Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Libretto / Almodovar

We had a reading of the play two days ago, which allowed me to finally meet all the actors involved in the project.
I met them… indeed. How else can I put it...?
I’m aware that this was the first reading. Even if I didn’t understand a word, I had this nasty feeling that the play could dangerously become some flamboyant camp slapstick show designed solely for the gay audience: a lonely mother in the ordinary madness of her obsession, two gay sons, a transvestite father… 
I take Pedro Almodovar as a perfect example of how such thorny themes can be handled with wit and sensitivity. Despite the cultural differences from one continent to another, the human issues remain the same and the gay issue is only a backdrop.
This is my fourth venture in the theatrical field and once again, I feel stuck in a pool of problems. The play has not yet reached its final state in my opinion. Yu-Gou may have re-written some parts of it, but I don’t find the result at all satisfactory. He seems to hit some psychological blockage which prevents him from turning comic-strip characters into full-fleshed ones. I will not wait any longer and will start writing the music. Yu-Gou can then fit in the lyrics later.
My ten day trial has come to an end, it’s now time to really get my hands in the mud!

Beethoven must be wriggling in his tomb. In France, his name has been given to a electronic device which emits ultra high frequency sounds in order to keep away nuisances, some animals (which ones?), bugs as well as youngsters under the age of 25 - and possibly musicians too; people with a sensitive ear... 
I just picture some of my neighbours buying this device to prevent me from making any music… Ironic when it’s a famous fact that Beethoven was deaf himself…
From what I’ve heard, a couple of government ministers  have rejected it.
This invention comes from Great Britain and is produced by the Compound Security Systems company. They were ‘kinder’ to name it Mosquito instead of Beethoven
Maybe they will come up with a similar device to keep back foreigners from entering a country.
In Taiwan Beethoven’s world famous piano piece ‘Für Elise’ is used as a ringtone when the garbage lorry is coming near…


Fang-Yi once described herself as a young girl who grew up without self confidence and found shelter in her passion for dance. Now magazines and reviews cannot hide their praise for her: "the second coming of Martha Graham," "the most gifted interpreter of Graham to appear in decades"
Simon said of Fang Yi that she is a simple and extremely nice person and indeed she was. She was waiting for me at the Taiwan Artists Village with her partner and a friend. I immediately felt at ease with her. I like people who do not show who they are and take you by storm right  the after the first second you meet them. She’s heard of Jo and his talent as a choreographer, wants to build a repertoire for her, explore more of her physicality, the possibilities for a dancer her age - 36 is seen as fairly old for a dancer. I’m sure Jo would do wonders with her. Not only because she’s an outstanding performer, but because her approach to creation and art is different than
As we talked, I could see her beautiful big eyes glowing with this contained passion that makes her so unique. So the dice are thrown. I will write to Jo to introduce her to him. Then we’ll see. The same happened to me when I came to Niigata for the first time to meet him, four years ago.
Ching-Yao gave me a lethal weapon against the mosquito: an electric tennis racket. I can’t say mosquitoes are my best friends, but I feel some sympathy for them dying this way.... They’re not human, but they’re still living beings and biting us isn’t something they do out of wickedness. They just survive that way. Think of what we do to our planet and to each other. So each time I hear them snap like pop corn when I manage to catch them on the electric net of the racket, I can’t help but feeling like a blood-thirsty murderer.


Writing on Mandarin lyrics seems to be a great challenge. It is, but I find that when it comes to write music, what lies behind the words is more important than the words themselves, no matter how beautiful they are. I wish I could speak Mandarin like I speak French or English, but this project is more than just a musical. In undertaking the composition of the music, I am searching for new ways to create connection and communication. It’s part of a big plan I’m unveiling as I’m walking through life.
Auntie will be like nothing else before, I hope. It’s not good to plan what it should be, for I have no idea and don’t want to be planning too much ahead and be trapped in a rigid frame, but I have the inkling it‘s going to be more than we can imagine.

Monday, 28 April 2008

I am in Taipei!

I’m staying in Guan Du, which is the north-eastern part of Taipei. I can see the famous 101 Tower from the distance. My room has a wonderful view on the river and a bird reserve. The birds give a wonderful concert every morning at the break of day. The only one I can actually see are the white egrets which fly gracefully above the river.
Going to the centre takes a long time. A good thing that taxis are not too expensive. Coming from Paris, everything seems so cheap to me.

I have had long discussions with Yu-Gou the playwright and made some suggestions for the plot and he agreed to revise it. Until now, I only vaguely knew the main lines of the plot. As soon as they entered into the details, it struck me that I would be impossible to write music on such an incoherent story. I haven’t started myself, however my ideas are more precise. I will have to write down the score for each part, record them before putting the songs together. Two of the performers are apparently famous actors in Taiwan. I will start with their songs so the company has material on which they can build the promotion; and possibly air the songs on the radio…

NINA was just performed in South Korea two days ago at the LG Art Centre where Simon did Swan Lake a few years back. Jo wrote to me after the last performance in Michigan that he wished to focus on a new piece for Noism and not just NINA. He’s lucky though to have a piece that garners the company a good reputation and is becoming a repertoire piece. One critic from Washington noted that he would love to see NINA performed by another company. Even if the ballet is strongly Asian in essence, having other dancers than the ones from Noism perform it could be exciting. 
Speaking of which, Simon has hooked me up with a Taiwanese dancer, Fang-Yi Sheu, who is one of the most renowned dancer from Taiwan who made it big by being the principle dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Company and was highly praised by her beautiful interpretation of Graham‘s works. 
I don’t know through whom Simon managed to meet her, but she is in search of good people to work with and heard of Jo. So now there’s the prospect of creating a piece for her. I hope Jo will accept - since he declined the offer from the Brazil City Ballet…
Maybe working for a solo will be easier. I do wish he seizes the opportunity to get some fresh air out of the Noism circle. And I’m happy to have the possibility to collaborate with him again.
My life in Paris was lazy compared to what I have to do here. ‘Have to do might’ give the idea of something compulsory, but it’s not. It’s so exhilarating to run from one place to another, attend events and concerts, meet new people, create new connection. Beside Japan, Taiwan is the first place in Asia where I can feel so much activity in the art field.
And the food is delicious!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Taipei - First days

I dreamed that I could  think in Mandarin. But I couldn’t understand what I was thinking.

Two days in Taipei now, and more than one week of Mandarin lessons. The language is starting to grow in me. I am, you are, it is, I would like, I eat, I live, I do, I go… Where, when, really? Dog, cat, cow, duck, beef, street, France, Vietnam, Germany, China, Taipei…

We’ve had lengthy discussions about Auntie, the musical. The book isn’t what I’d call completed. The playwright is very talented but finds it hard to go beyond the boundary of the characters being the reflection of himself and his life. The creative process is certainly very interesting, but I can’t help but wonder how we will managed to complete the task of having a premiere in July, with a play fully rehearsed and the music recorded and available on CD…
I find consolation in the thought that Debussy would still make last-minute corrections on La Mer before the concert, or that geniuses like Shakespeare and Molière usually wouldn’t have completed the whole play the day before the premiere. We may consider their work as immeasurable masterpieces now, but I’m quite certain  there were lots of improvisations going on from the actors and that the plays may have found their final state much later. 
Well, wishful thinking, I suppose!