Tuesday, 6 May 2008

British white soul

The first song for Auntie is written. Andersen booked me a piano studio at the Art University in Guandu, not far from where I stay. The piano was completely out of tune, but that was far more preferable than this thing people call 'keyboard', which has been sitting in my room for two weeks now. I will go back to the university tomorrow and try to pen another song. If I can manage a song per session, then we should be in time for the recording. I’m afraid what will be time consuming will be to write down the score on the paper, not composing it…
Another session today. I managed two more numbers and sketched ideas for two other songs. It was raining hard outside so maybe that’s why I wrote the ‘death song’ today. The scene occurs near the end of the play when the mother has possibly killed her husband and learns that she’ll never get a grandson from any of her two sons. It’s like a light death march that goes deeper and deeper in the lower register of both the singer and the orchestra. Of the other sketches of songs I started today, one will be a number for Auntie’s show. Yen and Yu-Guo suggested some jazzy tunes when they sent me the first version of the book. Honestly, I did not have much enthusiasm for the idea. A gay transvestite performer torching jazz numbers was a bit too tacky for me. A the moment, I listen a lot to this wave of British white soul songstress like Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Adele, who revived the 60’s of Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black and updated it for the younger generation. And the result is energizing and refreshing. I had this song by Duffy in my mind and it wouldn’t leave me. I immediately adopted the idea. Then comes the tricky part. It’s easy to make a pastiche, but more difficult to make it sound personal as well.
Before I could start working today, two girlfriends of ChingYao, both singers as well, asked me to accompany them on a song from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies - a duet about a last kiss before parting. Hearing the first of them sing was already quite a test for me - she sounded like an ageing soprano when she's actually only past her twenties, but when the two of them started warbling together, I had that nasty impression of accompanying Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a musical version of Whatever happened to Baby Jane.
The Taipei University of the Arts is located on a hill, and offers a beautiful view on the whole city. Theatre, music, dance, fine arts, each has its own building - and its dog… plus the library, a few restaurants, shops and of course the dormitory. I’ve never seen any campus for the arts in France. It feels great to be here, to share the energy of all these young hopefuls. And this project compels me to find new ways to write music. Never let habits get the better of me!

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