she will trust you

For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

And when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said "All men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them"

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe you'll trust him

For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand

And she leads you to the river

She is wearing rags and feathers

From Salvation Army counters

And the sun pours down like honey

On our lady of the harbour

And she shows you where to look

Among the garbage and the flowers

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever
while she holds the mirror.. 

Leonard Cohen


蘇姍


蘇珊帶你到她河邊那裡


你可聽到經過的小船


你可在她身旁過晚上


而你知她是不大正常的


但那正是你想在她那裡的


她給你茶和橘子吃喝


從老遠的中國來的


當你剛要跟她說


你沒有愛情給她


她就進入你的波長


她讓河流回應你


說你一直是她的愛侶


你很想與她同行


你很想閉著眼睛與她同行


你知道她會信你的


因你以你的思想觸及她美的軀體

當他在水上行走時


也是海員


他在那孤零零的木塔


觀察了好一會


當他肯定知道


只有遇溺者能看見他時


他便說:「在海洋給他們自由前


男的統統要當海員」


但遠在天空倘未為他開敞前


他已倒下


被遺棄,幾乎與人一樣


在你智慧下他如石般下


而你想與他同行


想閉著眼睛與他同行


而你想也許你會信他


因他以他的思想觸及你美的軀體

蘇姍現在攜著你手


她帶你到河邊


她穿著破衣和羽毛


從救世軍櫃面弄回來的


太陽像蜜糖般瀉下


海港之母身上


她教你在垃圾和花中


在那兒尋覓


在海中有英雄


早上有兒童

他們都為情而把身體傾斜


他們都會那樣把身體稈斜直到永遠當她拿起鏡子...


 


(: 艾索羅)







To Johannes Brahms (致若翰內斯. 勃拉姆斯)



Finally, I can breathe a sigh of relief. At least for the moment, before my next course in Spanish begins in a month or so's time. Nothing can describe the lightness in my heart as I stepped out of the classroom, bantering with my classmates still awaiting their turn for the obligatory oral after finishing the written. I could go back to reading poetry now. I did just that. One of the poets I like is an almost blind Argentinian who never won the Nobel prize in literature,some say, because of his conservative political views. He's Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), a short-story writer, essayist, translator and poet who was anti-Peron but pro-Pinochet, born and dying in Buenos Aires, the capital of .Argentina and its head librarian.


A Johannes Brahms





Jo, que soy un intruso
en los jardines



Que has prodigado a la
plural memoria



Del porvenir, quise
cantar la gloria



Que hacia el azul erigen
tus violines.



He desistido ahora. Para
honrarte



No basta esa miseria que
la gente



Suele apodar con
vacuidad el arte.



Quien te horare ha de
ser claro y valiente.



Soy un cobarde. Soy un
triste. Nada



Podrá justificar esta
osadia



De cantar la magnifica
alegria



--Fuego y cristal—de tu
alma enramorada.



Mi servidumbre es la
palabra impura,



Vástago de un concepto y
de un sonido;



Ni simbolo, ni espejo,
ni gemido,



Tuyo es el rio que huye
y que perdura.


Jorge F. I. L. Borges



 









To Johannes Brahms



I, an intruder in the gardens


Who has wasted plural memories


To come, would like to sing
the glory                                                  


That
towards the blue your violins build.


I’ve stopped insisting now. To
honor thee.


No enough of this misery which
people


Hollowly nickname Art.


I’m a coward. I’m a sorrow.
Nothing


Would justify such daring.


To sing the great happiness


--Fire and crystal—of your
soul in love.                 

He who would honor you have to be bright and brave


My slavery is the impure word.


Offshoot of concept and sound.


Neither symbol nor mirror nor
moan,


Yours is the river that flows
and lives on .


                                                                                    (tr. El Zorro)



致若翰內斯. 勃拉姆斯


我,多個花園的侵擾者


揮霍了多少來日


回憶,多渴望歌訟你


小提琴向藍天築成的榮耀。


現不再堅持。為向你致敬。


人們習慣空洞地


給藝術添小名,夠苦了。


我是懦夫。我是悲苦。沒有


什麼可支撐這無理的大膽


歌訟你愛中靈魂


--火與水晶--的極樂。


祟敬你者必得靈巧與勇猛。                 

我只能以不潔的文字服役。


概念與聲的枝椏。


非象徵非鏡亦非呻吟


你則以那流動永生的河川。


(: 艾索羅)


 









2013年1月20日 星期日

A very Hot Antartica (熾熱的南極)

Two narrators at a concert? Yes, that's exactly what we had last Saturday: Michael MacLeod, the CEO of the HKPO and Rebecca Lee, founder and director of the Polar Museum Foundation. They were reading extracts from last journal of Robert Falcon Scott, the intrepid British explorer of Antartica who left New Zealand for that hitherto unknown continent of the world on 29th November, 1910 in a converted whale ship, His expedition arrived at the South Pole on 17th January, 1912 and but they all died on the return journey. He was the inspiration of Vaughan Williams' (1872-1958) Sinfonia Antartica with 5 movements, Prelude,Scherzo, Landscape, Intermezzo and Epilogue which he adapted from the music he wrote for the film Scott of the Antartic.

According to the programme notes, the prelude suggests the "hallucinatory visions at the limit of endurance" and the "terror an fascination" of such arctic conditions of ice, fog and blizzard and some foreboding of his destiny but the fanfare of trumpets were supposed to represent Scott's indomitable spirit. Scherzo was supposed to represent Scott's journey and the whales and penguins he saw there. The third movement Landscape was supposed to describe the bleak conditions of the Antartica and the indomitable human spirit. The organ in the music was supposed to represent the impassable "silent cataract" Scott encountered in the Antartica. The fourth movement's dreamy and romantic Intermezzo represented the presence of human warmth in the land of sub-zero. The final Epilogue recapitulates the initial theme of the Scott's determined march of first movement but he was finally overcome by the force of wind and blizzard, represented by bells, voices and a wind-machine. It was a magnificent piece of music, complete with brass, winds, strings, percussions and human voice in the form of the Hong Kong Children's Choir and soprano voice of Yuki Ip.

The Sinfonia Antartica was the climax piece of the evening. In the first part of the programme, we had another rarely heard short piece, the British composer Arnold Bax's (1883-1953) Tintagel, inspired by the ruins Bax saw there. It was a piece of music full of fantasy and romanticism. This was followed by the works of another composer rarely heard in Hong Kong, the Finnish Einojuhani Rautavaara's (b 1928) Cantus Acticus popularly known as Concerto for Birds and Orchestra. It was a concerto in which bird calls ( represented by a pair of flutes) are interwoven with the music amidst the desolate shores of the Gulf of Bothia, very close to the Arctic Circle.

Although none of the pieces played were familiar to me, the HKPO, together with the HK Children's Choir under the overall baton of Atherton gave us a very hot rendition of the north and south pole through the music selections of the evening. I have heard Rautavaar's music before. His music is always full of weird and unusual melodies and clashes which reminds one of the grey clouds and the sudden changes of weather and moods in the land where one doesn't see the sun for several months a year and then one never sees the sun sink below a certain level above the horizon for another several months of the year, a land of snow and ice and bitter blizzards and grey skies, but they are never so unusual as to be totally incomprehensible.  It's a completely new experience for me. Vauhan Williams is seldom heard too. But after hearing his Sinfonia Arctartica, I may look for his other music too.





2013年1月19日 星期六

週末笑話


有人話動物同人最大分別,係動物唔著衫而人要著衫,至於使唔使著埋條褲,就要睇吓旁邊係咪有人囉;但我就話唔係喇。我覺得佢地咁講,一D 都講唔到動物同人最大嘅分別。計我話,其實,最大嘅分別,仲使講,梗係人識笑,動物唔識笑啦。但係想人笑,唔...等我諗吓先,呀!得咗!重有乜好過講男男女女喎!一於係咁話,講笑就好難唔用語言囉。所以今個禮拜,就膽粗粗試吓語言既妙用先。


追求時,就千言萬語
戀愛時,就甜言蜜語
求婚時,就花言巧語
結婚後,就三言兩語
生仔後,就不言不語
吵架時,就污言穢語
冷戰時,就冷言冷語
飲醉時,就瘋言瘋語
忘形時,就豪言壯語
老年後,就自言自語
臨終時,就胡言亂語

寫中文字,真陰功,寫一個,查一個,所以字唔多,千祈唔好鬧我呀!週末愉快!

2013年1月17日 星期四

A Most Pleasant Surprise (意外驚喜)

It's not that often that we got the chance to hear some really good live chamber music. I got one last night. It was the Opening Night Gala Concert of the 4th HK International Chamber Music Festival 2013 organized Lin Cho-liang as its Artistic Director. We had some really good artists, performing either solo, in duets, quartets, sextet, octets and music from 18th century on but in different genres and styles, popular or not so popular.

The concert opened with two extracts (from a total of 13) from a familiar piece: Manuel de Falla's (1876-1946) El Amor Brujo, its Pantomine (Prelude: Adagio) and Ritual Fire Dance (Scherzo: Allegro Molto) (1897) but as performed by a sextet (Michael Guttmann, Lin Cho-liang, Toby Hoffman, Lenoard Elichensbroich, George Lomdaridze & Chen Sa), a work inspired by Andalucian gypsy dance queen Pastora Imperio about a young gypsy girl Candela haunted by her husband's ghost after she fell in love with another young man Carmelo which she and the other gypsies tried to exorcise by drawing the ghost to a bonfire as they danced in a kind of ecstasy around it, its pace becoming faster and faster as the dance whirled into a climax. They succeeded. We can almost feel the flickering of the tongues of fire as they jump up and down with the music. If the bass and cellos notes were a little less strong, it would have been perfect.

Next we had two seldom heard string octets: Shastakovich's (1906-1975) Two pieces for String Octet, Opus 11 (1925): Prelude in D minor (written in memory of one of his poet friends) and Scherzo in G Minor, both early works by the composer who was still feeling his way about. it's full of sudden switches of melodic motifs, giving it a very energetic but jerky dissonant feel but not lacking in smoother softer melodies, indicating certain unresolved conflicts. It was done by the Jerusalem Quartet with Lin, Guttmann, Hoffman and Elschenbroich.

Then we switched back more than a century to an early Beethoven String Quartet No. 6 in B-flat major (1800) performed by the Jerusalem Quartet (Kyril Zlotnikov, Amichai Grosz, Sergei Bresler,  Alexander Pavlovsky) in Allegro con brio, Adagio ma non troppo, Scherzo: Allegro, Finale: La Malinconia. It still showed heavily the the influence of the classical manner of composition in its first movement but then changed to something bearing a uniquely Beethovenian style from the second movement on, a style particularly marked in the last movement. The co-ordination between the members of the group was excellent as different instruments weave in and out of the music.

After the intermission, we had something altogether different again: three songs by George Gershwin(1898-1937) with his unique jazz style of composition: The Man I love, Someone to Watch over Me and But Not for Me (1924-1930). It was sung for us by a singer new to me, a full-bodied mezzo-soprano from America called Renée Tatum who first made her debut at the Met of New York in 2010, a good singer with a very rounded voice but to me, perhaps not so suitable for bringing out the kind of blue-sy jazz mood that one has come to expect from Gershwin's  type of music. She was accompanied by Taiwan pianist Wang Pei-yao, a very experienced chamber music pianist.

The next number from Gershwin is much better: An American in Paris for two pianos, played for us by a very talented and very lively Inon Barnatan with Chen Sa. He brought out fully the changing mood of the music, its swingy feeling and its verve. How I wished Chen Sa could have played with slightly more abandon and allowed herself to drown in the lilting rhythm of the music.

Then we got back to the romantic era with Schubert's Serenade done as a piano duet supposed to be done for us by Inon Barnatan and Evelyn Chang. But at last moment, the original pianist pretended to be totally unrprepared and Inon asked if anyone in the audience would be like to stand in for the original pianist. A  a lady member of the audience from the row in front of me raised her hand and was "invited" to play instead. This is probably just a ploy add some fun to concert. As it was an extremely popular piece, she played her part without any difficulty.

One of the highlights of the evening appeared next: Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the orchestral version of which I just heard last Saturday, but this time, by 4 pianists playing on two pianos: Inon Barnatan, Evelyn Chang, Chen Sa and Wang Pei-yao. They played perfectly. It was really fun to hear.

The final piece on the evening's program was Wagner's (1813-1883) Ride of the Valkyries (female warriors guarding Valhalla, daughters of Wotan)  by the same foursome. It was a completely different piece and certainly much more serious than the previous one. According to the programme notes, we hear in the music "the galloping of [the] airborne steeds, the rushing winds, [the] battle cries...the passionate tenderness as [Wotan] bids farewell to [Brunhilde, her disobedient daughter whom he condemned to become a mortal] , then a rocking lullaby sends her into an enchanted sleep. He surrounds her with a protective wall of fire." It was a magnificent performance and followed by an endless applause and an encore , Rossini's William Tell Overture.   A wonderful concert and a most pleasant surprise.












2013年1月16日 星期三

Should Discrimination against Gays and Lesbians be Legally Prohibited? (應否立法禁止歧視男/女同性戀者?)

In our society, gays and lesbians seldom openly acknowledge their sexual orientations. Most gays and lesbians are forced to live a shadowy existence in the dark corners of cinemas, restaurants, bars or the privacy of their "homes". Why? Experience has taught them that openly flaunting or even just accidentally disclosing their sexual orientation may have some serious consequences affecting their social encounters with "normal" people, the prospects of getting or retaining their job or careers or getting promotions or advancement, especially in the so-called disciplinary forces, the prospects of being admitted to certain social clubs, sports club or professional associations and very often conservative churches or religious-affiliated organizations and doing so are fraught with risk to their public image. Yet in other respects, gays and lesbians are just "ordinary" people, like you and me, who need to eat, to sleep, to wear clothes, to have sex, to love and be loved, to receive education, to have jobs or careers, a craft or a trade, to need housing or if they fall upon bad times, to need assistance from various services offered by the government and/or NGOs. Perhaps that's why most of them stay within their "closets". Common sense will tell us that if one has to constantly live in mortal fear of one's true "sexual identity" being exposed, that must be a very painful or at least not a very pleasant experience. What is the reason for such pain and suffering, such unpleasantness or such artificially raised obstacles to leading a rather more "normal" life which every one else seem able to enjoy? Prejudice and arising from such prejudice discriminatory remarks and acts of refusing exposed gays and lesbians some of the essential services, opportunities and assistance they need to live a "normal" life.

Curiously, some of the conservative Christians have gathered in huge numbers (they claim 50,000, the police say about 5,000) in public to voice their opposition to the Government's intention of legislating against discriminatory words and practices against persons with reference to their "sexual orientation". It's interesting to note that the Catholic Church, which boasts some 300,000 faithfuls in Hong Kong, does not appear to have spoken out against the proposed legislation. Perhaps they think that such legislation is consistent with the notion of Christian love and justice. Whatever the reason for such conspicuous absence may be, let's look a little more closely at  the grounds the Protestant Christians,which at one time was a progressive force in the Christian movement, claim to have in support of the validity of their claims? I do not claim to know all their grounds. According to the report of the Ming Pao (14.01.13):
(1) 大會宣言強調「人人平等」,「反同性戀行為,不等於歧視同性戀者」
(2)發言牧師亦指出,教會從不是強迫別人接受他們觀念,但立法將
      (a) 帶來另一種歧視,並
      (b) 影響言論自由及下一代教育,「(立法後)同性戀者可以批評傳統一夫一妻,但我們不能批評同性戀」。
(3) 多個基督
教團體為反對性傾向歧視條例立法...活動召集人、播道會恩福堂牧師譚子舜雖強
調,只反對立法但並非反對就是否立法諮詢,但大會講道牧者之一、陳恩明牧師在台上表示,如果展開諮詢就沒辦法不立法,擔心一旦立法,會造成「逆向歧視」。

It seems to me that those who argue thus would, on a superficial first look, appear to have some grounds but upon examination, such "grounds" do not appear to be logically and factually sustainable. I'll explain why.

The Assembly emphasized the concept of "人人平等". If that means every one should enjoy equal "rights", then I suppose that must include the "right not to be discriminated against" by reason of their sexual orientation, a concept much wider than just homosexuality or lesbianism but also includes heterosexual orientations. If so, one must ask, "what must be the necessary consequences of having homosexual or lesbian orientations?" Certainly one necessary consequence of having such sexual orientations or tendencies must be the "expression" of such "orientations" or "tendencies" in real life i.e. conduct which such sexual orientations naturally lead to. The opposing Christians appear to want to distinguish "homosexual conduct" from the "practitioner" of such "homosexual conduct". Conceptually of course, a person is not necessarily just his conduct: it may include his thoughts, his feelings, his attitudes or his tendencies to behave in certain ways rather than in other ways.  By way of answer, I would ask them an extremely simple question: "can there ever be human conduct without a human being?" The answer seems obvious. If we can't, then will "discrimination against homosexual conduct" not to the extent that the Christians discriminate against such "homosexual conduct"  not at the same time be discriminating against the homosexuals as human beings too?  In classical Chinese philosophy, we learn that the nominalists (名家) have once argued that "a white horse is not a horse" (白馬非馬) i.e. an "attribute" of a horse is not "identical" with the horse. This is certainly analytically correct. But I ask, in reality, as a matter of telling how we judge a homosexual as a person in our every day encounter with the latter, can we separate his "identity" as a "homosexual' from his "homosexual conduct"?  Even if they argue that "theoretically" or "linguistically" we can do so, such an argument can have no "practical" or "empirical" meaning in the actual context in which such so-called "Christians" encounter the relevant homosexuals. In short, they are talking "non-sense" or "nonsense." Verbal tricks of sophistry will get them nowhere .
 
Those who are against legislating against discrimination against other persons by reason of their "sexual orientations" also appear to be claiming that legislation will bring about "another kind of discrimination" which 陳恩明牧師 elaborates as 「逆向歧視」or "reverse discrimination". Here I suppose what he means is that once the relevant legislation is passed, then Christian mouths will be muzzled and their voice silenced IF they continue to preach against homosexuality in accordance with their own interpretations of certain passages in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. They claim that  homosexuals may criticize the one-man-one woman traditional marriage but Christians will not be permitted to criticize homosexuality「(立法後) 同性戀者可以批評傳統一夫一妻,但我們不能批評同性戀 」. To me, there are a number of problems with this "argument".
(1) Hong Kong is a party to the International Covenant of Human Rights. The HKSAR Government is committed to freedom of speech and publication, and also to  freedom to practice one's own religion or faith, both of which are our fundamental rights. Such right will extend "equally" to homosexuals and Christians alike. The homosexuals will NOT have any rights which the Christians do not now enjoy. IF we may judge by reference to our existing legislation against discrimination against "gender", then, as far as freedom of speech is concerned, only what the ordinary person regard as "abusive" or "insulting" words and words  which may reasonably be viewed (the test being objective) as "disturbing" will be prohibited. If so, then if a Christian minister preaches his faith and beliefs in accordance with what is said in the Bible, including those passages in the Bible that he/she believes is against homosexual practices ( actually the words "homosexuality" or "lesbianism" or for that matter, the expression "sexual orientation"  do not appear in the Bible for the simple reason that such concepts did not yet exist at the time they were written or edited), to people who attend at their churches or places of worship and not talk openly to the lay public on the radio or some other secular environment against the express provision of the intended legislation, then he/she will be well within their rights. 
(2) We have not yet seen the true text of the intended legislation. Therefore we do NOT YET know what EXACTLY will be included or not included in the intended law. IF "Christians" are worried that their "freedom of speech" or their "religious freedom" in regard to "discrimination" against homosexuality may be infringed, I am quite sure they will through more than one "anti-homosexuality"  sympathizers in the Legislative Assembly propose the relevant "amendments" to the draft legislation to ensure that their rights to preach their own faith within their church will be preserved. In any event, if as they claim, they are not "against discrimination against homosexuals", then there should be little to worry about. It seems that they are jumping the gun and "crying wolf" by claiming that the proposed legislation will lead to "reverse discrimination" and "loss of freedom of speech" for Christians even before the text of the relevant legislation is out. I don't think they will be foolish enough to argue that they have a "right" to "discriminate" against 'homosexuals" once the proposed legislation is passed. If not, what "rights" will they have lost by the intended legislation?
(3) "reverse discrimination"  (「逆向歧視」) is a legal concept related to what has been called "affirmative action". In ethnic legislation in America, certain states have in purported implementation of "equal rights" for ethnic minorities, given "priority" to certain ethnic minorities in their admission policies for state colleges by fixing a definite "ratio" for the annual intake of students based on their ethnicity instead of on their objectively tested academic abilities. Such "active steps" taken to redress the perceived disproportion of the number of "ethnic majority" to "ethnic minority" (whites vs colored) in college population is called "affirmative action" but the courts have already ruled against this kind of "mechanical" application of the principles of ethnic equality. To me, it is a complete abuse of the term "reverse discrimination" if religious ministers apply this term in the context of "discrimination" against homosexuality in Hong Kong. There simply cannot be any conceivable possibility of any "affirmative action" being applied in Hong Kong to get organizations or institutions, whether government or private, to fix a "quota" or "ratio" for the admission of homosexual or lesbian students or employees in the relevant institutions vis-a-vis the number or proportion of non-homosexual or non-lesbian students or employees for the simple reason that unlike the case of ethnic minorities whose race can be easily checked and verified by looking at their birth certificates because it is something which all Hong Kong citizens are lawfully required to obtain within a certain period of their actual biological birth, it is most difficult in practice to tell if someone is definitely and objectively a 'homosexual" or a "lesbian", apart from their own "declaration" that they are so.  I do not know if the relevant religious ministers have actually studied the relevant literature before they use the term. If they have not, then I suggest that they do. To me, it seems quite irresponsible to use the expression "reverse discrimination"  for political or religious purposes without knowing their proper meaning or worse, if they do know it, to deliberately abuse it by using it in improper and an otherwise inapplicable context. This type of verbal "sleight of hand" or trickery is called "concept switching".

For the avoidance of doubt, I have no axe to grind. I am not a homosexual or bisexual and have absolutely no intention of becoming either. But I am deeply troubled by the stance of certain conservative and purportedly "Christian" groups ( I say "purported"  deliberately because to me Christians should be all loving and fair, like the God they say they worship) to further what I regard as fear mongering amongst not only their faithfuls but also amongst the general public against the idea of the homosexuals and lesbians getting their right not to be discriminated against in their daily lives in the sphere of their employment and education and the obtaining of the needed services by virtue of their sexual orientation. In passing the relevant legislation, we are not giving them any EXTRA rights. All that our government intends to do is to level the grounds for them ie. giving BACK to them certain rights that they have been UNJUSTLY ( UNFAIRLY) DEPRIVED  of, rights which every one else in Hong Kong already enjoys, but not them because of the perceived "prejudice" by certain members of our community against them as a minority group.