Monday, 30 December 2019

Merry is the widow

I went to a 'concert performance' of Franz Lehár's Die lustige Witwe by the NSO. 
When Vienna meets Taipei... Hsueh-min had bought a ticket for me weeks ago, although I admit I went with some predjudice.
Two hours earlier, I had totally forgotten about it, occupied as I was with all the composing. A message from Hsueh-min woke up me. I nearly didn't go. Yes, what, or how could the NSO 'get' the Viennese style and not turn that poor - well, she's not poor, widow into am indigestible cream puff.
Some predjudices are made to be crushed. No regret at all. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Although just a concert performance, it was very cleverly staged by Jean-Michel Criqui with minimal prop and setting, a smart use of video projection to create the atmosphere and optimal use of the space on stage. The orchestra was beautifully conducted by Yin-Fang Chang who avoided the trap of indulging in sentimentality but instead brought out the sensuality and luxuriousness of the score with a hint of melancholy and yearning during the more intimate scenes and lost of gusto and peps for the comedic parts.
The singers rose up to the challenge and delivered a nuanced performance. Kudo in particular to Chan-Yu Yeh as Count Danillo. He's is as good a singer as he is a good actor. I remember seeing him in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos in a little role several years ago, and he already did impress me then. Glad that he's been given the lead part now. 
It was a delightful good evening and I'm glad I took the time off work to enjoy this evening full of wit, charm and beautiful music.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Asa ga kuru 朝が来る - recording more music...

Christmas Eve.
The recording sessions keep going on during the year end festivities. I was working on the music for the final scene of the film when I suddenly heard a short choral-like piece for 2 female voices in my head. I immediately contacted Irene and 古宸禎, two members of the acapella vocal group with whom I just recently collaborated on one song for the Ray Kang's album. They quickly got the feel and mood of the piece and we recorded their vocals right before they had to dash to YiLan for a performance!

Right before my session with them, I was recording Edric Chang's violin playing. I actually got confused about our meeting time - I remembered it to be late afternoon, as it had usually been so, when I had the good instinct to check on the appointment time and realised, only a few minutes before the door bell rang, that it was at 11 a.m.! I quickly scribbled down the violin parts and Edric played them effortlessly - as he always does.

All the pieces for the film slowly shape up. It's an interesting process. It (fortunately) all came together in a very brief lapse of time.  
Naomi still hasn't heard anything yet. She very sympathetically agreed to leave me be in peace without interfering. She did begin to ask me to do and redo the opening music until I realised that I would be losing my inspiration if I was only trying to please her. She maybe a famous and celebrated director, but I still wanted to enjoy the process. After some time debating what to say to her, I simply wrote and explained how I felt, and how I worked. She replied and said that she totally understood. 

Roman, the wizard mixing engineer who suggested me as a composer for this film, has started to place all the music I have written so far in the film. I haven't yet had the time to watch. Still a lot of music to be done, but I think that most of the musical stuff is there now...
And it saves lots of time and energy to work with intuitive musicians. 

Monday, 23 December 2019

Always experimenting... Allen played percussion on a music stand, on a windchime made of keys, on sticks and bowls... He's so ressourceful and inventive. 
Each new sound gives me ideas and leads to more experimentation. Then back home, I'm like a mad scientist trying a new formula.
The music stand sounds great!

Sunday, 22 December 2019

work work work

Asa ga kuru 朝が来る (Comes Morning) 
Cello session this evening at the music zombieland, ie. my home, with my dear long-time partner in crime, Emily.

The music for Naomi Kawase's new film is shaping up. I think I will have completed all the score very soon. Nothing like a great project to end the year and begin the next.


At the rate of one, two, sometime three pieces of music composed each day, I think I deserve a couple of hours off, and a little stroll to Eslite bookstore (Xmas presents and cards to buy, mind you ...)

I don't know if all the music will be completed in two weeks, I can only hold the lantern of hope close to me so that hope may become reality... Send me your good vibes. O, I really need it!
Bonne nuit... Listening to Beethoven and Sibelius.. then bedtime.
Oh yes, and a read few pages of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the original text.

Oh, but I'm still in the bus...

Saperlipopette. I feel like a robot.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Midnight at Mos Burger...

Between 'Jingle Bell' destroyed by a clarinetist who sounds like he can't wait for the music to be finished, and an old, solitary woman playing Candy Crush at full volume at the back of the room, I feel the jolly spirit very, very strongly. Ho ho ho....

Friday, 20 December 2019

I just learned that Ròm has been heralded 'best film of 2019' by the ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. South East Asia countries are now bringing film of great quality and diversity to the world. 

Can't wait to see Ròm tour around the world at festivals, and of course see the film being released theatrically everywhere!I'm particularly happy for Huy and everybody in the team. They worked so hard on it. I was browsing the behind the scene photos that showed what physical prowess it was for the two young actors and the crew to shoot the film. They do deserve the accolade!

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Koreyoshi Kurahara

In the midst of all the composing, I find moments where I can escape by watching films. Change of mind, change of mood, change of spirit = inspiration.

On my journey of exploring older Japanese cinema, I recently ordered a Criterion set of films by Koreyoshi Kuraha, a director I knew nothing about. I just went by instinct, and I was handsomely rewarded. I watched Black Sun 黒い太陽, a wacky, anti-buddy romp of a film between a young jazz-obsessed society miscast (played by the charismatic Tamio Kawaji, another discovery for me...) and a Black GI on the run after an accidental murder.

It was the 60's, Japan was still occupied by the U.S., jazz was all the rage among the youngsters, and there was the Japanese Nouvelle Vague in cinema, which found in Koreyoshi Kurahara 蔵原惟繕, one of his best figures. 

The main actor, Tamio Kawaji, plays his role with joyful abandon, over-the-top child-like wildness. I was just captivated by him. Opposite him is American Chico Lourant, a Black American soldier who found a career as an actor in Japan during the 60's, who, despite his very limited acting range (and I could barely understand anything from his incessant breathy mumbling), still managed to create a convincing character as 'Gill'.

And to top it all, the score played by hyped jazz hero Max Roach (with Abbey Lincoln's singing) adds to the 'assault' to the senses that the film is, both visually and sonically.

"Koreyoshi Kurahara’s Black Sun is a loud, ugly, gritty, and gripping film. It is a tortured shriek of post-war anguish from one of Japan’s leading filmmakers of the 1960s."

I'm so thankful to Criterion for releasing such treasures in perfect quality. The black and white photography by Mitsuji Kanau just looked gorgeous. Next will be The Warped Ones, which apparently precedes Black Sun by four years, with again, Tamio Kawaji as a young society miscast, and also Chico Lourant, this time in a minor role.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Do over

Everyday Facebook asks "what's on your mind?"... Today, I'd like reply: NOTHING.

I do wish there were something in my mind but I have been composing so much music in the past months or even years, that my head is totally blank today. I'm painstakingly writing and recording a new piece for Be Water today despite a strong headache, but the perspective of all the music to milk out of our brain (to our dismay, Goh and I found out that Bao has kept nearly nothing from all the music we have been writing - producers' command...) 
Two weeks... Bao wants to have everything completed so he can send the documentary to the Sundance Festival. "We're nearly there" Bao wrote as words of encouragement, "You just have to do variations of what you have already done"
No, mister director, you may minimise our workload by saying it's a 'variation', but we still have to re-record the music, call the musicians, edit and mix everything so that you get your 'variation'. It isn't like using Microsoft Word... 
The new cut of the film is drastically different, which might explain why our music didn't 'survive'. The producers gave us references for each scene, each cue. Goh is furious. "We basically we practically have to start it over again!!!" he lamented. I still have a couple of pieces left unscathed from the flood. The situation feels like this Greek myth where Psyche has to do a new impossible chore every day.

"My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements, and operate the device entirely in my mind."
Nikola Tesla