Monday, 24 October 2005

Pop'n sick

I’m so sick! I had a sleepless night with all the new musical motifs I wanted to use for the two movements I have yet to write. I got up to have breakfast at around 7 am, then went back to bed to only wake up again at 3 past in the afternoon after a painful dream involving Britney Spears, her ill meaning entourage involving her in an unintended murder attempt to get rid of her manager who turned out to be a mixture of Fabrice Proof (actually Michèle Atlani’s former tour manager) and Simon! I won’t even try to tell the story… I don’t know what it is supposed to mean. No wonder I’m that ill today!
I was supposed to start working at the theatre from 2, but I guess my body orders me to stay in.
My throat is all swollen and my voice so deep it makes Christopher Lee sounds like a Michael Jackson impersonator! I tried to find some medicine at the pharmacy, but they're quite ineffective. Just useless white pills. 
It should be alright anyway. I have completed a good chunk of work so far. Two days of rest aren’t unwelcome.
The only thing will be to feed myself and regain strength - the portions in Japan are so small! A good thing tomorrow is also a day off.

Saturday, 22 October 2005


This is how I like it. After the stressful times preparing for the concert and finishing the album, when everything had to be done by myself, the working condition in Niigata are the best one could hope for. The only thing I have to do is to concentrate on my music, the rest is provided when needed. Just ask and it is there. A microphone, a recording studio, tea, a bike, a digital piano…
It is really the first time that I work on a project that suits my taste as well as my artistic aspirations. Jo has this rare gift to understand and feel the musical language, hear all the details and use it to create an equally inspiring choreography. The only one who impressed me on that level was Matthew Bourne.
People here don’t make me feel I bother them, so the will to surpass myself is even stronger.
Satoko is Jo’s company manager; Miki is her assistant who speaks wonderful French. Both of them are the sweetest persons and a delight to be with. I enjoy having dinner with them after work. Niigata wouldn’t strike anyone for being the place to go out, but I’m discovering very nice little dens of pure good time. Tonight was a trendy restaurant named Foodelic pleasantly furnished with 70’s flavoured furniture.

Jo and the dancers try to make the company Noism known to the people of Niigata. Today they had to perform a little dance before a football match. The idea was odd, to say the least. It would be beyond me to imagine Angelin Prejlocaj, Maguy Marin or Régine Chopinot doing a cheerleader act for the PSG!!!
Anyway, Jo and the dancers did it today under the rain, dancing for only five minutes in outfits provided by Nike to Kodo music. I have no idea whether the football fans had a clue what was going on…

The Ryutopia Performing Arts Center in Niigata

Thursday, 20 October 2005

Working in Japan

I am in Japan !
Twelve hours on a plane and four more on the train to reach Niigata do not help me realize that I was travelling. Travelling now has become so unnatural. Hours long on your seat, eyes fixed on the screen in front of you, that horrible smell of plane food - whatever they call 'food', the same horrible smell tickling your nostrils…
A bit of sleep, getting out, and then suddenly, everything is different. The body does not understand. As I am reading the Piano Tuner, in which the main character travels to Burma by boat and sees the landscape slowly changing, I’m making this wish that my next trip will be more on a human scale.
And now I’m in Japan! I still expect to bump into some Swan Lake dancers, and meet Simon and Nolico for sushi or tonkatsu!

To think that only a few days ago, I was preparing for a concert which now seems not have not taken place at all. Or maybe it did in another time dimension to which I will reconnect again once I’m back in Paris.


Jo and the dancers have showed me what they’ve been working on for the past month. They haven’t wasted a second. So much done in a month! I was wondering why Jo kept asking me for new music if he wanted me to come to Niigata to collaborate.
Most if it is written now. We shall use parts from W.h.a. as well as Nina’s hidden glass. I was reluctant at first; the music was written for Simon, and we’re going to perform the piece in London next January. But Jo's approach and his use of the music are so different, I am equally happy with both ways. Actually, I couldn’t write an ersatz music. It would sound fake.
Once again, W.h.a. proves to be quite a goldmine in terms of musical ideas. And I can see at last some real dancing to it, and not the conceptual, nihilistic gesticulations of Régine Chopinot.
The next step will be to write for real musicians, and not rely so much on the computer. It was such a joy to sing with Haïm, Jean-Marc, Simon and Jan during the concert. I already start to have some ideas for a new album…
I know I am self sufficient, I enjoy doing things by myself, but I now want to work with other people, instead of remaining in my remote world.
Build more bridges between the two worlds… My own soil needs nurturing.

Satisfaction is on both sides for NINA (that's how Jo has called his piece). Jo apparently feared I might not like his choreography as much I feared he might found my music inadequate.
The dancers are great, and exhale good personality. I’m always full of admiration when I see a dancer at work.
I’ve set myself to come up with the remaining music before next week. Jo wants something for a boys group dancing. Rhythmic, and maybe less intense than the rest.
I’ll try to develop a movement from piano loops.

The music that I intended for the heavy ballerina scene works well. The sound of timpani, long strings, a grotesque and silly choir, frenetic techno rhythm topped with playful strings playing pizzicatto.

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Café de la Danse

The concert was a week ago. And already, it hardly seems real  to me. The day and the evening especially, passed by in a blink, I have very no emotional recollection of it, even though I can perfectly remember the facts. It's just that the pressure and the excitement left a big void in the middle.
The feedbacks were good. I sang well, I played well, if one forgets my messing up on Whirlwind. (I suppose no one noticed except Simon.)
The only moment I remember savouring was during Nature boy. I started with a long piano dialogue with Rémy on the contrabass. There's such a good chemistry between us. That comes from all these years performing together with Michèle. I also recall Second breath. I was truly out of breath after my expressionist puppet dance on Goovy and sang at the piano with only cello as accompaniment (we were supposed to have the other Christophe at the harp, but he bailed out at the very last moment as we were relaxing in a café before the soundcheck, the excuse being an unfortunate sudden stomach flu...) 
I remembered Julia's advice: "If you are out of breath, don't try to fight it and finish the phrase at all cost, find another way to sing it". So as I sat at the piano, I decided to take some time to talk a little with the audience and introduce the song.
"Cette chanson s'appelle Second Breath". I said between two breath intakes. "Ca veut dire 'second souffle' en anglais." I paused.
"Cela m'apprendra!!!" I added, still panting heavily.
The audience laughed and I started the song. I used my breathlessness to sing the song in a different manner. I guess it was my best rendition of the song! Finally, the acoustic reprise of Un-me in the end, so enjoyable because I could at last hear the sound of my voice intertwining with the singers'. I started then to wake up and thinking to myself how great it was to perform on stage. And the concert was finished. As if it didn't happen.

Monday, 10 October 2005


Nolico was there! I was serving food to the guests at Karen’s, turned my head and ghhhaaaaa! She was there standing by the door, smiling, l’air de rien.  Of course... "Nolico, how are you?"
Tears came to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by strong waves of joy and emotion (also all the tension and stress accumulated during all the past weeks).
But it feels so good to cry. Or at least shed a tear or two. So that’s what Simon had been plotting all this time in my back. I found it odd that he would suddenly leave in the evening the other night for an ‘appointment’. At midnight?
I was already very touched to physically see Simon’s parents. It’s one thing to know they are going to come, but it is another story when I saw them coming to Karen’s flat;
This evening has been the best I had since a long time. With all the musicians and my parents, Lara, Kristina... Everyone was beaming, and I had all the people I love around me.
Better stop now, if I don’t want to slip on the sentimental side.

Monday, 22 August 2005

Musique à la campagne

Fields and farmhouses. The sky is blue enough to make us believe that it might still be summer. Rémy and I have been working on the mixing of Circlesong for the past three days. Nothing but mixing and completing the vocals. Only one song left to be done, Ta thay Em still needing the cellos to take shape. Otherwise, we are seeing the end of it. Rémy has been great, showing an astonishing ability to keep focused for long hours. We were working fifteen hours every day, our ears completely mashed by the end of the day. I was so happy when I finally managed to win over Healing and Second breath. It did take me more than one session to do them justice. All the recording sessions I’ve had with Michel proved unusable, as well as that one I did in that expensive studio. On n'est jamais mieux servi que pas soi même!!!
In one hour I will be back in Paris, and will make a point in taking a well deserved afternoon nap before tonight’s dinner. Now the train is shaking too much, I ‘m starting to get travel sickness.

Being the perfectionist I am, it is no surprise that I found many flaws in my singing. I also realized that I wrote most of those songs at a time in my life when I was just discovering my voice with Julia. I didn’t feel that confident about myself, and adopted a breathy and airy singing style that actually worked as a shield to myself, and yet the melodic lines I would write were rather tricky to sing. Singing other people’s music is always easier, and I always feel naked when I sing my own.
All the old habits I got from that time remained as I was recording with Rémy. It was hard to get away form the old vocal habbits I grew accustomed to, especially on that cursed Healing song! That’s what happens when you get music from your dreams.

Friday, 19 August 2005

Imagining the Concert

On my train to Rémy’s. Haven’t slept a wink. I was visualizing each song I would do on stage. On our way back from Zürich, Simon and I tried to come up a play list for the concert.
The concert will open with Kristina’s solo, Nina’s Hidden Glass, which will be partly played live by Vanessa, Mouss and Christophe (the cellist). On a screen a picture slide show of the same piece will be projected, with the names of all the performers and the people involved in the concert appearing just like the opening credit of a film. At the end of it, a voice will whisper ‘Ma-ha-bat-nha-ba-la-mat-da’ as the same words will also appear on the screen.
For the Prayer I will be standing centre stage, two singers on each side. We will be wearing ample black outfit and hardly moving during the whole song. I was thinking of  a Shenkai Juku dance piece I saw some years ago, where four dancers were standing on one side of a big plate filled with water, while red liquid was dropping from the ceiling like blood.  They wore what looked like a 19th century black dress with a red thread running in the middle, their shoulders and face pale white, and bold head, very much inspired by Butô. My cousin Marie who was to be our stylist had her plan of buying a new shop on the Île Saint-Louis hindered by the owner, a racist old French lady who wouldn’t sell it to others than pure breed French, even though she wouldn’t admit the fact, stating that she is left wing. Marie was to go to Viet Nam to have the clothes manufactured for her new autumn collection. She was supposed to design a whole series of clothes based on Chinese shirt and samurai pants. Well, who knows what can happen. I might also ask Nicolas then, hopefully six weeks won’t be too short a time for him.
The Prayer will be followed by Un-me. Nothing much to do stage-wise. I will still have the four singers with me for that song. The audience will be hearing the music for the first time and have a lot to discover, so might as well leave them time to find their marks and not do too much.
Since Love and long for someone is a poem, I want the text to appear on the screen. The idea would be to make a film of me lying on a bed while the text would scroll on my body. It would end with a close up of my eyes wide open. Will we do that???

Monday, 15 August 2005

Saturday, 13 August 2005

In Zürich

Techno beat thumping loudly from every street corner since this morning. From very quiet and clean, Zürich has turned into a wild outdoor club for the Street Parade.
At the moment, the music sounds like somebody desperately trying to get his tractor started as the church bells are ringing for the vespers maybe as an ultimate outdated effort to lead the people back to the right direction.
Not really different from the Gay Pride, although there is broader diversity of people, young people, old people, children, gays, Goths, drag queens, exotic creatures, a showcase of naked flesh or flaming coloured outfits ranging from hilarious to silly. This arrogant display of youth is arousing – I caught myself yearning for my young days, but people here are friendly and radiate a positive energy.

Now everyone in the house is sleeping, certainly gathering energy for a late night party at some club, for me the first since my joyous evenings at Air with Nolico.

Yesterday Marco organized a barbecue on the terrace for Simon, but the weather chose to play tricks on us, showcasing a beautiful sunny blue sky the whole day, and an army of dark clouds just when we started setting the table on the terrace. It suddenly rained hard when everybody was ready to eat, and of course stopped when all of us had brought the food back inside. The scenario repeated itself many times, but didn’t manage to spoil our pleasure.


Clubbing at the Volkstheater was fine, but the Dj was far from good, limiting himself to a mere monotonous techno beat with obvious breaks and no rhythm changes. I guess the best ever are still the ones I heard at Air in Tokyo. And where was Trevor Jackson?
I came back before everyone else. I’ve danced my ass off for a whole hour and a half, getting less and less space to move as time passed. I don’t pride myself to be able to dance the whole night through anymore. And the crap music put me off. 
I could see on the way home that Zürich was returning to its original state of clean and quiet. The streets were still dotted with colours and littered with broken glass and trampled cans, some people were squatting or lying down on the pavement. Soon the cleaning squad will perform their magic and the Street Parade will only be a blurred and confused memory, now washed away by the rain.

Those days in Zürich will have had their effect. I managed to cool down and tone up my mind and body. Three more days to go, certainly quietly if the rain decides to stay.

I got news from Jo Kanamori’s assistant, who told me I will be staying in a hotel about ten minutes by bike from the theatre. A bike! That will keep me in shape. Now they want a bio and a photo of me.
Which one shall I choose?

Simon sleeping

During the Love Parade

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Ein Traum

Restless night. I made on of those dreams were I was completely powerless in a tricky situation: I was to have staged two plays, as well as perform in them. But the evening came and I had no idea what was going to happen. We were not in a real theatre, more in a very big flat that somehow looked like a cinema, with club armchairs and cushions spread on the floor. The audience were about to get into the room, and I suddenly realized in a growing panic that I had never read my text, that we’d not even had one rehearsal, that no one knew what those two plays were about, but we had to go on stage all the same. I literally was saved by the bell, the church bell next to Marco’s flat that rings every quarter of an hour. What a sweat!

Monday, 8 August 2005

To be in Japan!

It’s official now. I’m going to Japan one week after my concert at the Café de la Danse. Jo Kanamori wants me to be composer in residence in Niigata until the premiere of his piece, that is one month and a half later. The flight and accommodation are paid, and I’ll receive a fairly nice amount of money for the work. They also wish to hear some drafts by early September. Ha ha ha.
That kept me awake the whole past night, as I was focused on very blurry ideas, musical shapes that were running through my mind, and visualizing myself in the situation - I will be in Niigata, in this beautiful theatre in the middle of this ghost city on the sea side. Oh yes, work on human sounds, a process I started on W.H.A. with Régine Chopinot. And I can’t even speak the language. How will my flat be? Or will I be staying in a hotel? What about cooking? I heard flows of human sounds. Work on this dogma that Cyril set. Twelve orders to follow. An interesting experiment is would be to only use twelve effects or plug-ins on one single breathing sound, and see how far I can go. Acoustic instruments. I want to use them as well. A piano and maybe some strings. Most of the electronic music I’ve heard lately are whether too abstract or conceptual, or lack warmth. My father always told me that being brilliant is one thing, but what matters the most is the idea – I would say the human experience which connects us to the universal. I could extend this to many other kinds of music, actually. People tend to be more impressed by the production, by the technicality of a piece which often hide the lack of depth.
So my thoughts wandered. For a time, I completely forgot that I was to finish the album and prepare for a concert – the power of the night, I was a double of myself, almost somebody else.  

Kristina and Philip left this morning. Another chapter begins. We shall remember our dinners together, the wine, the Hôtel du Nord. Our S.W.A.T.T. collective really did see the day this month of July. After each day of rehearsal, we would meet for a late dinner, provide by Chez An, and rejoice about being together and envision things in the future. On a refait le monde, my French friends would say when they tell me about their lengthy after-dinner talks. We might not wish to remodel the world, just build ours with lots of joy and pleasure in the process, and I do believe that is possible.
Simon trusts more and more his entrepreneurial sense, as I trust more and more that my days of lonely wandering are over. Kristina gets more and more involved with us, to the point that she thinks of quitting a few jobs to concentrate on our common projects. Constellation will be presented for the Resolution dance festival next year in London, I shall try to organize more concert, one in Japan for instance. My collaboration with Jo Kanamori will certainly be an open door for more opportunities. 

And now I’m on the train to Zürich. One week of doing nothing at all, eating those delicious Luxemburgerli, enjoying Marco’s sumptuous designy flat. Go swim in the lake among the swans – how camp! - something I’ve been craving for at least a whole year...

Sunday, 30 January 2005

Down and down in the mess

At last a whole day with nothing to do. Salomé is now taking most of my time. Quite expectable, a week before the premiere, but less enjoyable when new things come up every day, so it’s impossible to plan anything. I thought bringing Cyril in the project would make the task easier for me, since I cannot really claim to be a sound engineer. Most of the technical aspect I do not master at all. My experience has been rather empirical, so I didn’t want to find myself in the situation where I’m in charge of something I don’t really master. However, I came to realize that I’ve learned more than I would admit. Cyril is currently going through a down-in-the-endless-well phase, a breaking up in his relationship, not knowing where to go, not able to take any decision. True, the organization of Salomé is a big mess, some of the actors remind me of the Lina Lamont character from Singin’ in the Rain. They waste everybody’s time and energy, not remembering what to do, not listening, and trying too hard to show off their acting skills, and not unexpectedly, those are the supporting actors. Authentic cases of the 'ignored genius', if you ask me.
But we have to overcome all those distractions and focus on the play. Cyril wants to leave the boat before it sinks even deeper. That self pitying, whiny and negative approach only arouses my anger, not my sympathy. But since he’s unable to take any decision, and waits for some miracle to happen, I finally understood I had to go the whole way, and also prove to myself I’m more capable than I think. I also have to concede that, like Cyril, I was none too happy to be part of an obviously lousy project. So maybe having him by my side was a way to feel comfort.
Maria Cristina’s ideas are fab, I want to develop other projects with her, even restage Salomé in Great Britain. But the acting is quite disastrous, not so much because the actors are bad, more because they are miscast. One would think he’s in play by Feydeau, another other recites his lines like Gérard Philipe, and a third fellow would play his role like in a Greek tragedy. 

A whole day with nothing to do. I was to see a play with Julia, but I cancelled that. Julia behaved like a grande dame and a great friend, and showed me understanding and support. Such a joy and comfort to know some of your friends will not be upset and hold it against you if you change your mind at the very last minute.

Monday, 24 January 2005

Killer Joe

Lian showed us Killer Joe, a character she has created for the song Goovy. Dozens of little faces with a different expression. Killer Joe  was apparently based on Robert Smith, but I do think it reminds me a lot of Tim Burton’s Mr. Jack. (although I shouldn’t say it too often)
Anyway, she has created a world of her own, complete with house, furniture, piano, telephone and newspaper lying on the floor. That has required weeks and weeks of patience and hard work in order to make each face, each item.
I’m really excited to see the first clip of the video. 

Monday, 17 January 2005

Army of Mixes

I have read that Björk was asking fans and musicians to submit remixes or cover version of Army of Me for a 10th anniversary 2cd release of the song. The money made of the sales would go to charity.
I didn’t give it much thought, because I had no idea how I could remix the song, much less re-arrange it.
But then Simon talked about it as well, and the idea grew in me. Why not? W.h.a. was a goldmine in terms of musical ideas. There was enough to fill a whole opera.
So I spent the whole Sunday writing the arrangement and the programming on the computer, then recording my vocals with my old microphone. I tested the result on Aurélien who passed it. At one o’clock in the morning the song was sent to Björk’s website. Que sera sera!

Listen to

Monday, 10 January 2005

Death / House / Dream

If I could keep notes of all the dreams I’ve made, I could publish a whole book. A friend told me that Kafka wrote down many of his dreams in his journal. I will try to find the book.
I’ve always loved to read journals of letters to know more about somebody.

It took place in a dark big Hollywood mansion, not unlike the one in which Norma Desmond dwells to hide from the present.
It also took place on my birthday, July the 17th. My family was there, as well as some friends. But I had a very uncommon job: I was to make sure that corpses were actual dead people, and do it in a rather horrible way: have the body split open and swim in it. Maybe it is a way to turn into a vegetarian.
So all the guests were in the living room, and I had to go upstairs to check the last corpse. That wasn’t fair, I was telling my mother. It was my birthday and I didn’t have to perform that gruesome task on the very day! Still, I climbed the big marble staircase, and reached a room on the landing. The door was shut, but I could see through it. There was not light on, but moonlight was filling the room so I could make out the shape of the naked body on the table. It was completely white. A bald man in his fifties, with heavy make up. He was turning his head in my direction and showing a rather uneasy smirk. I had to massage the back of that dead person! I visualized myself doing it, but decided to move on instead and not enter the room. There ended the dream.

It’s hard to remember exactly the dream. I usually try to focus on my connection to it, rather than its possible meaning.
The second dream involved my friend Dominique. He was living in his new house on the Côte d’Azur. Now that I think of it, I notice that each time he appears in my dreams, he always has just moved in a newly bought house. This time it was a white two-story house, with a small living room downstairs, and two bedrooms upstairs. The place was nicely furnished, yet with very neutral tones. Mostly white. This house strangely bore similarities to the one where my childhood friend An and his brother Hoà used to live. His mother got cancer and prematurely died when barely aged forty. No one knew about her sickness, except her husband and my parents. We learned the terrible news only one week before it was too late. The husband wanted to spare her the pain and the agony of knowing. The shock took time to register in us and her death haunted us for many years afterward.
She died in her house, one Sunday afternoon of November. Since then, the spirit of this house would regularly appear in my dreams as other people’s house. So that’s the house that Dominique was showing me. We then took his car to go to a friend’s place. The ride reminded me of that scene in To catch a thief where Cary Grant is driving Grace Kelly at high speed in his convertible car along the French riviera. The sky was gorgeous, yellow turning red, with beautifully shaped clouds.
Dinner at Dominique’s friends was terrible. Everyone started blaming me for what was happening to him. I left, and a second later, found myself in his house again. Since no one was there, I decided to borrow a few cds and dvds from his huge library. It was then I discovered one room occupied by two sleeping young men, the very room where An’s mother died.
I walked out to the garden and found out that people had been waiting for me. An execution was taking place. Around twenty young people were to have their throat slit open. I was last on the list. When my turn came, I was given the choice to shorten my wait and be killed before the person before me. I accepted, since I didn’t want the agony to last.
I felt the blade cut my throat and saw the blood dripping. Schubert’s Death and the Maiden second movement was playing on an old gramophone.

Tuesday, 4 January 2005

Bye bye London

Good bye London!
Another chapter of the book is finished. I have nearly two months ahead of me before going to Japan. Will there be enough time to finish the album as well as the website? Not to mention the rehearsals of Salomé