From 1998 to 2008, I was involved in the classical music scene in Singapore. In 1998, the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra was formed with Lim Yau as its Music Director. I joined the orchestra as its concertmaster and led it in productions such as Verdi's Macbeth, Leoncavallo's Pagliaci, and Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. In 2002, Lim Yau established the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (now the Philharmonic Orchestra), and I became part of it, again as concertmaster. I led the orchestra in notable projects such as Rethinking Beethoven's 9 - Reading Jonathan Del Mar's Beethoven in 2003 (the first time Beethoven's symphonic cycle, based on Del Mar's edition, was performed in Singapore), The Schumann Symphonies: Madness. Breaks. Schizophrenia. Flows in 2004, and Schubert In-Complete in 2005. In 2002, I also helped the orchestra premier Piazzolla's Seasons. The orchestra continued to collaborate actively with opera and ballet companies at that time, and I led it in Puccini's Madame Butterfly (with the Singapore Dance Theater in 2003, and with the Singapore Lyric Opera in 2005), Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty (with the Singapore Dance Theater in 2004), and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker (with the Singapore Dance Theater in 2005).
While the rush in leading the orchestra in the Beethoven or Schumann symphonies and the emotional intensity in leading it during opera and ballet productions are all thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable, every musician will still acknowledge that to be part of a string quartet is a priceless experience. I was thus extremely fortunate to have spent a significant amount of time playing in one during my time with the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Cheng Ee Lu, Paul Seach Joo Goh, and Hou Koon Lee, who were also principal players of the orchestra during that period, were my quartet companions, and I could not ask for better companions to study the Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Dvorak quartets.
I stopped playing in 2006 when I took up the Visiting Fellowship at Harvard University. At the end of 2006, however, I was asked to help set up the petit ensemble re: mix. With this group, I tried to experiment how a classical music outfit could engage itself with philosophy, film, architecture, dance, and popular culture. Among other programs, I conceptualized "film/ music" for the group in 2007, which took as its point of departure Roland Barthes's statement that film begins when image and sound did not cohere. In "film/ music," Bernard Hermann's Psycho Suite, Shigeru Umebayashi's Yumeji's Theme, and Michael Galasso's Ang Kor Wat Theme had their premier performances in Singapore. I left the group in 2008.
Music evidently forms a huge part of my life. From time to time, I have introduced music into my academic writings, though not in any real, significant way. I suspect it is but a matter of time before music becomes the focus of one of my future academic project. Well, not surprising, then, I have found myself working with Chris Swithinbank, music grad student at Harvard, on a forthcoming special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review on "Music and Theory: New Ontologies, Politics, and Materialities"!