Saturday, 31 August 2013

The dating game

One important rule to observe on the dating game: if the person asks you out and takes you to go to a trendy crowded bar or club, just decline. I made the mistake to accept. Place: Abrazo, a new bar that opened a couple of months ago in the East side of the city. Subject: a handsome bloke I met at the gym. two or three weeks ago. A little bird told me that there was 'player' written all over his face. A player can be a nice person, but is nevertheless a playa.
My intuition told me not to go, but I didn't listen to it and foolishly accepted. When I will learn?
As soon as we arrived, the door opened and a voice exclaimed  "Raaaaayyyy!!!!!!!!!"
I knew the evening was over for me.
We got in. Smoke got in eyes within a second. The bar was crowded, as I expected it to be on a Friday raining night. Handsome guys and handsome girls. Two girls stopped me and asked:
"Do you like guys or do you like girls?" When I gave her my answer, she asked for a big hug and offered to introduce me to a hot friend of hers.
"That's too kind of you, but I already have company!" I replied with a smile. 
Even when people are with their friends, their eyes keep scanning the room. Soon Ray was approached by one of his friends who pushed someone toward him. Introductions were made and they started chatting. Ray tried to include me in, but obviously the guy had only eyes for him.
"Is he your boyfriend?" he asked.
"No. Just a good friend...."
I moved away to talk to a friend then decided to leave. 
Ray, as an 'ageing' but still handsomely attractive hunk needed the attention. And the cigarette smoke was stinging my eyes. 
When in a relationship, it is highly advised not to go out together to clubs or bars. We're only too human and temptation waits. But going to the a bar or club during the the dating time is a cruel mistake. I felt like I was given the trial test against the other guys. Best in that case is to just walk away.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Midnight blues

In the end, differences, ends of friendship, breakups are nothing, even if that means that the two persons will not meet again. It's just another way - a new way, to be together. The two persons do not totally lose touch. I may not be seeing William anymore but I still think of him. I still wonder what he does, where he is, what he eats or reads. I still keep an eye on what he does on Facebook and I know he also follows my activity. He sometime sends me little messages, perhaps hoping that I will change my mind and run back to him. I have to pinch myself not to call him, tell him how much I miss him and make an appointment by the riverside... Instead I send him cold, distant replies. 
It's not the same with Nicolas. I'm brooding over this broken friendship. My sentiments are ambivalent. There's anger and sadness. We may have been best of friends, but the breakup is like a lovers'. All the things held back during all these years have no outlet. I wish we could at least have had a decent farewell. instead of an e-mail not unlike those admisnitrative letters of rejection. I wish him well, however. Since he's cut all means of connection with me, I only feel a heavy silence. I wonder what he thinks, how his life is in his new flat. I wonder if the company he told me about will really do the career build-up they promised him. But now I have to learn not to care. 

As I was walking home from the gym, I suddenly felt extremely lonely. All the effeverscence in my work doesn't prevent me from feeling this absence in my life. 
I have new friends, I made new friends. New encounters excite me, be it work, frienship or sex. I will soon go back to Paris, but I feel I'm nowhere at the same time.

Working on a new PLAY...

I feel like an octopus. As I we were editing To the Sun, my head was revising the music of PLAY 2 PLAY, visualising what I would do for the MV of Who we be, drafting lyrics of the song for Dennis... 
I have just received the new pamphlet for advertisement of the upcoming performances in December and January (in Niigata and Yokohama). I wish I will be able to attend the Niigata performances. That would be my end of the year treat. I put a big question mark on it. My presence will not be indispensable.
Money, money, money, quand tu nous tiens...

Jo has requested me to revise a few scenes, to make them 'more compact' as he put it. As I'm beginning, the whole orchestration takes on a new direction, although I try to keep the original atmosphere. I'm no longer where I was in 2007 and I cannot just edit the music and make it shorter. I hope Jo will like the new additions.

The pamphlet is using photos taken by Kishin Shinoyama in 2007 and looks a bit too messy to me...  I hope they'll work on it. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013


So elated and happy was I, that I must have watched the To the Sun music video at least a good twenty times in a row. Zed came back so we could make some tweak and trim the editing, but it seemed that what we did yesterday needed no retouching: the flow, the pacing, the rhythm were all perfect to me. 
Just some colour fine-tuning to do and the MV will be ready! I have to resist showing it to someone until it's finalised. 
Zed also was beaming when we watched the final version. He had some reservation about the difference of quality in the footages: the Paris scenes were shot with Ryan's camera and we forgot to set it to HD. The aspect ratio was also different. But after the editing was done, it actually gave more poignancy to the narration. The story is of a brother and a sister. One is living in Taipei and the other in Paris. They have promised each other they would meet again in Paris and the brother is working hard and saving for the trip. Both are seen doing similar actions, as if the distance could not cut their bond. 
With the Paris scenes looking like they were shot with a super8 camera, the impossiblity of their dream is even more poignant. 
The editing process was such an exciting game. I didn't do it in a linear way. We would jump from scene to another, according to the storyboard I had in my mind. The gaps were filled with the remaining footages. Zed was so surprised by the speed at which we moved. 
It's finally a good thing that I didn't manage to install the Premiere software on my computer so to start the editing earlier - I was being so impatient... We were meant to do it together! 
We'll have to wait until November to do the next one, but time will fly by, I know. I have already developed many ideas for the MV of Who We Be. The visual styling, some ideas of choreography, the outfit... 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

'To the Sun' comes to light.

What goes around comes around. In some way or another. In some shape or another. As a young teenager, I had this dream to become a film director. Little did I really know of the struggle and hardship all the directors I admired had to go through. I was clueless, a head full of illusions and eyes filled with blinking stars - or billboards.  
Now that I have started directing my first music videos, I am tentatively reconnecting with the original passion. Naturally, music retains a fundamental part in the process. It will always stay with me. But to begin with music videos is a logical step. Thanks in great part to Zed, who shows so much support and enthusiasm for our work together, I have made the step and find more confidence to go on.
Filming To the Sun was like playing a game. The more I would discover and learn on my path, the more I would want to know and explore further. It was quite different from Nothing comes to Light, which was conceived as an extension of my black and white photographies. To the Sun has a narrative, was filmed in colour, involved more people in the cast and was shot in various places in Paris and Taipei. And I also had to act and emote in the scenes.
The editing went smoothly and very efficiently: in two sessions and it was done! I had run a storyboard in my mind countless times so I had a pretty clear image of how the narrative had to unfold. For the parts which were more uncertain, Zed suggested ideas from which I could bounce. We really made a good working team. The spirit was light and playful. I like that kind of atmosphere in my work.
It took me a year and a half before I could bring To the Sun to life. As soon as the second time we met, I had already told Zed about this story of a brother and a sister living apart in Paris and Taipei, hoping to reunite again one day in Paris...
Now we're ready for the next music video!
November: Who we be! New project, new challenge, for this video will be involving dance!
I'm really happy to see that ideas which have been growing in my head are materialising.

Monday, 26 August 2013

No more 'eye'

Ryan has asked his camera back. I had been using it for more than a year now and it had become a faithful, if not inseparable companion. 
Ryan offered me to have it because he knew I took lots of pictures and he didn't. The other (main) reason was that he was 'in love' with me so wanted to do anything to please me. 
Things changed since he found a new love interest in the name of Wassir. He quickly moved in one month after they met and when I came back from my last trip to Paris, I found two flatmates instead of one, not including Nicolas. 
The more the merrier...? Perhaps. But all the little attentions of which I was the subject naturally changed target. 
"I bought a new and very expensive lens... and I would like to use the camera..."
"Will you use it occasionally or often?" I asked. 
Ryan made a fake sorry grin. "I think it will be often".
I knew that it was just a passing fancy. Ryan had another white Canon camera, maybe of lesser quality than than the one he offered me to use, which had been taking the dust on his shelves for months. Ryan was not interested in taking pictures. The reason behind it was his will to please Wassir. Am I being a tad too self-centered in believing that on hearing Wassir praising my photographs and my music, Ryan felt compelled to show him that he too could be creative. 
This came at the wrong timing. The past months have been meagre in terms of work, my computer was showing heavy signs of exhaustion. I apprehended the day it would bid its final farewell in a sudden and ultimate crash.
"Which means that I will have to buy a new camera...."
"Yes!" Ryan answered with a forced smile.
I returned the prized item with all the gadgets that came with it, which I never used, and resumed our work on To the Sun with Zed. 
"For some people, it's more a matter of buying something fancy than actually using it" Zed said when I sat down again next to him. "My father does the same: he wanted that fancy car. He bought it. It's beautiful car, but we seldom use it, because he's afraid of what people may think he's a show-off if he comes to work driving it."

The big surprise came when some friends offered me to give their camera, because they love my work and think it impossible that I went on too long without taking any picture. I was very moved.
The only trick is that they live very far away!!!

The last picture I took was of my friend Dorian who was leaving after two weeks in Taipei, and these shots of a father and his son, as I was walking out of the Huashan Culture Park.

To say no

I gave Johnny (Li) a sample CD for the compilation that will be released in December through his Yi-Line company. He was in Taipei for a short business visit for the grand opening of his new space / office in Hong Kong, later this year. My idea for this album was to introduce the listener to my work through a musical journey. I was very happy and excited when I received Johnny's call announcing that great piece of news. I hadn't had anything released since my first album Circlesong back in 2005, and Circlesong didn't have any proper official release, since it was self produced... And the DVDs of the three ballets with Jo Kanamori and Noism are only available in Japan. In short, my official musical existence is fairly non existent.

I listened and listened again to the pieces and the songs, tried various combinations before  I could manage a selection of 16 tracks that would feature on the compilation. Condensing fifteen years of music in a little more than an hour is a delicate task, especially when the music range covers contemporary dance, theatre, fashion, film scores and of course, the songs - also considering that most of the listeners do not know my music. The final track list went like this:

1.   The Hole: Variation C
2.   Nothing comes to Light
3.   I aim (Chinese Version)
4.   They lie
5.   Auntie: M/other
6.   Auntie: Mama's Requiem
7.   To the Sun
8.   Bear me safely over
9.   Goovy (Funknrolla Mix)
10. Pierre est heureux: Up Down Dream
11. Un Espace vert
12. Battle of Wits
13. Linchpin Lover
14. Pierre est heureux: The Final Journey
15. Second Breath
16. Yi-Line

I sadly didn't manage to include music from my work with Jo Kanamori. It just didn't fit in, to my greatest despair - or I would end up releasing a double disc set!!! I was also highly aware that the selection had to be easy on the ear, although I had an inkling that Johnny would still find the selection too challenging.
A few exchanged messages last week already gave me the flavour of his opinion before I met him today. There were praises for the music and my singing: "I wish I could sing like you do" he wrote in a message. But one line told me all: "We need to discuss your CD".

Now that the meeting and discussion are over I have come to the inevitable conclusion: I will not bother.
"The CD is too long" Johnny said. "I played it to my friends and they say it's too long. They LIKE the music and they love your voice, but they think it's too long. Is there a way you can make it shorter?"
Words were boiling in my mouth but I remained silent and let him go on.
"How long is the CD you gave me?"
"Seventy eight minutes. Sixteen tracks."
A scene from Amadeus popped up in my mind, where after the first performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail the emperor comes to congratulate Mozart, however with the remark that there are maybe 'too many notes', words that are suggested to him by Mozart's nemesis Salieri.
Far from thinking I'm the new Mozart, the similarity of the situation just struck me. How many times did I hear those words uttered by people for whom music is just decorative.
"So can you make it fifty minutes... 10 tracks?" Johnny asked.
"I could. Everything's possible. But it looks like a watered-down project to me... Clients who come to your shop will not come for music, but for furniture and decorative objects. A photo can do that, a vase can do that. But music cannot be displayed as decoration. If it is, then I really honestly think I am not the right choice!"
More eye rolling.
The excitement of the upcoming CD release collapsed. I nevertheless tried to explain to Johnny that if he wanted background music to match the spirit of his design company, I may be the most unlikely choice.
"The music I did for your short film is maybe two percent of my musical range. I could find tracks to fill fifty minutes with quiet and soothing music, but I don't think that will represent me as a composer. If you want ornemental music, it may be a wise choice to pick someone else" I told him.
Johnny kept rolling his eyes as I was talking, which added to my annoyance.
"But you have to understand that the CD has to be in the spirit of what Yi-Line is. I don't want it to be heavy metal... And in the end, I have rent and employees to pay." Johnny went on.
Money was again the ultimate excuse. However, I flatly told him that this aspect was none of my concern. In my head, I knew I would not do it. Proud or stupid, I realised Johnny basically wanted to send out a different image than his peers' by surrounding himself with artists, like a nobleman at his palace - Norm for photography, Josh for film and me for music, thus giving himself an artistic credibility in an otherwise business, though creative activity.
"If he really want to do something with or for art, he may start a foundation. That would be a meaningful statement, instead of these empty tirades about lifestyle" I thought.
"We really believe that if there is a composer we want to support, it has to be you!" Johnny said later as we were walking back to his office.
I didn't bother to answer. I genuinely appreciated the intention - he wanted to thank me, Norm and Josh by 'promoting' us, but we were resolutely on two different continents of life.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Hong Kong Fu Fu

One look at my bank account and I chuckled like an old man hearing the same joke for the nth time. No trip to Bangkok. This time will be Hong Kong again. What a pity! I anticipated the thrills of wild nights in Bangkok. Why not have them in Hong Kong?
And the stupendous view on the sea from Nicolas B.' flat. I arrived just in time to contemplate the sunset. A spectacle I never get tired of.

I had my plate of duck, pork and chicken roast on the very first evening with Alvin. I realise that after months of healthy diet, my body cannot take that kind of food anymore.
We had a drink at he terrace of Quay West, a bar located right in front of the sea. It was evening time so we could only enjoy the marine atmosphere. A girl sat with us. A dark haired, blue-eyed Swedish model called Emma. She was soon joined by an elder lady named Kathleen. Both were eccentric and strong personalities. Emma wanted to have a trip to North Korea with her boyfriend. She had just done some charity works related to schools in Shanghai. Kathleen was an aggressive and outgoing New Yorker - and proud of it. Hours went by and we couldn't stop laughing and sharing our respective experiences. Emma stunned me by her perfect Cantonese.
"I'm useless!!!" exclaimed Kathleen. "Eigh years in Hong Kong, and see where I am with my Chinese!!!!"
I always enjoy such encounters, although I know they don't lead anywhere far after the parting farewell. However, Kathleen encouraged me to develop some projects with animation blending with performing arts.
"You should go to Cyberport. They have a department which was in charge all the martial art animation for Kung Fu Panda using real people. I think you could create something fabulous with dance, music and animation!!! I know the people..."
Damon Albarn had done it more or less successfully with his pop opera Monkey, but the idea had not been developed by other people, perhaps due to the amont of the financial investment time required. Kathleen's idea hit a chord in me and images started to unfold in my head. But now that I think of it, it would be perfect for the opera I've had in mind all these years...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Mother's new book

Another project which took many years before completion, my mother's new book Tales from Vietnam. My mother adopts a distanced attitude toward the whole thing, as if she isn't even connected to it.
"Oh whatever happens, happens! I don't expect much of it!" she likes to say. 
The publisher, a gentle and charming Chinese man asked her to collect and translate Vietnamese folk tales and compile them for a bilingual edition. For my mother, it was an opportunity to do what she loves best: play with words. However the deal wasn't a fair one. She would not receive any fee for her work, but a couple of hundreds of books. My mother being the discreet and shy person that she is, it won't be long before we would find her at the open air market trying to sell her books between the fish and the sausage stands.  
The slowly progressing Alzheimer disease and her forgetful nature didn't help either. She revised the book countless times and still there was mistakes and misspellings. On some morning she would start to rewrite everything then correct it all again the next week. The files went back from the publisher to her more than once, without anyone being satisfied. The publishing expected her to deliver the files ready for printing, but my mother didn't have the means nor the technical skills to do so. That went on for four good years. I decided to take the matters fully in hand last year. I took a couple of weeks to read and re-read the text, nearly turning mad as a hatter. Everyday I would correct new mistakes that have escaped my attentive eyes the previous day. I had Bévinda read it, as well as the publisher assistant, Rebecca. Each of them found new mistakes.
"There is no perfect book" I remember Claude Pinganaud saying. He was the director of a small Parisian publishing company called Arléa and, without a doubt, knew a couple of things about it.
The exchanges between the publisher, the printer and I went on until the very last minute, when in Hong Kong last spring, I managed to one ultimate misspelling on a Vietnamese name. Shall I consider everything is fine now? It's too late to go back. The books have been shipped from Hong Kong where they were printed, to Paris. I was overjoyed when the publisher's assistant shared the news last month. 
My mother as usual, acted as if the matter wasn't more than buying an egg at the convenient store. I was happy, relieved and decided to push the whole thing one step further: organise a reading to launch the book. Isabelle and Vanessa immediately answered the call, and the Galerie Talmart where I organised a screening of Les Contes d'Hoffmann last March, was booked. 
The big day is in a little less than one month. Isabelle has picked three tales to read, and Vanessa will provide an improvised musical accompaniment on the piano.
I am quite certain the accolades my mother will receive when the book is released will be a source of great joy for her. However I have pushed her to start a new project. It's important that she has something to look forward to. My father knows he has no influence over her. So it is my duty to try to maintain a certain momentum in her life.
The new project has already been clear in my head for a couple of years now: a coffee-table book of Hang Mac Tu's poems that she has translated (he is her favourite poet) with beautiful photographs by my friend Yves Schiepek. 

And I would like to introduce that project during the reading in September.... My way to celebrate my parents' 80th birthday.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Make a wish...

I had just sent a letter to my father saying that I didn't see how I could possibly come to Paris to celebrate his and my mother's 80th birthday as well as my mother's book presentation, given the pitiful state of my finances. The three-month stay permit in Taiwan was coming to a close and I had buy a ticket to somewhere (Bangkok? Hong Kong? Singapore? Kuala Lumpur?), pay rents and bills... With practically nothing but long term projects in the horizon, I was beginning to freak out. Just beginning to...
"Unless there's a miracle, I don't think I will be able to come to Paris in September" I wrote.
A miracle... As I was walking outside on my way to the nearby buffet restaurant, I gave the word some thought. What kind of miracle could happen? How? I was resigning myself to the idea, almost feeling relieved not to go, planning alternatives to be there virtually. 
Things cleared up when I came back after lunch. I was having a chat with Dennis' partner François, recalling my first terrifying encounter with his mother last winter during one of their 'catholic' family dinners. After 20 years, François told me, she had finally showed her full acceptance of her Japanese daughter-in-law in the form of a wooden napkin ring with her name engraved on it! 
"Five more years for Dennis before he gets his" François joked. 
"Twenty years... It could be a saga like The Lord of the Ring..." I added. 
The conversation went on for a while until I told François that chances were that I may not come to Paris after all.
"Does this mean that you want to do like Kate Torralba and use my miles to come to Paris?" he asked.
The question left me speechless for a moment. Kate came to Europe in June to promote her new album with a series of small gigs in Paris and London. 
"Yes, I sponsored her last trip to Europe. I gave her my miles"
"That is so noble of you... She fully deserves it!" I knew what he was getting at, but didn't want, couldn't believe it. 
"You'd deserve it too. In exchange of a song for my hubby, if that can inspire you..."
Yes a miracle.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

When Doves Fly

Shang-Sing just sent me his final draft of When Doves Fly, his new and first long feature film. The producer and he had approached me a couple of months ago to have me on board as the composer. I really liked Shang-Sing's first short film he did two years ago, How I learned to tell a lie. His style oscillates between bittersweet humour and coming-of-age drama. I particularly like the way he always manage to walk on the rope and always keep the balance. That reflect the person he is: witty, melancholic, sarcastic and profoundly humane. When Doves Fly seems to follow the same thread as his first film, even though he didn't write the screenplay. But somehow he managed to make it his own. 
There are still some holes in the story. I shall meet with him to discuss that. The score will require a couple of song to be written. As soon as I was told the story, I immediately started hearing some guitar-laden music, in the style of what Ry Cooder did for Wim Wenders' Paris Texas albeit from an Asian perspective. When Doves Fly will be a road movie about two American blokes who end up in Taiwan by mistake, thinking they are in Thailand, that is one of them does, for the other is on a personal quest that he keeps secret until the later part of the film.
The film will be funded by a Taiwanese TV channel, but they hope to turn it into a full-fledge film and release it theatrically. Apparently, that's how many Taiwanese films are made.
Shooting is set for October. Casting is not yet done. I hope I won't just have one week to write and record all the music! 

I'm happy to work for films. Working for dance has lost of its appeal to me. After Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Jo Kanamori in 2010, most of the contemporary dance projects with the exception of Double Yellow Line and Winterreise last year, have proved fairly underwhelming. 
I had written to Bryan Kuo to have some updates regarding his film Pierre est heureux and it seems the film will be shelved again for some time. I wrote the music two years ago, and the film was done more than six years ago. I won't take a fortune teller to understand that Bryan must have some personal issues connected to that film and many more years may go by before he finds the courage to bring his baby to the world. I have recently befriended a friend who has known Bryan since the time they were in high school and I wasn't so surprised to learn that the screenplay found lots of its material from Bryan's personal life and family issues. 
Maybe I should encourage him to walk the last mile and take the dive. 
Meanwhile, the song To the Sun, which was written for the film, will have its own life when the music video is edited! Jay just gave me a software which will allow me to do the editing while Zed is away. 
Another tool to become more independant!

Shang-Shin and Bibbe Hansen in New York. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Night time

Our two bodies lying side by side, at night. Both in half sleep, at time waking up to feel the presence of the other body, one hand running through his chest before falling back into slumber. That's how I used to feel as a trainee in love on my first dates and nights spent at lovers' house, and that's how I was feeling now, more than twenty years later, to my greatest surprise. An epic night time adventure, with each minute bringing a sense of wonder, when our mind is put to sleep and boundaries between the actual and the possible are blurred. Never to get jaded!
Two weeks have gone by after this hot night at the bath house before I could meet Terry / Xiao Sue again. William is still haunting me, but I full-heartedly welcomed this one night with someone else - I realise that I seldom spend the night with anyone now. And it was pleasant to feel like a novice in love again. William recently wrote to me that it was precisely what he would enjoy whenever we would meet. To be reconnected to the feeling again.   

Being a hardworking maths teacher, Xiao Sue only could reach Taipei at around midnight! Late but not too late since we had time the next morning. 
Waiting at midnight at any train station can be a depressing experience. Hardly any one in sight. The few people left run to catch their last train. Tramps sleep on the bench outside. Elderly ladies push a cart containing the loot of the day: paper, cardboard and anything made of plastic to be sold to recycling companies. Arduous and thankless work. I can't help admiring them. 
Xiao Sue appeared at last with a puzzled look on his face. Communication is limited between us. His English isn't that advanced.

Nightmarket. It was past midnight. Most of the food stalls were closing. We got a bowl of rice soup, pieces of dried fish on the plate, leftovers of an omelet. The food was terrible. The owner was certainly not so convinced that the food he was selling us was the best in town, but we were hungry and ate with appetite. We then stopped at the 7eleven to get some drinks - tea and energy drinks... we needed that! Back at my place. Ryan and Wassir were already sleeping (early nights are a rare thing with them). It had been a hot week. I told Xiao Sue to take a shower first. I couldn't resist joining him. He startled when I opened the door. An intruder in my own house! As tacky as it may seem, taking a shower with someone is certainly one of the most erotic thing. There's that sense of extreme vulnerability and abandon - trust.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Three years

Three years ago, in early August, a freshly turned-forty Parisian-born Vietnamese man named An Ton That landed in Taipei. This wasn't his first time. He had previously come to Taipei on several occasions the preceding couple of years, but that particular time was special: his new life was to begin there.

Three years, intense and challenging, to say the least. But never did I allow the thought of a possible return to Paris. Whatever would happen, I'd have to keep on. The first year and a half was hard on me. I had left Paris without truly realising where I was heading to. I had travelled a lot, and would spent longer time abroad, each time, but my home was still in Paris. I would wake up some morning, wondering where I was. Paris? Tokyo? Any other city? Only slowly would my eyes recognise what was around me, the room where I had spent the night, the photos on the wall, the ceiling... Yes, my home in Taipei! It still happens. Very recently, it took me a full minute to remember where I was after I opened my eyes. A full sixty seconds when my state of slumber had not totally yielded way to the 'real' world of the awakens. I didn't recognise anything. Is it how one feels after death, - if 'feeling' can be the accurate word to use in that case...?

I want to make a celebration. Three years represent a cycle for me. Yet, I'm still not officially a resident here. My status as music composer does not fit any category.No company can hire me as they would hire engineers, bankers or teacher, so I still have to leave the country every three months, which is actually fine with me for I do have to leave the country regularly for my projects  - on the first year, it was every month!!!
Much as I enjoy my life here on this island, I can't say that work has been that exciting. My collaboration with HuangYi, especially Double Yellow Line would be what first springs to my mind. Compared to my work with Jo, it's of a modest scale. My work for film is starting to flourish. Two long features to score this autumn. The first one, Pierre est heureux is still in limbo and I begin to wonder if it will ever be finished...
But I have met Jay Chern, who is an up and coming young director. He does know how to tell a story and how to hold a camera. Our first long feature together will be Like a Thief. Having done music for all the shorts he has done the past couple of years - eight in total!!! I believe the long feature will be a fulfilling collaboration. Jay is currently finishing the screenplay. He wishes to work on the music first. Shooting will commence in December, probably...
So it seems that my work is veering toward the visual field. When the To the Sun MV is done, I shall start working on the next two ones: Who We Be and Love Profusion. Who We Be will be a dance video experiment, and involve three hip hop dancers, a white background, me in a black suit and blindfolded, and nine persons squeezed in a square and jumping in rhythm. I was supposed to start rehearsing with the choreographer last month but there isn't a busier person than he.

So I find myself with more projects that I could imagine. The difference with the younger An is that all these projects are coming to life these coming months.

I have met people recently who push me to publish my photographic work in a book. I planned to do an exhibition this summer, again with Adrian, but after the unsuccessful attempt at creating a true gallery at the Empress Lounge, I have also realised that it was time for me to take my non-musical work more seriously. They deserve better than student-like projects which will be burried by other similar student-like projects.
So a book it will be. Having an exhibition to launch the book will be a wiser move. Jin, who helps me set up my artist collective in Taipei, has advised me to look for a gallery to represent my work.
So the book, the record, the MV, the artist collective, the novel, the opera... I should clone myself!
No one can blame me for being lazy!

Một ngày như mọi ngày

Damien (Brachet) has asked me to shoot a short video to introduce myself and the song Một ngày như mọi ngày, which he had selected to feature on Asia Deep, a compilation album which will present Asian artists from the underground scene: Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Vietnam which is oddly represented by myself. For all the years I have known him - nearly a decade now that I think of it, Damien had nurtured that project. That's actually the reason why he approached me at the very beginning. We became friends but he always has in mind projects which may involve all the people whose work he appreciates.
Một ngày như mọi ngày was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. My mother had a tape of Trịnh Công Sơn songs which she had bought at Thanh bình, the only shop in Paris in the early 70's which would sell Vietnamese products. Khánh Ly was Trịnh Công Sơn's muse and was the first one to record his songs. Just her voice and he playing the guitar. Simple, rough and poignant. Hers is one of the most distinctively beautiful voice in Vietnamese popular music. I had no idea what she was singing about, but the songs all had this poetic sadness - Trịnh Công Sơn was dubbed the Vietnamese Bob Dylan after all, and we were still in the middle of the Vietnam War. I remember my parents trying to catch the news on the TV. I can imagine how much they must have suffered watching their home country falling apart in front of their eyes on that small black and white TV screen.
Asia Deep is produced by a French small label called Pschent, which is known to the public by the popular Buddha Bar and Hôtel Costes series. After seeing the cover design they have done for the present release, I'm afraid it will give people the wrong notion that it will just be another of those lounge music collections with no edge... Damien is fighting and struggling with the DA to change the artwork. But what do you expect when you have a bunch of blokes who want to release an album of Asian music when they themselves know nothing about Asia except the usual clichés....? 
 I listened to what I have done with the song and I must say that even 15 years after, I'm still happy about it and quite surprised it doesn't sound dated - just pardon my awful Vietnamese pronunciation!

The video combines footages I have from Taipei, my home and Đà Lạt in Vietnam. Shot in black & white, natürlich!!!!

At the Couvent des Oiseaux, Đà Lạt 

Một ngày như mọi ngày - Trailer

My dancer friend Thang Dao will play the song to Khánh Ly. I really would love to do a project with her. The idea had grown in my head years and years ago...
"Hurry, her time is running out! She's nearly 70!!! But she still sings superbly" Thang said
I had written to Trịnh Công Sơn back in 1998, asking him permission to do new arrangements on two of his songs. He kindly replied and gave me his blessing. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, he wrote. Alas he died before I could send him the finished recording. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Exercice de Style

I just finished arranging two Vietnamese songs for string quartet. Kiêt, who was my contact for the Thanh Giong project in Berlin asked me as a favour to score those two songs for him and three other players from the Berliner Symphoniker. There was to be a concert in Postdam and they wanted to put two Vietnamese songs in the program. 
One was fairly easy to score, but the other followed some typical local tone which was difficult to transpose for a Western instrument. I tried my best to respect the melodic line and harmonise the songs in a way that didn't alter them too much. 
But it was the occasion for me to use a music scoring software for the very first time. Until now, I had been very old school: music paper, a pencil and an eraser were what I would need (to my musicians' despair)
Now the musicians have the score. They should be rehearsing tomorrow for a concert in Postdam the following day. I have no clue what else they will play. I hope they'll make a recording. So far, I still hear those horrible midi string sounds in my head and that's beyond awful! I'm currently washing my ears clean with some Haydn's string quartets. 

I now want to write more for strings. I have told my cellist friend Emily I wanted to write a piece for her and her trio. Maybe now is the time...

But my next task will be to do the editing of To the Sun. Adrian kindly offered to help me. We shall start next week, when I receive the software (another one!) 
Welcome to the modern world!!!!