Monday, 27 August 2012

Double Yellow Line II

Now I know...
Now I know. Now I know. Now I know. Now I know. Now I know. Now I know!!!
First rehearsal at the National Theatre with Huang Yi and Hu Chien, after weeks of apparent inactivity. It was vital that we be in the same room in order to come out with something. The music I would write on my own didn't satisfy Huang Yi. It's a very particular experience to work with him. He can't tell exactly what he wants, but he can tell when it isn't right. And more often than not, it wasn't right.
We still have more than a month ahead before the first performance. Yet, being left in this state of total uncertainty wasn't the most comfortable feeling.
But... Now I know

We worked in a spacious studio at the theatre, with a Yamaha grand piano. Huang Yi was concerned about how to connect the many ideas and sketches of dance he had worked on. During one of our sessions at my place, I managed to come up with that one piece which immediately won him over. I was trying to see what would come out of my fingers if I started moving and imagining the hands of the dancers intertwining on the keyboard. 
"I like it very much!!!! I think it's going to the be main theme of Double Yellow Line" Huang Yi exclaimed. Looking at him, I could obviously see that I had hit the target. But what target, I did not know yet. 
The fragment I had just played sounded like a pastiche of Bach. I told him so. 
"But it doesn't matter! It's exactly what I want!" was his reply. 
"Yes but when it comes to Bach, I have to kneel on the floor and grovel grovel..." I joked. 
Huang Yi laughed.
So we had one thing. 
I had been giving him and Hu Chien some piano lessons. He wanted to play something that would take the audience by surprise. So instead of thinking of technique, I tried to see to what pianistic movements they would respond the best and create the music accordingly. To my greatest surprise, they were very fast. The key was to speak a dancer's language.

Today's session started with a big blank. I really had no idea. Whatever I would play sounded so boring and bland to me. 
I could see Huang Yi was as lost as I was.
Then the magic came. Instead of searching and trying hard to find, I just caught what came to me. Huang Yi was showing me the beginning where he had to move like a robot. What I heard was long, simple chords which would leave space to imagination and especially to his movements. I played a little and I saw that expression on his face: we had found it!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Mother mother mother (what's going on?)

I didn't dare to call my father. But the question itched me: did my mother take the plan and fly to Los Angeles? My brother was supposed to accompany her so to make the journey less difficult. My father was to come a few weeks later, spend a some time to visit his relatives and fly back with her early September.
On my last conversation with my mother a couple of days before departure day, she was feeling nauseous (for no apparent reason, she said) and was wondering whether she really wanted to go. My father was on the brink of desperation. But I told him: with her now, if you plan anything, don't give her time to think too much about it. So let it happen. Surprise her. In the momentum of the moment, she will go, but she will perhaps need a little boost from people around. A boost from my brother, our cousin Micky who often comes to visit... 

"First thing I'm asking: has she gone?" 
"Yes! I called her this morning, she's sound and safe in Los Angeles!"
I was relieved and overjoyed. She made it! It was a miracle. My father sounded even more relieved than I was. These few weeks will be a welcome holiday for him. Taking care of my mother isn't an easy task. She forgets more and more, although it's still not too serious. 
I hope...

Sunday, 5 August 2012


Thirty years! Next month, it will have been thirty years since I met Vanessa for the first time. I had enrolled in a new school, far from where we lived. The previous year, the music teacher had seen how passionate I was about  music and she told me about this special school which would allow their students to share their time between academics and the music conservatory. My parenst listened to the advice and sent me there. 
On my first day, Vanessa was the first one to greet me and I will never forget the twinkle in her eyes, her warmth and her friendliness. A tall girl she was wearing a white and turquoise flounced skirt with polka dots, her long chestnut hair tied in a pony-tail. Quite a sight! 
Little did I imagine that thirty years later, I would wait for her at the TaoYuan airport. She was on her way to Bali but decided to stop over in Taipeip to visit me! Only two days, but that was better than nothing. I didn't quite realise that she would actually be in Taipei before I saw her walk past the arrival gate. The plane had been delayed so I had been idly watching the giant screen which had been placed in front of the waiting area for people to spot the arriving travellers. I knew she would be there, but my mind started to toy with me. "And what if she said she would come the next day? And what if you got the wrong airline  company? And what if....?"
When I saw her I suddenly woke up from my semi-doziness and ran to her, excitement storming in my heart. 
It was the most natural thing to be with her in Taipei. She immediately warmed to the city and instantly felt at home. 
On the next day, I took her to Maokong. I had never bene there myself, although all my friends kept telling me how beautiful it was to be in the mountain and see contemplate the whole city of Taipei whilst sipping tea. 
We took the gondola to the peak point and wandered aimlessly until we spotted a small family teahouse hidden from the road by trees. Only a signboard would attest of its presence.
There wasn't any other customers but us. The owner was spending time with a couple of friends and his adorable little son. 
"I'm 6 years old" he said to me in English. He was the only one to be able to communicate with us in English. 
We loved the place so much that we forgot about time. 
"I feel out of time" Vanessa told me. 
We ordered tea and enjoy the silence of the mountain around us. No other customer came. It may not have been good for the owner, but we savoured the moment even more. What a perfect place for a reunion!
The owner took out his flute and began to play for us. When he learned that Vanessa and I were musicians, he went inside and came out again with a small keyboard. The boy was getting some music lessons. The modest instrument would do for the beginning.
We understood that we were expected to play something. Vanessa and I looked at each other.
She went ahead at played the famous first prelude from the Well Tempered Keyboard by Bach. When came my turn, I had no idea so I improvised for a few minutes. The keyboard didn't allow much musical expression but the owner seemed happy as he filmed us playing.
The son warmed to us and started to show us his prized possessions: stones, paintings, grasshoppers he was keeping in a jar. The owner brought a new teapot on the table:
"This is Oolong mountain tea" he said in Chinese.
The tea was delicious. I could not have dreamed for a better way to reunite with my long time friend.

Friday, 3 August 2012

A thought for Robert

Amidst the many supportive messages and comments I have received for the music video of Nothing comes to Light a black cross has spread its shadow when I read Bévinda's mail. After a few lines of  praise for my work, she announced that our beloved friend Robert Brechon had passed away at the age of 92. I had met the man on several occasions and immediately warmed to him. He may have been three generations older, but his spirit was young, dynamic and inspiring. The last time I had seen him was for one of those musical afternoons at Julia's. Bévinda had come and brought Robert along. We knew about it, so Julia, Isabelle and I prepared a selection of arias, art-songs, duets and trios especially for him. He was enchanted and so delighted to be there. Yes beyond 90 he was, but his energy was like of a child's. 
I was looking forward to seeing him again on my next trip in October. In my mind, he was to live many more years. That will not be, alas. Bévinda's grief is of course deeper. She had assisted Robert for his work these past years because of their common passion for Fernando Pessoa.
"I saw a white envelope in the mail box with a black cross on it this morning" she wrote to me. "It was for Robert. I feel like an orphan..."
I feel an immense sadness. I really loved the man.


Robert visited Jay and asked him to pass that last message to me...

"Everything will better now. Don't you worry. I'm there. I'm close to you, I play with you. I will only worry the day when you forget that I have never existed. And that day will come. I am speechless because my voice is intertwining with my deeper thoughts. So, let the violins play and forget the roses. Be fairplay because of this game I only learned one thing: to let everything go, not be yourself, just be no one, nothing, swept away, the wind, the sorrows which chase past and future and remain in the present time. The mist on the window which now surprises the cold north wind, there really merges. Ubiquitous murmur, funny radiance, I kept nothing, I give it back now, I no longer have any use of these primary things. I am tired, so I go!"

Now I'm in tears...
A passionate man, an adventurous mind, serious, at the same time always saying that he was 'useless', because 'people don't care'...
What an extraodinary man. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Coming to the light

After an excrutiatingly long month of waiting, the music video of Nothing Comes to Light is finally ready for the showing. Zed was busy with the pre-production of a new film, so I had to count the days patiently. Did I really think this would a significant step? Why was I so eager? Of course, this was my first attempt at directing, the song was a meaningful one to me. And I wanted to share that. The timing was maybe not right: summertime would mean that most of the people I know in Europe would be on holiday. From that front, my intuition didn't fail me. Apart from Julia and a few close friends, no one from my dear homeland of France really responded. Even less from the family (sigh and double sigh) with the notable exception my dear father who wrote a short message full of praise - he is so happy to be able to communicate directly with me with his tablet without depending on the secretarilian services of his spouse.
"Your mother says it's beautiful, but it's too sad!!!" he added as a post-scriptum.
As usual, I was foolishly more affected by the obvious indifference I saw from many friends. But what did  I expect? What I hold dear may only be a mundane fact to others. It's a painful trap to give too much meaning to anything. Oh, the desire to be acknowledged in this world!
Indeed... nothing comes to light. But the light my friends gave me is priceless. Thank you!

Nothing Comes To Light

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Quiet in Hong Kong

Tuesday. Last day.
This time I didn't want to run a friend marathon as I usually do when I come to Hong Kong. The main purpose was the photo shoot with Norm, see my new friends Calvin and Mark, and have a look at Siu-Yung's installation Les Lumières Imaginaires. Oh and see a couple of other friends whose schedule is normally so full that the best I can do is to play it by ear.

Daniel, one week after his operation. 

Two sunny afternoons with Calvin and Mark, the second of which was spent at the beach. It had been long since I last went to the beach with the word 'holiday' in mind - my holiday usually not lasting more than a couple of days before I ache to get back to my music. 
The sun was blazing. Mark drove us to South Beach, which Calvin advertised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the island. Well, to me, it was a beach... It reminded me of Provence, with the shape of the mountains,  their proximity to the sea, and the majestic stillness which surrounds them. What struck me was the view on the sea and the small islands. At around 5 o'clock when starts to set, it's pure magic for the eyes.
Calvin had had a trauma when he was a little boy of six and nearly drowned in the sea, if he had not been fished out of the water by a fisherman. Mark has been trying to get him to reacquaint himself with water for years. 
And today, Calvin managed to vanquish his fear and float on the water (and even swim a little).
"The first time in years" said Mark, incredulous and beaming.

I managed on my last day to visit Calvin's gallery in Aberdeen. It was on the tenth floor of an industrial building, which gave it a New York touch.
I had been exchanging lots of mails with Calvin after I met him on my last visit in May. I appreciated his modesty in spite of all his accomplishments, and also his refined mind. Our exchanges quickly became intimate as he felt the comfortable freedom to share buried feelings he had kept inside for years. His work is to be at the service of the others: his PR company, his gallery. Now he felt he had to address his inner self again. I was happy to be the listener.
The current exhibition was beautiful. A young artist from China. Dark, tormented, sinuous, and beautiful. his works (mainly drawings) reminded me of Egon Schiele's and some other expressionists. I suddenly thought that it would be provide a fantastic  visual counterpart to Han Mac Tu's book of poetry that I wish to do next year... Calvin will talk about it to the painter. That book could be my present for my mother's 80th birthday next year. I just hope I will do it in time...

Tuesday. Last day.
I had just been to the Agnès b. gallery to see Siu-Yung's Lumières Imaginaires before dropping by at Calvin's gallery to catch Lin Guosheng's exhibition - it was the last day before they take down the paintings.
SiuYung had posted plenty of images on the Internet. He also did a few digest in an attempt to show people the feel of the installation. But the best and only way is to go there and experience the whole journey in person. Snow, lights, stars and trees. A child's dream, a fantasy voyage, the womb of a wonderful imaginary animal. The lights were pulsating to the music, changing colours, blinking, flashing, sweeping... A girl sitting nearby with her father was totally captivated.

"Oh I like this! It's beautiful!!! I like his work! That's the exhibition for which you wrote the music? I want to see it" exclaimed Calvin, as I was flipping through the pictures I had taken the past two days to find those of him swimming in the sea. So the connection was now made.
"I met him at the Biennial of Architecture a few months ago. We talked a little, but I really liked what he did!"
Gilles was not so convinced when he saw Les Lumières Imaginaires on its opening day. He admitted that having hundreds of people around wasn't the perfect way to enjoy the installation. He said he would go again, but I doubt that he did. After I heard his reaction, I assumed Calvin's would be the same, and was happy to see his enthusiasm.
I wish this will lead to some interesting projects for SiuYung.

These few days in Hong Kong have been restful. I was pampered by Calvin and Mark, spent one day at the beach, saw the galleries, did the photo shoot with Norm, saw a few dear friends and could indulge in some CD shopping.

Now it's time to attack the serious work: Double Yellow Line with Huang Yi and that piece for the Berlin Symphony!