Sunday, 27 November 2011


And so, what if I let myself fall in love again?
Disappointments, heartbreaks and rejections still haven't managed to compel me to give up on it. Yet I feel more distant from the possibility of the amorous sentiment.
It is easy to make work the focus of my life, but there's always that hope to see this little something coming again in my life. But how many times did I get fooled. Or do I like to get fooled?

So I met Alberto. He's the one who contacted me on one of those numerous social network sites. Click on one name, see the picture, like it, unlike it, him/her/it... A few words and the product is sold. Contact? Some words or praise, flattery, sometime even sincerity. But it's a game, isn't it? It all is. A game which allows one to try before committing. And then... with what stupid joy do I throw myself into the illusion...
So I was quickly baited by the few words Alberto and I exchanged. What was offered to be read and seen, meaning his Facebook page, rose my interest. Here was someone who, beside his good looks, had something different. Something hidden inside that would not be easily given away. A certain quietness.
We settled to meet on Saturday afternoon. I knew he was to go to Paraguay for a month, on a last minute whim. Would he have the time to meet before? Yes, of course! Always possible when nothing is yet marked. Work and more work shrank a whole afternoon into an evening, then, later in the evening. We finally decided to meet at the Escape Artists café. ChingYao had asked me to come with him. The place was held by Brendon and his girlfriend Leslie; he a jewel designer, handsome and too 'gay-looking' for his own good, and she an actress, a friendly and lively girl. Their concept: paintertainment. Anyone can paint, as in anyone can cook...
Alberto knew them. He was having throat problems and couldn't speak much. Should he come over? If not now, then when?

First meeting was nice. What do I say? Promising. Should I allow myself to hope? To wish for more? Or have I given myself another ticket for a vertiginous fall?
Alberto knew Brendon and Lesley - not Leslie, as I had written before. They were part of the same acting group. ChingYao was doing most of the conversation with a girl who sat at our table - three good looking guys, there's hope! Alberto couldn't speak because of his voice injury and I couldn't speak because I didn't know Chinese. Blah blah blah...
Later I took Alberto to a chocolate and wine tasting event. Julia, a friend's friend was launching her new chocolate collection. The music was too loud (why do they all have to think that loud music = life?) so we sat outside. The weather was perfect. I enjoy this moment when everything seems possible, when everything is to be made (before everything is crushed by fear and uncertainty). I was glad I had found someone who gave me a hint of a hope that, yes, maybe I'm wrong; maybe I won't be alone after all... We ordered two boxes of chocolate from Julia.
I walked Alberto back to his place then took a taxi home. What a lovely evening!


Message from Jay: Thief won the 'Best short film' award at the Golden Horse Festival! Rejoice, rejoice!!! Jay and CJ deserved it!


As I was waiting for Alberto to show up, I started writing a few lines for a new song:

What saves yourself
What’s in your mind
What agitates your blood
What veers closer to the depth

You go through the same motion
If I knew
If I could see
What makes you come?

The image has been
Replaced by many others
I'm not the first fool for love
No longer the hero of my own story

Yes. Another 'happy' song...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Desperately seeking erhu player (and finding him)

It had been months since I thought of finding a way to get in touch again with Wei-Jen, the gifted erhu player with whom I had worked during the recording sessions of Auntie, three years ago.
When Jay approached me to do new music for his short film Thief, last summer, I immediately thought of writing a song which would be played by an erhu and a small jazz combo. Jay needed me to replace the song he originally used, Gershwhin's But not for me, as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Among all the songs I wrote with Bévinda in Paris, one (Un Espace Vert), stood out as the perfect candidate for the film. 
Jo also wrote me a message about one particular scene from the second act of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, for which, he recalled, I needed an erhu but didn't have the time to record - the one erhu player I knew in Paris, Guo Gan, said he would do it, but dragged and dragged until it was too late. Would I do it now?
It was high time to search more actively for Wei-Jen.
Except for a few pictures of us taken at the recording studio, I had no other means to find him. I tried to spot him on Facebook, I asked my friends, I asked the director. Nothing.
I had told Jay that this erhu player was really my first choice. I vividly remember how how perfectly tuned we were when we would play together. He gets the music on first reading. His musicality is flawless. I know few musicians like him. 
So I resigned myself to make do with any erhu player that Jay would find for the recording. We only had no more than a week left.
.... Until one day this week when the whim seized me to post a message on Facebook: "Looking for an erhu player".
The response was immediate. One musician searched and found Wei-Jen. He had the advantage to know the Chinese name... Bien sûr!
I wrote to Wei-jen at once and he replied shortly after. The next day we were working on the music together. I sent the scene to Jo who liked it, and did a demo recording of Un Espace Vert which was forwarded to Jay, CJ and Bévinda. The detuned piano actually gave it the cool, West Coast, vintage sound I wanted.
I listened to it over and over.

Making music with Wei-Jen - Allen he wanted me to call him that was his English name, was like reuniting with an old friend. We aren't friends actually, but as we were playing together, I felt again this serenity and deep communion I had sense three years ago.
This led me to think of this song cycle on Tim Burton's Oyster Boy stories. 
ChingYao had introduced me to Chih-Wei a Chinese zither player who also wanted to break out of the traditional music mould. Now I had all the musicians who could inspire me to write the songs: Wei-Jen at the erhu, Chih Wei, at the zither, Emily at the cello and ChingYao as the singer.
Allons y!!!!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Bévinda writes...

Saturday, November 12th

Hello querido,

Here are the lyrics. I hope everything is fine. I started a new text. I'll see if a melody comes to me or not. Other than that, nothing new under the sun, except the caddishness of some gentlemen. And now I can only smile at that. Philippe de Sousa (one of her two guitarists) announced to us backstage right after the concert last Thursday: "Well then, that was my last concert, blah blah blah..." I would have appreciated, had he had the daintiness to tell me about it personally... Anyway...
Then appointment at my place with Mathieu Duplessy (one of her former composer and songwriter) to sign some papers. I wait. One hour. I send him a message. The gentleman had simply forgotten, when we actually settled the appointment the previous day!
That's it, my sweet An. Sun in the Parisian sky. I laze about in bed, I read, I write.

Tender Kisses


Tuesday, November 15th

Hello my sweet,

I'm sick, in bed. I have to go to Burgondy tomorrow to see my mother, but I don't feel so well. Throat, head, nose, a big cold... You are right. New phase, new woman, new age (golden age, hopefully!) More than a week now, that you have gone. I miss you, querido. 
With my friends from the restaurant Ozo, we're going to organise a Monday happy hour, Portuguese style!
I'm happy. It's the first time that I'll be doing something with Alain, and we've known each other for thirty years!!! I'm so happy about it: we're going to go together to the Île du Levant with his boyfriend Jean Mi for a couple of weeks in December. That's so great!
Before I can breathe the fresh air of the seaside, I'm sniffling in my bed.

A thousand kisses, amigo


Wednesday, November 16th

Hello coraçao,

It's funny. I started the Murakami novel yesterday. Fukaeri is a strange girl. She has written a novel without having actually written it, for she's not well educated and has dyslexia on top of that. So she dictates her novel to her sister who then sends it to a publisher for a potential prize. Tengo is a maths teacher who writes novels. He reads manucripts for that publisher and loves Fukaeri's. He talks about it to his publisher who's got the idea to have Tengo rewrite the book, since he has a good style and knows how to write.
To sum it up, two people are writing a novel together, a bit like us writing songs together! So we'll keep Fukaeri as a band name. It's a good one.

I'm still sick in bed. I don't know whether I'll go visit my mom tomorrow - it's her birthday though...

Lots of kisses, sweetie!


Thursday November 17th

Bom dia querido,

In fact, I won't go to Burgundy. I'm still in bed and coughing violently. I wait for it to pass. Mom will come two days to Paris instead, and we'll celebrate her birthday here. 
It's funny, the impact of reality in one's dream. Your neighbour slams the door and your dad smashes one in your dream!

I'm like a vegetable at the moment. Energy at its minimum, horizontal position at the maximum. A certain song says 'it's ideal', but here now, I say it's unsound...
I finished the first volume of Murakami's 1Q84 yesterday. I have to buy the second!  As always, I love his world, but I have some little reservation regarding his literary technique. Maybe I wished that his device of different, interlocked stories wasn't so clear. Yes, I think that I was hoping he would break his narrative system. but it's still always so captivating and terrific!
Gilbert is really a darling. He dropped by to bring me thyme honey, lemons and oranges. Bonds braided by love last for always. That's the true essence of love, not love down there... I said to myself yesterday that I was blessed to be surrounded by people who truly love me and whom I love unconditionally. 
As for the album title, we have a few possibilities. The more the project takes shape, the clearer we'll see which is the suitable title. Just like photography when you get closer to the object.

Tender kisses


Tuesday, November 22

Thank you An (for the rehearsal recording of 'Un Espace Vert', played with erhu) ! It's really great. It feels like being on a riverbank in autumn. The lovers are on either side of it and cannot meet.

Yes, I would like to come to Taipei very soon. We have to be together to finish our project. Proximity is important and I sense that our project needs time. Maybe I could come in spring before you fly to Zürich in May. I will see if finances allow. If yes, can I stay at your place? Because if I can manage to find some money for the flight ticket, I won't be able to afford a hotel room. In fact I thought of the recording of the vocals. We have to be there together. It is essential that this intimate ambiance which emanates form us is felt in the music.

Ah... the softness of the woman disorientated you. Your wish for a child is strong. She is attracted by you... hum hum...

I'm hardly done with this cold. I still cough a lot. I'll have the fado workshop this evening.

Kiss you forte



Wednesday, November 23

Strange... I didn't dream it! I did read a mail from you dated from November 21st, which said that you had been disorientated by a sweet young girl. Well that message has simply vanished into thin air, evaporated, I looked for it everywhere in all my folders (inbox, received, sent, spam, etc...) No trace of it! I should let the words go where they are meant to go.
Have a nice day - or night, querido.



Wednesday, 9 November 2011


That's how Bévinda and I are going to name our collaborative project. She had been saying that she wanted a name for us, not just Aaken & Bévinda. 
Since no name came to us, I told her to seize the first book that she'd find, open a page at random and point somewhere on the page with her eyes closed. 
Fukaeri was the name. She had picked Murakami's latest novel. The name of one of the characters. I liked it instantly. 
"What's the meaning of that name?" she asked.
I had no idea. And even after looking it up on the internet, I still didn't know. But regardless of the meaning, we both liked it.

We have nine songs now. The last three are actually songs that I had written back in the late 90's, one being Ru em, a lullaby which I wrote, with Bévinda in my mind! Another song I wrote with Bévinda in mind was an Afro-urban number which immediately inspired. At that time, Bévinda and I were not yet friends. She was getting singing lessons with Julia, I loved her music, would attend her concerts, but never dared to think I would submit the song to her. Now nearly 14 years later...
"I met a girl I had not seen for 30 years yesterday! she told me one day as we were having a cup of coffee. "The sister of a good friend of mine. She's completely damaged psychologically. She hears voices, she is in her own world. They had to institutionalise her a long time ago. However she's free to go out as she wants."
Bévinda had a smile on her face.
"It was crazy. She was saying nonsense most of the time, but somehow, it made sense. It had some kind of truth" she went on. "At some point she told me in her raspy voice: You know what Bévinda? Tonight, when you sleep, dream of me. And you and I are going to dream that we riding a bicycle together!"
Bévinda showed me a text she had scribbled on the back of a magazine about this woman as soon as she was back home. When I played her the afro-urban song on the piano, she had that smile, grabbed the magazine and tried to match the text to the melody. Some adjustments were necessary, but it worked!  
The last of the three songs is also a lullaby I wrote for a friend's daughter, Lily, which I never got to play to her. I never met Lily either. That friend and I lost touch of each other. How old is Lily now? 11? Older? I never gave her the song because I didn't have lyrics to go with it. A few years later I used for the musical Auntie. The lyricist Yu Guo wrote a beautiful text to the music, about lost childhood and confused parents. I will keep it as it is. Bévinda will add a few lines in Portuguese.
Funny how nothing is lost... These songs which have been loitering in limbo are now finally going to materialise! 

"What about Another Self as a title?" Bévinda asked me.
"Fukaeri | Another Self.... Why not? Yeah!"

Friday, 4 November 2011

The past, the present and the possibilities

"You sound like a character from a Murakami novel!" said Julia.
I was sitting in her rocking chair; we were having a little break before resuming our usual Friday afternoon music session. Vivaldi, Granados, Brahms, Schumann and Dvořák. 
I was in pensive mood.
I had been quite unsettled the previous evening by the realisation that my mother didn't remember much of my whole stay. She said she had the feeling I had just arrived. That was not the first time I had heard that during the two months. Normally, I would take the time to help her find the path to her memory, a little exercise which requires a long time and lots of patience.
She does remember, but the path to her memory is blurred, or her mind would go blank, like a candidate at a quiz show. So I liked to think. But I had to cope with the truth. The disease was slowly unearthing its grim harvest. The fact was painful, but I had to accept it - in order to move on. I can only wish it doesn't get worse.
"Time passes so quickly, two months look like a few days" she said apologetically. The last time that occurred, a few days before, she had said that she could hardly remember any particular moment  spent with me during those two months. They only came back after a painstakingly long game of memory recomposition. She was right, in a way. We had not done anything memorable. Spending time together, talking a lot, having walks along the river, eating at restaurant. Oh yes, she did remember that dinner that Karen threw for her and my brother's new son.
My task, I realised, was to blend in  my parents' daily life and liven up their routine, not to exhaust them with surprises and a non-stop string of events. The focus was on them, not on how I would feel. Nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling distraught at the face of complete forgetfulness.
As I said to Bévinda, I can handle death, but to be forgotten by one's own mother is frightening.

During one of our walks along the river

With her grandson

A new project I have found for her will be around this Vietnamese poet, Hàn Mặc Tử she loves so much. What has kept my mother going until now is to write and translate. I was surprised the other day when I realised she had started translating many novels into French.
She had translated many poems by Hàn Mặc Tử into French and I came up with the idea of making an art book out of it. My photographer friend Yves Schiepeck had just released a beautiful book of photograph Roots of Coincidence, that he paired with poems by a Teresa Chuc Dowell, young Vietnamese poetess who now lives in the United States.
I read my mother's translations of the poems and they're beautiful. She has managed to capture Hàn Mặc Tử's very unique style of writing and instead of just turning them into one of those books that, once read, people leave taking the dust on a shelf, the thought occurred to me that the Yves' photos would be a perfect match to the poems, not that they would illustrate them, but better, create a parallel visual world of their own.