Monday, 28 November 2016

Post / in / out / cloud / soon

One glance on my left and I see big fields of clouds. I never get tired of contemplating them. Unexplored territories, ever changing, like our imagination.
I'm flying to Hanoi from where a car will drive me to Ninh Binh, where they're filming Between Shadow and Soul. I need to immerse myself in the landscape of what they call the Ha Long Bay on land. Not enough time to give much thought to the film. Only a few musical sketches that quickly passed my mind without leaving a very deep imprint. I feel slightly nervous, naturally, as the project is the first real long feature film I will be scoring for. The four previous ones I did in Taiwan didn't lead to much: one film which was never completed, much less released, three made-for-TV films, two of them directed by Jay Chern. But I saw them as good practice. I know what to do, and what not to do. 
Now Ninh Binh... And also seeing Tho again. He was the force that supported me during the past weeks as we were working hard on the [FEEL] in/out 2016 event. Just knowing that he was thinking of me and eager to see me again was enough of a thought to soothe my mind and boost my perseverance. Just a few hours before we lie in bed together again and drink each other's presence.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Up Down Suite

Roller-coaster. I had just finished a studio session for the SILK x 21 project. We recorded the vocals and strings, cello and violin, for Spirit, one of the fourteen pieces that now compose the entire project, then the spoken vocals on four other tracks. The session was conducted by Micky Yang, whom I had not properly seen since his wedding, some seven years ago. We worked together on the recording of the musical Auntie, and the experience was a joyous one. The studio was located in the Neihu, an area I genuinely detest, on the fifth floor of an industrial building near the freeway. 
I went there in advance with James, who was to do the spoken vocals. Micky was preparing the microphones. The room was large and comfortable. During all these years I had been working whether at home with my old and now defunct computer and my little ZOOM recorder, or at a friend's who has a room in his flat turned into a mini studio. Never in such comfortable conditions. I enjoyed every single second of the full afternoon I spent there, enjoying it as a night in a five star hotel after years in dodgy motel rooms.
Shandy came to meet the musicians and meet Micky who will also do the mixing of the music. She looked radiant and happy to be there.
"This movement, Spirit is one of my favourite!" she exclaimed. "I felt connected to it as soon as you played it to me, remember?"
I wrote Spirit twenty years ago, as I was touring with Michèle Atlani. The melody, with its Slavic and nearly religious tone came to me one day in Marseilles. Nothing was done with it until the wedding of my brother. I harmonised it for 5 voices and added a cello part. We performed it as a part of a short mass I composed for the occasion in the church near my parents' house in Saint Maur during the ceremony. It was then that it took its full shape. When I started writing more music for Silk x 21, it struck me that it would find its right place in the musical journey I was bringing to life.

We decided to postpone the mixing of the music to December. I was going to go to Vietnam in November, my computer was dead, and it would take me some time to find a way to retrieve all the work that is stored in its hard disks. The unfortunate demise of my dear old computer is perhaps a blessing in disguise as it now compels me to move on to the next level and upgrade my life. How it will is another question, but I will soon find out.

The day ended on a totally different note. I received a short message from Jan announcing the passing of his father. The piece of news was like burning coal in my hands. I didn't know what to do of it.
Multiple images rushed past my mind. My first time at Jan's place in Pforzheim, Germany, when I was seventeen. Our trips across the Black Forest. The lively talks during dinners, their elaborate and witty word plays, his hearty and communicative laughs, engaging and warm personality, the way he and his wife Ursula woke up and startled Jan out of his sleep one morning to sing him a birthday song on the guitar...
Jan's father, Manfred was like a second father to me. He welcomed me into his own family without any question. Spending time at their place was always a joyful feast.  
He passed away in his sleep. Exhaustion, heart failure. His wife realised it during the night. Then I recalled that I thought of Jan and his family earlier in the morning: I was doing my laundry and suddenly my head got stuck with the image of Maren, Jan's sister, then Jan, then his parents. I didn't make much of it. We had mentioned the possibility to spend one last Christmas all together before they would sell their house beautiful in Pforzheim, and rejoiced at the idea.

I was sitting in one of the armchairs of the studio, torn between the joyfulness I had felt during the day and the saddening news. 2016 has given a lot of its bittersweet fruits. Too much of them.

The Ton That and Stümke families in Paris - 2014

Monday, 1 August 2016

Summer in Paris

Ulysses and I just finished our first song together, entitled Summer in Paris... Actually, no, those are the opening words, the real title being Sacred Paper, which I never seem to register. It started with Ulysses scribbling down a text, then asking me to improvise something on the piano. Within thirty minutes, we came up with sufficient material for a song. I wrote down the musical sketches I had done and handed him the sheets. The next two days were spent trying out various combinations until Ulysses was satisfied. He was very excited about writing a song and wrote down the final version for the music score, a full day in front of his computer trying to figure out how to use a software. He is so excited about the process that he is already developing ideas for a second song. Just a few more days before he goes on holiday in Savoy to spend the month with Benoit and his family... Time is running out!

I have enjoyed every single minute spent in Paris. Three weeks have passed now, true, enjoyable and relaxing holiday for me. I see my parents every other day - at least I try to keep the rhythm. My mother is well. The Alzheimer's disease hasn't progressed too much. Her conversation can get stuck in a loop...

Monday, 20 June 2016

I will always love you

How I managed to keep it on for so many years, I don't know. The only valid reason is what people call love. It is true, each moment spent with William was a happy, relaxed and fulfilling one. I didn't care about whether he wasn't ready to leave his partner. I didn't wish him to do that - if I didn't, then how could he even be able to take any decision... A few more last-minute cancellations and the announcement that he had moved into a new flat with his boyfriend triggered me to take action. Not that I was going to ask him to decide between me and his boyfriend. The past four years have been a more than clear indication that the choice would never have been in my favour. However, something was relevant to me in this new turn of events. It was, as he claimed, for his job. But it also signified that he was not going to make any change in the way he conducted his life. I was always going to be the trumped card in this double life of his, be a shameful secret he had to hide in the closet.
I wrote a short message to him. It had been four years this years, when we first laid eyes on each other at the hot spring. The memories are vivid, visually and emotionally. It was time to leave and this farewell was a resolute one. No more contact, no more Facebook nor Line. The mention of those modern ways of connection makes it sound as meaningless as a TV game show. Deep down, I was still hoping for a reaction from him. Something could still be saved. The unexpected twist at the end of the story... He wrote back.
"I will always love you" 
A pause and Whitney Houston's voice started yelling in my head. And I laughed long and hard. 

Monday, 13 June 2016

When one doesn't listen to one's inuition (The DunHuang saga continues)

I was asked by Shandy to attend a meeting with two persons from the Beijing DunHuang Academy at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as she was in Japan and couldn't make it in time. My intuition told me not to waste my time with that, but I had not other reason to refuse. '

I came with a translator, a woman from Malaysia, and one of Shandy's many assistants - there would be a new one each time I would see Shandy...
I had never seen the Mandarin Oriental, and my first impression was that of a heavy architectural pastry, something between a Gothic manor and a Disneyland castle. The meeting was at 2 o'clock sharp, but the two persons arrived forty minutes late. It was nearly time for tea, and the cakes would prove excellent!
Three people from that academy were present: a seemingly affable middle aged man who said to be the 'initiator' of the company - the one who handles the money, obviously, a tall and icy young lady who was the classic dance director - her cold beauty would have been perfect for the role of the black widow in a Johnny To film. The third person was a Taiwanese lady in charge of the international projects. This one?
We sat around a big table in the dining room and I told them about the genesis of the music I had composed. They listened, but wouldn't make eye contact with me. Bad sign.
Then came the moment to play them the music. It was suggested that I picked the one piece which would best represent the whole project. Second bad sign.
They listened to three pieces, each time asking for something 'different'. I had the feeling to be auditioning for a part and asked to show joy, sadness, anger, drama... 
I saw no reaction. The icy lady asked a few questions which clearly indicated that she had come to the meeting with notions of what she wanted to hear. Her remarks reflected that. I wasn't surprised. I suddenly recalled a performance given by a DunHuang academy from Hong Kong which bored me to death with its self indulgent display of the star players' skills. I also remembered a tall icy lady who certainly did strike me as a big diva. So, they were the same and one academy. Had I known that, I wouldn't accept to go. The game was even for us anyway. Neither of us liked the other. But the DunHuang couple remained extremely courteous, although very cold and distant. The translator didn't feel at ease. Shandy's assistant felt her presence was useless. And I was happy to have eaten some delicious cakes - a tad too sweet, though, to my taste.
As David Bowie said, an artist should never work for somebody else, as it is extremely dangerous to fulfill other people's expectations. The past year has been a glorious illustration of that. We may not be in the Bowie's position to make such an aloof statement, but he is right.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Brief encounter

I was standing on the platform of the MRT, on my way to the TNUA in Guandu to see a dance show. A boy and his mother approached and lined up behind me. The boy, who was perhaps eight years old looked up at me and gave me a warm smile, just like an old friend would. Once in the train, as people were rushing in, I indicated two seats where he and his mother could sit. The journey to Guandu was a long one, and the boy kept looking up at me. No words were exchanged, but I enjoyed the silent connection with him. The person who was sitting behind them left, so I took the seat. The boy realised I had disappeared, turned to see where I had gone and smiled when he found out I was just behind him. How I wish I could have taken a picture at that moment. It was the most wonderful smile. The old lady next to me saw our interaction and very kindly offered to yield her seat, so I could be sitting with my son. At this, the boy smiled and answered that I wasn't her father. Confused, the lady gazed from him to me and decided that it might be better to mind her own business.
How I wished...
I fell asleep. The boy too. I nearly missed stop and dashed to the exit. The boy opened an eye right at that moment and managed to wave goodbye from his state of slumber, give me one last smile, then fell asleep again almost immediately.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Love Profusion - The Shooting

Two days of shooting, one day for the editing, and another day for the colour correction. I had never done a video so quickly.
This time I wanted to keep the story very simple: a girl and a boy love each other, the girl has another lover, and so does the boy.