Monday 26 August 2013

To say no

I gave Johnny (Li) a sample CD for the compilation that will be released in December through his Yi-Line company. He was in Taipei for a short business visit for the grand opening of his new space / office in Hong Kong, later this year. My idea for this album was to introduce the listener to my work through a musical journey. I was very happy and excited when I received Johnny's call announcing that great piece of news. I hadn't had anything released since my first album Circlesong back in 2005, and Circlesong didn't have any proper official release, since it was self produced... And the DVDs of the three ballets with Jo Kanamori and Noism are only available in Japan. In short, my official musical existence is fairly non existent.

I listened and listened again to the pieces and the songs, tried various combinations before  I could manage a selection of 16 tracks that would feature on the compilation. Condensing fifteen years of music in a little more than an hour is a delicate task, especially when the music range covers contemporary dance, theatre, fashion, film scores and of course, the songs - also considering that most of the listeners do not know my music. The final track list went like this:

1.   The Hole: Variation C
2.   Nothing comes to Light
3.   I aim (Chinese Version)
4.   They lie
5.   Auntie: M/other
6.   Auntie: Mama's Requiem
7.   To the Sun
8.   Bear me safely over
9.   Goovy (Funknrolla Mix)
10. Pierre est heureux: Up Down Dream
11. Un Espace vert
12. Battle of Wits
13. Linchpin Lover
14. Pierre est heureux: The Final Journey
15. Second Breath
16. Yi-Line

I sadly didn't manage to include music from my work with Jo Kanamori. It just didn't fit in, to my greatest despair - or I would end up releasing a double disc set!!! I was also highly aware that the selection had to be easy on the ear, although I had an inkling that Johnny would still find the selection too challenging.
A few exchanged messages last week already gave me the flavour of his opinion before I met him today. There were praises for the music and my singing: "I wish I could sing like you do" he wrote in a message. But one line told me all: "We need to discuss your CD".

Now that the meeting and discussion are over I have come to the inevitable conclusion: I will not bother.
"The CD is too long" Johnny said. "I played it to my friends and they say it's too long. They LIKE the music and they love your voice, but they think it's too long. Is there a way you can make it shorter?"
Words were boiling in my mouth but I remained silent and let him go on.
"How long is the CD you gave me?"
"Seventy eight minutes. Sixteen tracks."
A scene from Amadeus popped up in my mind, where after the first performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail the emperor comes to congratulate Mozart, however with the remark that there are maybe 'too many notes', words that are suggested to him by Mozart's nemesis Salieri.
Far from thinking I'm the new Mozart, the similarity of the situation just struck me. How many times did I hear those words uttered by people for whom music is just decorative.
"So can you make it fifty minutes... 10 tracks?" Johnny asked.
"I could. Everything's possible. But it looks like a watered-down project to me... Clients who come to your shop will not come for music, but for furniture and decorative objects. A photo can do that, a vase can do that. But music cannot be displayed as decoration. If it is, then I really honestly think I am not the right choice!"
More eye rolling.
The excitement of the upcoming CD release collapsed. I nevertheless tried to explain to Johnny that if he wanted background music to match the spirit of his design company, I may be the most unlikely choice.
"The music I did for your short film is maybe two percent of my musical range. I could find tracks to fill fifty minutes with quiet and soothing music, but I don't think that will represent me as a composer. If you want ornemental music, it may be a wise choice to pick someone else" I told him.
Johnny kept rolling his eyes as I was talking, which added to my annoyance.
"But you have to understand that the CD has to be in the spirit of what Yi-Line is. I don't want it to be heavy metal... And in the end, I have rent and employees to pay." Johnny went on.
Money was again the ultimate excuse. However, I flatly told him that this aspect was none of my concern. In my head, I knew I would not do it. Proud or stupid, I realised Johnny basically wanted to send out a different image than his peers' by surrounding himself with artists, like a nobleman at his palace - Norm for photography, Josh for film and me for music, thus giving himself an artistic credibility in an otherwise business, though creative activity.
"If he really want to do something with or for art, he may start a foundation. That would be a meaningful statement, instead of these empty tirades about lifestyle" I thought.
"We really believe that if there is a composer we want to support, it has to be you!" Johnny said later as we were walking back to his office.
I didn't bother to answer. I genuinely appreciated the intention - he wanted to thank me, Norm and Josh by 'promoting' us, but we were resolutely on two different continents of life.

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