Saturday, 30 June 2007

Salomé (again?)

It’s the most common thing to say that time goes by so quickly. But even if we tried to see each other and settle appointments, it took more than two years and a half for Maria-Cristina and me to meet again, after our work on Salomé.
I can’t say I know her very well on a personal level, but I know that I trust her. Our talk today revealed again how much we have I common.
She showed me her latest work, a very compelling if disturbing video installation on the memory of war – oh, yes again…
But one thing I’ve always like in Maria-Cristina is her subtle way at handling such heavy topics. She usually likes to create the set design herself. And this time the result was as amazing as what she did for Salomé.
Salomé came back in our discussion. She had enough distance now to tell me what she thought about the experience and the casting errors. Trials and mistakes make you grow indeed. The plan now is to restage Oscar Wilde’s play with an all male cast. Jokanaan (John the Baptist) would become a singing part. I will probably not listen to Richard Strauss’ opera. I’m now trying to imagine how the singing can be introduced in a way that is not too ludicrous.

Maria-Cristina has also asked me to write music for a video installation she’s done and read a play and think what I could do musically about it. I won’t find it hard to come up with the music for the video – I actually have it all ready in my mind. The play is another matter. I want to choose the project carefully and be sure I like the direction and the casting.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Friday, 22 June 2007

Haggard and woe-begone

Gloomy Saturday.
The strength (power) of words.
From a friend.

Sometimes I wonder what makes someone become a friend.
Is that the time I share with someone? How long it lasts? How much two people have in common? It is something I cannot command or thrust upon myself. It just comes and goes.
This morning, I got a letter Nicolas had written the previous night, a letter leaden with warnings and alarm. Beside some personal issues of his that fogged his mind into becoming quite unfair and cruel in his reproof and criticism, he hit some truth. His ability to see through any person like an X-ray scan and accurately foretell what direction that person is likely to take in his life make it harder for me to make the difference between the share of violent emotional impulse and the actual relevance of his vision in such a letter.
This was accompanied by some revelations that really knocked me down. I wonder what was the hardest to digest, the news or the way they were told to me. 
In short, I was told that I had only a few years left to live (until the age of 45). That even if success would eventually come to me, I would be extremely alienated, because of my unability to trust the others. I would have lots of friends, lots of people would come to me, but I would still feel solitary and remove deeper and deeper into myself.

All this hit me like a truck and now I have to face it.
I’m much too devastated to take action. I will just sit back and see where this gets me to. I don’t have the strength to stand up tall and find the right distance, don’t have the strength to reason myself and wipe it off as mere cruel child play; don’t have the strength to not get hurt.

I found some solace in YouTube where I discovered a very funny comedy sketch by Mad TV involving a ditzy blonde and a extremely simple 3 minute meal that goes wrong, then a clip of Jayne Mansfield playing a Bach sonata on the violin for a 50’s TV show, maybe the Ed Sullivan show…
I knew she could play the instrument, but never heard her. I mean, she could have been performing a little romance or small piece, but not, it had to be Johann Sebastian Bach. I was impressed. What a gap between the public perception of a celebrity and what really goes on in this person’s life. That’s something that always did raise my curiosity as a child, and still now. My parents would regularly lament that their young son would rather discover a new minor composer and track his work on the radio with great excitement instead of getting passionate about Brahms or Wagner. But how can you get passionate about Brahms when you are only eleven? Finding about new composers was more like a treasure hunt for me. The History of Music book that father gave me was like an treasure island map, and I had to get familiar with all the names. The famous could remain obviously famous, but what about those I never heard of? As a friend once said, it’s important to cultivate one’s secret garden as a child. My map was filled with all these forgotten names that were all secret doors to more treasure islands.


I feel so severed from myself. Haggard and woe-begone like John Keat’s knight-at-arms, palely loitering in the meanders of my memory. The past is coming back to haunt me hopefully for one ultimate time.

Finding the strength to grow, tossing aside my fears and walk again, past this blurry maze.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Fête de la Musique

Fête de la musique today. Musicians of all kinds playing on the street on the first day of summer. The chance for aspiring rock bands to get some notice. This was how I discovered Mouss a couple of years ago. How quick times goes by! Anyway I didn’t feel like loitering on the streets.
Chenva has invited me to come to a cocktail he has organized to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his company. It was to take place in a posh art gallery Avenue Matignon. I hadn’t heard from him since our dinner.
Some people were standing on the street. The gallery was also showcasing the work of some painter whose name I have forgotten and do not wish to remember.
I found it hard to say to myself the works were paintings. They looked more like decorative items for tasteless, show-offy people wanting to display their newly acquired wealth. Giant canvases of tigers and elephants in 3D.
"Oh I love the work, they look soooo real…"
Do people have to say they like it when they don’t? The ‘artist’ was here. The guests were all gathered around the tables and stuffing themselves with as much sandwiches they could grab.
I didn’t waste my time, though. I met Desmond who told me he instantly liked my music when Chenva played it to him. He couldn’t believe I had achieved all that without the help of any manager. And no one has ever approached you at all?
I remember Marlene Dietrich saying in her memoirs that she wished she could see one person receiving an Oscar and not thanking anyone else but himself and his perseverance. I could be that one.
Until now, I can say I owe it to no one but myself; a self-made man, in the true American fashion. This way of mine might drive me straight to a wall of conceit and self righteousness if I am not careful.

Desmond seems enthusiastic about doing something with me and taking me to Hong Kong for a try out. I have nothing to lose and am totally willing to get on board for new adventures!

I left the cocktail party to meet Nicolas. I soon quickly realized how uncomfortable I felt in the midst of all these people. Nicolas was talking but I was in another sphere. I felt numbed and dazed. What was happening? The prospect of going to Hong Kong was an auspicious one. I was happy Chenva introduced me to Desmond.
At last I had met someone who believed in me and didn’t show any sign of tentativeness and doubt. It was summer and the future seemed bright.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Talking to... plants

My first day all to myself. I just lounged at home, watched a couple of classic movies and looked after my plants. They were in a pretty bad state when I came back from Japan. I have put each one into a new and bigger pot and changed the soil. How healthy and green they look now! People like to laugh when I tell them about my connection to my plants, actually, to any living vegetalia. Taking care of them soothes me. It’s extraordinary the exchange that can exist between human and plants. It’s not of an emotional nature, but somehow, I can sense they feel my presence, especially after a long absence.
"Oh yes!!! You’re back! We couldn’t take it anymore…"
Take my mother. She’s got a magic touch when it comes to orchids. I brought to her three orchids that someone no longer wanted. And after a few months, they all started to grow buds and bloom.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

My first classical concert in a long time, and it was my long time friend and music afficionado Rémi Louis who invited me to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées to hear Mariss Jansons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony in a quite stunning program: Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra and Brahms’ second symphony. Quite oddly, I had never heard Zarathustra in concert. I realize that it’s seldom performed and requires a brilliant orchestra to do it justice. And the Bavarian Radio Symphony certainly more than rose up to the challenge tonight. We were sitting on the eighth row and the orchestra’s luscious sound literally electrified my atoms!

Friday, 15 June 2007

La vie parisienne

A show to attend every night (if one wishes to commit suicide)! On Wednesday, I saw Stabat Mater Furiosa, a war wife’s poetic and violent ode for life. One actress on stage, and two musicians (and tow dear old friends): Rémy, playing bass guitars and violin, and Vincent, playing the percussions. The beautiful text was turned into a theatrical rock opera.
Unfortunately the piece was performed in a magic mirror located in a no man’s land outside of Paris and the whole staging and light design had to be altered. I wish I could have seen it in its original and ideal presentation. I nearly missed the performance by the way. Rémy had sent me a flyer stating the show would start at 9:00 p.m. and at 8:10, he called me saying that the actual time was 8:30, hardly believing I would manage to make all the distance in so short a time on my bicycle… he was wrong!
The performance was strangely followed by a ball advertised as ‘festive’ with a band named la Grenouille à Cheveux (The Frog with Hair)… Suddenly, we were in an isolated small town in rural France back in the 70’s…
Three or four girls were dancing in the middle of the dance floor.
‘Let your body move to the music, hey hey hey….’

Yesterday was another matter. A showcase of a French Chinese band called Gemini. She sings, he plays the guitar. Pose, attitude, gothic and rock… an acoustic gig given at the Asian, a trendy lounge bar near the Champs-Elysées on the avenue George V.
The music wasn’t bad at all, but I was turned off by the amount of attitude they displayed, especially the guy. Maybe he was dreaming of a career as a rock star and never really quite achieved and had this wonderful idea of forming a band with this Chinese girl.
I’ve seen too many self indulgent bands to be waste my time with another one. Talent is one thing, but wasted when coated with these layers of fake attitude. Apparently, they had made it big in China…
‘Hey, I don’t feel the audience tonight… Are you with us?’ said the guitar player between two songs. We were but they weren’t. The girl was singing with eyes closed all the time and he was wearing sun glasses and looking down most of the time. Let’s talk about connection with the audience now…

My cousin Laura was staying the night with me, so I took her and Errol to the gig as well. She’s always curious to see where I am going to take her (usually to some weird underground performances…).
This time at the Asian lounge bar was more unadventurous. However she liked the place.
We then searched another nice café for a dessert in the Champs-Elysées area. Nothing. Just all these gilded tourist traps that offer below average quality food and service for a way beyond average price. We picked one at random, just to be sitting down and have a last drink. Laura did most of the talking, Errol listened and I dropped an occasional comment. Stories of love, lost loves, happy or funny loves…
Then came the time to catch the last metro. It started to rain hard. We were too late for the last train. It had just left a few seconds ago. Taxi cabs kept running down the avenue without stopping. They were all taken. Errol had brought an umbrella with him. The three of us were walking under it, like a strange three-bodied and three-headed creature.
An overcrowded bus appeared, which was heading to Châtelet, so we took it as our last chance. We were so jam-packed in it, it wasn’t even necessary to hold on to any pole. The ride turned into a riotous rollercoaster drive. Everybody in the bus laughed and yelled merrily. And to think that some people pay for that at the fun fair…

Monday, 11 June 2007

Hoping and wishing

It took me some time to realize what was happening. I had a strange dream in which French singer Juliette Gréco was claiming she was the grand-daughter of playwright Ibsen, and the grand-grand-daughter of some philosopher.

Anyway, it was the following day that the weight of the news started to dawn on me. I called my parents then Julia. They were all so enthusiastic and happy. “At last!!!”

I will hand Chenva a copy of my album. I don’t know whether it will be suitable for his plans. The idea isn’t to launch me like one of those pop idols! (Am I thinking - hoping too fast?)
However, I think I would like to record some of the tracks with a real string ensemble, and do the mix of some of the songs again. For once, I won’t be thinking about money and have all the time and means for that.
Maybe we will have to shoot new photos for the cover. I’m so elated by the news. I still think of it and can’t believe it’s actually happening.
That will be a good way to start writing the songs for the second album.
My ears are like two antennas that catch every single sound and music I can hear wherever I am.
Chenva really insists on having me come to Bangkok this summer. He wants to take me to some clubs and venues to listen to the local bands.

Speaking of bands, I discovered a new one yesterday: Polysics. I was to meet Jan and Philippe for an open air concert during the Villette Sonique festival.
The first band I saw was that kind of doom-and-gloom-the-Earth-is-dying act called Shit and Shine… Drums and noise, as it was advertised on the program… Five drummers, one guitar and one bassist. No singing, really, just the guitarist occasionally yelling as if he was skinned alive. They only played three songs during their one hour gig. They could have done something interesting with this drum explosion, adding more layers and making the rhythm slowly evolve and change. But no, it was primal screaming and banging all way through. A musical for Jurassic Park, in a way…

The second act was different. Polysics: four excellent energetic Japanese musicians playing something between post-punk, new wave and anime soundtrack, wearing flashy orange tracksuits, jumping and hopping all over the place with very nice hair movements, infectious rhythms, and an uncanny coming timing.
They had the whole audience in their hands within minutes.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

"Ask my agent"

“I have this idea… I don’t know if you’ll like it, but let me tell you about it. I would like to promote you in Asia, starting in Hong Kong. I have always wanted to find an Asian artist to produce, and as soon as I found your music on internet, my feeling told me you were the right one. I played your music to my partner and some other friends and they all agree. That’s the thing to do.”

And that’s what I never thought I’d hear one day.

It happened yesterday, at a dinner.

If I would be willing? Well, let me ask my agent!!!