Monthly Archives: January 2014

Re-present. Re-create.

I’m only ‘re-presenting’ what’s already been out there. I’m open enough to sense, catch the vibration/frequency of whatever the music I’d like to work with, which touches my soul.

Sometimes they go through me leaving no trace, sometimes it gets struck. I’m no creator in that sense, but I am an open vessel/pot I’m able to compile, mix, season them to re-create my own. I could say, my creativity is my blender. It’s the processor.

Finally a progress.

Been neglecting blog post. Too many things to accomplish this week, but why don’t I share some since I’m writing a journal for school anyway. I have been sitting here at home for hours ever since and I just accomplished somewhat presentable piece of music, so I’m going to take a break and write a bit.

So the semester has began, and on top of all the school work, I’m officially involved in Lasalle Theatre production, Romeo And Juliet by William Shakespeare. I’ve been sitting in the theatre rehearsal whenever I can. So far I’m loving it.

It was a tough decision to make to accept this position due to overwhelming amount of schoolwork even without it…(3 professors smiling and convinced me somehow) but I thought it is totally new for me and out of comfort zone, so I took it. I would love to see what kind of music I will write and also theatre is something very different from any production I’ve ever involved in (it’s always been dance, musical or concert). So as a big fan of productive uncomfortable zone, I had no other option for me.

Anyway, the class is wonderfully led by Adam Marple, the Lecturer of BA Acting at Lasalle. The class has such diverse characters and I love watching all of them hanging out. Very interesting mix of origin too. Very Singapore.

The play has a collaborative parts, and there is one scene that music needs to be done ASAP. The Ballroom Masquerade party at Capulet’s (that is Juliet’s house) will have dancers from dance department. They need to choreograph and start rehearsing.
So yes. The pressure is on.

I’ve been really struggling last few days (I’m not talking about home issues here).
I just couldn’t go beyond 25% with my ideas.
I had many, and none came through. I seriously didn’t know what to do.

I had this idea of writing a Drum’n Bass (call it DnB) tune for the Masquerade at Capulet’s, and I had some nice ideas around it.  So I started to make beats and bass lines.  Some came 25%, which was a lot compared to other pieces of ideas which were mere 5%…. the dance class lecturer Melissa was also cool with having DnB for her class to dance for this scene, but somehow the music didn’t flow.

During Christmas time last year, I also did have a bit of pressure writing arrangements for Naughty ‘Noor’ Nice, and I learned to ‘switch’ off or be ‘away’, just make sure not staying at the same mental space – so when I couldn’t go beyond certain point, I decided to leave DnB for a while. I’ve been off Facebook lately, but I just went to browse around, and first thing I saw was artist/illustrator Mike Mindflyer uploaded his homage to YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra), and a small lightning in my head – I got a spark of inspiration.

I was ready to take a break and chill out, but I didn’t want this spark to leave me, so I went right back to my workstation, and started recording a totally different music!

So now 75% done… I think it’s good enough as a draft. Will submit like this and fix it.

First composition for Romeo And Juliet is New Wave Techno Disco(with some weird elements that came out of no where). I don’t know if this is acceptable for the dancers but I made it to make sure I can dance and party. I do have undone draft of DnB version and it’s totally different, so I shall continue from time to time to finish it.

Now I can finally get to other assignment….trying not to panic here.

A rare ‘reflection’ entry.
Hope I can upload the track when it’s mixed (another journey).

Aya Sekine Journal 2014 – New Year Special : Part 2 – Aya Interviews Andrew

This is a sequel to my post earlier.

I am very happy to be hosting a counter-interview project brought to me by guitarist Andrew Lim who resides in New York for last 3 years.

Read Vol.1 here → ★ 


Andrew’s photo by Andy Yang, Aya’s photo by Dju-Lien Chan (Primary Studio)

How it started. 

It was a pleasant surprise and honour for such an independent thinker to interview me about life and music – although we’ve known each other for years and both strived as Jazz musicians in the same music scene, we both have different upbringings and characters.  Since he has brought up this project of interviewing me, I’ve also decided to interview him and see what we get out of it – and maybe it would be a great thing to share what we feel about music and life with all.  Thank you Andrew for wanting to know – because I believe in talking about things, especially about how I feel about things.  Here is the counter Interview project, part 2.


PART 2 – Aya interviews Andrew 

What seems to enhance your music/practicing/writing? 

(I actually meant to ask them all in one shot, but Andrew has given me individual answers and they were interesting, so there.)

In music : When you say music I’m assuming you’re talking about the performance aspect? The things that I noticed have helped  get me to be in the zone are things like making sure I practiced the physical aspect on my instrument really slowly and with intent and not leaving out all the core physicalities that go into producing a good sound on it. also I’ve found that is only half the picture, the other half is when I spent some time activating my aural faculties and making that connection with the instrument. I.e making sure I’m playing what I hear. in order to do that, i just sing melodies in my head and strive to play exactly that with no fluff.

In practicing : Being in a space where I’m not distracted and also filled with love. sometimes its hard so I’ll go listen to some music instead… does the trick always. what also helps,personally, is to have a clear intent on a really small amount of information and focusing on that. and then practicing the exact opposite after that.

In writing : playing the piano really helps the writing bit. I’ll find myself thinking a lot more about pure ideas. it’s also helpful in the way the instrument is so orchestral. something i have less access to on the guitar.

What seems to bring you down, which brings your productivity in practicing/playing/writing etc?

In music/performance : when I’m in an uncomfortable mental space. so many things cause it and I’m trying to work each aspect so they don’t bug me anymore. some sources of discomfort, when there is not enough mastery of the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements at hand. I know it sounds obvious but its the shaky foundation that leads to all kinds of worries and doubt.  Also whenever I ignore the concept of balance in my practice’ll show up in the playing.

In practicing :  the biggest impediment I’ve found is when I’m trying too fast to “get somewhere”. I’ve found over the years that anything you can’t do is made up of a multitude of little problems that you have to solve first. I get in trouble when I forget, or, fail to see the smaller issues that I need to work on first.

In writing : a judgemental mind? also, for every idea that doesn’t work, it’s only one tweak away to make it happen. I’ve learnt not to throw anything away…but rather just think of one small modification at a time.

Andrew with Chok Kerong and Soh Wen Ming “A Sleepin’ Bee”

What was the most inspiring thing that happened to you(since moving to New York)? 

I don’t know if I can pare it down to any one experience. So many things have affected me here, the different pockets of musicians here, all intensely connected to what they chose to do, and as hard as life is here for a musician, everyone is kept afloat by their belief and the scene is inspiring that way.  I’ve never met so many people so committed to their vision that has nothing to do with the marketplace before. Also playing gigs then realising you have Barry Harris, Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Harold Mabern, Russell Malone, Danilo Perez, Peter Bernstein right in front of you in pretty horrifying LOL.  Some of them tell me nice things when I played well and some keep quiet coz I was BS-ing.  But its inspiring coz you get an instant indicator… you know you need to hold yourself to a higher standard very quickly and edit out all the fluff if you are serious about this music.

What was the most discouraging thing?

When I’m making music with musicians who don’t care.

What is Jazz to you? Why are you playing Jazz?

I used to think about that all the time but don’t do it  anymore. I just let it be what it wants to be in my life. when I started, it was just because  the music sounded great and it was fun playing something that kinda sounded like it.  Over time, as I got more into it, it just felt like I was exposed to so much truth within it that I couldn’t look at life in the same way anymore.  It’s become a mediation, a means to chip away at who I am, a gift to people willing to listen…I’m still finding out as of now.

“It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” we all know this infamous Duke Ellington tune and we both love to swing as well.

What do you think is most important thing to be a Jazz musician/Jazz practitioner BESIDES ‘swing’?

To be in LOVE and to be in SERVICE to others.  I started out only taking from and as I grew, I realised the importance of giving more and more. I’m not talking about just material giving here, but a giving of honesty, of spirit, of care.  These things are what makes an artist.  First we see, then we have to give of ourselves. me..has the most direct effect on the music.

If you never learn the melody/changes, how to deal with harmony, etc….and love people….you’ll always be a taker.  You can’t give something you don’t have.

Do you think it’s possible for Singapore to have bigger Jazz scene? 

I don’t know about that.  If you lived truthfully and try to set an example, hopefully people can start to discern for themselves what’s up? I know what I’m striving to be and that’s only because of the many angels I’ve had who were there to show me some aspect of the truth, whether I was ready for it at that time or not.  I’m hopeful …. hope is really all we got isn’t it?

Singapore may not have the big Jazz scene. What would you tell young Singaporean Jazz enthusiasts, to encourage them?

You better you listen, the more you learn.  Learn to love more than yourself. That’s all I have to say…am working on all these same things…. see you at the end folks.

(Interview completed December 31st, 2013)


My after thought :

We both enjoyed answering eachothers questions.  It is really good to know what we think are important – there are some similarity in our answers from different questions.  We are excited about this small interview sessions, and may continue in the near future.  I think next time will be a discussion, as this time it was more answering individually.

What I’ve noticed is that both of us are a big fan of  ‘acknowledging our levels’.  I also firmly believe reality is where everything starts.  Previously when we were talking about music, Andrew said ‘only way to grow is some discomfort’ which I couldn’t agree more, as I embarrass myself daily in school now (with or without people around), and this is how I’m learning with such strong conviction.  I know my weaknesses and I find them daily.  This is the best I felt in a long long time.   We could talk for hours about how embarrassed we are at times finding our weaknesses, but finding things to practice is fun.  Also we both are letting music lead our ways, not trying to make our ways.  Anyway I think it is great to share these type of thoughts.  It’s a blessing to have a friend who you can talk to about music so deeply.

In any case, I have played with Andrew countless time in the past, and I am really looking forward to play with him again – maybe in New York, maybe back here in Singapore! We will find out.

Thank you all for reading.

Aya Sekine Journal 2014 – New Year Special : Part 1 – Andrew interviews Aya

Andrew and I are ‘talking about it’

Upon this new year’s day, I have something special to share.

It’s been about 3 years since well known and much respected local Jazz guitarist Andrew Lim has left Singapore to further his study of Jazz, and pursue his artist career in New York City.  Early 2013 he has graduated from Aaron Copland School of Music(CUNY) with Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance and he has been actively performing in NYC since then.  He is always known for his distinguished guitar sound and his extremely sincere approach in music, at times I’ve even noticed him being distant from crowd – it was so encouraging and refreshing for me in where music is often treated as and I’m sure many felt the same way.  To me, he was not afraid to be different.  Though he never admitted or talked about himself as one, he has been a big inspiration for many musicians in Singapore and around South East Asia whether or not he is around.


It was a pleasant surprise and honour for such an independent thinker to interview me about life and music – although we’ve known each other for years and both strived as Jazz musicians in the same music scene, we both have different upbringings and characters.  Since he has brought up this project of interviewing me, I’ve also decided to interview him and see what we get out of it – and maybe it would be a great thing to share what we feel about music and life with all.  Thank you Andrew for wanting to know – because I believe in talking about things, especially about how I feel about things.

Here is a new year special for you all – a counter Interview project :


PART 1 – ANDREW interviews AYA 

Why did you feel a need to withdraw?

I didn’t withdraw to withdraw.  In order for me to focus on my own mission, withdrawing had to happen, it was a natural thing.  But I do not deny the fact I ‘wanted’ to withdraw from where I was.  My ‘way’ came so strong, that I made adjustments, that’s all.

Anything that sparked it off? or was it a cumulative thing?

It was gradual until decision was made to move on to a direction so that was cumulative, but I drew a clear line that everyone could see. I let go my regular position as resident player and live music director of BluJaz Cafe. As for the decisions, I’ve written Pages almost daily or at least tried to, to figure out where I was and where I wanted to be.  I was royal and honest with myself, so decision came naturally.  At times I had sparks of great ideas while I was writing my Pages (Pages as in Morning Pages – will explain on another day, but it’s basically a longhand, stream of consciousness writing ), though.

What things you’ve been checking out in your new journey so far?

I have been checking out what I seem to want to check out. I’m quite focused about what myself is asking for, as well as being open to catch many music/musicians around me (in Singapore or far) that seems to tap my sensor. For Jazz, I have been deeply re-inspired by pianists who comes from Bebop era (or even a little before) such as Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Sonny Clark, Wynton Kelly, Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller.  They give me so much love so generously (I receive them generously too), and I am very inclined to embrace what they had, and would like to practice in their tradition.

How has it affected your current process that makes it different from before?

I have more time for myself, less income but the happiness I have now is nowhere near any money that I ever made. I draw a clear line between MONEY AND MUSIC.  Music is still winning.  I am lucky because I’m still surviving and not starving. This is a truthfully fortunate situation.

What difficulties are you facing now?

I have so much more time, but I can never have enough. At times I am fighting with anxiety of wanting to do more (practice, study, research, transcribe etc…) but the day is only 24hours! Also I am developing some occupational hazard* from sitting long hours while composing or arranging on my home DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
*I have tendency to push too hard and have a history in severe tendonitis and injury due to not pacing myself, so I need to learn to take breaks really, this is a challenge.

What difficulties do you see yourself facing in time to come?

I wouldn’t have much difficulties to suffer, but I may go for more challenge and it may give me a lot of pressure. I need to learn how to take breaks and relax.  I have suffered anxiety disorder and panic attack syndrome so I know my tendencies quite well. Now I’m very aware of ‘facing difficulties’ and how to avoid it.

What keeps you hopeful?

The music I want to play, and things I don’t know that are waiting for me to discover. I am simply excited.

Name me three inspirations off the top of your head….

  1. things I want to practice
  2. great music to listen live
  3. tunes I maybe writing after tough challenges of trying to compose.

Why are you doing this?

Music is setting my way. I’m just following. I am serious. I just make sure I’m open at all times, and so I can catch any hint of where I’m putting my foot next.

(interview completed Dec 3rd, 2013)



Stay tuned for Part 2, Aya interviews Andrew.

Coming tonight!