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.