Sunday 31 July 2011

Family reunion

I finally managed to talk to my brother and Mathilde. We had been exchanging lots of emails because of our uncle. But talking to each other, we haven't been for a few months.
Mathilde showed me their baby on the webcam.
"Did you know why we called him Vu An" she asked me.
I had had a little guess at it when a friend of my brother's posted a comment on Facebook about the baby's name, Victor, to which he replied that Victor also had a Vietnamese name which means something like "Little rain announcing peace". Peace? An? 安? That was my name! And the thought occured to me that they may have done it on purpose, so that I could be close to the child, even when far away. 
I was right! I knew why. I felt moved.

I'm going to Paris in September.

My mother called my brother and he had the idea of using the speaker so she could join our internet conversation. She was so thrilled by this unexpected - though unusual vocal reunion!
I dearly miss them.

My parents have sold our house in Bretagne. They will be able to offer me the ticket!

Saturday 30 July 2011

Gaité poodles

Farewell party.
Loïc and Lisa going back to Paris soon.
Pizza eating.
Friends I didn't know for the most except Jay who organised the whole evening.
Oh, and this friend of Nicolas B, a scholar and highly respected historian / university teacher, who gave me one of those extraordinary diva moments: we were seated at the same table. He greeted me with a big smile, "Oh hello An!" then immediately turned away with a haughty expression before I could even greet him back. Of course he totally ignored me during the whole dinner.
I can't say I was heartbroken because I never really liked the man. One may be extremely brilliant and not be that likeable.
He was staying with me in Taipei at Jason and Nicolas' last year for a couple of weeks. Some people are tell straightforwardly what they think and wish for, while others use more meandering and twisted ways to make you feel what they want. If on the first day, I found him charming - maybe helped by Nicolas' presence and good-naturedness, I was in no case impressed by his encyclopedian knowledge - as I'm not at all impressed by extremely wealthy, extremely beautiful or extremely talented people. I usually wait to see who the person is. He likes Asian guys and rice queens simply make me run away. His powerlessness over me must have disconcerted him and he soon started to grow a dislike of me. I stayed away and did my own things without being too much in touch with him, even if we stayed under the same roof.

The farewell party was pleasant, nothing to remember for life, though. One table of French friends and colleagues of Loïc's. Another table of Asian friends and colleagues, and a third and last table of Lisa's gay and Asian friends. No need to tell at which table I was stitting. Lisa is absolutely charming and witty. Such a shame she's going away when I'm only starting to know her.

Birds of a feather flock together. Social life can be draining.

Bienvenue à Taipei! Au revoir Paris.

Thursday 28 July 2011


My uncle passed away two days ago. He brought away 82 years with him. He never came back from his coma. The whole family was there near him. There had been a game of wrong information passed via emails. My brother wrote a week ago that our uncle had died. I sent my condolances to my cousin who promptly replied that his father was still alive - though not much life left to live; a week at most. My brother realised his mistake too late and wrote back to me, explaining that it was another cousin from Switzerland who told him. 
We had hoped that another hospital may be able to save him. One of the surgeons knows our family and has quite a good reputation. Unfortunately, there wasn't much the man could do.
I don't know what really happened, only roughly that he was ran over by a car. Was it a hit-and-run case? Did the people show some sense of responsibility and helped?
I know my aunt and my cousins were much to overwhelmed to even think about the circumstances.
That reminds me of another cousin who died at the age of 26 in a car accident. He had to drive a relative to the airport early in the morning. On his way back, his extreme exhaustion and sleepiness caused him to lose control of his engine. I don't know what really happened, whether the car crashed against a tree or against another car. He was brought to the hospital, deeply wounded. He could have survived had the nurse not estimated that more than three days of antibiotic were unnecessary. He got a severe infection due to that misjudgement and died of it. Only 26, he was.
His parents were much too devastated to even sue the hospital for incompetence. A small funeral was held at a cemetary in the Southern Parisian surburb. Family and close relatives attended. We sang some of his favourite songs, one of them being Eternal Flame, which is now forever connected to him.
My father later said it was very moving, and that it didn't feel at all like a funeral, more like a group of friends saying a goodbye when one of theirs goes on a trip.  
There are good doctors indeed. The task is to spot them among all the bad ones.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

out / in

He comes and he goes. I never knew, and still never know what is really going on with Andy.
When drunk, after a happy evening with friends at some bars, he misses me, is extremely affectionate and cuddly.
When sober, we are just good friends and talk about music.

The best thing is not to think too much. And I find out that it doesn't really matter to me. If that is his way of being in my life, then so be it!

He asked me about more music by Korngold and other post-romantic composers. He first heard Korngold's music during ChingYao's recital in 2008. I had showed ChingYao that lovely aria from Die tote Stadt, which he immediately decided to include in his programme. Andy also loved it when he heard ChingYao sing it.
I played him other songs and arias arranged for violin and piano by the composer, as well as some lieder by Richard Strauss and Alban Berg. The post romantic era suits Andy very well.

I pushed him to be more pro-active, create an artist page to showcase his playing, start commissioning
We did a photo shoot today. We shall do more in the coming month.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Freude / Leide

Just read a birthday message from my brother on my morning mail. Added to it was a post-scriptum telling me the news of our uncle having been ran over by a car, with little chance to survive the accident.
It’s really life and death around me at the moment. Some are expecting babies very soon while others are fighting to survive.

I had a birthday bash at my place yesterday. A nice crowd of 12 mainly composed of artists and musicians. All were speaking in Chinese so I had this weird feeling to be a tourist at my own party.
However, they seem to have enjoyed themselves for the last ones left at 5 am! 
The highlight was when one late guest came with a friend who flew especially from Hong Kong for me. Words left me. I was just totally moved and happy. 
During the evening, music was played, my ex boy friend Andy took out his flute and sight-read a couple of pieces by Schumann and Fauré, Ching-Yao sang some Bellini as I accompanied him. I made a desatrous attempt at singing this song by Jay Chou that I performed last year at my concert. Johan's bitchy comments about my Chinese stopped my short!
The guests were in a merry mood, aided by that by all the bottles of wine that people brought.
I was happy to see everyone, although I felt strangely distant during the whole evening.

I thought of my friend Pinga at the hospital. I visited her a second time, this time on my own. She was asleep, or trying to. Her face showing the pain her body has to endure, so thin, not unlike these women from extremely poor countries we sometime see in the newspapers. Far from the beautiful and exuberant Pinga I had seen not even two months ago... 
As she was sleeping, her mother and I communicated by writing on a small notepad. Who was I? How did I know? Was I aware of her condition? It's hard for a mother to know her daughter hasn't much left to live... 

How was she now? I had come for a very short visit another time that week,  just enough to catch a weak smile from Pinga. Her mother had expressed the wish to let her daughter rest and not be disturbed by visits, even though she felt greatly moved to see so many loving friends.
I guess it’s not only physical rest, but also psychological rest. Seeing friends must put on some pressure on her. In such situation, it’s so delicate to make the right decision or say the right word.
As my friends were chatting gaily – the word couldn’t be more accurate, I managed to have some time to talk to Andy. It had been a couple of years since our break up and we never really had the opportunity to talk. First, for many months, I was much too angry and upset to talk to him, while he seemed to do his best to avoid me. 
“The actions didn’t reflect what was inside”, he said.
We talked about solitude, being different, being special, being musicians, being normal, having a family… He confessed that deep down, he wasn’t happy being gay. He had come to the party with a girl who, he later revealed had been his girl friend. But things didn’t work out. There were many things I wanted to ask him, but I stayed in topic. I also admitted that being an outsider, if it had helped me to move forward and touch my true self, was a heavy burden. But I understood that even the happiest decision had its part of pain and sacrifice. What we see I people’s life is only the surface we want to see. We have no idea what is going on inside. What I aim for isn’t happiness, but contentment. My name in Vietnamese means contentment…
I was glad to get close to Andy again. Once one chooses to give his love, it’s for ever. That cannot be taken back.

The birthday party also brought its share of good news: Johan will need more of my music for a fashion show in Tokyo this autumn when he presents his new collection.
And he's also thinking to publish The Hole as a specially packaged DVD/book. People had asked him about the music I wrote and it seems that a multimedia publication will be a good solution. My favourite designer Aaron Nieh will do the packaging so I’m elated, for I'm sure this will be a beautiful object.

I entertain a very nice friendship with Aaron Nieh. Before I met him personally, I had already appreciated his work without knowing it was him: his design and sense of packaging would catch my eyes, without fail, even if the artists didn’t interest me.
We do not know each other well, in the sense that our friendship for now has mainly taken the shape of mail exchanges. But in this techno-fast world where people don’t even have the time to write happy birthday in full letters, someone who bothers to pen more than one line – even better, a whole page, of heartfelt writing just stands out. And he brought a delicious cake for the birthday party! 

Aaron on Facebook

My father is devastated. We may get used to the familiarity of the distance between us and estranged members of the family, but the awareness of one’s life at stake shatters that feeling and reminds us how fragile everything is, especially habits.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Life / Death

My nephew was born yesterday.
Reading that line again, I think I should put it differently...
My nephew came to the world and had his first bowl of fresh Parisian air yesterday. I received a message on my phone from my brother. The baby was due on July 12th, he came to the world precisely on that date. Two days prior to the birth, the pregant mother was still seen playfully striking a pose between two pandas at a mall.
I can imagine how elated the two parents can be, and how even elated the parents’ parents are! As far as my brother is concerned, according to the Asian traditions, his filial duties have been brilliantly performed: a marriage, a house, a dog and a now child which happens to be a boy. What parents could ask for anything more? 

Vu An - Victor - day one

I would have loved to take part in this family event, but a few thousands miles separate me from the happy party. I still went to the hospital, but for a visit of quite an opposite nature. In room 616 of the Sun Yat Sen Cancer Hospital, a friend of mine was battling the disease.
I saw her a couple of months before. She came to my place to have tea with another friend. We had a good time. We laughed and joked. I knew she has just visited a doctor, but no one suspected how serious it was.
The girl I saw in room 616 yesterday was half of the shadow of the witty and joyful girl I knew. She was in so much pain, she couldn’t sit nor lie down for a very long time.
But what overwhelmed me was the question she asked me when she saw me enter the room:
‘Are you feeling better?’
She had heard that I had had cellulitis and that it nearly got to a very nasty state. But I healed when she was lying in bed, pale and exhausted by the pain.
How I wish I could ask her the same question soon.
I paid her a few visits this week. But if the journeys to the hospital were long, the visits would usually be extremely brief due to her condition.
That was not my first encounter with cancer. I lost many dear ones to that fatal disease. Nothing is lost yet, as long as she’s alive. I’m only reminded to cherish what I have. We do not remember how privileged we are to be able to breathe, walk, see, hear…

Tuesday 5 July 2011

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea...

ChingYao and I visited Pinga at the hospital.
It was a shock to see her like that, when only three months before, she was at my place, gayly sipping tea and eating cake with ChingYao and Nicolas.
Her belly had swollen to the point that one could have thought that she was pregnant. How ironic... she was dying.
Her sister was there, cheerful and lively. She tried to give a light atmosphere to the room. Pinga was happy to see us, but I could also see in her eyes that it was painful for her to be seen in such state, her eyes were almost pleading us to go.

For a change of mind, ChingYao then drove us to the Danshui district, on the Northern part of Taipei.  
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea... 
I hadn't seen any beach for a long time. It seems my life was more connected to cities, the past years.
The sea. It was a day week, so there wasn't many people.
Next time I'll bring my swimming suit.
I thought, hoped to have Pinga with us next time.
If only...

ChingYao walking on the beach

Sunday 3 July 2011


Ivan took me to Xizhi. I thought we would spend the day in the city, have a meal, then a drink and finish the day watching Jump Ashin, the film which opened the Taipei Film Festival.
It went completely differently. Since the screening of the film was only at 6 p.m. Ivan suggested we drove out of the city and went to his neighborhood.
He drove up to the mountains, parked the car and told me to follow him.
I entered paradise. There was a waterfall. We climbed up to a deserted spot. The sight of the fresh water was irresistible. I took off all my clothes and lied there, naked, in the middle of the stream. Ivan was more concerned about people passing by.
What wrong were we doing? Just enjoying what nature was offering us!

I hadn't stayed in the middle of a stream for a decade. The last time was in France, as I was in summer tour with
Michèle Atlani. We were in Savoie, in the French Alps, had a concert the previous night and had two days off to enjoy.
I took the car alone and drove at random. I was content. I followed the road until I reached a gorge. The landscape was gorgeous. I was driving along a small river, on a road which was carved in the mountain, drops of water were falling on the car window, the mountains around me seemed to move and Ryuichi Sakamoto was playing on the car stereo.
I treasure these lonely moments.
I stopped the car at some point and ended up in an isolated spot. I just stood there and contemplated the scereny around me.
I came back and told the others about what I had experienced. I offered to take them there but none was interested except Rémi, the bass player.
I took the car again, trying to remember the road I had taken a few hours earlier and eventually found the road along the river. Rémi was enchanted, although he said nothing. We stopped at his isolated spot. There were some big rocks in the middle of the stream so we each took one and sat there for what seemed like eternity. Rémi had his eyes closed and enjoyed the water streaming around him. It had a cleansing effect on us.
The next day, as we drove to our next concert destination, I made a detour and took the road along the river. It would take more time, but I wanted the others to see.
They reaction confirmed that it's useless to insist when someone shows no interest. Rémi and I looked at each other and smiled. It was like a little beautiful secret we shared.

We couldn't see Jump Ashin. All the tickets were sold out. Ivan was a bit sorry about that. But I told him that what he showed me that day was priceless.