Tuesday, 30 August 2011

On the way!

It took me some time to really put my heart and soul into it, but finally it's coming out! I have finished three scenes for the film this afternoon. Since there are only four characters in the film, the father, the mother, their son Pierre and his friend Luc. Each of them will receive a different musical treatment.
The first completed music is for the opening titles and the first scene, I had plenty of music that I had written earlier this year which hasn't been used. I reworked on one of them for FangYi but she rejected it. Eventually, it seems that even if I thought I was working for her, I was actually working for the film. 
The second music  is for a scene involving the father. It's a very simple theme which is played by the piano, backed by tablas and a cello playing on pizz. That same theme will be recorded a second time, the main part this time which will be played by Emily.
The third one is for a race scene where we see Luc running in the city, as if in an attempt to escape their city. He's joined by Pierre and both of them end up breathless and yelling on top of thei lungs on a bridge. The music starts with light electronic bleeps as percussions come in, played on drums and strings in a big climax. The will music will segue into something more peaceful and happy, in a scene where the two boys play make-believe and pretend that local spots in Taipei are actually famous places in Paris.
More music is ready to get out of my fingers... I hope to have everything in the can - more or less, before I leave. And that's likely to be doable.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


In the dream, I heard the noise of glass breaking. The two cats had been playing, jumping and running around the house and as they tried to reach a higher bookshelf, everything collapsed in a big crash.
My brother was sorry about the damage. Izac was there too. The dream ended with FangYi opening the door of the living room, smiling and looking very tanned...
I woke up. The light was still on. 5 o'clock in the morning. Not without difficulty, I had found sleep. It was Andy. He had broken a glass. He and Chubby were still speaking and smoking on the balcony as I fell in an agitated slumber. 
Oh yes, and that's the last day of the month of the ghosts...

5 o'clock. In spite of my exhaustion, I couldn't fall back asleep. I was thinking about FangYi. She had rejected all the new musical proposition I had been working on these past days, saying that she preferred the original versions. To me, the original versions were only incomplete drafts I made as references for her, before I can expand them as the work progresses. It's a pity because I was quite happy and enthusiastic about the new music I had done. It was no longer unused music clumsily patched together, it started to have a life and a personality.
The uneasy realisation that I'm not having a true artistic collaboration with her but instead just supplying background music annoys me. Once again, I am trapped in a situation where I have no say, and work with people who listen to the music with narrow ears. In this regard Jo is a rare gem. There hasn't been another one like him. I also feel the same frustration with this film project. I even feel like call it off and finding a way to return the advance money they wired me a couple of months ago. So far, most of my commissions in Taipei have brought me nothing but frustration... But I also realise this is partly my doing: I accept everything much too easily, even if I know nothing about the project or the people involved, so happy am I to find something to do.
It's a shame especially particularly in FangYi's case, for she is a beautiful and mesmerising performer,
as it also was a shame a few months ago, with that debacle when I worked with Huang Yi on Symphony Project. Much talent, much ado for - to put it mildly, an underwhelming nothing. However, I'm aware that we're not at the end of it and that she may change her mind with time.

For now I feel deeply frustrated. I really do wonder why I keep attracting this kind of situation. What aspect of my life do I have to work on? How long shall it go on before I deserve something good?
Many envy the freedom I have in my life. They just don't realise at what cost.


Finally! I know how I will approach the music for the film. I had been toying with various possibilities, and I think I should go along with the way Bryan directed his film: as an observer. He doesn't tell the story, nor does he get emotionally committed to characters. That's where the music has to play a part, for scenes which seem to be dragging aimlessly, or scenes where people talk a lot, but where the dialogue isn't actually used in a dramatic way like say, in a play. The balance will then be brought by the music. 
I hope Bryan will agree with that choice, for that's the only solution I see to give the film some hook. I know it may sound presomptuous of me to say so.
I only wish he will not do like FangYi and discard all my effort to enhance what he has done. I feel that his partner and producer agrees with me on many part so I expect to receive his support. I shall see Emily to record the cello parts sometime this week.
It's not the project of a lifetime, but I try to give it all I can.

Under the Civic Boulevard

Friday, 26 August 2011


I really liked Thief when I saw during the Taipei Film Festival. Jay Chern, the director, had been working for Johan Ku on the video installation of The Hole, so he invited Johan and me to attend a screening of his short film.
We went to the Bar Code to celebrate, Jay, the premiere of his film, Johan and I, the opening of the Stay Real Dream exhibition. Jay came with CJ, the producer of his film, a charming young girl who is actually a theatre director. We quickly got into deep discussion about music, film, theatre, creativity...
CJ had written a thesis on a Norwegian playwright, Jon Fosse, directed one of his plays, and met the man - when it is a known fact that he would seldom meet total strangers.
When I told CJ about Devant mes Yeux/Before my Eyes, the play I had been having in my mind for many years already, she said there were many similarities in the themes between what I had told her and Jon Fosse's plays. I shall have to read some of them. 
But I think I have found the director for my play! I have to find the time to pen it. 
CJ wrote back to me a few days ago to say that Jay may need my help for Thief.
It turned out that Jay may have some copyright problem with some of the music he had used for the soundtrack. He had indeed been granted the permission to feature Ella Fitzgerald singing But not for me, but the permission apprently only applied for theatrical distribution. Now that the film will be showed on TV, it doesn't apply, whence their call for help.
And said yes.
"Even when I have too many projects, I still say accept new ones" I joked. CJ laughed when she heard that. 
"And it's not until the deadline approaches that I start to freak out. But I still say 'Oh, yes, I can do it!"
And I said yes.
I will have to write a jazzy number and some incidental music. Jay will send me the film and discuss the scenes.

We were talking as we were munching on fairly big-sized burgers at a burger spot which CJ had picked, called An Burger...  
This restaurant is famous for its giant hamburger dish that the staff challenges the customer to eat within less than one hour. If he succeeds, then it's on the house. And if the he succeeds in less than 45 minutes, he's given 300 $. Needless to say no one has managed to win: the hamburger itself has 4 pounds of meat, to which one has to add 2 pounds or mashed potatoes, 2 pounds of French fries, 1,8 liter of coke and a plateful of fried brownies - we tasted them, they're awful!
Not unlike one of Hercules' twelve labours!

Watch: The Hole (Variation One)
 A conceptual short, part of a series of 7 videos directed by Johan Ku for his 2011-2012 A/W collection.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


When my father came back from his second trip to Vietnam, after 20 years or so away from his homeland, he brought back a tape on which he had recorded a conversation with my mother's father. 
For me it was a strange experience to hear for the first time the voice of a grand father I had never met - and would never be able to meet. He was then already very sick and weak, even though he sounded very lively and talkative.
For my mother, it was a devastating experience to hear the voice of a her father she dearly missed and hadn't seen for nearly three decades. It was a Saturday, after lunch. My parents were having their adult talk and I was still at the table with them, half-listening. Then the tape was mentioned. My mother insisted in hearing it, despite my father's weak protestations. She cried like I had never seen her cry before. There was nothing I could do to console her.
I wish to hear the tape, now. Nearly thirty years later...
I thought of that distant episode as I stood at the back of the funeral hall, listening to the three monks chanting the sutras, watching Pinga's parents saying farewell to her. 

Her father made a very moving eulogy. He was standing in front of the altar with his wife, the sister and the brother on either side of it.
One of the things he regretted was to not be able to take his daughter to the southern island for her wedding as he had promised her. Now he's going to carry a picture of her and travel the world with her.
An orchestral arrangement of Chopin's 'Tristesse' Etude was being played on repeat at the end, when we all had to go by group and salute the family.
ChingYao, James, Thomas as well as a few other friends were there, our eyes all red with tears. 
"I'm going more and more emotional as I grow older", I told James.
"Because we carry more as our life experience expands. We understand more what it feels like" he replied.
"To prevent myself from bursting into tears, I had to think of the most trivial things, like this woman's hairdo, the flower decoration, what this person was wearing... But it would only last for a few moment before I would get another attack..."
The ceremony ended with everyone walking one by one to the back of the altar and throwing rose petals in the coffin. Japanese pop songs were blasting out of the speakers. Pinga had been made up. So thin she was... The picture displayed at the altar was of a beautiful and smiling Pinga as we would or should remember her. For a second, I saw her face at the hospital and the pain she found hard to conceal.
Now she can go. 
"I'm not afraid to die, I'm just worried that I won't be able to take care of people anymore" she had said. 

Goodbye Pinga.

The afternoon demanded that I quickly shifted to another mode and another mood. I had seen FangYi the previous day and we both agreed that I would just do as I pleased for the music and then hand it to her to choreograph on it. I think it will help her structure the piece more tightly.
I didn't understand that she intended to make it in two parts, the first one being Oneness, and the other one - the more rhythmical one which also feature two hip hop dancers from Macau called Just
I however suggested to make the two parts become one. After all, she came up with Oneness... She didn't seem to see how that was possible, but I shall show her in the music. 
I extended Just with a new section which will be a dual between two taiko drums. I recorded them for Auntie three years ago, but never used. That section will be for the two hip-hop dancers. I saw a video of their rehearsal standard street dancing with the standard attitude and movements. FangYi didn't quite know what to do with them since they have no training in any other dance disciplines. To displace the urban flavour and set it in musical surrounding which has little to do with the hip-hop world.
I also showed FangYi videos taken during the rehearsals of Sur le Fil in Paris. She seemed almost relieved to see the possible ways she could take now.
I have to finish all the music before next week. And also this film score which is dragging on and on...


If the day started in mourning, it ended in sensorial elation.
Chubby gave me an invitation to attend the opening of this year's Taipei Art Fair. Hundreds of galleries from around the world - actually Asia, some European countries and a couple of US cities... Nothing very exciting under the sun (contemporary art fails seems to be a recycling of modern art, I find), lots of rubbish sold at outrageous prices as usually the case. So instead of looking for a captivating life changing discovery, I paid more attention to details. I get saturated very quickly when I go to museums. Each painting is like a life story which emanates very strong vibrations, as if they were living beings. After a encountering few of them, I'm exhausted.
My usual way in museums is to walk past the paintings as I would walk past people in my daily life, until I see one that catches my attention - one cannot talk to everyone at the same time.
Chubby works for Lin&Lin, arguably the most famous gallery in Taiwan. There was a corner which they turned into a private little salon: a vintage sofa, a wooden coffee table and a Zao Wou Ki painting hanging on the wall. Who wouldn't dream of such space in their home? I'm one of them.

The Zao Wou Ki corner.
Chubby told me not to show the painting,
whence the red cross.

Tsai Ming-Liang was there, of course surrounded by a herd of journalists, admirers and cameramen. Since his last film, Faces takes place in the Louvres museum, it was that film which he showcased.
One gallery which kept me watching each piece attentively one by one, came unsurprisingly from Japan. The Saihodo Gallery. When I'm rich I will...

Art Fair crowd.

A photographer: Simon Chang. He did a whole series in Slovenia. He was there, commenting on his work. I had seen his book. I shall go to Eslite and get it!

Simon Chang and his audience

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Quickie in Hong Kong

I went, I saw, I left.
That's how the trip to Hong Kong felt like. I wish I could have stayed longer, but the workload is too heavy for me to 'waste' one more day (and waste more money, spending time there).
I managed to see a few friends Hong Kong style, ie. 90 minutes or so for each person. As I was about to take the tramway back to my friend Nicolas' place, I called Chet Lam to say hello. He had a photo shooting the next day so the only time to meet was now.
"Come to my place now!!! I have moved into a new flat! It's near where you are staying! Come!!!"
It was nearly midnight. But I was leaving the next day, so why not?
Chet had moved into one of those new luxurious complexes that had grown like mushrooms along the southern coast of the Hong Kong island. It was far from everything, but rich people have cars - or drivers so their last concern is to catch the last train or find the nearest convenient store.
It was as tasteless, garish and tacky as it was luxurious. Something between Willy Wonka's palace and a Las Vegas hotel. The opulence of bad art, glitter, marble and all the shabada nearly made me choke.
"Chinese potato farmer gone rich overnight" I said. Chet laughed at that. 
"At least, it's quiet and I have a good view on the sea" he said. Indeed, I could see the chimneys of Lamma Island, not far away.

Of course, with Chet it is always a lot about music. His record collection is impressive. I could stand for hours in front of the shelves and dig out artists I had never heard of.
His new side project will be to do another cover album, this time with all the bombastic power ballads of the 80's.
"Guilty pleasure!" he said as he played them to me.
I remember how Simon would also like to torture me with 80's hit songs. Oh... Chet and Simon are the same age! 
I don't know how many album he releases each year... He gave me his latest release: a collaboration with a glamorous female art dealer, an album about the art of love poems in China done in a contemporary setting. 
We talked until four in the morning. It was time for me to go home. I could nearly hear the birds starting to chirp in the distance...

I'm always so excited to be in Hong Kong.


I met Jay for lunch. He was working on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, in Tsim Sha Tsui. He had started to write again, after many years away from his pen, and had lots of questions about music and songwriting.
I also learned that a common friend of ours had cancer - that thing again... and was fighting it with all his might and the most positive attitude he could muster. I never suspected it in our Facebook exchanges. He always seems so healthy, with a drop-dead gorgeous figure. I thought of Pinga. I hope, I hope he will make it.

Another casting call from the agency today. I had had no news regarding the previous ones so I didn't know what to do. This time it was an add for a TV commercial, something to do with an insurance company.
"Bring your suit again!" Wayne said.
"It's too big for me. I look stupid in it." I replied.
"Doesn't matter. Bring it anyway. It's some kind of emergency. The shooting will be in Shanghai this Sunday."
Considering the current tension between France and China, I explained to him that I may not get the visa for China. Was it worth going?
The casting took place at the other end of the city, of course. As I stepped out of the MTR station I felt a big weight on my neck. A wrung neck? Maybe the exposure to AC and constant temperature changes in Hong Kong... Or maybe like in this film, Shutter where the main character carries the ghost of a dead girlfriend on his shoulder...?
I couldn't find the street. It started to rain. A big storm. Thunder and lightning. I was soaked. No money to take a taxi. I called Wayne to tell him that maybe I would call it a day and go home. But I had only walked a few steps toward the station that I decided against it and asked again for direction. Wayne called me back. I told him I actually was on my way to the casting. He arranged for someone from the company to pick me up.
I put my suit on. Too big. I obviously lost some weight in Taipei. They gave me another one. Too small.
"Just with the shirt is okay."
I did a few video tests. "Turn this way, turn that way". Some photos. "Turn this way, turn that way".
Still something was missing.
"We would like you to have a more Korean style..." the girl said.
They showed one of the pictures that my agent sent them. The one done by Annie.
"See? You look Korean on that one!"
I was given a pair of tight jeans, a short-sleeved grey jacket and a white t-shirt.
"We will try with that"
I did the same video and photo tests. From the girl's smile, it was more convincing. "More Korean!" she said.
Réponse tonight.

I reflected on all the recent events. For the past week, I had done three castings for commercials. Why now? What did it mean? And maybe this shooting in Shanghai on Sunday!
I am slightly confused but I'm ready to embrace whatever comes my way.

The phone just rang. It was FangYi. We'll meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the music of Oneness.
And I have promised Bryan I would show him some music for his film by the end of the week...

Friday, 19 August 2011

J'aime ça

He was standing in front of the bed, with a little flash light in his hand. It was a three in the morning. Andy had just come home from an evening out, probably with friends.
I gasped. I was in the middle of my sleep so the effect was quite violent. Andy laughed, trying to imitate the devilish laugh of a wicked witch. Month of the ghosts again... Or the merits of the drinks.
Quite strangely, he didn't chose to sleep in the guestroom but again with me. Maybe the comfort of familiarity...

I accompanied ChingYao to get his test result at the hospital. The big hug I gave him certainly expressed how happy and relieved I was. After Pinga passed away, I treasure my health. 
We then ran to the National Theatre where FangYi wanted to show me some more dance she has done for Oneness. Three dancers were missing, the music sounded half-dressed, but the set design at least, was ready. I'm starting to see how it will look like. So far, nothing transcendental though... It's a bit of a mish-mash between Martha Graham, modern dance and hip-hop... FangYi will undoubtedly bring out a her flair in her solo which opens the piece. The other dancers are very young and not that exciting to watch. That said, it's only a rehearsal, months away from the premiere. I think however that I will add a bit more drama in the music and maybe everything will come alive. 
We will meet again next week to finalise what she needs for the whole piece. 
But I loved the chairs that were done for the set design. 
ChingYao laughed when I made the remark. 
"You're obsessed with chairs!!!" he said.

The casting was for a phone company. I had to 'be' a business man. I put on the suit and realised that it was now too big for me. Did I shrink during my time in Taipei? I had it done three years ago for my brother's wedding... 
Now I looked like a young kid who tries one his father's clothes...
A couple a pictures were taken and I was free to leave.

The day didn't stop there since I had to book my tickets for Hong Kong and Paris. The travel agent did the best he could to find me a good deal.
Departure date to Paris: 09/11. Rings a bell?

The gym is my haven. I can meditate and find peace of mind as I tune up and (tone up) with my body. I can meet other bodies and find some solace with them.
I was about to take a shower before the work out. And I saw a smiling young man who signaled me to follow him. It was a quick and friendly affair. I don't even know his name. He wasn't one of those narcissists one finds so often at the gym. He was nice, direct and affectionate. J'aime ça.


I'm happy to have booked my ticket to Paris. In a little more than two weeks, I shall be walking the Parisian streets again. But first comes Hong Kong in two days!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

"Take this pill"

Got another call from the agency. They want to see my sunny, funny face tomorrow.
"This time you won't have to speak. It's for a printed add" Wayne, my agent's assistant said.
"Wear a suit" he added.
"I'll bring one. Although with this heat, I can't really see myself wearing a suit and running around!"
"Fine. Bring one and you'll change here. I'll go with you to the studio." the assistant said, laughing.

I'm also seeing FangYi tomorrow morning at the National Theatre to see more of what she has done choreographically one Oneness.
I suddenly realise that I have to extend the piece as she has required me to do, last time we met. I'll have to ask how the audienced received this solo from Oneness she presented last month at this festival in the US. The big premiere will be in December in Macau. I must admit, I haven't put too much of mind in it.
Next week, I'll fly to Hong Kong. And I also have to see about the flight ticket to Paris...
And what about this project in Vietnam this month of October? I wrote to Loc, the director, but got no reply...
Whatever happens, I will just follow my intuition and do what I see fit.
But I have the funniest feling a lot of it is going to be a last-minute-rush affair.

I was racing yesterday with a biker on my way home from the gym. At a red light, he stopped next to me and it took me a few minutes before I realised he was talking to me. I had my headphones on and Radiohead was playing full blast.
"Are you An Ton...?" he asked.
"Em.... how do you know?" I didn't recognise him.
"Were you in Taipei three years ago? You did a musical, didn't you? Auntie... "
Oh dear... Auntie was haunting me.
I asked his name. Only then did I know whom I was talking to. Facebook friend. He had seen Auntie in Tainan. Now I remembered!
It was nearly midnight. I hadn't eaten, so I suggested we had a littke snack. Where?
The choice was poor: McDonald's, MosBurger, Yoshinoya or some late night street food stall at the night market...
We picked MosBurger.
The conversation quickly settled on the topic of Buddhism. He had been training and practicing more intensively for the past year.
This unexpected encounter brought lots of lightness to me. I realised the past couple of months had been quite rich but heavy, and allowed me little time to unburden myself from all the things I had been carrying in my mind.
He gave me a little pack of pills when he learned that I slept badly.
"They come from Tibet. They're made of roots and some plants. Then the monks pray millions of time on them. Take them whenever you feel something isn't right."
He had turned to Buddhism a year ago. Confused life, bad sleep, and ghosts! His sister who had this 6th sense said she saw ghosts around him.
"The best way to get rid of ghosts and reach a better place was to practice the teaching of Buddha. Learn to empty your mind. Because the more you think of ghosts, the more space you give to them."
I told him that it could apply to everything in life. It all depends on our awareness and conscience of what surrounds us. If we manage to empty our mind from this constant noise of unncessary, negative thoughts, we can see more clearly what direction we have to follow.

Last night was the first good night I had in weeks.

And the Buddhist saga goes on.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Month of the ghosts

And the Buddhist saga goes on...
One of ChingYao's wealthy student/lady friends invited him and me to a dinner to meet a lama from Darjeeling.
It was held at a vegetarian restaurant - Buddhist lama oblige, on the tenth floor of the Bistro, on ZhongXiao East Road. Quite a fancy place it was.
That woman is a powerful lawyer in Taipei, yet she feels the need to give some meaning to her life. She wants to help artists (a welcomed thought) and gives a lot to this Buddhist community. The lama came with another monk whom I liked instantly. He didn't say much, but there was a true aura of serenity about him. His eyes were kind and gentle.
I found it hard to connect with the lama. He was seated at the center of the table, lit by a spotlight which happened to shine exactly above his head, as if the divine light was constantly on him, while the rest of us were confined to semi-dimness. Divine light or aura of power. If that wasn't set up on purpose, the coincidence was indeed striking.
Beside ChingYao and I, the other guests were mainly female friends of this lady's. For some reason, the lama mostly addressed me during the evening. When he learned I was Vietnamese, he made that his conversation topic for a while. And I heard a highly amusing retelling of Hồ Chí Minh's life, the main point being that he wasn't communist at the start, but was more or less compelled to embrace it in order to bring the Vietnam to independence because of the Americans when his ideas were actually more democratic...
I preferred to remain silent. As he talked, the lama was casting glances at me, as if to see my reaction.
I asked ChingYao to order the food for me, since I had no idea what was good. The main course was a delicious mock mutton dish. But I could have sworn it was actual meat, and not mushroom. My palate was confused.
"It's not sheep. It's not mutton" the lama said.
I smiled at him, then stopped for a second. "Isn't mutton the meat of sheep?" I thought. When I asked around for confirmation, the lama stood his point and saying again that mutton referred to goat meat.
I tried to explain that it was a word taken from French mouton, which designates a sheep, but as used in English, it only applied to the meat of the sheep, as the words beef and veal also refer to the meet of the cow and calf, but come from boeuf and veau, which in French were used for the live animals. But my explanation fell on deaf ears.
"No. It's goat meat!" the lama said again. "In India, mutton is goat meat." I imagined a cross breed of goats and sheeps...
Anyway, I wasn't aware of the idioms they were using in India.
Then I stopped again. The situation was strange. I was arguing, though very politely with a lama????
I decided to stop reacting to his statements.
The ladies were talking in Chinese with each other. I was eating quietly at my end of the table, observing everyone around me. ChingYao had barely said a word during the whole time. Our lady host kept trying to win the lama's attention by asking him childish questions. Whether she was a prominent and powerful lawyer in Taiwan, I had the impression it was a little girl who was sitting next to me.
The lama's disciple was also very silent. But I felt comfortable, just watching him. We would serve tea to each
other, nodding or smiling occasionally. No conversation was necessary.
The lama intrigued me. I had seen other people like him. Guru, self-professed masters, philosophers, spiritual guides... But I didn't want to think of him that way. How dared I having these thoughts? But I couldn't help it. Something just didn't match.
At times, I would catch the lama in deep thoughts, frowning at the ladies before realising I was watching him and returning me a suave smile.
Because of my interest in spirituality and Buddhism, I had been asked to attend meetings and conferences with spiritual guides.
I remember one time, many many years ago, a friend took me to a session with a guru. A very good one, she said. When we arrived, we sat on our little pillow, facing what looked like a throne. When the guru stepped in, candles were lit and everyone joined hands in a prayer position. The man sat on his throne, with two disciples on either side of the chair. He had this mysterious smile which becomes spiritual masters so well...
That day, people were allowed to ask questions. To each question, just a vague response. Always that mysterious smile. Ignorance can look good in a big blur.
I left totally unconvinced. "He's a fake", I told my friend. She stopped attending the sessions eventually.
This lama gave me the same impression. It was only my gut feeling anyway. He talked a lot about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, two men he admires. Sainthood is unshakable when coated with good deeds. 

Young monk in Yangon, Myanmar

After the dinner, I had a walk with ChingYao. He wasn't in the best of spirit, to put it mildly. Confusing and unsettling, quite a dramatic time for him.
We walked aimlessly. I wanted to take him to a café, but I couldn't remember the exact address, so we decided to go to another one which we liked - and happened to be about to close for the day. IN the meantime, I tried to cheer him up with my nonsensical jokes.
"You really let surprises come up a lot in your life and it doesn't seem to bother you... " he said, as as we were engaged in a some conversation.
"That's how my life is. I never know. So I welcome surprises".


At home, Chubby (aka my skinny flatmate Olivier) was having dinner with a lovely Polish girl named Barbara. They invited me to join and we chatted gaily until quite late at night. Since it was no time for her to go home by herself, we offered her to used the little guestroom, which she gladly accepted.

Dear An
Thanks for letting me stay at your place.
I will only come back next Monday.
Take care and see you soon.

Andy said that the reason I hadn't slept well lately, was because of the month of ghosts.
Possibly true.
But when at three in the morning I was fished out of my sleep by some rustling and woke up to see a figure at the end of the room getting ready for bed, I first thought it was Chubby sleepwalking and coming into my room.
"It's Andy!!!" a voice said.
"But... Weren't you coming next Monday?"
"No! ... It's Monday! Sorry"
"Next Monday means 'in one week', not tomorrow!!!"
Andy had entered the guestroom and turned on the light waking up Barbara who screamed. He apologised and immediately turned off the light and closed the door and came to my room.
Yes, surprises all the time!

I shot another series of photos with Andy. He's starting to ease up in front of the camera. Then we sightread music for a couple of hours. Andy wants to record an album of late romantic lieder and art-songs played by the flute instead of the voice so I introduced him to a few of my favourite: Toivo Kuula, Edvard Grieg, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jean Sibelius... Songs that are seldom sung. That's what he wanted. The final selection is indeed very interesting and out of the ordinary.

The casting yesterday afternoon was a miscasting. I didn't know I had to speak in Chinese. They did a test with me anyway and took my measurements, since I was there, but I knew it was more out of courtesy. The director needed a break from the previous casting, so her assistant did the test with me.
She gave me a little stuffed monkey. "Show this to the camera, as if it's a gift for somebody you like, like your girlfriend..."
I may fare better doing castings for printed add, I thought as I walked home.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Good Phở You

I was naked in the locker room of the gym, just about to wrap a towel around my waist before going to the shower room when my mobile phone rang.
"Hey An! It's Jing! Are you free tomorrow? Do you want to see a show?"
A show? I'm always on when it comes to attend a show, although experience has also taught me not to say yes before I know what it is about.
I didn't quite understand what Jing said. I heard the name of CloudGate and made out that the venue was the Taipei Arena.
"It's at 8:30... in the morning" Jing added.
I gasped and my towel nearly fell to the ground.
"What kind of show is that? At 8:30 in the morning??? ... Okay I'm coming!!!"
And I went to the shower.

Aaron came that evening to my place and we chatted until quite late at night. He's quite shy, but he's passionate. He was standing near the bookshelves and asked whether he could have a look at certain books which intrigued him. As a designer, he has his eyes constantly opened and alert. The books were all special editions released by French folio societies in the 50's and 60's. Emmanuel introduced me to the world of edition and bibliophilia and I developed a liking of those editions.
Aaron found them very inspiring, especially the design and the binding. He may be a child of the digital age, but he relies very much on 'traditional' material, namely paper, cardboard, drawings, film photos...
I was also delighted to show those books to someone who as able to appreciate them. Each of these objects, books, photographies, paintings or records holds a story that is waiting to be told.

There wasn't much less left to sleep before I would have to wake up the next morning to attend that show.
I set my alarm clock at 6am. I didn't want to take the risk to be late.
It was full house that night. Andy knocked on my door to let me know he had come back. Then Chubby and two of his friends came back in the wee hours, banging on doors and trying to suppress giggles. So much with my attempts to save some sleep.

It was not a show. It was a giant Buddhist mass. I got to the venue at 7:30. The bus was faster than I expected and I wound up waiting nearly a whole hour before Jing and ChingYao showed up.
A giant Buddhist mass which lasted three full hours. Strangely I didn't get bored. It was boombasting, tacky, annoyingly preachy and at the same time, somehow moving. The display of discipline - a cast of thousands, as old Hollywood films would advertise it,  was impressive. The synchronised movements weren't without bearing some similarities with what was done during those monumental ceremonies in communist China or Nothern Korea. The Cloudgate dancers were purely ornemental. I even caught sight of Pan Lili. What she was doing in this show was a mystery.
I may agree with the ideas they professed, but I don't like the preachiness and the simplistic way the messages are conveyed.
I could only sigh with relief when it was over. Jing felt so sorry to have dragged us there.
I didn't regret it. But it was much to surreal to me.

The consolation was to go to a Vietnamese restaurant called Good Phở You. At last a decent Vietnamese spot! In terms of taste, it doesn't range much higher than the average restaurant one would find in ChinaTown, back in Paris. But it was already far more superior to what I had tasted (and discarded) here in Taipei.
At the next table, an adorable four year old boy was captivating me with his liveliness and wide range of facial expressions. I could have kidnapped him!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Don't be koi

I'm going to see Aaron tomorrow! So glad. He's been working like a maniac on various projects and we couldn't find the right time to meet up again after my birthday.

Been asked by my agent to go to a casting for a TV commercial.... about a printer.
I met this agent, Paul, after I attended one of those 'endurance art' sessions Jay took me to, this time a wacky take on Shakespeare's Hamlet in both English and Chinese, where the prince of Denmark was this time a patient in a mental institution who thinks he is indeed Hamlet... Some good ideas along the way, particularly the video opening where the story is told in 30 seconds with the help of images from Laurence Olivier's film adaptation. But the main actor thought that playing mad meant enunciating everything and overacting which gave an even more year-end-school vibe to an already 'indie' production. I saw the main actor after the show. He should have played Hamlet as he is in real life: he is creepy!
Paul said he would get my contact through Jay. I didn't know exactly what he was doing.
I received a call a couple of days later and asked to show up at his office. They took some pictures of me and asked me fill a form. It was a model agency. I didn't have much to fill in. I had no experience at all, save for that advertisement I did for Honda decades ago. 
Paul was to leave Taipei for a some time. He lives in Prague.

"I want to introduce you to a music agent friend of mine" he said as we were finishing the interview he realised I was a musician.
"He's a pianist. He recently gave a concert with his sister..."
I knew who it was. That man was ChingYao and Andy's agent a couple of years ago. And they did their best to break their contract with him as soon as they could.
"Oh you know, I believe that things happen when they have to happen! Never force things!" I tried to reply tactfully.
"Wear casual clothes. Khaki and polo. See you on Monday." Paul's assistant said on the phone.

Many sleepless nights lately. Maybe the full moon coming.
I feel like I'm on hold at the moment. Have painstakingly been trying to sketch a few scenes for the film. I'll have to organise a session with the cellist, so that will bring me some impulse to put on some speed in the music writing.
I also feel so horny. Is it the full moon coming too?
I was woken up by a mosquito last night. I turned on the light and grabbed the electric racket. The poor thing didn't last long. But I was fully awake. So I started thinking about the photo session I would have with Andy the next day, then started thinking about what music I would suggest to him. Then the music started to play in mind and it was impossible to stop the flow.

Creativity and sex have been the main components of my life since always. I think of it all the time.
The potential situation, the surprise play a biger part than the act itself. That is certainly due to the long catholic guilt-ridden years in my teenhood. Since I was much to afraid to attempt anything, I would draw, write, fantasize, create steamy scenarios in my mind. Buying an adult magazine would become an adventure for me. I would pass the news stand millions of time before nervously daring to grab the prized item, my heart beating two times faster than normal.
Of course, no one would care. The man at the news stand, usually an ageing man who must have seen everything in his life, might find this merry go round walk of mine around his little stand quite amusing, but would never show any sign.
Yes, the anticipation, the possibility, not the act itself. I find a similar energy when I create and write music. 
That's the impulse that pushes me forward in life.

I wrote a song about that, called Don't be koi, the title being a little wink at Andrew Marvell's poem To his Coy Mistress.

I got this rampant occupation
When there’s nothing I come to expect
Be my mirror and then multiply
I roam the streets for this sensual elation

Come on in
Don’t be koi
Temptation waits
I’ll never try to resist

Is there a reason, I can’t explain
I like this sweet wind in my mind
May change my thinking, may change my life
But there is love slipping from my lips

Come on in
Don’t be koi
Temptation waits
I’ll never try to resist

Slow, slow, burn, burn
I must have you, you, you and you
Slow, slow, burn, burn
I let you do what you want to do
Slow, slow, burn, burn
I’m searching for you in you, you and you

Sense my battle of manoeuvering skin
Nameless hands, nameless shadows
Can you hear what your body says?
Now if you go I go with you

Come on in
Don’t be koi
Temptation waits
I’ll never try to resist

Slow, slow, burn, burn
Slow, slow, burn, burn
Why should I try to resist?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Enter the void

So I will be doing the music for Johan's upcoming fashion show in Tokyo, this month of October. After Tsai Ming-Liang's The Hole, he is this time inspired by Gaspard Noé's Into the Void, which I haven't seen - not after what Dominique and some other friends told me.
But now I'll have to...
Johan showed me some sample of what it is going to be. It's still - and always will be, knitting. The wool he's been using is a phosphorescent one.
I already have some ideas. I had been listening to French electro artist SebastiAn's album and got stopped on a track which featured a harpsichord - harpsichord meets Daft Punk.
So I'll move from the airy atmosphere of The Hole to something more earthy and trashy.

Maybe I could use that track for the soundtrack as well. There's a club scene which needs some electro-dance music.


My life at the moment is quite domestic. Home, gym, music. The heat and the violently changing times compel me to create a little cocoon where I welcome my friends.
It's been a year now that I have been in Taipei. 
First cycle. 
ChingYao introduced me to a lady, one of those extremely wealthy persons with a prominent position in the city. She's a lawyer and takes singing lessons with him - whenever her tight schedule allows.
She also said she would help me get my papers. 
How, I don't know. HuangYi said that once his military service is done, he will appoint me musical director of his company, whatever that position really means. That should be by the end of the year. Till then, I will have to leave the country more than once anyway: next month to Paris, then Vietnam and Japan in October, Japan, again, in November. 
I'm so used to lip service that I'd rather not believe in anything. Just believe that everything will be fine eventually.

For now, I have to write the music for this film. I finally got to see it. In the beginning, I wanted to read the screenplay and imagine the music from there. A month afterward, I asked Bryan to play the film.
The only thing I had seen were some captions, which looked promising.
The film itself is... well, a first film. Bryan did as a graduation project. I tried to talk about it to Bryan, but he seems to be unwilling to bring drastic changes in a project he has nurtured for so long. I will keep trying, though. It may be something different than what he first imagined, but what matters is that the film has a life. In its current state, I'm afraid it may be discarded immediately by distributors. One character, Pierre, is well defined. His scenes are convincing, and the actor who portrayed him is good. The others are too thinly sketched so that many scenes leave a blurry feeling. Strangely there is hardly no dialogue. We hear people talk, but there's no interraction. As a result, my musical ideas keep changing in my mind, except when it comes to the scenes involving Pierre.
I hope the music will more characterisation to it.
We shall see. I feel really confused about the project now.

Tomorrow, I shall start playing around with the scenes and see what comes out.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


It's ChingYao who sent me a message on my phone, simply stating:
"Pinga passed away"
It was yesterday night.
Only 34, she was.
Ah... It feels so empty.
I lied down on my bed and took a deep breath.
Her presence has not dematerialised, from my mind, from my memory.
She said she wasn't afraid to die. Her only concern was that she could no longer help people. The consolation is that her pains have ended.

Really empty now.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Kawaita sabaku

Yves asked me to consider remixing a song by Manami, a Japanese female vocalist living in Berlin. The original - which I only listened to just before working on it, consisted on the vocals with a noise and sound backdrop.
The deadline was soon due and I had still not done anything until now, even if Manami had sent me the vocal track a few weeks ago. Yves tried to keep his composure and kindly reminded me of it.
Andy and his Japanese flatmate from Paris were staying at my place and their presence, though very fun, was also quite disturbing, since I had no privacy for work.
I started work tentatively this afternoon. Then the idea came: I had done so much unused music for HuangYi's Second Skin. Why not recycle some elements of it?
It worked perfectly.
I added, tweaked, transposed, pasted, copied, cut, recorded and after a couple of hours, it was done. Harp, percussion, taiko drums, bells, piano, strings and electronics. My familiar musical ingredients.
Manami's vocals were not pitch perfect - maybe because she recorded it without any harmonic support. However, her singing was very beautiful in its rawness.
The result, Kawaita sabaku, is less a remix than a re/de-creation of the original piece, a 9 minute long walk through the land of the mysterious.
Yves was enthusiastic about it.
I'm relieved I did it on time!
What does Manami think of it?