Wednesday, 22 December 2004

And the song goes on

I haven’t heard from Bibbe for the past two weeks. I know she’s back in LA for a few concerts. She said eventually didn’t appear in that zombie movie she was telling me about.

Rémi has played the mixes he did on Love and Long, and Hôm Qua. Just brilliant. I’m happy to see how the songs slowly find their place one by one in the big picture. The long process is such a learning experience for me. Of course I do lose patience, but I’m really glad it’s taking so much time. I’m discovering more and more every day.

Karen has shown me the lyrics she intended for me, currently titled Song for X. If I wasn’t so sure about the draft she previously wrote, the new way she approached the theme suits me better. Certainly more writing sessions will be required, I think we have a good song in our hands! Great, touching, moving and compelling. I don’t know how aware Karen is of her talent as a lyricist.
I’ve brought along the sheet of paper on which she’s scribbled the draft and will start sketching it musically. I already 'hear' the song in my head. Simple arrangement with merely a guitar and a piano backed by some rough beats in 7/8.
That could be a nice last minute addition to Circlesongs.

My father’s website is officially launched. I sent hundreds of e-mails to spread the word. Only the scrapbook section remains to be done, if ever we maneg to finish it. 

Saturday, 18 December 2004

Trust

What always brings me so much joy in any collaboration is when the connection between my partner and me is so fluid that none of us has to say anything because we do not put our ego in the work. That is the case with Maria Cristina. She really trusts me, so I feel free to give the best of me and remain who I am creatively without any compromise.
That is rare.
The Dance of the Seven Veils stunned everyone. The music was a bit loud though… But that section with the heavy drums never fails to startle me!
I felt something opening up in Maria Cristina. Before today, she had no idea what I would be able to do. Of course she had heard the music I composed for W.h.a., but that wasn't a garantee that I would be suitable for Salomé
"When I heard the beginning, I liked the atmosphere and the ritual vibe that came out of it. Then as the music developed, I had this wish to hear some change, something more dramatic... and then it happened right at the moment in the music!!!" she told me with a big smile after the rehearsal.
Now I feel trusted, a feeling which is unbelievably freeing.


[…]


At Julia's...
Even though I was shaking like a dead leaf blown away by the wind, I managed to sing my Handel aria with gusto, threw myself in Schubert’s Erlkönig and ended with a song by Tchaikovsky which earned me praises from Julia. Of course, there's nothing to shout about, I'm not the new Thomas Hampson, but as she’s been the first one to teach me to love my voice, it is gratifying for both teacher and student when I make a big move forward vocally.



Thursday, 17 June 2004

Passing questions


I realized one thing on my first days in Vienna: I had been spoiled in Paris. Thousands of shows and concerts every day. I felt overweight with culture. I don’t give myself enough time to let what I have seen grow in me. The reason one would attend? A great musician, a great director, a great choreographer, a great singer, a great film, a superstar, a pop star, a rock star, a name…It’s a command: we must go. Thirst for culture? Adulation in disguise? Consumerism?
A lack of faith maybe.
A funny thought: even if they do not believe in any religion, people would pay more and more money for an unaware search for the divine, be it at a football game, a concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker, a concert by Madonna, Frodo’s in the Lord of the Ring trilogy, a porn film or a TV show. A moment of bliss, this catharsis which unfortunately they cannot create themselves. Not so funny, this thought.
I’m sitting at my desk, composing music, working on this album, visualizing future concerts and performances: everything has to go through the money filter.
During the interview he gave at the Musikverein, Thomas Hampson strongly insisted on the important role of the audience, on the fact that they shouldn’t remain passive and accept ready made views about how to listen to music. The connection can only be made if they see each performance as a new and unique moment between them and the artist. Just like when you talk to someone.
Then the depressing thought that all of us are completely conditioned by this money system, everything is  only made possible with money. Artistic creation... The relationship built between artists and the audience is of consumption. They might get something out a work of art, they might be inspired or be shown another way of thinking - or living. But that only works when they have paid for it. It’s frightful. Where are we? 

Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Himan & Cyril


Cyril (aka Hyphen, aka Vyrgill), will be my electronic extraordinaire on my album. I approached him a few years ago. He agreed then, but things never really got started.
What struck me when I first heard his music was the subtlety of his sounds, the fluidity and great sensitivity he showed in his work. Highly clever, yet almost innocent, like a child.
I’m happy to count him among my collaborators.

It was the first time that I really saw Himan beyond his physical self. He appeared as a vibrant, radiant and wonderful person to me. Like a flow of energy. He showed me some ideas he had for the Prayer. Then I told him where they could match. We were very pleased in the end. We also worked on Ru Em, the lullaby, trying to find a rhythm that could express the flow of water, and the soothing effect of all the sounds that surrounds when you fall asleep.
I was introduced to his mother in law, a Vietnamese woman who has a gift and brings light to all the people around her. She told me things I needed - and was ready to hear. I reconnected to the brighter side, and opened the doors to joy and contentment.
That was a wonderful time.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

Bloomsday 100


“Are you a bookseller?” She asked.
I was on a ladder, trying to spot a Murakami book. One of those old bookstores where climbing up is sometimes the only way to reach bliss.
I felt trapped. Like a little kid who’s been caught red handed doing some trick. Mine is to be the shepherd to the books. Organising, classifying... I can't help it! If I see one book that is lost on a shelf somewhere it shouldn’t be, I bring it back to its intended place. Alphabetical order. My little mania. Not only with books, mind you, records too. Just have to do it. But I have to do it unnoticed. Like a little elf that would come during the night perform his magic trick. Kann nicht! Muss!!! Muss!!!
She has seen through me.
“Because I do that too whenever I see books” she went on, smiling.
So, no Murakami, it was useless to stay up there on the ladder. Simon was reading on a chair, absorbed in some Iris Murdoch novel. Pretending not to hear.
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was playing rather loud on the speakers.
“I wanted some nice nineteenth century music to soothe you…”
True, I had been whistling along.
Really, this woman could see every single detail. She handed me a little card.
“Since you’re such a bookish person, here’s an invitation. Bloomsday 100 in Vienna”. 
I  felt honoured.
“There will be readings the whole day long, from eight in the morning to three the next morning.”
“If you want to join, and maybe read yourself…”
Two boys entered the shop. Proper, polite and charming. Hoping to get a book they had ordered. She didn’t have it. But she gave them the same invitation for the reading.
“If you want to join. And read… or sing.”
The boys looked at each other and took the flyer.
“You know, they are from the Vienna Choir Boy”.
“Vienna Boy choir”, they timidly corrected.
She insisted that I put my name on the list of readers. Even if I didn’t come. I joked, saying I could read a haiku. Minimum reading.
I left my e-mail address. I might do something. Say a Vietnamese poem. Or recite Goethe’s Erlkönig, the only poem I know by heart…

“She had a big pint of beer on her desk” Simon later told me.

Monday, 7 June 2004

Circlesong: Starting the work


It’s not easy to rework songs written six years before especially when they haven’t even seen their final state of completion. I don’t want to repeat myself, and couldn’t if I wanted to. But then, leaving my mind open to new musical ideas, gives way to hundreds of possibilities. It's confusing.
I’m now thinking of recording some songs I have left aside, namely Halcyon. I
t was originally meant to be played by a Rhode piano and a grand piano, a string ensemble, a whole set of percussions and drums; now I just want to use a simple guitar, a cello, and tablas. No big drum section, no electronics…

The battle, if battle there is, is between what I have been clinging on for so many years, and letting everything go, without trying to retain the control. The task isn’t made easy by the fact that I work alone. Mario hasn’t started his part, the musicians haven’t played anything yet.
So it’s all happening in my head - I've already sketched some ideas on the computer, just a tool, a promise of what is to come.
It’s impossible to stop my mind from imagining, fantasizing. I wonder if that state of not-yet-done is not the one I prefer, when all is about to be created.

Friday, 4 June 2004

Death and the first violin


When one walks in a forest, it’s the tallness or the largeness of a particular tree that attracts one's attention, if it has enough room to be visible and stand out. Distance is needed anyway.
A soloist stands out when he performs with an orchestra, if you have the means and the charisma to be one.
The problem arises when one plays chamber music. I’ve witnessed a shining example of a tree trying to be taller than the others on that concert given by the Küchl Quartet.
The music program was appealing: Schubert’s Der Tod und das Mädchen, and Dvorak.
What really spoiled my pleasure was the first violin who obviously was the founder of that quartet which, unsurprisingly bears his name. Whatever he had to play, he played louder than the others, regardless of the importance of his part. It was the first time that any musical instrument produced such an unpleasant effect on me. His sounds were like stabs of a sword dipped in acid. It’s really a shame when music is merely an excuse for a battle of ego.
Simon was more cunning: he managed to sneak in the big hall, while his two friends from Switzerland Aline, Henri and I sat through the whole concert with the Küchl Quartet. Aline seemed delighted. At least the evening wasn't totally spoiled!

Sunday, 30 May 2004

Circlesong: Getting ready


Today is the first official day of work on Circlesong. I chose not to bring the keyboard I used when I did the demos. I didn’t want to go back. I will trust what comes ahead.
I felt the same on my first working session with Régine Chopinot. I wanted to get preprared. But a little voice inside me knew better and prevented me from preparing anything, so I went to La Rochelle with lots of doubts and questions but also the certainty that everything will be fine. Once you have to get going, you go.
New ideas are coming to my head. I will keep all the midi programming I had done, but will use them with new sounds. The joy of having a more 'professional' sound. Those demos have done their time now!!! Mario has got hold of excellent software which uses orchestral samples that outrageously sound so live! Even my father suggested that I could have a violin or a viola play on top of sampled strings. 

Friday, 28 May 2004

Alfred Brendel in talk


Simon couldn’t resist telling what it was. The surprise. Even though it would no longer be a surprise once he’d have told me.
I was on internet chatting with him, me in Paris, him in Vienna. So after a minute of guessing, I found out he got tickets to see Alfred Brendel playing at the prestigious Musikvereinssaal.
That name is like a ‘madeleine de Proust’. Say it and I would instantly see a scene of my childhood. Not only my times at the piano – which weren’t that joyous then. Maybe one of those harmonious family evenings, with the two parents reading silently and me and my brother making up new games, while a Beethoven or Schubert record would be playing on the stereo.
When I saw Alfred Brendel explaining to the audience his choice for the upcoming concert, I was more moved by the aerial passion he was exhaling, than what he had to say.
Here was a man who’d devoted his entire life to music. I don’t know how he was like as a young artist. It took time, he said. Now he’s taking time, and hopefully, will have a little more time to take.
Non Alfred Brendel hasn’t aged.
And we’re still alive!


Wednesday, 26 May 2004

Alfred Brendel


It immediately struck me that the man I saw coming in the shop was Alfred Brendel. Then I thought twice; maybe he just looks like Alfred Brendel. And the man’s eyes were blue. Were Alfred Brendel’s eyes blue? Since I’ve only seen black and white pictures of him, it was impossible for me to tell. That’s the problem when you know somebody from pictures only. You don’t know how they walk, talk, how tall they are, what body language they have. You remember one photograph in particular, but it’s an old one. And if it’s a profile, then you’re done. Do people age in a picture? How did Alfred Brendel age? I thought he would always be the same young man I remembered from the booklet of the Beethoven record set my parents would play when I was a child. How would it feel three decades or so later?
But that man was Alfred Brendel. I heard him talk two days before at the Musikverein, and I saw him walk. I was surprised by how tall he was. I thought he would be the Woody Allen type. Or my father type. But his mild manners are deceiving.


A open air concert isn’t my ideal of a classical concert. But tonight, Bobby McFerrin is conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. A celebration for Europe to be taking place at the Schönbrunn Palace garden.
From the crowd that gathered tonight, it could have been a new Woodstock, a pop concert or a demonstration for human rights.
‘Let’s play another polka!’ he said by the end of the concert. ‘That was cool! That was fun!’
That cool rasta man conducting a Viennese waltz was a sight not to be missed. And above all, he didn’t let the orchestra take it for granted. So during the rehearsal, one of the Viennese anthems, ‘Wiener Blut’, was stopped, resumed, stopped again, replayed from the beginning. The program might have been a corny one, but Master McFerring never allowed it be a boring one. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2004

Tonbandtest: what comes next


I’m like a sick dog today. It’s been on for three days already. Somebody advised me to drink pure lemon juice. Just the thought of it made me jump to the ceiling.

I’m seeing Mario, at last, today. We’re going to discuss the how’s and when’s for my album. I don’t know whether we’ll have time to manage anything before I come back to Paris, but I can’t wait to get it started.

Being selected for the Tonbandtest brought me lots of joy. I delivered the requested twenty cds last Friday and had a chance to talk to the organizers. It appears that being selected might be comforting for my ego, but that’s just the first step of a long staircase. The competition is running until September. The real winner will be the one who’s got the most reviews (praise) written about his music. Journalists will start writing reviews on my demo soon. I’m very curious to see what will come out of it. Already, somebody was mentioning David Sylvian. (It’s not the first time…) I guess comparisons will never stop, since people always need labels and marks in order to know where they are.
We will see in the coming weeks…

Sunday, 4 April 2004

Francis

I’ve discovered a website called ‘Copains d’avant’, which allows people to track their long forgotten schoolmates. I’m not the type to indulge myself in such nostalgic remembrance especially since those teenage  (teen angst) days weren’t particularly my happiest. Still, those times came back to life for a split second when I bumped into names I haven’t uttered for more than fifteen years.
I sent a message to Francis. I had been dreaming of him occasionally. The last dream dated from a few weeks ago... I made the same dream a few years ago. It was like a call. I was worried about him. I looked up the telephone book, but his name was nowhere to be found. 
Francis and I were high school friends. He was from another class but we would share sport classes every week. He was athletic, sexy, cheerful and very friendly. However being the shy and tentative boy I was, it me long weeks before I mustered the courage to really talk to him. I was quite smitten by him and perhaps something could have happened between us then. But my lack of self confidence prevented me to even think of mentioning anything, so I was already quite content with the camaraderie.
We started spending more time out of school together. In spite of the obvious electricity between us, no one dared stepping closer to the line. Our talks were often very ambiguous.
Those memories are meant to stay that way. I lost sight of Francis when I entered the university. I visited the high school a couple of times. Then he moved into a new city.
I once talked to his mother.
"Francis says you are a wonderful pianist" she said in a very sunny tone. "I hope you will play for us sometime..." 
I saw a recent picture of him. His hair was cut extremely short perhaps to hide the receding hairline, but he still had this twinkle in his eyes, and  the same roguish air! I sent a few words, but received no reply. Memories might still be vivid in my head even more than a decade later, but just for me...


Friday, 19 March 2004

Mord + Musik


First singing session today. Four voices. We had a try out on the song Un-me.
Then I played a movement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, in a two-piano arrangement made by the composer. It was a great joy to play two-piano music with somebody. I haven’t done that since the day I left the music conservatorium!

I have been to a pocket-sized bookstore called Mord + Musik. I first misread the name as Word and Music until I realized that most of the books were crime novels. But I was deceived by the owner who displayed Big Fish and a couple of T.C. Boyle’s novels on the shelves. I discovered a nice selection of CDs by practically unknown artists beside  Sigur Ros and Ryoji Ikeda!
The guy seemed interested when I asked him whether he would listen to the music I’ve done for W.H.A. To top it all, he also he owns a small recording label. It could be funny to be one of those obscure artists whose records you only find in this one shop at the other end of the world!

Thursday, 18 March 2004

Wiener Fluss


Wiener Fluss.

One month now that I’ve been in Vienna. A big bottleful of emptiness and lots of hope. It took me one month to start feeling that something was actually possible in this city, that I wasn’t building castles in the air.
I’m gathering musicians for a first concert in late September, possibly at the Museum Quartier.

The response to my music has been very positive. People see potentials and want to join in.
I can’t wait for the first notes to be played on real instruments, so used now am I to my old little keyboard!
I’m hoping to have a string quartet, a percussion player (oh bliss if he could play the tablas!!!!), a pianist and a harpist.
And of course, an electronic wizard.

The Wiener Fluss looks great today! Normally it’s no more than a little brook, so shallow that even a dwarf poodle could walk accross it without any risk. No one ever pays attention to it. I must be the only one to have grown some kind of fondness to it.
I was in the metro when I had a glance at it. It was glimmering happily, now as big as a river! Certainly due to the melting snow.
Once outside, I took some time to walk along it, and took pleasure and joy hearing it run its course freely and merrily, almost proud!

Monday, 15 March 2004

Nina's Hidden Glass


I’m starting composition on a new piece for Simon, currently entitled Nina’s Hidden glass.
I still don’t know what direction it is taking. I have been playing around with samples from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major, and rhythm loops that I have developed from it. Then I added percussions - bongos and taiko drumsn marimba and layers of weird sounds from outer space.
That’s just the first draft. There’s a definite mesmerizing atmosphere to the music, in spite of the percussions which add a tribal ritual tone. 

Sunday, 7 March 2004

Tondbandtest


I have been told about das Mica, an agency that has been set to help musicians who need direction and counselling. They organize a contest called Tonbandtest: artists send their music; they listen to it then pick ten of them who will eventually have their CDs reviewed by journalists. There’s a sum of money given away to help printing cds, as well as an introduction to record labels.
So I have submitted the demos of Circlesong.

I have resumed my singing today.
I usually sing when I feel in a better disposition. It’s a sign of higher spirits, wahrscheinlich...