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!