Monday, 30 January 2012

Double Yellow Line

The energetic disturbances have waned (for a little while - a week or so) and I can really tell the difference. I feel lighter in spirit, more relaxed, less sleepy and in a very good mood! Chinese New Year is near which means that the city will be relatively deserted since many will go back to their home city or family.

I just saw Huang Yi who's freshly back from one year at the army. He had written to me to ask me if I would consider working with him again on a new piece - this time without any technology inspired concept. I told him I may but that I needed to discuss it with him and hear about it.
So the piece, Double Yellow Line will be created for him and his boyfriend Hou Chien. They had been taking tango lessons and that may be one of the elements to be used in the music. But he wanted me to write essentially for the piano. Half of the score will be composed for the instrument (there will be one on stage, and Huang Yi has even asked me to give him and Hou Chien some lessons so that they could play something together. He hopes that they will practice hard enough to perform a short part of a very difficult piece. When I was asked what piece, I played him Lustoslavski's variations on Paganini's famous Caprice. Huang Yi got excited when he heard that. Well at least I can say that the boy is bold!). The rest of the soundtrack will be more technically challenging for me, since it's about sampling daily sounds and use them as a score to the dancers' movements. 
We'll start working in March. Huang Yi then said that as an encore, he will perform a duet he did a few years ago one Arvo Pärt's Spiegel am Spiegel  (that piece is used by everyone for everything!!!). I suggested to play it live instead of using a recording.
Then came the thorny question: Double Yellow Line is a gay piece, about this line which isn't to be crossed. How will he present the piece? Will the audience follow? How can he explain about that without shocking 'sensitive' ears?
"It's also about all the lines that separate human beings: religious belief, race, culture, values..." I told him. "And you could also say it's about the line between our inner world and the outside world... People love this kind of blah blah blah so they can put whatever they want in it" 
Huang Yi loved the idea.

The big day will be in late September at the National Theatre. Since it's an 'intimate' piece, it will be shown at the smaller Experimental theatre. 

Huang Yi

Sunday, 15 January 2012


No news from KunLin so I'm wondering if the Silk Road concert in September with(out) Avi Avital is a buried story. I also learned that Chimei was supposed to be our sponsor and that the sine qua non condition was that this project be for mandolin, since the head of Chimei is a great lover of that instrument.

I saw FangYi last Saturday. She came to my place to discuss our future project, which actually isn't a new project for it's going to be performances of Just at the National Theatre in a triple bill program with Akram Khan and three principles from the New York City Ballet!
We last parted on an uncertain note. I was left quite frustrated about the use of the music (she had been using what I considered as drafts for the performances). Then when Fred told me that FangYi was also upset that she didn't have the means to make our collaboration a satisfying one I decided that it was time to blow away this fog that had been hovering over us. Future projects would demand a better working relationship.
I penned a long letter to her - I also understood that I had to stop being that hypersensitive when it comes to my work and retreat within myself whenever a problem seemed to find no way out. FangYi responded immediately - I could feel relief in her tone. Now we can go on.
A dinner was organised with all the dancers and the company staff. It was joyous, light-spirited. I had not drank so much in a long time. The dancers finally got a chance to spend a bit more time with the composer!

I will work on and enhance the music for Just. FangYi showed me the video the dress rehearsal of the Macau premiere. Even if it was reported that the audience loved the music, I will give it more layers as well as climaxes. 
The fact that we have to share the evening with luminaries like Akram Khan gives me a most welcome boost.

The days are quite slow and heavy, it takes me a lot of effort to move forward. It feels like swimming in the mud. Ryan's presence bring a freshness to the home. Even the usually taciturn Chubby loosens up. Ryan showed up on the night of Chubby's birthday last week end with a little cake and a gift. Chubby was surprised and moved. He's always surprised when people show signs of genuine affection. But if he would not acknowledge it, I can see him beam with joy. Was it lacking so much during his childhood in the family home?
Today Ryan's is taking the plane to Uh-merika. Five months in Wisconsin - snow and cows... I don't know what will happen on his return, but a little bud of hope has grown in me.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Linchpin lover

I feel like a slug. "Full moon!" Nicolas has warned. The only constructive thing I have done is to paint this wall in the dining room in blue grayish tones to jazz up the otherwise monotonous ivory white walls which spread through the whole flat. There's no money in the pot so I stay home and try to be creative. A new song - My Linchpin Lover, that I have started yesterday when I toyed and reconstructed one of the poems Bibbe has sent me recently. 
It's going to be a simple, upbeat number - but how I wish I could play the guitar...

Simon has told me yesterday that there will not be sufficient fund to have me as musical director for the Anne Clarke project he's setting up in Zürich this coming month of May. Surprised? Not really. I was flattered that Simon even thought of paying me - even more that he would fly me to Switzerland for the occasion. Maybe I had an inkling it would never happen - maybe that's why I never felt the impulse to start working on Anne's songs. 
To be honest, I was never much inspired by them musically. The lyrics are beautiful indeed, and Anne Clarke is a very interesting performer, but since she doesn't sing a single note in her songs, my task, which Simon understated as being that of an arranger would actually have been closer to setting those texts to new music: composer. Working as an arranger in pop music, (producer, a bag word that is so loose no one really knows what it is exactly) can be frustrating, since anyone who can come up with a little melody can claim to be a composer. Is it because of the financial aspect - one makes more money being a songwriter than 'just' a singer, a genuine desire to be part of the creative process, or the fact that everything is now copyrighted to the point of ridicule? I went to hear Beethoven's Ninth symphony at the National Concert Hall and was reminded how I recently found out that this Ode to Joy, which anybody in the world can hum heavily borrows from a sacred piece by Mozart - fortunately never performed! That should humble down many of these pop creators who cry for outrage when a few bars of theirs find their way in someone else's song.

I saw Isabelle in my dream. It could have been a real life situation: she was lamenting about how scarce work was for her, how everything was difficult. I wanted to see some enthusiasm in her when I talked about the play I'm writing for her. But the only answer I would get was that it was oh so difficult.
Then everything switched. As soon as I made up my mind that I would give up on her, a new thought rose in me, that I could simply think that it was possible. By magic, Isabelle's attitude changed and seemed much more confident.
Our dreams only reflect ourselves. And in Isabelle, I can also see a lot of myself, the fear, the apprehension, the weight of the past, of the parents' and ancestor's past. But we are not living this life just to abide.
"We have friends who mirror who we are", Nicolas said earlier today. "Most of your friends do have this dark and melancholic side in them. See how Jan and his jolly disposition thinly hide a deep anguish. See me..."
He's right. Then he asked:
"Why don't ask Bévinda to be in that play? You need someone who's building up, and isn't afraid.
The suggestion hit me on the right spot. Of course, Bévinda would be the perfect person for the project. She may not have the theatrical experience that Isabelle has, but she looking forward and unafraid to make the jump.
"You're right, Nicolas; I want to work with someone who's actually doing something, however small. Isabelle is waiting to be saved and I'm not Pygmalion."
I still wish to see Isabelle waking up and show a more aggressive behaviour. I haven't heard much from her for the past months though...
But yes, having Bévinda is a brilliant idea. I don't know whether she can act, but as a performer, she surely has stage charisma.

Ryan is leaving soon. Tonight will be our last night. As the final day is approaching, my affection (an understatement) for him is growing stronger. He has managed to fill all the empty spaces I had left unattended for years with his youthfulness, his tenderness and liveliness. Now I find that I will miss him. If I had been professing the idea that he should seize what life has in store for him and not be afraid to experiment, now I toy with the idea that I we shall meet again when he comes back. What's next? I just allow it to happen, whether I am a coeur d'artichaud, as the French would put it, whether my disillusioned self is starting to warm up to love again but doesn't quite manage to believe its luck...
On verra, my linchpin lover!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Just like that

CJ and Jay asked me to join them at a party held by a film post-production company in Neihu. I told Ryan, Chubby and Nicolas to come with me. Ulysses and Benoît, once again, bailed out because they were too exhausted. 
It was fresh, fun and jovial. The company office was located on the last floor of the building, with a direct view on the 101 Tower. They had been helping and counselling Jay for Thief. Nicolas and I arrived earlier than the others who had to attend other events. It was the first time for Nicolas to attend a party with that kind of crowd: actors, producers, models... We had a lot to eat, a beautiful view, a terrace, good music, a chic decors. What else could we ask for? 
Jay introduced me to a man who's apparently a very renowned songwriter now turned director. He expressed interest in hearing my music... (Yes, no, maybe, ahem)
Thief was screened twice in a little amphitheatre at the back of the office - unfortunately not the version with my music. 
We didn't speak much with the other guests - they came in groups and didn't mingle with the others. The only time we had some sort of connection was when the DJ started spinning the records (loading the mp3's would be be more accurate).
One guest began to dance and show off some moves to his girlfriend. We had lots of of space (ah... why couldn't clubs offer that?) so I joined in and did a little dance routine. Another bloke who felt emulation rising in him then started to break dance. It was all very cheerful. People were roaring. Nicolas was joyfully inviting other girls to participate but they and the others remained very shy. A known fact that Taiwanese are very self conscious about their body and wouldn't dance unless drunk... 
We eventually all drove back home. I made everyone a hot chocolate - I had bought a can of chocolate powder in Amsterdam, the real stuff, not the ersatz they're selling here. Everybody was in a good mood. It was a very simple, joyful evening. Nothing too much but the right thing.

Bright young things

Year end celebrations come like a big typhoon from which I have to stay away. A typhoon of countless 'friends' coming in flocks to Taipei for the parties. Walking on the street, listening to people, one could easily be in Singapore or Hong Kong. The city over the past years has become the ultimate destination for partying, the Babylon of Asia - wasn't it Bangkok, formerly? The atmosphere is electric. "I guess everyone will be there tonight", I heard someone say at the gym. Everyone?
I don't know how many times I had to answer the question: "What did you do for Christmas? What will you do for the countdown". Answering "nothing" is like admitting to have the plague. But I can't be part of it. A friend posted a picture of the party that took place at one of the main clubs. It immediately struck me how similar it was to some paintings by Hyeronimus Bosch...
Sheep together. Flock together. I may sound bitter but I'm not. However, thinking differently equals standing counter current in the middle of a big river, or to be a modern time Cassandra. No one listens to you and you are a sinister joy killer.
"You're not a party boy" my friend Kyan was told at a bar. "You don't take drugs, you don't drink! The definition of a party boy is someone who takes drugs or get drunk!!!" he went on. Kyan likes to dance but he doesn't feel the need to get drugged up or drunk. The other guy wouldn't have it. At the other end of the table a girl and a boy were talking about what kind of injection can help to keep young...

I can't help thinking there's something apocalyptic in the way people party and celebrate. Desperate escapism, not enjoyment. Religious imageries flash in my mind. (The Golden Calf...) Parties have become the new religion in a time when people find it hard to believe. Maybe I'm over-the-top...


Music comes to me in patches. I have started many songs and almost feel fine with them being unfinished. With all the coming and going in my house,  it's hard to concentrate.

Ryan has appeared in my life like a blessing in these restless days. He's like a joyful puppy that melts everyone's heart with his good naturedness and happy attitude.
"He's really good for you. But why do you always get to meet someone who's going to go away" Nicolas asked me. 
Yes, why? Ryan will fly to Wisconsin in two weeks. He won't stay that long, only six months. We can make promises to each other, but at this tender age of twenty-two, I am also aware that life has to be experienced, not settled. Nevertheless, I'm happy for every minute I may have with him.