It had been months since I thought of finding a way to get in touch again with Wei-Jen, the gifted erhu player with whom I had worked during the recording sessions of Auntie, three years ago.
When Jay approached me to do new music for his short film Thief, last summer, I immediately thought of writing a song which would be played by an erhu and a small jazz combo. Jay needed me to replace the song he originally used, Gershwhin's But not for me, as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Among all the songs I wrote with Bévinda in Paris, one (Un Espace Vert), stood out as the perfect candidate for the film.
Jo also wrote me a message about one particular scene from the second act of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, for which, he recalled, I needed an erhu but didn't have the time to record - the one erhu player I knew in Paris, Guo Gan, said he would do it, but dragged and dragged until it was too late. Would I do it now?
It was high time to search more actively for Wei-Jen.
Except for a few pictures of us taken at the recording studio, I had no other means to find him. I tried to spot him on Facebook, I asked my friends, I asked the director. Nothing.
I had told Jay that this erhu player was really my first choice. I vividly remember how how perfectly tuned we were when we would play together. He gets the music on first reading. His musicality is flawless. I know few musicians like him.
So I resigned myself to make do with any erhu player that Jay would find for the recording. We only had no more than a week left.
.... Until one day this week when the whim seized me to post a message on Facebook: "Looking for an erhu player".
The response was immediate. One musician searched and found Wei-Jen. He had the advantage to know the Chinese name... Bien sûr!
I wrote to Wei-jen at once and he replied shortly after. The next day we were working on the music together. I sent the scene to Jo who liked it, and did a demo recording of Un Espace Vert which was forwarded to Jay, CJ and Bévinda. The detuned piano actually gave it the cool, West Coast, vintage sound I wanted.
I listened to it over and over.
Making music with Wei-Jen - Allen he wanted me to call him that was his English name, was like reuniting with an old friend. We aren't friends actually, but as we were playing together, I felt again this serenity and deep communion I had sense three years ago.
This led me to think of this song cycle on Tim Burton's Oyster Boy stories.
ChingYao had introduced me to Chih-Wei a Chinese zither player who also wanted to break out of the traditional music mould. Now I had all the musicians who could inspire me to write the songs: Wei-Jen at the erhu, Chih Wei, at the zither, Emily at the cello and ChingYao as the singer.