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…

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Act 2 run through

I saw the first run-through of the second act yesterday. It was my least favourite musically. I hardly listened to it after I completed it. When Jo first told me about the Hoffmann project in Taipei, I already knew what I would be doing for it. For me Giulietta was to be a mysterious geisha instead of the courtesan in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story. I wanted the atmosphere and the music to be eerie and uneasy, almost austere in its instrumentation:  a solo flute, Asian percussions were the base, with occasional strings and harp. Jo turned Giulietta into a hermaphrodite. That was even better!
However since I composed the scenes from the whole ballet randomly, I had the feeling that most of what I wrote for that second act sounded a touch too monotonous. I was wrong. It was neither repetitive nor monotonous; my fears were discarded as soon as I saw the choreography. The bareness of the instrumentation perfectly reflected the emptiness of Giulietta’s heart and Hoffmann’s obsessive mind. The scenes finally found their connection with each other. I was myself impressed by what we did. The music was quite scary; I understand now why I unconsciously prevented myself from listening to it!
Run through of Act III tomorrow! I am so impatient to see it!

Sawako as Giulietta

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Road to Tokyo

I’m still in Niigata. It’s impossible to plan anything ahead so I go with the flow, wherever it takes me. Day by day, minute by minute. Jo and Sawako have dropped me at the theatre where I can leave my luggage until I know what I’ll do. I am to meet Mikiko to sign the last papers. Satoshi will come and pick me up and we’ll spend the next couple of days together. It seems that even the slightest wish or thought that passes my mind materializes in my life, so I have to be really careful – maybe just fill myself with more positive thoughts. We went to see Christopher Nolan’s Inception, last Monday and the subject dealt exactly with the same concept: that every single thought that you let grow in and accept in your mind becomes part of yourself and becomes a material part of your world precisely because you gave your attention to it. I had no real reason to go to Tokyo, except to see a couple of friends, Nolico, Tetsuya, Benjamin or Bong-san. Or possibly do some music shopping at RecoFan or HMV in Shibuya. I have a much better reason to stay in Niigata, seize and enjoy whatever time left I have here with Satoshi.
It’s been lovely. I haven’t felt that way in ages with someone. Happy and carefree. It is bound to end eventually because of the distance, but the few days I have had with him are priceless.  

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Peaceful Niigata

Very relaxing days after the hard work. I stayed at Jo and Sawako’s. What perfect hosts they are. We joke and laugh all the time. If the dancers and company staff saw them under that light, they would be in a state of shock!
We went to the cinema, ate a lot, went to the game centre… I felt quite strange to leave intensity of work we were so used to. 

View on Niigata.

Attack of the deadly spider!!!

Jo and Sawako as children.

Satoshi and I went to the beach. I haven’t seen the seaside for ages. It was a wonderful spectacle to watch the sunset. Satoshi was like a joyous puppy, swimming and laughing. I haven’t felt that peaceful for a long time. I’m so happy now. 

Friday, 16 July 2010

40 ... and premiere

Premiere of Hoffmann today. 
My 40th birthday today. 
The combination of the two makes it a fantastic day. It couldn’t be more perfect. 
I received countless messages on Facebook and on my e-mail box. I’m glad to be spending this meaningful day here in Niigata. Noism has become like a second family through the years. The story will go on for many more years.
The sun has also decided to spread out its beams and warm up the city. Everyone is in a light-spirited and cheerful mood.
The show is in one hour and ten minutes. Even if I don’t have anything to do, I feel nervous and excited.  

Satoshi left a single rose and a card for me backstage. There was also a Hello Kitty toy from Nolico who was so sorry she couldn't make it to the premiere.
I felt a tinge of jealousy in Satoshi when he asked me where the Hello Kitty came from. When I explained who Nolico was, he immediately relaxed and smile. I found that so touching. I had wanted to catch him the whole day, but he was focusing and getting prepared. Everybody is so excited.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rehearsals - D-2!

Two days to the premiere!  How I wish we had more performances! Quite luckily, we had three weeks rehearsals in the theatre instead of the usual two, so we could enjoy performing day after day.
Jo is much more relaxed than he was before the premieres of NINA or PLAY 2 PLAY. He’s still honing the lighting design. I spent this past week checking the sound and the mixing in the theatre or in the sound studio. I don’t see much of the day light, but I’m delighted and elated. I really come alive when I’m working.

Soon the next step in this new life of mine will take place: I’ll go to Taipei, look for a flat, get my papers and settle down – if settle down is the right word, for I have the feeling there’s a lot in store for me, much more than I expect. 
As soon as I’ll reach Taipei, I’ll start working on this piece for CloudGate II with Huang-Yi, Symphony Project. Among all the forthcoming projects, this one seems particularly interesting. When I first met this young choreographer last January, he only knew he wanted me to write something for strings, actually, a cello solo piece. Now he has obviously nurtured his ideas and the result is that I’ll be dealing with mechanized strings: the instruments will be ‘caged’ by a robot which will play it and receive the score via midi… The range and possibilities will be limited but the challenge is interesting. Now they’re perfecting the robots. Huang-Yi jokingly said that it can play Little Bee very well… This is reassuring!

Everything is to be created. I must say that I almost wish to start anew from scratch. My belongings will soon be shipped so to reach Taipei by the end of August. Now it’s transitional time. Shall I spend a few days in Tokyo, as I planned? Or should I stay in Niigata, because I have a reason for it… the reason being one of the dancers. It took a few days to make it clear and understood – the Japanese way, one may say. I wasn’t totally sure, yet my intuition was saying yes, yes and yes! So it took a few days of discreet little signs, subtle hidden messages in conversations…
Not the best idea to start a story in Japan… But the heart is everything but sensible. Whatever happens, the best is to enjoy the present moment. I shall go with the flow.
Japan is closer to Taipei than Paris!

Satoshi and me

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Sleepless in Niigata

Sleepless night last night. I could only close my eyes for an hour and half. I was kept awake the rest of the time by concerns and worries, before I realized what was happening: these worries are my connection to the past. Now that I have made this move to Asia, why should I bring them along? Like many of the things I had to throw away before leaving, those thoughts which now are part of a life gone find no relevance in this new chapter I’m beginning. I feel so much power in being able to decide what I want for myself. I know everything only depends on how I formulate my thoughts, on what I give my attention to. The universe is there to materialize all this for my experience. Fill myself with joyousness, that’s my motto.
Speaking of which, I still haven’t got rid of this Parisian flat of mine. Still two months before the lease it officially over. I have to cut the bond that still ties me to it. Goodbye, goodbye, farewell.
Another realization this past night: the fact that I struggled so much writing the music for Jo only mirrors the fact that this big tower I had erected between myself and the world is falling apart. The man is finally coming to be with the others. I will retain my characteristics but it’s vital to leave this tower where I have been standing for so long. As the thought occurred to me, I felt appeased and at peace. Finally.

Niigata at dusk

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Act 3

Act III brought tears to me eyes more than once. Was it the piece itself or a particular emotional state that found a way to flow out…?
Whatever that was, I simply loved it. Isabelle’s aria is magnificent and so moving . What a pity she can’t be there to see it, hear herself and be proud of her work. The final scene which gave us so many sleepless nights and necessitated four rewrites is now gorgeous and poignant. Koji’s violin playing is so soulful and sensitive. I would never thank him enough! The third act is Jo’s favourite. It is mine as well.
Now I wish Hoffmann becomes a successful ballet and gets to tour around the world in the best theatre houses. The apprehension I had when we started has now completely vanished. It’s a totally original piece, in spite of the plot. When one sees it, one forgets about Offenbach’s opera. 


I have been gone three days already, and I received many emails and messages from friends and of course my parents wishing me a good first days in Asia. How I hope they could witness what is happening here!  My father wrote that the director of Le Gardien de Buffles would like to collaborate with me on his second long feature.
I wonder why he doesn’t ask my father. But that’s good news. I’ve also been asked to score the soundtrack of another film by a young Vietnamese director who lives in Canada and who’s also working on his second film. It’s supposed to be six shorts threaded into one. A Vietnam I love you? I saw the trailer of one of them featuring two young children. The exciting news is that I will have an orchestra at my disposal to record the music. There’s that orchestra in Prague which specializes in film soundtracks. Everyone from Europe to the US has been asking for their service. They’re much cheaper and they play well. I’m very impressed by the idea of it.

So many good things to look forward to!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Hoffmann Diaries

The Hoffmann Diaries

I’m in Niigata now. I arrived in the afternoon after a trip that lasted more than twenty hours. Jo had told me to take that first day to rest and come to the theatre tomorrow, but how could I resist not coming? I had nothing to do in my hotel room apart from feeling sleepy, so I decided to go and greet them.
Weather isn’t unlike Paris as I left it, though a few degrees hotter. But it was not the tropical nightmare like the one I am expecting to get in Taiwan.
I walked to the theatre. My favourite shops were all closed, to my biggest chagrin. No more temptation on the way! The city was quiet as it was on the first day I came here. I caught glimpse of a few school students in uniform but the streets were deserted.
There was a run-through of the prologue and the first act this evening. The first run-though for the dancers, apparently. They were all under pressure. The costumes were ready. I was sent pictures of them last week and I was so impressed by the originality, invention of the designer. It suddenly gave me the first hint of how Hoffmann would look like on stage.
I showed them to Isabelle who felt even more frustrated not to be able to attend the premiere.

I was enchanted.
Once again, Jo did marvels. The stage design is made of countless lego-like wooden boxes and panels that could be turned anything, into a table, a throne, a wall or a miniature stage. The light design wasn’t finalized yet, but that hardly mattered. We have created a beautiful work. When you watch it, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, bears no connection with the opera at all except for the name. The costumes, the music and the set design make it a totally original piece of theatre. It is actually closer to Japanese theatre. The music gives it a timeless feel. If I was a little doubtful about what I had done, the feeling has vanished. I composed the score in a state of stressfulness and semi-consciousness; the major focus being to finish the music in time. Now I’m awake again and can appreciate the fruit of those months of hard labour!
I can’t wait to see the second and third act!
Jo worked on the light design for a couple of hours before we went out for a late dinner. As Sawako said, it felt like I never really left Niigata.

A lotus flower in a garden near the Ruytopia Theatre

Japanese people love to use French language,
although they always make spelling or grammar mistakes

Decors for the Prologue

The last night in Paris seems like part of another story, now. The last days were so intense emotionally. The movers came last Saturday and packed everything – well, mostly my books, CD’s and DVD’s. That day was total mayhem for me, and if it wasn’t for Mathilde’s presence, I think I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Lots of things were left in the flat. Isabelle, Nicolas and Dennis are the guardians of this flat until it’s handed back to the agency in September.
I’m so fortunate to have such friends.
Isabelle organized a surprise farewell dinner with a group of close friends and my parents at her place that evening. Naturally, I didn’t suspect anything, so busy was I and so skilled were they all in the art of pretending. For me it was an intimate affair with her, her husband Richard and Quentin, my dear 7 year old friend. At the time I was supposed to show up, I was still cleaning and tidying up my flat. I called in desperation and said that I wasn’t sure to make it. She insisted, saying that Quentin really wanted to see me. Her firmness of tone convinced me.
I arrived an hour and a half late. Richard picked me up at the station.  When I entered the house, I didn’t see nor hear anybody. The rooms were dimly lit, the atmosphere was so quiet. Maybe Quentin was playing hide and seek. ‘Go look for Quentin’, Richard told me. I walked a few steps more into the living room, where an uproar of cheering voices greeted me. My parents, Jan, Julia, Nicolas, Marianne, and of course Isabelle and Quentin was standing in front of everyone, all beaming and smiling to me. Quentin was a hoot, as usual.
I had been feeling quite emotional the past days, and that surprise created a big storm in me. I cried.