My Bodyguard


Photo taken while taking a break from Singing Bee transcriptions. Yeah, I know the quality sucks - Dex should get me a phone with a better camera Happy

Meet Guenther. He is temporarily staying with us, while we are nursing him back to good health. Dex got him from a friend who left to work abroad. He's been with us for around three weeks. I am still undecided as to whether we'll keep him. We currently have three dogs with us, and a fourth one is about to arrive in a few weeks.

Lately, Guenther keeps me company during my all-nighters when hubby is fast asleep. Guenther used to sleep out in the yard but would wake us with his howling, so we decided to let him sleep inside the house. Surprisingly, he is very well-behaved indoors.

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Changed My RSS Feed

Hi guys, if anyone is subscribed to my blog's RSS Feed, I just changed it to this. Please update your feeds. Sorry for the hassle.

I don't think I'll irk a lot of people, though, 'cause this blog gets read by only a few people ... still I keep blogging away anyway, he he Happy After all, what's a website if it isn't regularly updated?


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This Week's Tasks, Plus Some Tidbits About My Dad

1.) 37 Final Countdown plus 7 Showdown numbers for Singing Bee - due on Monday, July 21

Been writing transcriptions for Singing Bee for 2+ months now. For some reason, the load got doubled this weekend. It's probably because my dad, who is the musical director of the show, is doing other shows this month. My dad is the type to farm out his work to other arrangers when he wants to focus on certain projects, to churn out quality arrangements. He is heavily involved in the planning, writing, and of course, music, for Dolphy's show. He's the perfect choice for that show because he's a natural comedian.
(Sometimes I regret that I didn't inherit his showmanship or sense of humor, or ability to command the attention of whatever room he is in, with the least amount of effort. I'm more of my mom in personality, and many of my strengths are different from his, I think.)

My dad, Mel Villena, the Singing Bee Maestro, with the Bandble Bee. Photo taken from


2.) 1 big band arrangement for The CompanY's album - due on Wednesday, July 23

This gives me two days to write it... Hope I do it well despite the time crunch! A big band arrangement is always a dream project for me - even if I do still struggle with the medium sometimes, what with me not being a wind player - but neither was Maria Schneider, Gil Evans, Angel Pena, Michael Giacchino, and a host of other arrangers I truly admire, who write for big band. In other words, no one should use that excuse to explain shortcomings in writing for wind instruments (that he/she isn't a wind player), he he.

The CompanY is coming out with an exciting album! I'll post more details as soon as the project is well under way (I don't want to post spoilers).

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a video of The CompanY performing an arrangement of mine - A Night in Tunisia for Big Band. (I wrote for the big band while The CompanY arranged all vocal parts)

3.) 2 medleys for Dolphy's upcoming show - due on Friday, July 25

I also have two days to do these numbers. Yeeee! Good luck to me.

Pressure is good, in some ways.

My dad will be musical director of this show. Do we smell some nepotism with regard to my current gigs? He he. Well, in defense of his choice of arrangers, I do believe I've earned a bit of experience to be considered his "colleague" (a newbie in comparison to him, maybe, but a colleague nevertheless). He did wait for me to get hired by other people as an arranger, before he decided to hire me in some of his projects, and before he started referring me to his contacts. I got lots of stories and funny incidents related to being the daughter of a well-known and accomplished musical director and arranger here in the Philippines. But I will save those for other posts.

The current onslaught of arranging gigs given to me by my dad - those that aren't related to Singing Bee - may be due in part to shared tastes in music. I grew up listening to his sounds around the house. We both love big band, jazz, world music, and any kind of pop which has some quirkiness to it - mixing genres, experimenting. He is particularly good at big band, soul, show tunes, and novelty or arrangements with a lot of character. His arrangements, more often than not, show an original and highly imaginative mind. He confesses to not being the most mainstream arranger, because his music often has more quirkiness to it to be really considered mainstream, but I'd say he's in a very good niche which not many people are in, and thus the jobs still flow freely. (But of course the real reason is God's providence, behind it all... )

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This is Fairly Accurate...

Personality test, anyone?

These are my results:

My personality type: the individualistic doer

Individualistic Doer (ID)

Individualistic Doers are self-assured and very independent persons. They are quiet and realistic, very rational, extremely matter of fact persons. They strongly cultivate their individualism and enjoy applying their abilities to new tasks. But they are also very spontaneous and impulsive persons who like to follow their sudden inspirations. Individualistic Doers are good and precise observers who register everything which goes on around them. However, they are not so sensitive as regards interpersonal relations and are surprised when they occasionally rub someone up the wrong way with their direct and blunt manner. They are not particularly fond of obligations; but if you give them space, they are uncomplicated, sociable and cheerful individuals.

Individualistic Doers enjoy challenges - action and the odd kick are simply part of their life. They love tempting fate and many people of this type have risky hobbies such as skydiving or bungee jumping. This also applies to their workaday life. Individualistic Doers are in top form in critical situations; they can grasp situations, make decisions and take the necessary steps extremely quickly. Hierarchies and authorities impress them very little; if a superior is not competent, they will have little respect for him. Individualistic Doers like to take on responsibility. They have a marked sense of reality and always find the most suitable and expedient solution for a problem. They resolve conflicts openly and directly; here, they sometimes lack tact but are also very good at taking criticism themselves.

As friends, Individualistic Doers are loyal and devoted; they only have a few friendships but many of them last a lifetime. People enjoy talking to them because of their optimistic attitude to life and their ability to listen. However, they prefer to talk about mutual interests and hobbies rather than about theoretical or philosophical issues - they are not tangible enough for them. They need a lot of freedom and time to themselves in love relationships but, at the same time, they are also very tolerant towards their partners. It happens very seldom that Individualistic Doers fall head over heels in love. They are far too rational. They prefer to pick their partner on the basis of mutual interests and preferences which they want to share with that partner. Individualistic Doers are not particularly fond of effusive outbursts of emotion. They prefer to prove their love by their actions and expect the same of their partner. Whoever wishes to tie an Individualistic Doer to himself needs a lot of patience. It takes some time before this personality type is willing to get involved with another person.

Adjectives which describe your type
introverted, practical, logical, spontaneous, adventurous, resolved, independent, fearless, loyal, analytical, realistic, optimistic, interested, quiet, curious, circumspect, individualistic, action-loving, venturesome, cool, dispassionate, reserved, skilful, confident, independent, communicative, down-to-earth

These subjects could interest you
travel, nature, hiking, cars, model making, gardening, drawing/painting, astrology, spiritual matters, music, literature, writing, strategy games, politics

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Are CDs Becoming Obsolete?

Here's a slideshow I found at Future of Music. There's not much I know about these things, but any revolutionizing forces which will benefit musicians and their listeners are okay in my book.

Notice that in slide 18, the Philippines are the second highest country in terms of downloading music without paying. China ranks first. But China's population (1.3 billion) is seventeen times that of ours (76 million)! No wonder nobody buys CD's here these days.

If there are countries whose music industries ought to shape up in terms of maximizing the current technology, and the thousands of social interactions on the net, we are first on the list.

In the light of these findings, how can our artists and music producers change the way the music industry markets and distributes music in the Philippines? Or whatever country you're from? Feel free to post your thoughts.

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What I've Been Doing This Week


This week, aside from my usual Singing Bee load, we've been editing material for Lea Salonga's performance at the Disney Concert Hall on Friday, July 11 2008. We've been tailoring the pieces to fit the instrumentation - a 6-piece rhythm section plus a string section - distributing assignments to the synths and percussion. Usually I don't like editing anything - be it music sheets or words on a paper. It might be because my strength is in painting with broad strokes, not in the little details. Or so I think. But of course, I know I ought to get better in that too.

But I find that I'm enjoying this particular task because I'm getting to peek at and analyze the scores. It's like getting arranging lessons for free.

That's it for now - thanks for dropping by.


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Kung Fu Panda plus Thoughts on Music


This has got to be my favorite movie this year - er, aside from Iron Man and Prince Caspian. Good story, casting, scenic landscapes, great camera action. I love the music on this one - by Hans Zimmer and John Powell.

The Music

It incorporates a lot of oriental elements - Chinese gongs, drums, maybe even an Erhu here and there. What makes it extraordinary, aside from the excellent themes, is the seamless blend of orchestra and electronic elements, which I think is a specialty of the two composers involved. I thought I could hear some Stylus RMX samples in the background (?). The film has everything you'll look for in a Hollywood score - superb action sequences , humor, big festive sequences, grand and sweeping music for the scenic landscapes, a bit of drama/sentiment (the music for Oogway Ascends had a solo violin, played Asian style, it made me cry - but then again it might just be hormones too)...

My Thoughts on Asian Music in General...

Chinese music, as well as many other kinds of Asian music have a very distinct stamp, that even non-Chinese composers can make their compositions acquire the characteristics of that music. Moreover, their traditional music is very much still alive and well-supported.

I know that Filipino traditional music - gongs, chants and drum music of the North and South regions also has its own intricacies which cannot be found anywhere else. It just makes me sad that this aspect of our culture is not something which permeates our daily consciousness. Or should I speak for myself - Filipino traditional music is not something that comes naturally to me. Because of the minimal exposure that I have towards it, if I'd need to create a score or an arrangement which should sound "Filipino", it will take more effort for me to come up with one, than if I were just to make a regular score.

But I don't think it's too late to delve into it, in my case. It's really my long-term goal to immerse in these traditions, and come up with music - whether compositions, scores, or arrangements - that will be influenced by these traditions. Bob Aves, a superb composer/arranger/guitar player has made it his life's work, as well as Angel Pena.

Though I don't know yet how far I'd like to go into it, I just feel that I don't want the traditional music to go to waste. I'm also not ascribing any notions of nobility into my individual venture. I just really want it to be a major influence.

The thoughts I've mentioned above were for me as an individual composer/arranger. As a group, though, FILharmoniKa, with a lot of help from the best people (you know who you are, he he) has taken a very big step towards that goal - with the recent recordings and performances featuring Filipino works, a lot of which feature Filipino folk songs and traditional music. With those alone, I think we're all in for a brighter future for Filipino music.

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