Tuesday 24 March 2009

An, Anne, Âne, Anh

I received a little message from a violin duo act from Germany to invite me to take part in a contest to write a piece for them. The piece will then be submitted to a jury and then played in front of an audience. The first prize will be picked according to the reception to the music. I’ve never  written anything with this aim in mind. As my acting teacher once said, « if you  enjoy yourself, then the audience will enjoy themselves too. Don’t try to please them »
The piece shall contain bravura sections, make people cry and dance and cheer. Circus music? All this should last less than five minutes.  Humm… what about a punk polka ?
I’m supposed to send the score before the month of July. I have sketched a few ideas in my mind. Something between a wacky Klezmer number and a minimalist Steve Reich inspired piece. Strangely, the idea of the circus sticks to my mind.

It was fortunate I didn’t keep Pandemonium as the title for my album. It has already been used by some r’nb band I never heard of, I discovered at Karen’s. How this CD ended up at her place I know not. She doesn’t either. Hyperbody now.


Third day of work in Chicago. I have resumed my little routine: early morning wake up, gym, then work the whole day at the studio. No more. 
We are putting the finishing touch to the songs we had recorded on our last sessions. Karen re-sang some of her vocals. I was pleasantly surprised by her newly gained confidence. The songs really do sound good. New ones will be recorded in the coming days. I haven’t scored nor written down anything yet but I will improvise on the spot. The cellist will be there in two days. I know everything is going to fall into place in the most pleasant manner. I know how John works, how Karen functions. Four new songs and she will have a complete album; four songs in various stage of completion. The melody always comes last because I want to create the perfect musical setting and use Karen’s vocal limitations to her advantage. I’m really at my most alive and focused when I’m working. John and Karen may show signs of tiredness but I could go on for many more hours. Music does indeed feed me.
I have to plan a recording schedule when  I come back to Paris.
No more excuse to sit back and complain.
I finally get in touch again with this directedness I had as I child. Nothing matters but what I want to do. During the past two months I was horrified to see my old demons coming back to the surface. Doubts, anger, fear, self-pity… Hadn’t I worked hard enough on myself to go past it?  But deep inside, I knew I was playing the last show to myself. Then it would be time to move on and really do what I’m here to do. It’s curious now that I have decided to no longer have ‘no’ in my life, I feel that the space around me has been deserted. It’s up to me now to fill it with new things.

I did the shooting for Pierre’s documentary a few days before leaving for Chicago. He wanted to film me at home, like he had done with the other persons. A bare wall, and I would be filmed down to the waist. 
Five minutes talking about oneself doesn’t seem so long. I had to elaborate a little scenario about my personal history with my name. An.
Pierre showed up at eleven with his assistant. Five minutes doesn’t seem long. But if you had to stare at the camera, tell a seamless structured story to total strangers, be yourself, it becomes slightly less simple. What we know and remember isn’t what people see and hear. Pierre didn’t want to leave any detail to imagination. He wanted all the facts clearly stated in the story. It‘s wasn‘t simple being myself after all, for I had my story rewritten according to his vision.  It felt like watching someone playing you, speaking someone’s else words that could have been yours… from the inside. Not so much a documentary after all, especially after the tenth take. I knew my lines by heart. Sometime, I would rebel and bring up new elements into the narrative. My name, how difficult it was to bear it. An. Short and so easy to remember, according to my mother. My parents who came to Paris to study, got married and thought they’d be returning to their homeland - which homeland?  Oh, yes… Vietnam. How I grew up feeling alienated because I had no country. How I would come home, angry and distressed at my schoolmates who would make fun of my name. 
"An? But it’s a girl’s name!!!". 
Some, pushing the absurdity even further in trying to understand why a boy should bear a female name and would come victoriously with the historical fact: it was also a male name in the 17th century. Anne de Montmorency, for instance. Remember? Even if I wore a powdered wig à la Louis XIV, I doubt I’d be very convincing at disguising my Asian roots… 

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