Tuesday, 14 December 2010

In Paris

The gate to the Louvres

I didn’t manage to see as many friends as I wished during this visit, but I was glad to finally catch my friend and music lover Rémi. As often the case, he offered to meet for a concert. Valery Gergiev was playing the complete symphonies by Gustav Mahler, and the crazy man had decided to put symphonies for every evening! Rémi had heard the 1st and 5th two days before and had insisted that I came tonight, which I did without any hesitation. Tonight, the 4th and 6th symphonies were to be performed. Not the shortest pieces of music ever. We knew we would be completely knackered afterward. In spite of that, the concert was beyond my expectations. Very rarely in my life had I witnessed such a symbiosis between conductor and orchestra. They were one. Gergiev has a very unusual way of conducting: he’s shaping the sound with his hands and the musicians understand what they have to do. Giving the beat and keeping the tempo are the last things you see him do. During the intermission, I heard some music critics voicing out loud their discontent – did Gergiev really know what he was doing; did he have anything to say with this music? Was he a poser, an illusionist without any depth? I was shocked to hear that but I understood how unsettling it could be for people who like to know and control what they hear when they are facing a musician who creates a personal world out of an already written piece of music. I wonder how these live performances would sound on record. But as a live experience it was extraordinary. 

Mona Lisa on sale

Rémi also attended an auction of André Jolivet’s archives: letters, manuscripts, concert programs, photos and scores that belonged to the composer. Among them were two letters written by my father to him when he was still a young student struggling to become a composer. Rémi bought the letters as a gift for my father and wanted me to hand them to him. I read the letters on my way back from the concert and saw this young man named Tôn Thât Tiêt, before he was my father, before he had created all this wonderful music, a young man who had left his native Vietnam and lived in a small chambre de bonne in Paris and didn’t know what his future would be made of. In the first letter, he was asking Jolivet to accept him as a student after being rejected from the school; in the second, written some three years later, he was talking about his condition as a Vietnamese composer. I was incredibly touched, reading these lines, especially now that I was living in Taiwan with no certainty at all about my own future. His handwriting had barely changed: small, elegantly shaped letters. The signature was exactly the same nearly fifty years before.

Le Jardin des Tuileries sous la neige
The Tuilerie Garden under the snow

Les Halles & Eglise St-Eustache

Sunday, 5 December 2010


There I was, standing in the middle of the living room, sobbing. I had bid farewell to Jo and Sawako after a snowy Sunday in Montmartre and had walked home to Dennis’ flat. I had nothing to do. I tried to call a few friends for company but they were all busy.
I was looking forward to seeing Satoshi. We had not exchanged much since we said goodbye last summer. But there were a few meaningful messages and letters written between us and he seemed excited to meet again. But it wasn’t what I anticipated, although I did saw little hints even when I was staying in Niigata. But I chose to ignore them and see what I wanted to see.
I wrote this song, I aim about that infinite limbo which hesitation can create between two lovers. I felt the same intangible wall between Satoshi and me. He was obviously glad to see me, but he had walked some distance by himself since last summer and, contrary to me, absence put order in his mind. A champion at self-delusion, I convinced myself that I saw sparkles of love where there was merely affection or friendly love.
“If ever anything has to happen, you’ll have to let him come to you” Nicolas later told me.
A sensitive and attentive person, Satoshi wrote a letter to me to apologise for hurting me, saying that after I left Japan, he gave our relationship some long thoughts and came up with the conclusion that we would be better off as friends, considering my position as composer in Noism, in spite of the intimacy that we shared. He was sorry he had hurt me and the thought of it really upset him. But in truth Satoshi didn’t hurt me. I did it all myself. If I had to be honest with myself, I didn’t even feel hurt. I played at feeling hurt. That’s what humans do, isn’t it?
So standing there in the middle of the living room, I sobbed. I couldn’t help it. Tears flowed out like wine, as the song would go. I had reached full circle; this absolutely crazy, intense year was over. I didn’t know where I was heading to. I was in Paris, but as a visitor. Maybe it was a good idea to simply stop for a while, take a deep breath. And I sobbed.

I slowly realise what wonderful news my brother announced to us the other day. I’m going to be an uncle! Mathilde and he had desperately been trying to conceive a child without much success. To me it was clear that Junior, as my brother calls it, wasn’t ready to come out.
This year end is filled with twists, shifts and new promises. Many friends around me have taken dramatic decisions in their life. Vanessa has left her partner to settle a new life, for her daughter and herself, away from Paris. Tsuyoshi is now thinking of quitting the architecture company he had founded years ago with his two other partners when he realised that differences of aim and vision he didn’t notice at first were now loudly obvious. Nicolas is getting prepared to leave France and settle down in Taiwan wish his boyfriend. Yatchi will go to Cambodia with his partner… Many other friends have quit their job or left the French capital to start anew somewhere else, sometime in another country.
The devastating news was that my mother was officially diagnosed Alzheimer disease. Her short term memory had been declining the past couple of years. To me it was due to the fact that she hardly ever goes out and socialise with other people. Most of her time is spent at home, whether in front of her computer, working on her translations – this book of Vietnamese tales that goes on and on… Finishing it would leave her to face a void - starting a new project must feel like an impossible task for her now, or watching Korean drama series on TV. For a long time, I liked to think of my parents as dynamic and active for their age, especially compared to many elderly people twenty years their junior, but I had to admit that they couldn’t keep that way eternally. They are getting old, even if at 77 they still look very good and healthy. But the truth is, if the mind is unhappy, the body deteriorates, young or old. My mother didn’t have anything much to look forward to. Her two sons were adults. I was now leaving in Taiwan. My brother was having his married life would only visit them once in the blue moon. The coming of this new child may be her salvation.

The thought of it struck me suddenly: it was only when I left the picture that my brother and Mathilde managed to conceive a child. With me now gone, my brother could finally find his place in the family.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Lettre from Satoshi

Hi An.

I had wanted to talk to you .
But I can't speak English well. I'm sorry I couldn't say it to you straight .
I was thinking about our relationship for a long time after you went back to Taipei this summer .
I regret that we had sex so easily during this summer .

You are the composer, I'm a dancer. We met through work.
I liked your music before I met you .
I was interested in you when I met you .
But I shouldn't have had sex so easily.  We didn't know each other well.

I like you very much, but as a friend .
I really want to be a good friend to you .

But I know you don't feel like that.
I depended on you. You treated me special .
But it's heavy for me.

I'm so sorry I hurt you .
I'm really sorry .

P.S. I'm sorry if you sent me mail while I was in Paris. My phone died until now.


Satoshi .

Paris - again

Paris. I didn’t realise – or didn’t want to admit how much I missed the city. I was looking at each detail carefully, as if frightened that it would vanish from my sight again.
The city was covered with snow, an unlikely view in these times of global warming.
Jan picked my up at the airport in spite of the early hour. What a dear friend. And as often the case when I return somewhere after a certain time, all the past months in Taipei suddenly vanished, as if they never happened. 

Jardin des Tuileries

I made a big case of NINA being performed for the first time in Paris. For Jo and me, it was an important trial. Jo was coming back to present a new piece, six years after having been mercilessly demolished by critics. He was anxious to see how they would react this time. For me, the Parisian premiere of NINA, beside being my first important project to be shown here, paradoxically also meant the conclusion of my life in Paris. And I wanted my friends and family to finally see and have a glimpse of what has brought away from France.
It was a triumph. The theatre was full every night. I saw so many friendly and beloved faces beaming with joy and pride. I felt happy and content. Theirs weren’t forced smiles for a friend they felt compelled to support. They just liked it. It was one of those rare moment when everything is perfectly balanced and harmonious.
My parents came on the last day. We had had a family meal earlier on and my brother struck the wonderful news that he would soon be a father. Needless to say, my mother couldn’t contain herself. Her ultimate wish was being granted. I can easily imagine what a meaningful day it had also been for my father. Each in our own way, my brother and I gave him the best present we could possibly give. I never saw him so proud and delighted at something I have done. He had seen NINA on DVD, but the TV experience could hardly compare to the actual stage performance.
As the years pass by, I grow closer to my father and understand the man and the artist. I don’t know how many sons reach the point in their life where they genuinely love and respect their father. I wish that many of them do.
“Your father is soooo cute!!!” Jo said after meeting him. People are always so surprised when they see him. His music inspires awe and respect in them. But he is a simple and humble man.

Father, mother and son - Photo by Mathieu Thoisy

Friday, 19 November 2010

Back to Paris

Tomorrow, I’ll take the plane to fly back to Paris, my first trip back after six months; six months which will take their full meaning once I am back in Paris. Maybe six months that will look like they never happened.
I’m still at the Cloud Gate studio in BaLi, with Ah-Kun and Deserts, to finalise the robots part in the music of Symphony Project. But we – or they, still have a long distance to go. A full month at least or more is necessary, but the premiere is next week. The robots are hardly operational. Each note the instruments play requires hours of work and programming and I wonder if we’ll ever see the end of it. I won’t, because I’m leaving tomorrow. 
The elections are over. At long last. 
The weather today is just perfect: crisp and cool, blue sky and no extreme heat and humidity. I love Taipei in winter. Outside, the wind is blowing hard and the bamboo trees branches rattle incessantly against the wall of the studio, like someone desperate to get in. But there are only the four of us sitting in the middle of this big rehearsal studio. Maybe we stress up for nothing. Huang Yi, it’s a work in progress. Behind their apparent calm and smiling composure, I know Ah-Kun and his assistant are dead nervous. But I won’t be there to know. 

The mechanical violin prototype

Four months in Taipei and I don’t seem to notice any obvious improvement regarding my life here. I still don’t have my papers; as a result, I can’t open a bank account nor can I stay longer than thirty days. It seemed that something was resisting, certainly not the smooth move I imagined months ago. I’m not being fair to myself when I say that. When I stop complaining and look at things as they are, I know a lot has changed. Inside me.
A friend told me about a simple and efficient way to solve that problem: found a company. Nicolas had been telling me that as well a few months ago. The company would have to be set in Hong Kong, after which I can open a branch in Taiwan. It would cost some money, but the idea made sense to me. Suddenly, I had an aim and could concentrate my energy and efforts into that single goal. I was reminded that staying in Taipei wasn’t an aim in itself, only a means to develop my life and my work. How worries fogged my mind and distracted me from my real purpose.
It makes sense. Finally.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Second Skin

First and only performance of Second Skin today. This was supposed to be Huang Yi’s second project, but for reasons related to the electoral campaign, the premiere had to take place before the election day.
Huang Yi hired two American dancers for the project. I had seen some sketches of the drum costume, Huang Yi had vaguely told me about his intention, but we only started to actually gather our energy and effort on the week of the performance.

For the first scene, the dancer was to wear a costume covered with small little Chinese drums remotely controlled by a computer, which would also produce a little light when the drums are played on, and slowly cross the stage, Butoh-like. I made a soundscape of breathing sound patterns, bells, percussions and a harp to accompany her voyage.

The second movement was about these inflatable outfits. Unfortunately for me, Huang Yi had to use pumps for that so the noise covered everything else. The only thing left to do was to play sounds at random.

The third movement was focused on a dress made of a thermo-sensitive material. The idea was very exciting: the scene would start with one of the wall panel on which hot hair was blown at by means of (noisy, again) hairdryers. Then a hole would be cut in the wall and the dancer would slip through it and turn it into a dress. I like to call it the moon dress for the colour and texture reminds me of the moon.

The last scene features a live sculpture: two dancers find themselves trapped in a cloth where air is blown in and out, creating the effect of a breathing sculpture. I created a soundscape made of breathings to back a solo violin playing the theme of Mahler's adagietto from his 5th symphony. Unfortunately again, the air pump was so noisy, it distracted the viewers from the dark and romantic core of the piece.

Second Skin

"It all would have been very good if we had given a prayer to the spirits of the place" one of the dancers said. The show was jinxed. Everything went very well during the dress rehearsal we did in the afternoon.
But as the audience was coming in, we realised that the connection between the drums-dress and i-Pad with which I was supposed to control  and pla with it didn't work: there was no sound! Only the lights worked! We tried to reboot the computer. Nothing. I saw Huang Yi signing himself in a gesture of prayer, trying to keep his composure. But to no avail. The drums still refused to play. He eventually had to make an annoucement to the audience.
If that wasn't enough, the main computer which controlled everything suddenly crashed and there was no sound at all!  
I was mortified.
It was indeed mentioned that Second Skin was a work in progress...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I’m woken up every morning by the four opening bars of the Johann Strauss’ Radetzky March. It’s the electoral campaign season and the candidates for mayor and city counsellors are promoting themselves quite aggressively, each of them using a catchy tune which are played from cars and motorbikes that wanders every single street of Taipei. Since they follow each other, this tends to cause quite a disturbance for the ears. 
This circus has been going on for a months and a half and I’m afraid it’s going to intensify as the big day approaches. But the big day is only on the 29th of November!!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Andrew, the bike, the night

The solitary routine of my life in Taipei has been broken with a new encounter, Andrew, a young singer from Malaysia who is launching his career in Taipei with an album and a TV drama. Zyan is our common friend – he also wrote a couple of songs for him. We just clicked and naturally spent lots of time together. When he saw me on my bike, he decided to do the same and bought one right away. We’ve been cycling around the city, usually staying up late at night, enjoying the now cooler air and chatting the night away.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Symphony Project - at work

A very fruitful working session with Huang-yi and HHH today. We spent the whole afternoon at the DAC (Digital Arts Center) in Zhishan. At this stage of our collaboration, I was still tip-toeing tentatively. Only one movement was finished. Two others were just in a state of draft. Working without the dancers was a good idea. I presented HuangYi what I had so far and he said the music didn’t have this sense of energy let loose.
“Can you do something like Xenakis?” he asked.
“I’m not Xenakis…’
“What I want is to have the strings follow the same pattern.”
Improvising was the best solution, so I asked HHH to get his violin and just follow the movement of my hands as I, myself, would follow the dance on the computer screen while HuangYi would record it on his digital camera. I did multiple takes on different registers, but HHH would have to watch the video capture of the first take and take direction from the other ‘me’. I put all the takes together on the computer and managed to complete half of the movement. Honestly, it sounded like a musical interpretation of a car race in Monaco to me, but HuangYi seemed very pleased with the result. We watched how it matched the dance, and it did indeed very well. It was playful and even lively. I was pleasantly surprised by the result myself, even if it’s another evidence that I compose music in the most unusual way!
We will meet again next week to finish this movement and this time reverse the process. I would come up with the music first and HuangYi will choreograph according to the music. I am so glad and relieved we have finally found the right way to work together. Symphony Project is my first piece with him so a phase of trials and errors was necessary. After weeks of feeling empty and lost, I finally reconnect with a sense of self satisfaction. I have found a way. Not just for the dance piece.

Working on Symphony Project

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sissy isn't my middle name

A typhoon named Fanopi was right on Taipei the past two days. Heavy rain and strong wind first. Then wind only. I ventured out to go to the gym and see my Izac. The gym, as many other shops, was closed. 
The typhoon had torn many branches off their tree. Some signboards had fallen off to the ground. It was still blowing very strongly as I was walking on the street to Izac’s flat. The streets were deserted.
"Sissy isn't my middle name", I had told Izac on the phone. 
Now I was having second thoughts. Safety is a good thing as well!

Izac was busy working on a his project to present to some of the architecture schools in which he wishes to enrol.
I only stayed for a hour or so before braving the storm outside again.
I wouldn't do that for everyone!

Saturday, 18 September 2010


One day passes then another. My daily routine at the gym is the only thing that keeps awake, with of course the bi-weekly rehearsals for Symphony Project. The rest of the time just disappears as soon as it has come and I don’t recall anything.
No flat yet. Jason kindly told me that I would have to find something quick, because I could not stay in his flat forever. I agree.
I float in time. I’m not even depressed or sad. I just feel empty and devoid of any impulse to do anything. But I feel I have to give more focus to what I wish for myself. I have let myself drift too long. There’s nothing wrong with it, I know, there’s no emergency. Now it’s time to start building. Time to summon my strength and focus.

A typhoon named Fanopi was right on Taipei the past two days. Heavy rain and strong wind first. Then wind only. I ventured out to go to the gym and see my friend Izac. The gym, as many other shops, was closed. The typhoon had torn many branches off their tree. It was still blowing very strongly as I was walking on the street to Izac’s flat. The streets were deserted

Saturday, 4 September 2010

New life

I’m officially no longer Parisian. Isabelle and Nicolas came to my flat to clean up the last details – they did what they could but the flat itself is old and badly needs to be renovated. I don’t expect the agency to give me back my deposit. I know they would find all possible reason to keep it and unfortunately, I gave them an enormous reason: I painted the tiles of the bathroom when I moved in. The sight of the horrid design on the tile would sting my eyes each time I would enter the bathroom. I thought it would be an easy task to remove the paint, but it wasn’t. I was told too late that it would have been better to leave it as it is instead. How foolish of me… Nicolas amusingly told me that the woman was not impressed by the contemporary abstract art we created… Originally, the agency was a small, local one ran by a delightful woman who gave up the business after her husband passed away. The agency then merged with a bigger company, as it often the case. Who says bigger company says no human contact, or minimum contact. I didn’t expect to have tea with them, but at least something else than the cold answers I would receive each time I attempted to get in touch with them. I would say to myself that outside work, these ladies must be nice persons. If they started feeling sympathetic for all their clients, they’d have to change for another job. Just as banking, or insurance… I have many friends who work in that area, but I know I would rather not meet them in a professional situation.
Ironically that agency would advertise their business with a particular stress on the fact that human contact was an important point for them – so does my bank… But like this grumpy and unfriendly character in Little Britain, if the computer says ‘no’, then they say no as well. Since everything has been computerised, there is less and less personal contact and we humans find ourselves strangely powerless when the machines ‘rebel’. Computer says ‘no’ indeed. I find that amazing and alarming that we do not realise how dangerous it is to strengthen our dependency on them. Soon we’ll end up like the characters in Barjavel’s novel Ravage. George Orwell and Barjavel are modern time Cassandras. They warned us in their books nearly 70 years ago. Now we are living it and we rejoice! Fools we are! I also remember that article which I think was entitled ‘flabby mind’, written by Art Buchwald in the mid 80’s which I read during my high school years, where the humorist already foresaw the problem we would all encounter in the years to come. History repeating.

My Parisian flat. Goodbye!


Simon has died of a heart attack after a drug overdose. He flew from Hong Kong for the week end and was having a ‘good time’ at a club in Taipei. But he took too much. Kenneth brought the news to me two days ago. I didn’t go out that week end.
Last time I saw Simon was during New Year’s festivities. We went to the hot spring, had a great dinner and went clubbing… It seems Taipei is the new Babylon of Asia. Many people come here to have a great time and consume drugs. I have often been asked whether I would do recreational drugs. Drinking seems so tame…
It’s a shock. It took time before I realised what Kenneth had told me. Simon’s mother doesn’t know yet. They don’t know how to strike the news to her. A heart attack will be a good way to put it. The funerals will take place in five days in Hong Kong, but I will have left already…
So young…


I found a faithful champion of my music in Matthew. He used to be the music and movie sales manager in some big stores like HMV or Hong Kong Records. He secured me an appointment with someone from Warner. I was reluctant to go. I knew how the big major labels function. I told him so. But he wanted to give it try anyway.
The verdict? Exactly what I thought it would be. The person I met could have been selling canned food. No mention of music, of course. I flinched when he talked about his ‘pool of artists’. To end up a rather obnoxious – if polite conversation, I asked him the tricky question: ‘In your opinion, does the artist need you, or do you need the artist?’
Needless to say what his answer was. I felt it was high time to leave. Matthew was disappointed and I was too. Surprised, I was not.

On the music side though, I will start working on this remix project for Chet Lam. I finally met the singer. My film director friend Kit Hung and I met for a quick coffee, and Chet Lam tagged along. Small, cute and extremely vivacious. I liked him. The remix project turned into another project on an album which Chet described as a musical pop interpretation of Le Petit Prince, and they were still interested in having me do something. Kit wanted to see me for his new film, which is to be a musical. (both Kit and Chet are lovers of European culture). We will see. We shall see. I have seen many projects come to me – the film Oriental Pearls being another one, but I won’t cry for joy before I actually get to work on it.

I would not live in Hong Kong, but each time I come there, I never fail to feel the excitement and energy of the city. I really like the place. Dennis and I watched the light show on the Hong Kong skyline and the view was impressive. Monstrous but fascinating.
Dennis was a bit frightened to be the target of some racism against Filipinos after the bus hijack killing. But everything went well. Of course, not every Hongkongese would jump at him at the mere mention of his being from the Philippines! One should not indulge too much in these sensationalist news. The mass, the mass… Shakespeare loathed them. 

Hong Kong Island, view from the ferry

Causeway Bay

View from North Point

Central Hong Kong

Saturday, 28 August 2010


Dennis will be in town! This comes as the most pleasant surprise. I’m so happy about this unexpected visit, especially since I thought it would be months before I’d see him again. He’ll come to Taipei for a few days, then we’ll see each other again in Hong Kong since he’ll have to go there as well.

Our flat hunting has proved fruitless so far. Nicolas says it makes sense in a way, for I have not yet cut all connection with my life in Paris. The lease will be terminated on the 3rd  of September. Even without knowing that detail, Nicolas had predicted I’d find something on the 4th. “But go west,” he said.

Work with Huang-yi has started. I finally saw the four dancers and Chung-Kun, his partner in crime who’s in charge of the digital art installation as well as perfecting that string playing robot. Quite a task it seems to be! Till then I’ll have to come up with a few musical drafts so the dancers Huang-yi knows where I’m going to go. I have written three movements of which one seems to meet his demand. Each project seems to push my boundaries further and further. People go to school or music academies to learn their skill. In my case, I learn it on the spot. The only thing I can follow is my intuition. When on that morning, Régine Chopinot called me and asked me to join her on her next adventure, I said yes without hesitation, although I was totally clueless about I was to achieve it. It’s been like that ever since. In my work, in my life. Now both have merged into one and I find myself here in Taipei not even able to wonder what is going to happen next. The way I approach this project with Huang-yi will reflect the way I build my new life here. Confidence, joyousness and a sense of fun.

Checking music and movement for Symphony Project

Sunday, 15 August 2010


It’s raining outside. Each time it does, the air gets refreshed. Then suddenly like the flowers and plants in a desert, we come alive again!
The sung is piercing through the dark clouds. Sunset is near. I love this moment of the day.

I have a received an answer from Kota who said that he and his partner listened to the music and were ‘taken aback’ by the music, as he put it, and that they ‘were interested in another side of me’. I wonder what is this ‘another side’ he refers to. Surely I can understand how surprising it can be to hear me sing Pop! or Battle of Wits after hearing my stage work.
Maybe the best thing is to be patient and let things come when they come.
For now it’s about settling down in Taipei and completely severe my links to my Parisian flat. End of the lease is on the first days of September. Nicolas told me he felt I will find something nice in Taipei on the 4th!

My Viking god friend Alo approached me last year for an art video project of his. The idea was to reinvent those beefcake shots from the 50’s and reinterpret them in an Estonian setting: hunky men doing their daily chores: milking a cow, fishing, hunting, harvesting… Many months passed by. I sent him a first draft last time I was in Taipei. The project changed direction.
I sent the music for the new edit he did recently and it seems that he and his partner in crime Jaanus liked it. However the relevance of their project have always somehow escaped me. The first day I met Jaanus, he scared him off with my questions and never heard of him nor saw him since.
I remember how one day, I took a scene from a porn film, turned it in black and white and put a Ryuichi Sakamoto’s piano piece on it, just for fun. It suddenly became elegiac, nearly Sturm & Drang, as if the lovers were desperately making love on their last day on earth. It’s all about the angle of view.
The music I created for Alo had the same effect. I’m glad Alo and Jaanus welcome my proposition. What will become of this project, I know not. That also escapes me.


Yesterday was Byron’s last day in Taipei before heading South for the promotion of  Amphetamine.
Since the film opened one day ago, they have to run from one movie theatre to the next for interviews and Q&A.
I saw him briefly, and as fans were lining up to get his autograph on books, posters or t-shirts, he told me that he was a bit upset to be paraded by the director like a circus animal. That’s part of the game of being in the spotlight.
“You see,” I told him, “the director doesn’t have your youth and your physique, so he enjoys it vicariously through his lens and his film
Amphetamine could have been a better film, but unfortunately, the director indulged in the nudity of the male body, instead of building a strong story. Despite the excellent acting, some good ideas and the gorgeous photography, what could have been an arresting film like LanYu or Happy Together, has become a thinly disguised male erotica that says more about the director’s fantasy than his talent in filmmaking. (and oh, the soundtrack, what bad music!)
I really wanted to love the film because of Byron, but I had to be honest. He was good, but the film wasn’t.

Byron will come back to Taiwan and we’ll take a car and visit other places of the country. I feel like anything is possible with him.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


Visited two flats today. The first one was in GongGuan, far away from everything and in a rather decrepit state. The second one was nice, has newly been renovated, located near the university and has the bonus of a rooftop. I like it but the energy isn’t right. Am I too picky? It’s like no matter how hard they may try to make the outside look good, the inside is decaying… The owner even started complaining about one wall that kept getting leaks in spite of her effort to renovate it. The other low point is that is has only one air condition machine, no lift (I’m thinking of the move and the piano that will have to be carried up five floors!)
The flat in Banciao that Chin-Hsin showed me was taken before we could visit it. There are many others, there must be.
Many friends have offered to help and ask around. That was only our second day searching so I’m confident we’ll find something good, especially when I think that Isabelle visited 80 houses before finding the one and only one… Then, Taipei isn’t like Paris.

It’s time to start working. The droid which will play the string instruments isn’t finished yet. Two more weeks, Huang-yi said.
But I have some music to score for Alo and his art project. I do hope to find small projects from Europe to help me sustain my life in Taipei.

I have been in touch with Matthew, a former music and movie sales manager in Hong Kong. He fell in love with my music and really wants to give me a hand. He spoke of some record companies that would match the type of music I do. I won’t hope nor will I start feeling excited about it. We’ll see what happens. But I’m delighted to see that this second album is getting very good feedback.
Now the second step will be to find a lyricist who can turn the album into this pan-Asian project I have in mind.
Byron introduced me to one from Hong Kong. Should I call Sandee Chan? Ha ha!

Since Byron is staying in Taipei for a full two weeks, we have time to see each other more often and spend time together. We spent on Sunday in Danshui. The seaside was a welcome escape from the stuffiness of the city. Byron, what an amazing fellow! His life didn’t follow the usual pattern so I jump from surprise to surprise when I speak with him. Actor, model, chef, martial arts, hypno-therapist… His ability to learn quickly, to seize what is to be seized in life. I found many similarities in our lives, the difference being that he externalized his experiences when I internalized mine and materialized them in creation. Now it’s maybe the contrary that happens, since I try to ground myself more and want to learn martial arts, go the gym, be more in my physical self, while he starts to write and create. Will we finally find our balance?
We laugh a lot. I didn’t expect him to be so witty and funny. The last time I saw him, I felt concern for him. As he was driving, I felt he could drive us off the cliff within a second – he was in depression then, he later told me. It’s good to see him in good spirit again. How I wish he lived in Taipei.

Byron Pang

It’s hot here. The city is a giant sauna. Cycling in summer is sheer madness, but I do it anyway. Two seconds on my bike and I’m soaked with sweat. 40°C during the day! I don’t even want to think of the people who have these food stalls and prepare the dish all day long with the heat springing at their face. I really admire them.


Ching-yao took me to the Xue Xue Building, near where he lives. The place was founded by an extremely wealthy man, and dedicated to the arts. Such people are few in Asia. As soon as I entered the place I felt at home. Two of Ching-yao’s friends work there as designers. Tsai Ming Liang has a coffee place and he bakes cookies for it every day! There’s a cinema, a music venue, galleries, a beautiful library, a restaurant. The thought occurred to me that paradoxically, such places make one feels that art is created by the elite for the elite. It’s located in a posh area of town and I don’t really think the average worker would think of going there or know about it to think to go there.
Nevertheless, I loved it. The wealthy man selects the artists he wants to help and only ask them 1000 NTD per month for the rent of the office. Think 23 euro…
Hopefully he can sustain that for a long time. 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Single Asian Male

I didn’t hear from this friend who wanted to share the flat with me in Taipei. I didn’t worry much. I knew something would come up. And it did! I was chatting online with a friend I hadn't been much in touch with, and who complained about his current flatmates and said said he needed to find a new flat because he couldn’t stand living in such an untidy space.
“Let’s share a flat together, then” I said half jokingly. My friend considered the joke seriously and immediately replied that it was actually a good idea. The next second, he was giving me links to ads he had found on the internet. 
First flat: furnished like a hotel, spacious, comfortable, but somehow impersonal interior arrangement. There wasn’t much we could do with it. 
Second flat: looked like a cell from a mental institution or a prison. No light, white walls and a dodgy feeling about it. 
Third flat: looks like a doll’s house, on the ground floor, not really ideal in case of flood. 
Fourth flat: comfortable, even had a massage bathtub, but too small. 
The fifth was the one. It had three bedrooms and a living room - I wanted an extra room for visiting friends. The rent was so cheap and it wasn’t too far from the city. The only thing is that it’s not in Taipei City but Taipei County. I’d be a suburbian!!!  But if I compare the price here with the ones in Paris, I can’t help but laugh. Since we‘re going to share the rent, the amount I’ll have to pay each month will be one fourth of what I paid for my little Parisian studio!!!

We shall visit the flat this coming Thursday. 
Next step will be to get the working visa. Huang-yi shall send me the details of what document to produce. CloudGate should be able to help. 
I hope!

Grafiti - Belleville, Paris

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Last Day / First Day

As I was taking the train for the Narita airport, the thought occurred to me that I no longer had any home anywhere. I imagined the people who fled their country because of wars, political or religious tensions, or my parents when they came to France to study, not knowing it would be decades before they would return to their homeland.
So Taipei was to be my next destination. Japan had been a nice screen which left me some time to face the fact. The Tales of Hoffmann, Jo and Sawako, Satoshi, Niigata, Tokyo, all of this was a nice transition to this new life. 
As Josh was driving me from the airport to Taipei, I still couldn’t grasp it. I was speaking to him, I saw the nocturnal landscape of Taipei. But yet, I was lost. I was in limbo. What was happening? Where was I really? We always envision changes as clear-cut, abrupt events storming into our lives, shaking us violently, not as a continuous flow which start from different places of our life to converge at a certain moment.
I reached Jason’s flat, where I had stayed four months last year. Had I really left it? It was waiting for me. Taipei was waiting for me. People talk a lot of Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Inception. And indeed, that’s how I feel I live my life. I come and go from one level to another. It’s not surprising that I saw that film recently as it came at the right time to express visually how I felt inside.

Byron came to visit me in the middle of the night. He had misunderstood that I was only there for one night and he really wanted to see me and give me a present.
It was nice to see him again. Only our third encounter, but a very strong bond between us. When he realized that I was to stay in Taipei, he felt silly. But I liked this nightly visit of his. He brought a package which included a beautiful book of photographs taken on the set of his last film Amphetamine, as well as the CD of the soundtrack. This was so unexpected. We talked until the morning. I strongly feel for him. I don’t know what is happening.
He told me about his next project, a film he wants to write and direct and of course star in. The story, once again is quite dark, but well, Byron is a deep, beautiful soul…
He said he would really like me to write the score for it. No need to tell what my answer was. There’s something powerful about him, maybe his practice of martial arts. His inner strength is amazing.
Now he’s going to stay two weeks in Taipei to promote Amphetamine, do interviews, appear at various events and places. There will be a screening on Monday. We promised to see each other often.
This visit was so unreal to me. When he finally left to get some sleep, I still wondered what had just happened. I was like one of these characters in fairy tales who had are bewildered after the visit of a fairy or a sorcerer.

On the train to the Narita Airport.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Last days in Tokyo

Nolico suggested that we watched the big firework in Yokohama, on the rooftop of her university. That sounded like a good idea. And that would also be the chance to see Shinya. I didn’t realize Yokohama was so far off from the centre of town. The train was packed. It was the firework festival this week end. I saw thousands of people in traditional costume flocking to see the main firework in Tokyo the previous evening. Today’s show was to be less spectacular. Personally I didn’t care much, the main point was to see Nolico and Shinya.
What was supposed to take in a rooftop actually took place in a dimly lit classroom. We could watch the firework from the windows… I thought we would have a good view, but it was no different from what we had seen from the street, minus the atmosphere of the cheering crowd. The present people were none too friendly, more busy to eat and drink and chat with each other. No one didn’t even bother to watch. On top of that, we had to contribute 2.000 yen for the food that we didn’t intend to eat, since we already had had a delicious tonkatsu for dinner.  Shinya and I were disappointed, to say the least. Nolico was embarrassed. We sat in a corner with our plastic glass and watched the firework as battalions of mosquitoes were biting us.
The atmosphere started to change after the other guests had a few drinks and felt less inhibited to open up and speak to strangers. I chatted with the former editor of the Japanese Cahiers du Cinéma. Of course he had met Trân Anh Hùng in Tokyo, so we talked about L’Odeur de la Papaye Verte. I can always bet that I would meet one person (a girl usually) who is a fan of that film each time I would go out to some social event. I would hear flowery praises for the score until they realized that my father, not I, wrote it.
Nolico tried to save the ship by mentioning my work with Jo Kanamori, but unless one has some taste for dance, no one really knows who he is.
After four glasses of ice tea and two steamed sausages, I left. Shinya was bored to death and Nolico was happy to put an end to her guilt. One thing I know: no one will trick me to see a firework anymore. I enjoy it when I see one, but I wouldn’t fight myself through a packed crowd to see one. 

Night over Tokyo

Nolico & Shinya


Got news from my brother. Since I’m gone, now he has to see them more and take care of them. My mother seems to become more and more forgetful. I don’t think it’s the Alzheimer disease. Do I say so because I don’t want to think of the possibility of it? Whether it is, the reason is that she doesn’t see any future for herself. Her memory for past events is perfect. For decades now, she’s always been ranting about how old she was getting. There wasn’t much she was looking forward to in the future. Her constant bickering with my father and mood swings do not make things better. My father loses all his creative impulse. I am actually more worried about him than her. But what can one do? Medicate? See someone? My brother’s idea is that we sold the house in Saint-Maur and buy a smaller flat in Paris where they can be closer to social life. For my mother, that would be the best thing to do; she would be able to go out more, walk and be more physically active. I know my father doesn’t want to. He finds it so hard to cope with changes. He says that now that he’s older, he doesn’t want to adapt anymore, which I can understand.
I think of Isabelle who has to shake heaven and earth in order to take care of her ageing parents.
That was the question everyone asked me when I said I would leave Paris. After ‘how will you survive and make a living’ the next concern was: ‘what about your parents?’

Mother and son

I find it hard to sleep peacefully. The situation will surely improve once I have my new home. For now, I have this unpleasant feeling that my feet escape me. There’s one phrase in French that goes: ‘Je perds pied’, which means that you’re losing touch with the ground. That’s exactly how I feel when I lie down. It happens in the middle of the night and an acute sense of disarray gets hold of me. My legs seem to be floating and drifting as I lay in bed. It takes much breathing and meditation to get rid of it. 

Friday, 30 July 2010


One extra week so I can see friends I couldn’t meet in the tight past five days I originally had. Nozomi introduced me to a friend of his who’s newly been appointed director of the Tokyo Art Fair. A very smart bloke he is. No detail escaped him. I wouldgive one clue, he would guess the rest of the story. He’s going to be in Taipei next month for the Taipei Art Fair.
Byron will also be in Taipei from next week to present the news film in which he's got the lead. It was first screened at the Berlin Film Festival. I can’t wait to see him. Apparently he’s getting lots of attention for the role. He’s coming from a very sad place. He said he was seeing a hypno-therapist to help him release the negative and self destructive thoughts that are whirling continuously in his mind. Apparently it seems to work.
We met at a dinner. He has just signed with a new agent and we were celebrating the event. He sat at the opposite end of the table, very quiet yet very observant. We let the elderly ones do the talking and entertain each other with their wits. Byron would nod at me from time to time. During a break between dishes, he came and chatted a little with me. I knew he was a former Mister Hong Kong some five years ago. He then told me a few more things about his career. Supporting parts in films, usually in action films because of his athletic skills. He’s also a TV host for a sports program. But what struck me was his handshake. So much can be said through a mere handshake! His was firm and warm.
We saw each other a second time when I came to Hong Kong. A short drink in an Italian café, that’s what we managed. But we wasted no time and soon were talking about very personal topics. A good friendship was born. Someone told me the other day how he cherished his high school or childhood friends. They’re the lasting ones, he claimed. As far as I’m concerned, all of my childhood friends them have slipped out of my life, except Vanessa and Jan. I pride myself as being a loyal friend, but since my life didn’t follow a conventional path, roads separated more than once. The love for them remains, nevertheless.
I’m happy to have this new group of friends spread out in Asian countries. It feels like a family of sort and soothes my sense of solitude.

Speaking of next month, I’m thinking of flying Satoshi to Taipei for a few days to celebrate his birthday before the season starts again for Noism in Niigata. Wouldn't it be sweet…? I hope our schedule will allow it. I hope he accepts it. 


Thursday, 29 July 2010

Where is your head?

And so it ends again. I will leave Tokyo for Taipei. My wandering goes on. Each time I find it hard to leave because a part of me starts to bond with the place and the people, a longing for a sense of home, probably. So each departure is tinted with a touch of sadness. I don’t know what’s in store for me in Taipei. I can only wish for the best.
These three weeks in Japan were great. Hoffmann brought me immense satisfaction, I had blissful days with Satoshi, and Tokyo never fails to excite me, in spite of the extreme heat we had to endure! Am I lucky? I guess so. The only thing I have to work on is to rid my mind of any remains of negative thinking. I’m getting better at it. As a consequence, very positive things materialize in my life.

I met Yuta-san yesterday with Nolico. Yuta designed the program and the poster for Hoffmann. Jo showed me what he did for other projects and I really liked what I saw. When we met during the premiere of Hoffmann, it was instant chemistry, even if he can’t speak English. But you know when someone is going to be a good friend, and Yuta is one of those people.
Jo refers to him as Master Yoda. He’s so knowledgeable and smart, sharp and generous with a childlike spirit. The range of possibilities he shows from one project to another is amazing. If Jo admires him, I don’t find it surprising to share the same feeling.
Before I could ask him myself, Yuta said he wanted to work with me and do the cover of any project of mine. I had in mind to ask him to design my album cover. I didn’t know how to bring up the topic, but his friendliness ironed out any hesitation I may have had. To my delight, he said he had toyed with the idea as soon as the day of the Hoffmann premiere. He discussed it with his partner and they both agreed they had to do something with me. As Nolico pointed out, that’s how my life seems to unfold. So I gave Yuta the USB key pack we did for the concert and told him to get back to me as soon as he has listened to the album.
(These USB keys look nice, but I found out that the quality was below average. Many of them just melted in my bag in this Asian heat! Considering the price we paid for each of them, I would have expected something more resistant. )


Another favourite - typical An moment: I had said farewell to everyone, I had waved goodbye to Tokyo, saying I would be coming back soon, I was doing my check in at the airport when the lady behind the counter asked me whether I really wanted to change the reservation.
“Change? Why change? No, I’m leaving today.” I replied.
“So you’re changing your reservation for the 8th?”
“Why the 8th? No, I’m leaving today and coming back on the 8th”.
“So you want to change the reservation?”
The conversation seemed to be stuck on a loop as we were growing more and more peculiar as it progressed.
It finally appeared that I made the wrong reservation. My flight was only a week later!

I suppose it doesn’t happy for no reason – the positive one being that I still had things to do in Tokyo, the negative one being that I may actually feel so reluctant to really being this life in Taipei that I unconsciously do whatever I can to postpone the moment.

Youths in Shijuku

Sleeping on the subway

Small street in Shibuya


I received some news from Huang-yi who said that he had requested a pop singer from Taiwan to join his Symphony Project, the point being that she can’t play the violin at all. I wonder why he wants her to be in there. Nolico jokingly said that maybe the audience will have to choose between a violin played by a robot, or a violin played by someone who doesn’t know how. Huang-yi’s answer was that he wanted to bring people from very opposite fields who wouldn’t otherwise collaborate together. The pop singer is apparently quite famous and also quite nervous about the project.
I’m getting more and more puzzled as this project develops…