Monday, 29 March 2010

Waltzing time

In my dream, my concert had turned into a Bollywood show. Someone handed me a large red sari and told me: “Now run across the stage!” which I did.
I woke up, perplexed.


My brother came up with a very good idea. Since the album isn’t finished, I wanted to find something for the concert. So advertisement marketing pro that he is, he suggested that we sold USB keys with some songs and extras in it. Talvin Singh once told me that he didn’t think that CDs were the thing anymore; that the very concept of albums would change and he mentioned selling USB keys after his concerts. But selling a USB key seemed a little… poor to me in terms of packaging. However, my brother, who never does things half way, ordered a square shaped black USB key. Nicolas suggested we sealed it in a little silver bag. I had studied the way Japanese marketed their products in the music business and I was impressed by their creativity.
The USB keys will be limited to a number of 100 and will include five songs, with visuals done especially for the occasion, photos and lyrics. I hope people will respond well to this new way of selling music.

I’m now composing a scene for Tales of Hoffman for the first act involving the doll Olympia. It’s a scene where everyone is dancing to a baroque waltz, as Jo put it. He said he used the über-famous waltz from Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite for the scene so I was compelled to follow that path.  What a poison!
However, I’m finding very awkward ideas. The theme will be played by a violin – my dear friend Alex from Toronto will provide that! Since I don’t have any orchestra to back the violin, I suddenly thought of using human voices singing the harmony, along with a harpsichord and pizz strings… I guess the effect will be quite unsettling.
Isabelle is coming tomorrow to hear the first drafts. I have to at least extricate something out of my head before she arrives! I have many scenes ready in my head, but the only thing is to start the materializing process.


Sunday, 28 March 2010

Dear Diary...

Dear diary…
It’s nearly the end of the month and I have hardly had the time to write one single line. The concert is coming near. A little more than two weeks. The older one grows, the quicker time flies, the closer the final moment gets!
I’m happy. Really happy. I have no time to think about anything else than music and my current work. But this state of emergency does fills me with energy and excitement.
Everything seems to be in place for the concert. I can only hope the crowd will be a real crowd. Since I don’t give that many concerts, I don’t have much room for mistake. And anyway, I don’t even think of it that way. What matters is to have fun. Enjoy myself; enjoy making music and the audience will naturally share it with me.
The songs are now all finished. I finished the arrangement of the last ones, two upbeat numbers: Being Human (a minor inconvenience) and Running Wild. For the latter, my violinist friend Alex recorded the string parts from Toronto and sent them to me via email. I marvel at what we can do now with technology. My album is aptly entitled Hyperbody, not only because of the fact it’s been recorded in Taipei, Chicago, Toronto and Paris, but also because it’s some kind of Frankenstein musical creature. I gathered leftovers from other musical projects, I recycled elements that were not (well) used in them to refashion them into new songs. I know many composers do so, but that couldn’t be more remote from the received idea people have of artistic inspiration…
The set list is done. I know what I’m going to wear. Nicolas is in charge of that. I had some idea of how I wanted to look. I showed him the coat I bought from Yasuhiro Mihara in Tokyo. I hadn’t found many occasions to wear so the concert would be one. The rest of the outfit will be simple: singlet under a waistcoat, black trousers and converse shoes. I’m growing my hair now to try a new look à la Lee Byung-Hun as he appears in The Good, the Bad, the Weird.  Sometime I have to repress the urge to run to the nearest hairdresser!
Bévinda brings me her precious help as stage coach. The musicians are good; I’m in top shape; both physically, mentally and vocally. Yet I feel this nervousness. As Sarah Bernhardt said to a young actress who claimed that she never felt any stage fright or pressure before going on stage: “that may come with talent”…

Amidst the concert preparation, I have managed to start writing the music for my next project with Jo. It was quite tricky for me to shift from composing songs to composing ballet music. Nevertheless, one scene has been done so far. Jo had to struggle to fit his choreography to it. But from,his part, there is satisfaction and elation for what I have done. Fortunately, the libretto is written so I don’t necessarily have to follow any order in the composition; just what inspiration tells me. Yet, I find this way of writing a bit difficult, because that compels me to use another approach to composition, a more classical approach, actually. Then I think of what Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky or Debussy have written for dance and I feel crushed by those giants!

This time, I want to use more musicians for the recording, the original idea being that I recorded it in Taipei at Archimusic Studio. But I’m in Paris and Jo has already started rehearsing. Even though he said musical drafts would be enough for the time being, perfectionist as we both are, it would be frustrating to do things half way. I could never send him half composed music as it would be unsatisfactory for him to stay on the surface of his choreography. A problem is only a path that leads to unexpected answer. I’d be curious to see how I handle the challenge. A musician friend of mine has told me about this fantastic new recording toy that can be directly connected to the computer; some kind of external hard drive with a microphone. He played me what he had recorded and I was deeply impressed by the warmth of the sound.
That is the key to my little problem.


Bévinda introduced me to this Japanese gentleman who does massage. A former fashion photographer, he decided to give up everything and leave his country to come to France. His two gifts: painting and massage. He discovered the ability to sense and work with energy from his fingertips. It’s not just about feeling the sore muscles and the body tension, but also soothes the inner soul.
He was surprised – and so was I, when he realized that there wasn’t much to do with me. He massaged me anyway and later told me that music wasn’t the only thing I could do. “Boundless possibilities” he said. “You shouldn’t limit yourself to music alone”. The thought is flattering, but I know how it goes when one has these ‘boundless possibilities’, because I end up doing everything myself. Anyway, I have this life to live and if I have many cards to play, may as well play them. There’ll always be time to rest in the next dimension!

Working with Bévinda is so pleasant. She’s a generous, kind-spirited and fun loving woman. We have written a new song together especially for the concert. She’s such a welcome external eye for me, firstly because she doesn’t judge people. There’s no game of power. I’m letting my guard down and allow myself to… be me without any limit!
The last challenge is to come with some cool dance moves which will not leave me out of breath. The mistake is to try to move too much. I remember how the Kaiser Chief lead singer was hardly able to sing his songs because he was hopping across the stage like a goat on acid!
Now I’m watching pop music videos. Justin Timberlake is such a good dancer, so is Tae Yang. Fine. Did someone say anything about boundless possibilities? Ha ha!

Rue de la Folie-Méricourt

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Just got back home from Bévinda’s place. She has kindly offered to coach me and give me stage direction for the concert. The session was very fruitful and helped me shape and visualize the concert. It’s easier now to know what direction to follow and how to prepare for the concert. I sang her all the songs and we set the song list together:

Don’t be Koi
Bear Me Safely Over
Who We Be
Being Human (A minor inconvenience)

Ja Fui (with Bévinda)
Chrysanthemum Flower Bed (菊花台)
I aim
Battle of Wits

Second breath
Bitter (with Jan Dark)
Nothing comes to Light
Son Shine
Running Wild

Sangatsu Kokonoka

We hesitated for the opening number. I thought Pandemonium would be a nice one, but Bévinda felt it was too dark and too serious. She was right. Beside, the whole cello section at the end of the song, though beautiful, was much too long and out of place. Pop!, on the other hand was the opposite extreme, too fun and and light. Bévinda picked Don’t be Koi immediately as soon as she heard the first notes. It’s playful, seductive and sexy. I’ll start the concert alone at the piano – our first idea was to start the concert, not playing the piano… The introduction will be very dramatic, almost like a concerto, until the musicians jump into the song without any warning. I’ll sing the first verse at the piano then will stand up and walk to the front of the stage. Well I shall not write down all the details for they’re subjects to change. 

Bear Me Safely Over