Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Possibilities in a bubble

I have felt so lazy the past days. I intended to start working on my music, but all I can do is watching films – I received a whole lot that I ordered online. Camp classics, swords and sandals, film noirs, Asian films and very recent ones like Little Miss Sunshine.
I haven’t sung a note for a week.  I just see friends and call Andersen every day to see how he’s doing in Italy.
I have talked to Nicole Fallien again on the phone to set another singing lesson for Andersen. We chatted a little and she started asking about me. When she learned I was a composer and wrote for the stage, she immediately mentioned that I should be introduced to the artistic director of La Comédie Française.
I don’t know what to think of it. If it happens, then I’m a happy man. Too many times have I got excited about empty turkeys, I’d rather keep some distance and wait until it actually happens.
In spite of many attempts to talk to Chenva or  Desmond, all I could get from them was the privilege to leave a message on an answering machine with no reply. I know they’re both busy people, but I’m seriously starting to wonder whether their original enthusiasm hasn’t cooled down. I’m being the prey of my doubts again. I should wait and be patient. Summer time is usually down time. Now everybody’s away.

At least this little commission from Maëlle will keep me busy. She hasn’t told me anything yet, but I have a clear picture of what I am going to write for her.

It’s an illusion. I take a look around and am shock when I realize that artists mainly glorify their misery. Where is true beauty, this quest for this universal, divine truth? Something we can look up to and find inspiration from? It’s sadly all about appearances. Keeping up appearances. God is dead. Not the God that people have been adoring for centuries. That one is still there.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


I’m standing on the crossroad of many other crossroads. Why can’t we help thinking about the future, how it’s going to be, what it is going to be made of…? To know won’t change anything if the confidence in life isn’t there. I feel great things are coming my way, but my own confidence falters and it’s still a big question mark that I see in front of me.
I think of the lives of all these great composers or artists in the past. The components of my own life are no different; it’s the life of Molière nevertheless, set in the 21st century. I don’t think artists really get that much freedom of expression, even if they are more recognized, somehow.
The feudal system is as active as ever. I still have to run from one court to another. And when I don’t find anything, I have to stop and consider more modest offers, like this one from Maëlle, one of the girls who danced in Gang Peng’s Sur le Fil. We had a few talks during the rehearsals and she mentioned she would love it if I could write something for an upcoming project. I blurred the matter with one of those ready-made phrases, "Time will tell". She was charming, but I wasn’t particularly excited. Ironically now, her time has come. Her new project seems nice, though not artistically arousing for me. My first impulse was to toss it aside and send a polite refusal. But then... I know big and ambitious projects do not come up my way every day. This one will be an interesting exercice de style for me as I will have to write a piece according to Maëlle’s range. I already know what she will need. Hers will be a piece about the condition of women. <gasp>
I think I will use some elements of the music I did for the sound installation of Play 2 Play. It won’t be used anymore and it’d be a shame to let it vanish into oblivion.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Summer feel

Jo has told me the editing for the PLAY 2 PLAY DVD is finished and that he is quite happy with the result. Unfortunately he chose not to use the backside footages. They were filmed from too close an angle and didn’t come out well.
A shame.
It had started as a very good project: a package that will include 2 DVDs, one for each side performance, plus an additional CD for the soundtrack. Tsuyoshi wanted to make a booklet.
But the problem is that Kazumo, the production company that will release the DVD is a very small one, and they did the shooting of the performance for free. So Jo is a bit stuck because he cannot ask them to do too much. The sales are only for Japan. No effort has been made to broaden the scope for potential international interest in Noism and Jo’s work.
Since Kazumo has not much money to do a worldwide promotion, the DVDs become a confidential item meant for fans only.
Despite my efforts and Tsuyoshi’s, things won’t change – much to our chagrin. The DVD of PLAY 2 PLAY will merely include a DVD of the front stage performance. Nothing more. I hope they make a better menu, with chapters and more substantial bonuses.
However, I went to the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and asked the shop whether they’d be interested in having some Noism DVD for sale and they seemed to show some enthusiasm about the idea. I will try the same in some other places like the Centre George Pompidou as well as Colette.

I walked on the rue Quicampoix the other day and stopped in front of what used to be the Editions Jobert, a publishing company specialized in 20th century music. They were the ones who owned the right to most of Debussy’s works. My father also had the majority of his music published by them.
Madame Jobert, as we called her eventually retired and left the legacy to her grand-son Tristan. But Tristan doesn’t know a thing about music, much less contemporary music and showed more interest in starting another publishing company that had little to do with music. Ironically, the last work of Debussy that the Editions Jobert published was his unfinished incidental music to Edgar Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. Now it’s the Fall of the House of Jobert, as some people cruelly remarked. After a few years of rather clueless management that drowned the whole company, Tristan declared that the Editions Jobert were a thing of the past and sold it. Many composers were understandably alarmed by the news. Fortunately for my father, his music will be secured by the Editions Lemoine, one of the few remaining music publishing companies in France.
So when I walked on the Rue Quincampoix and saw the ‘For sale’ board, I couldn’t help but feel some sadness at the thought that a whole era was indeed over.

Do people still like music? I would think so. What the music industry doesn’t understand is that they are responsible for the downfall of a market they created. Music should not be considered as a product one can sell like a box of cookies. And when they substitute real musicians and artists by these short-lived counterfeit acts, how could they expect people to keep on following and blindly give their money away for empty noise they call music?
Downloading was maybe an unconscious reaction but it was a natural consequence.
Enough of being told what to buy, what to listen to, what to like and whom to admire.
So during one of my endless walks, I found myself in the Opera area and felt the impulse to go to the Fnac store. Instead I found a Monoprix store. Food instead of music. Wasn’t that a sign?
A friend had told me that the Fnac had decided to stop selling music in the stores in the coming four or five years, starting with classical music next year, because CDs make only 20% of their profits.
Hopefully that will mean the rebirth of small record shops. And we’ll still have Virgin Megastore.

I really am curious to see where all this will lead to. Where can one go if money is the sole aim in life…

Today was Andersen’s last day in Paris. I wanted it to be a perfect last day. Summer had finally made its majestic entrance.
We were supposed to have a last singing session this afternoon at Bévinda’s. She gave me the key to her flat so I could play on her piano whenever she wasn’t there.  But things didn’t run as planned. I had this funniest feeling that we just shouldn’t bother. We didn’t work either the previous day. Something just made us take our time and it was much too late when we decided to finally start working.
Isabelle, who was to join us today cancelled at the last minute. The call of summer was so strong; she had to enjoy the day. And she was right.
When we got to Bévinda to pick our music sheets, we found two young girls at her doorstep. Who were they? Her nieces. They couldn’t open the door. They saw me hold my own key to the flat with astonishment. Who was this Asian guy?
My intuition was right. Had Isabelle come, had we decided to work this afternoon, we would have made a surprise entry into a day with Bévinda, her nieces and nephew - cute 6 year old Denzel.

The sun was shining so I took Andersen for a walk. As we passed the Archives Nationales we were given the program of a music festival showcasing the talents of young classical musicians. It was to take place in the main room of this beautiful building. I always welcome it when the wind blows me to another unexpected direction, so we bought the tickets. On tonight’s program were Fauré’s first piano quartet and Ernest Chausson’s Concert for piano, violin and string quartet.
The young talents were indeed very milky-face young. Twenty two at the most. Particularly outstanding was the promising pianist Alain Laloum. He was the only one who really knew what he was doing and radiated some musical aura. Perfect technique and a wonderful touch. I’m sure we’ll hear about him in the coming years.

My two weeks in the company of Andersen have re-connected me to my happy self. I feel like singing again. If I have managed to give a hint about how to approach the music, and introduced him to Nicole Fallien, his magnificent baritone has inspired me to re-embrace mine with delight and joy.

Play list for today

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Anger (Chocolate Weasel Bad Hair Day Mix) | Bévinda – L’anamour | Mika – Lollipops | Tanaka Roma – Breathe | Regina Spektor - Uh-Merica | Madonna – Bad Girl (Live at Saturday Night Live) | Lotte Lenya – Speak low | Max Raabe & Das Palast Orchester - Night and Day | Jimmy Scott – Nothing compares 2U | Gidon Kremer - Astor Piazzolla:  Concierto del angel | Michèle Atlani - Au Parc Sévigné (Live in Saarbrücken) | Miles Davis – Blue in green | Teresa Berganza – Toldrà:  Seis Canciones Castellanas | Björk – Innocence (Carsten Nicolai Alva Noto Unitxt remodel 12" remix) |

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Opening up

Sun shining – not the weather, but in my head. The storm that has flooded my life two weeks ago is now showing its real outcome.
Jo has written to me to ask me to write the score for his next piece. Not Noism this time, but the Brazil City Ballet. They have commissioned him a 25 minute piece and he would like me to compose the music.
Of course I want to do that. We make a good team, so why not use this strength to our advantage. The premiered is scheduled for May 2008, but Jo might want to get some music to work on before the end of the year.
I still haven’t started doing anything yet for my second album. The ideas are maturing in my head but I haven’t felt it is the right moment to give a physical shape.
On the other hand, I have promised Maria-Cristina to pen the music for her video installation Méditation érotiques, the divine origin of eroticism. What she’s done lies between a Butoh performance, a Renaissance painting and contemporary dance. It shouldn’t be too difficult. As we talked together, the music just imposed itself in mind. I will have record a harpsichord part, ask Isabelle to sing a few lines of baroque opera and create a soundtrack that will be more an evocation of music than actual music.
The installation will be presented in an Italian museum this autumn.

My work with Andersen goes very well. I took him Nicole Fallien for a singing lesson. I already admired her from what Julia and Isabelle had told me, and I liked her even more when I talked to her on the phone to settle the appointment. Everything seemed so natural when we met. A warm, open-hearted lady, whose approach to singing is like water flowing.
We left her place in a state of elation and high spirit.
The sweet power of music!
"Whenever you come back to France, I will make room for you!" she told Andersen. She obviously liked his voice. A very good sign. "But work on your pitch, young man!!!" 
She also explained to him that it was important that he picked roles that fitted his physique. "No one will pick you to be Don Giovanni or any romantic lead in a Verdi or Puccini opera. So you have to be smart and work on what you have to your fullest advantage."
Andersen was very happy. The prospects were exciting for him.


Louis Dupont sent me a very positive review of Les Garçons de la Plage a DVD compilation of four short films he has done the past years. The review appeared in Bref magazine, which is totally devoted to the short films. I subscribed to it for many years and went to the monthly festivals they would organize at the Trianon, a theatre located in the Montmartre area, near my former flat. I saw so many great shorts there.
This particular review had a line about the music I did for one of the four short films, also entitled Les Garçons de la Plage. Louis had previously used a Mozart piano sonata and the film was shown at many festivals in this version. But when I saw it, I suggested a more contemplative music would be better than the running phrases of the piano. I was then working on ‘Sur le Fil’ for Gang Peng and had done many piano takes. I didn’t have to think any further and the result immediately pleased Louis.
Even of my contribution to this work is rather minimal, I felt happy when the journalist acknowledged it.
"La fluidité poétique du film est due, pour beaucoup, aux arpèges envoûtants du pianiste An Ton That… (The poetic fluidity of the film owes a lot to the mesmerising arpeggios of pianist An Ton That)"

Send me more flowers !!! He he!

Friday, 6 July 2007

Magical voice

Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Finzi, Rossini…
Simon has hooked me with Andersen, a young baritone from Taipei who’s going to make his singing debut in Italy for an opera gala. He was nervous and needed some assistance.
I had accepted to help without much in my mind but when I heard his voice I received an electric shock. How unexpected! What beauty, what grace! That breed of singers whose ancestors surely were the Sirens. When he sings, someone pushes a magic button, and I’m in heaven.
Who else does that to me? Fritz Wunderlich, Frank Sinatra, Régine Crespin, Lou Rawls, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau…
I see (and I wish for) a promising career for Andersen. He’s young with a bright future ahead.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Come and go

For his last day in Paris, I wanted to take Errol to a concert. It was the end of the season and nothing rally caught my eyes. I would have been tempted by to see Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies at the Opéra Bastille. Impossible. All tickets were gone.

Then came Rémi, my dear music lover friend. He called me to suggest a concert by the Kronos Quartet. Great! Superb! It was to be one of the last ones of the yearly Festival Saint-Denis that takes place in the town’s beautiful church.
The eclectic program included works by American composers: John Adams, Terry Riley, Clint Mansell, Osvaldo Golijov and Felipe Pérez Santiago.
More than two hours of music. We were all under the spell.

The day had started on a darker note. I was walking on the street from my home to the metro station when I had the feeling that somethig was suspended in time. People were gathering and watching something, motionless. As I came closer I saw a young woman lying on the ground. She wore a navy blue long skirt with white flower pattern. A hat had fallen a few meters away from her. A pool of blood spreading under her head. A police-woman was trying to bring her back to life. Blood kept spreading slowly on the asphalt. A black woman was standing behind, petrified by shock, her hands in front of her mouth. I knew it was useless. The young woman had already gone. She was now just a inanimate thing on the ground. I could feel hHer soul hovering over us. There was a deep silence surrounding us as if all noise, all sound had suddenly stopped. I had felt the same thing when I watched one of my aunts died in her bed in front of my eyes, when I saw the little cat Pablo agonizing after the accident. In spite of the tragedy, the atmosphere were almost peaceful.

A few hours later, I saw flowers near the spot of the tragedy. An anonymous homage to an anonymous woman.

Errol and I had a drink after the concert. There were many nice bars on the Canal St Martin. He was staying at a friend's place. Not really a friend, maybe one of these numerous middle aged Frenchmen who drool at the sight of fresh young blood. Errol had been trying to put some distance between himself and them. I was feeling very emotional. What would happen to him afterward? He would go back to Hong Kong, keep on with his studies.
"I want to come back to Europe. I love it here. I feel so free..."
I walked him back to his friend's place. It was already quite late. We didn't want to say goodbye, but we had to. He was sobbing silently. I couldn't say anything. I saw him standing there, looking at me walking away until the very last second. I was deeply moved. 
The night is on. Another story begins.