Kartik Alan Studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and graduated with a Diploma in Music in 2007. He signed on as a regular musician with the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band in 2008 till present. Alan started playing the Horn in 2003 in the Singapore National Youth Orchestra under the guidance of Mr. Han Chang Chou and Mr. Gao Jian.
During this time he developed a strong passion for Chamber Music and performed in various Brass Quintets, Woodwind Quintets, Horn Ensembles and Brass Ensembles. Alan frequently performs with The Philharmonic Orchestra, Singapore National Youth Orchestra, Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra.
(This interview was conducted in October 2010)
What is your current instrument setup?
I currently play on an Alexander 103 with a Schmidt 10.5 mouthpiece. I bought my horn second-hand from my teacher.
Why the horn and not any other instruments?
I started off playing the tuba in secondary school. Subsequently, I auditioned for SYO on the trombone. During my 1st year in SYO, Mr Han Chang Chou, who was then the brass ensemble teacher, asked me to try out the horn. And the rest is history. It’s pretty much a passion by accident. (laughs)
Who would you say has had the most influence on your musical development so far?
Just two teachers. My first teacher, Mr. Han Chang Chou, was my horn tutor in NAFA. My 2nd teacher, Mr. Gao Jian, has been instrumental in my development after graduating up to the present.
What inspired you to choose being a musician as a career?
I’ve always liked to perform. My time in NAFA has actually strengthened that passion to perform for people. Basically, I signed on with the SAF Band because it provided me with both a stable salary and the chance to perform regularly; so it’s the best of both worlds.
What kind of music do you like to perform?
Concertos are considered standard repertoire, but I personally like to perform chamber music. For example: brass quintet, wind quintet; solo with piano or with strings… I like performing chamber piece because of the intimate setting. Specifically, I like performing works from the early Classical or Romantic period.
Describe your practice routine.
I start my practices with long tones, starting from the middle C, going upwards about one octave. After that, I focus a lot on lip slurs. For me, personally, it benefits my training and so far I’ve been improving on this routine. Of course, my routine changes according to the literature I work on or whatever technical issues my teacher might find; he would give me a specific routine to work on.
For example, I’m currently practicing the Gordon Jacob Concerto and there are a lot of multi-tonguing passages which I find a bit difficult. So, my teacher prescribed specific tonguing exercises for me. They’re not exactly from any method books, but the general concepts are the same. I’d have a discussion with my teacher and we would adjust my practice routine according to my current standard, so that I can achieve the best results. I strongly do not believe in a one-size-fits-all method. Books are just a guide.
What’s on your iPod?
A lot of horn music, particularly from the baroque era. Baroque horn concertos are really tough and as of the current moment, I have not learnt any because I’m not at the level to handle some of the technical aspects. But of course I hope to do so in the future. Other things in my iPod include chamber music featuring the horn.
Most recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of horn ensembles too. Octets, 12-tets, stuff like that. I have recordings from the Vienna Horns, London Horn Sound and the horn section of the Berlin Philharmonic. I also have a lot of symphonies, particularly all the Mahler Symphonies, all the Beethoven Symphonies, Schubert Symphonies… I also have all of the Richard Strauss tone poems. Bach orchestral suites, Cello Suites performed on horn as well as cello. The rest are just pop music for relaxing.
Are there any specific horn players that you listen to?
I like to listen to Radek Baborak, David Pyatt and Sarah Willis. Sarah Willis is like my all-time idol. Not forgetting, of course, the legendary people like Barry Tuckwell and Gerd Seifert.
The horn is known as the hardest musical instrument to master. Any comments on this?
Every instrument is hard in their own way. The main factor for mastering an instrument is how much practice the player puts in, above all else. I guess this myth is based on the tendency for horns to mispitch notes!
What has horn playing come to mean to you over the years besides simply as a means of income?
Passion. It’s the passion that drives me further.
What short-term and long-term goals do you have for your musical development?
For the short term goal: To get into a conservatory in Europe. I’m currently sourcing for schools and teachers which fit my budget. Of course a scholarship would be good but I would like to support myself as much as I can.
For the long term goals: Firstly, I would love an orchestral job. Secondly, I would definitely want to have my own teaching studio for brasses not just specifically horn as I enjoy teaching brass in general.