Sunday, 30 September 2007

Kings in theatre

Two kings. Xi You Ji on, the Monkey King on Friday and King Lear just this afternoon. Two legendary figures I encountered this week end.
The long saga of Xi You Ji was squeezed into a two-hour musical called Monkey – Journey to the West and set to music by Damon Albarn, while the second was a four-hour long, heavy-handed staging of Shakespeare’s tragedy in French language.

I didn’t really feel like going seeing King Lear. It was to be played by French actors. Why do French stage actors have this annoying habit to shout and yell each time they open their mouth? Two minutes into the play, I was already tense by the coarseness of their voices. I never felt this way when I would go to the theatre be it in London, New York, Vienna or Tokyo. It seems to be a French thing. I had seen another staging by this director, Jean-François Sivadier, and I had to endure much shouting and broken vocal chords even if the play was The Marriage of Figaro. A comedy!  Yet I knew he had a good sense of scenography. At least if the acting wasn’t to my taste, it would be interesting to watch.
Then on stage Nora Krief appeared the ray of light. Yes, she was playing Cordelia, Lear’s youngest daughter. She was to be the light of hope and love of the play. When she was done with Cordelia first scene, she reappeared as the Fool and she just outshone all the others. She was the Fool when the others struggled to give meaning and life to their characters. She made the whole audience laugh when the others pained to get even one sigh from us. She was the heart of the show. I’m glad I could have witnessed that. The four hours went by. I must say that Jean-François Sivadier managed some moments of greatness, for instance, when King Lear is facing the storm and his inner storm of madness, they cleverly used a microphone that completely distorted his voices and made it sound like a monster howling as the stage floor was dividing and moved apart. I was chilled and thrilled. A scene to remember.

Monkey was another affair. As a show it was highly entertaining. But one digs a little deeper, there’s only void, system and mechanism. The performers, acrobats, singers and musicians were really breath-taking. I’m always in awe of performers who can use their body, jump and fly and flip in the air. Kristina was with me and we shared the same mixed feeling about Monkey. The music was annoying. Damon Albarn is great when it comes to writing pop songs, or when he delves in his musical experimentations with Michael Nyman, Terry Hall or as a member of Gorillaz, but he doesn’t have the skill and the mastery to pen a full scale ‘opera’. There were some ideas, but he mainly kept the tone light and humorous – as in Blur and Gorillaz. The fighting scenes which would have required a stronger use of drums was here only the same musical loop played louder and louder. Had he worked with a classically trained composer, the result would have been richer and more layered.
The audience loved it anyway and that’s what the new director of the Théâtre du Châtelet is aiming at: entertaining people. 
Kristina and I left the theatre slightly frustrated. One question: is it possible (wise?) to be demanding all the time?

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Taiwanese mix

I’m learning Chinese!!!
I bought a method for beginners the other when we visited the publisher. So many of my Asian friends speak Chinese and I will have to go to Chinese speaking countries more and more. That is a very good decision indeed.

Yesterday’s music afternoon with Julia was fantastic. We were both in very good vocal shape and in an excellent mood. I’m so delighted to see all the progress I’m making.
The therapeutic wonders of singing!


All my Taiwanese friends were there for the Hou Hsiao Hsien cine-party at the Divans du Monde. We were quite tired from partying all night yesterday. But this cosy and friendly atmosphere beamed on everyone tonight.
I preferred what Lim Giong and his V-jay friend did this time although I had to leave before the end – it was running for more than three hours... But having all these screens around us was magical.
We had Zenzou tea and some Taiwanese delicacies.
I really think this venue would be perfect for my next concerts, especially if we can use all the screens. The sound is quite good. The stage is somehow a bit small, but there are lots of possibilities. I shall give the artistic director a little call next week.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Lim Giong

The Parisian Taiwanese Cultural Centre has organized a retrospective on Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Most of his films will be showed at the art-house cinema Le Champo in the 5th arrondissement, near the Sorbonne. They connected the event with what they call ciné-concert: scenes and images from his films, specially edited for a live mix by his long-time composer, Lim Giong. Tonight was only the ‘aperitif’ – Digital Garden. A V-Jay and Lim Giong offered the audience a sensorial journey as they mixed images and music for an hour long walk in a digital garden. The event took place at the Divans du Monde, a venue located in the Pigalle area which mainly focuses on world music and alternative music. I should think of this place for my upcoming concerts. Lim Giong is such a charming man, simple and enthusiastic about what he does.
On Saturday, he will do this live Hou Hsiao-Hsien film remix, in a special setting reminiscent of the early 20th century and Zen gardens. We’ll be served Zenzou tea! I just love that.
I’m so happy to get back to life and enjoy all these many events.
Life, life, life!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

If music be the food of love...

I just got back from Ulysses’ flat. A chamber music soirée with Schumann, Beethoven, Mozart, Elgar and Dvořák. Ulysses usually has musicians coming to his place once a week to play music. Most of them are good enough to sight read a whole chamber music piece without an ounce of a flinch. Maybe a couple of ducky notes here and there, but the enjoyment never fails.
I’ve always had this fantasy of musical afternoons or evenings with friends where we would sing lieder and art-songs and play chamber music. That’s something I will set once I have a bigger flat and a decent piano.
I didn’t play anything this time, but my fingers were indeed itching!
A shame Andersen doesn’t live in Paris because it would have been great to bring him there. I’m sure his beautiful voice would have made wonders. Ulysses is the only friend I know who’s organizing such evenings, and God knows I have been around musicians.
Oh! For a piano!!! My fingers are rusted.

I have finalized my ideas and found the thread for my uncle’s book. A chronological view on his work or a critical analysis would be as boring as contemplating flying dust. The thread will be one long Vietnamese poem that will run through the book and serve as a reflection of my uncle’s soul. On looking up books of sketches by Goya and Odilon Redon it wasn’t hard for me to see that my uncle’s strong point wasn’t his sketches – not fair to compare him to those two giants, I know. Of course his are done with great skills and talent, but there’s something desolate and empty when I look at those drawings. An intense sadness and peace of mind also. But fifty pages of that will kill even his most fervent friends. Good that we have those beautiful paintings.
I met my parents today before going to the publisher’s. I exposed my idea and they agreed. The publisher agreed to all my suggestions. Now I’m going to ask my friend Colin Phu to help me on the book design.
We have month or so before I go to New York. I hope we can complete our task before that deadline. It will take three months to print the book. I’m not worried about time. Everything will happen as it has to.

Monday, 17 September 2007

J'y étais

Brief meeting with Maria-Cristina in a smoky café near the Place de la Nation. The weather suddenly has turned autumn-like overnight. It is now cold and rainy when still yesterday, everyone was soaking in the warmth of the sun.
Maria-Cristina told me more about her triptych project. It will consist in two short plays by playwright Kebir M. Ammi, Alger la Blanche and Voci dal Silenzio as well as a video installation entitled J’y étais’ (I was there), which she had previously presented in Cagliari, Sardinia  as a part of a whole performing art project, ‘I colori dell’estasi’.
I am to write the music for the two plays. It didn’t take me long to feel what was necessary. I will keep on my work on choirs and voices and also use an Indian singer.
The short running time of the plays ask for something simple and immediate. The themes that Kebir M. Ammi has developed in these plays will not call for much laughing, yet Maria and I do not want to indulge in extreme seriousness.
The singing will thus bring the audience some emotional relief. Music is hardly well used as a dramatic element in theatre for much of the focus is whether made on the text, the acting, or the director’s ego. Maria-Cristina is one of the few rare ones I know who hasn’t fallen into that tempting trap.
I will contact this Indian lad she has told me about and start working on the music.
The dates in Cagliari are not settled. We will have to wait until the end of the month to get a final answer.

Saturday, 15 September 2007


I woke in the middle of the night and suddenly everything was clear to me. I couldn’t open my eyes, I was in between sleep, but yet I understood; the past months, the fogginess of my present situation, my tentativeness about this coming trip to Asia.
Tsuyoshi was celebrating his birthday the evening before and of course, most of friends who showed up were fellow architects, a few of them Japanese as well. Talking to them proved beneficial to me. It put me back in focus. We shared a similar view in our analysis of society. They were surprised and interested to hear what a musician had to say. When I told them music wasn’t just a question of nice melody but also had its spatial architecture within which the listener had to find his place, it was like opening a door to wonderland. I felt elated to meet brilliant minds with a sensitive open-mindedness and conscience about the surrounding world.
All this grew in my sleep and reached the final conclusion of this chapter of my life. Architects are builders and visionaries. The time is ripe for me to build. All the troubles that originated from my childhood are now over. Nothing should stop me. My self confidence needs only to express itself more often. I don’t need anyone to take care of me in Asia and introduce me to people. It’s up to me now to find the right people and go to them. It’s all up to me now.
I felt so happy to feel that glow inside. The best is yet to come.

As I was talking to Nicolas and Stéphane this afternoon, it was clear now that the only thing I had to do was to follow my intuition. Now it’s telling me to go to New York. I had seen Beppe who was making a flashlight visit to Paris two days ago and he insisted on my coming to New York. I didn’t find any valid reason to go except this simple impulsion to say yes and just do it.
I suppose I will do it! Next things I do will be to check the flights.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Another (musical) dream

I was taking a nap and woke with the Davy Crockett song in my head… I must have been seven or eight when I last heard it.
Davy… Davy Crockett.
L’homme qui n’a jamais peur…’  
(The king of the wild frontier…)

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Another dream

Another dream, but no mine. A friend told me he saw me in his dream, playing soccer on a green hill, happy and joyous.
What does that mean? I laughed a lot when I heard that. Me playing soccer and feeling happy about it???

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Stand up

It’s time now that we give music its rightful place again. That art becomes art again and not a product that one can consume and throw like a bottle of water or a disposable item.
I will do my best to make this voice be heard. I’m tired of seeing music being sold for money. What effect does it really have on people? I doubt the effect comes from the music itself. To me it has more to do with collective brainwashing through advertisement and cynical producers compelling the listeners to find their place in society with the music they listen to. "Tell me what you’re listening to, I’ll tell you who you are."
I do not say that people are unable to truly appreciate music. The free download is a sign that it is not so. People are tired to be told what to buy, what to like and what to celebrate. People go more and more often to the concerts. Music is more alive than ever. But if the stock market could leave it be and give it more space to take its shape instead of trying to milk it till the last drop in the old fashioned way.

My coming trip to Asia will be an interesting one. I have to stay connected to who I really am in order to build a good future. There’s no escaping any more. I know I’ll have to play an important role. What role that will be, I know not. What matters to me now is to let my really self expand more and more and not live according to ideas and rules.
Signore, ascolta!

Sunday, 2 September 2007


I have been watching many films lately, but the two to have left a strong impression on me were: All about Lily Chou-Chou and Attack the Gas Station!
These two couldn’t be better opposites: the first one is a devastating tale of teen-hood angst told by a young Japanese boy who find solace in the world of an etherial pop singer called Lily as his real life becomes more and more unbearable and painful, and the second one is anarchic comedy set in Seoul about four disaffected young blokes who rob a gas station to find out that there’s no cash and take over the place and lock up the boss and his employees. But as the evening progresses, more and more customers gather at the place: gangs, policemen, customers in a riotous finale. I hadn’t had powerful cinema moments such as these in a long time. It’s good to see the freshness and vitality of Asian cinema.

A rose has it given itself to me. I had seen it budding on the branch a week ago – the second in the season, so it was a celebration when this flower started blooming.
Nicolas had told me to take weekly baths with rose petals. The energy of the rose is a good one for me at the moment, as I’m affirming my new self. So when I saw the blooming rose on the balcony the other morning, my heart ached at the thought that I’d have to cut it and use it for the bath. It’s as if the rose heard me and accepted the sacrifice. I thought of this tale by Oscar Wilde where and nightingale sacrifices itself for love by letting the rose pierce its heart so it could give its most beautiful song. This time it was the rose.
I suppose not many people would give so much thought about it. A rose is just a rose. Ha.
But when they don’t bloom that often, each one of them become like a gem, an ephemeral gem.