The Night Festival

I only went for the lights but was quickly drawn into the festival itself. The lights are a lure you see, they tempt you down to the museum and then, since you’re there, why not peruse what else the festival had to offer?

The light show projected onto the outside of the National Museum was short but intriguing. Another story for the mind to tell. Whereas, the light show at Marina Bay told the full emotive story, this time a prompt, a mere whisper of an idea was seeded in the watchers’ brains allowing us to continue and conclude to story as we wished. Here, we delved into the Sci-Fi genre. The geometric lines that define each feature of the building begin to warp and twist as reality changes. The façade shatters, the shards blown around by an invisible wind before they settle into a new shape and a stone lion peers out from the wall.

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Suddenly, the world glitches. Strips of white static followed by the whine of a feedback loop and colour bars signalling a hack. Points of light fly across building’s surface, warping the image as they move. We know now that we are not the only reality and that all realities are nothing more than a computer program, a network of ones and zeros, susceptible to both glitch and hack. But what is this? As successive realities shatter and warp out of existence, how do we know if this if glitch or hack? Will the program reboot? Or is this the end? This is the question left to the watcher, the opportunity to dive to the depths of imagination and explore the world through another’s eyes.

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From Sci-Fi to fantasy, with the end of the show I dive into the world of the night festival. For a fantastical moment, I see the festival trough my mind’s eye, not as the modern day world of electricity and AstroTurf, but as a faire in a foreign land, filled with enchantments and magic. Here the grass underfoot is transformed from plastic to thick turf, spongy and spelled to not become mud under the tread of a thousand people. Fairy lights strung between trees become beads of magic, dancing through the air and bathing the world in their soft glow. Drinks that flash with the piercing blue of LEDs, are painted as exotic and exciting elixirs, promising all the fun of ale without the lingering headache. Only the white peaked food tents remain untouched, they already fill the night air with a heady array of smells and flavours. Perhaps if I was closer and could see inside, I would see wisps of magic as food is cooked over open flames and tossed on to waiting plates.

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As I wander through the night, strains of music call to me. Whispering in my ear to watch this show for just a little while. To relax in the lawn hammocks and let the music roll over me as I soak in the lively atmosphere and sounds of laughter and joy. While it may be odd for a physics student to wonder around with magic in her eyes, it is hard to resist when an extra layer of life adds a whole new world to this program of reality.

National Day

Every year, on the 9th August, Singapore celebrates its independence from Malaysia in the form of a National Day Parade.  Anticipation for the day has been building for weeks now as the city slowly rolls out colours of red and white.  While residential blocks and schools are draped in flags, public buildings proudly support banners and signs wishing Singapore a Happy 52nd Birthday.  It is impossible to miss this display of national pride when even the lamppost across from my room bares a banner proudly proclaiming this year’s theme: One Nation Together.  Hence, it was with much excitement that I looked forward to yesterday’s celebrations.

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In keeping with the spirit of the day, I donned my red and white before making my way to the Marina Bay Waterfront with a group of fellow exchangers.  We left with plenty of time to spare, aware that access to the Waterfront would close if it became overcrowded.  While this allowed us to find a seat on the wooden decking with relative ease, we were left exposed to the beating sun of Singapore until it sank behind looming skyscrapers.  Thankfully, we were able to put our umbrellas to best use and were sheltered from the worst of the sun’s rays, if not the oppressive heat.

The cries of the crowd drew our attention as everyone rose en masse, bringing their phones to bare.  The helicopter is little more than a dot in the sky and remains so as figures begin to leap from it.  Slowly they drift down jetting red smoke, tiny figures gradually growing larger on their parachutes.  As they land out of sight, the crowd returns to their conversations; where we are seated offers no commentary and the main performance is out of sight so we sit and talk while we wait for the next feature: the flyby.

I have heard the planes practicing overhead every day since I arrived in Singapore and on a couple of occasions had even spotted the F-15 SG fighters at a distance.  However, nothing could have prepared me for the thundering roar that shook my bones as they flew directly overhead before sweeping up in a twisting show of the jets’ capabilities.  Sweeping away, the two jets are replaced by two Apache helicopters and a Chinook who perform a sweep of the bay.  The Apaches fly off, leaving the Chinook as it lowers itself towards the water, sending up a swirling spray of water as figures dive into the water.

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Next in the Dynamic Defence Display (or D3) was a high-speed jet ski versus RIB chase, complete with the crack of gunfire and small explosions.  With the conclusion of the chase in a towering fireball, we were forced to wait while the display continued out of sight.  The occasional firework would startle everyone to their feet in time to see the final flash of colour and smoke.  The conclusion of the display was comprised of two parts; another flyby from the three helicopters in which the Chinook bore a huge Singaporean flag and a thundering 21-gun salute from a military raft that had slipped into the bay.

Something that struck me in that moment was the relative silence and motionlessness of the crowd.  Where once upon a time helicopters baring a national flag would have been met with loud cheers and vigorous waving, here it was met with barely a raised voice as everyone jostled to get the best photo.  As I looked around, faces were obscured as everyone pointed their phones to the sky.  Indeed, this was the case for the majority of the event.  The only exception was the fireworks.  My somewhat cynical hypothesis on why is that after the first few photos everyone despaired of taking a none blurry photo and was instead forced to watch and experience the display through their eyes instead of through a screen.  This phenomenon of viewing life through a lens is something I know I am equally guilty of but to encounter it on such a large scale was eye opening.

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But I digress, with the display finished we were left to watch as the sky faded through pink and orange to black.  The light pollution, as in any city, blocked out the stars so I was confused when a swarm of stars seemed to move and hover over the bay.  They hung out over the water, waiting to catch everyone’s attention before changing colour and shifting to form ever changing images.  Some were indistinct, such was our angle of viewing but other were more obvious.  My favourite, a ring of people holding hands as they rotated through the sky, captured the theme of One Nation Together perfectly before the drones returned to white and flew away.  This show was yet another example of how technology captures what I imagine magic must be like, though on this occasion my imagination was led more down the path of a futuristic sci-fi than that of a fantasy.

And then, finally, at last, at last – not that I like to describe myself as impatient or anything – the fireworks.  There is just something so thrilling about flaming bursts of colour exploding across the sky.  However many time I see fireworks I shall never grow bored off them, whether it’s straining to watch them from an attic window or watching with a front row seat as they erupt over the Singaporean skyline.  At last the crowd was properly enthused as they oohed and aahed over the fleeting lights.  Bangs and fizzes roared out, preceded by the lights that produced them and echoing around until they had no start or end.  Dancing lights and fiery rain fell to Earth, fading to darkness and lingering smoke as the show came to an end.

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A Show of Lights

It begins with the thrum of music through my body.  Enticing me.  Drawing me into the performance.  The giant geometric bulb flashes on, one colour, then another.  Narrow search beams light up the sky as mist begins to cover the watery stage.  Jets of water leap up, scattering jewels of light, first blue, now red, soon to be purple.  The dance has begun.

Projected images dance and swirl through the spray and the music draws us in.  We are captivated.  We are captivated as a story is told.  There are no words to this story and to each the tale is different, but for me it is an amalgamation of ancient culture, futuristic technology, and above all, love.  The narrative does not suffer as these themes meld seamlessly together with the surrealness of a dream.

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The rumble of drums sets the scene as a spaceship escapes the final hours of a doomed planet.  We watch from afar and with bated breath the final moments of what was once a refuge.  Before sadness can overwhelm, a stain glass bird flies around the stage.  The music whispers of his grief, but we are hopeful.  He escapes his confines in a swirl of silk as bow is drawn across string.

We move on.

Shapes come and go, as in the transience of life, and we are carried through all by the tide.  We crest a wave of notes as the dragon offers his wisdom and a bird remains a friend, though our descent is imminent.  The melody lulls, we have reached the trough and the flowers usher in a new act.  A white peacock spirals across the stage, her song speaks of how she is trapped and dreams of flying higher to her escape.  As the lights dim and shrink away we are know that this will not happen.  The end is near.

But wait.

All is not lost.

The music sparks back to life, bringing with it a kaleidoscope of flowers, blossoming and singing out the hope of new life, of rebirth, of spring.  Now the music is unstoppable.  It charges towards its crescendo.  Onward and onward, and all the while, the lights follow it in its dance.  Then, for a second…  silence breaks.

The page is turned.  This, the last page, is softer.  The story tells of a happy end.  We have returned to our spaceship and the birds are together as it lands on a new planet.

A new start.

A new beginning.