Monday, July 5, 2010
Day24-30: Family, back to Paris
Ah oh, my old habit of taking hiatus from blogging creep in, missing almost a week! The excuse being that I spent a weekend in Picardie with my children and husband since he just left back to New York. We won't see each other until the end of August, unless he changes his mind and be able to make a short round-trip. That would be nice, but it's too much of an effort and too far a distance to just come for 2-3 days... He is starting a new work tomorrow (!); a new and exciting era for him. The photo is a rare and impressive sight of the kids obeying my "Kyo-iku Mama" (Japanese "education mom") orders reviewing their Japanese characters. Just so they don't forget; their young brains are way superior than mine. They can handle this.
My work at IRCAM is exciting this week; I have a studio scheduled for some experiments and will see how it works. Either way it will be very instructional for me. Two of my team members are out of town this week. In France there are two kinds of people, Juilletistes and Aoutistes, people who take vacations in July, or August. The famous French "vacances" started. I have several projects that I'm working on, which will involve my work at IRCAM so I'm doing them in parallel. This week I'm trying one of IRCAM's programs by another team (Musical Representation Team) that would 'clone' my musical behavior in real-time. It is a very sophisticated, almost A.I. (artificial intelligence) kind of program, and I am very excited to try.
On Saturday, husband and I spent the last night on our own at La Chaise au Profond. My husband, as any Frenchman I guess, has a technique of choosing restaurants which I'm trying to learn from him. Among 10s of restaurants, he walks around and reads the menu. This one said the Soup of the day was "Red pepper with Coconut milk". He said that made him think the cook is thinking. Turned out it certainly counts as one of the best dinner we had here in Paris this time. Of course I had my long overdue Confit du Canard, first one since I got here. And the obligatory Ile Fllottant (meringue floating in custard) which also was the first one since I got to Paris. Husband said "What happened, Mari you aren't talking". I forgot to talk and ate. This happens rarely, and one I remember was in Hong Kong performing at ISCM World Music Days in 2002, with Tania Leon. We ate Shanghai Crab and both Tania and I were silent!
Sunday, we met our our friend who came in town Andrew Moravcik, an opera critic (well, his 'day job' is a prof. in Political Science at Princeton). We went to an Opera "Sémélé" by Haendel at Teatre Champs Elysées. Great, very quirky and contemporary production which suited this otherwise rather monotonous and long music. Andy has two careers: this is a kind of life that is possible in the USA, that is (at least when I grew up) hard to do in Japan. The USA allows you to be whatever you want to be, and have as many careers as you want at the highest level, no matter how different those careers maybe. I think things are changing in Japan as well, I hope. Andy knows the cast, production, and always has very instructional comments about the particular opera and what to listen to. When Andy says "let's go to this opera" I don't even think and say yes.
Anyway, I was struck by how singers were allowed so much stylistic liberty, especially regarding the use of vibrato which is practically forbidden for the Baroque string playing with some exceptions. Singers were singing in romantic, or sometimes even popular music-inspired singing style with ample vibrato. I thought the contrast in style between the singers and the rather stoic orchestra was odd: luscious voices and cold 'sword'-like, vibrato-less sounds.
Today, Tuesday I am solving a specific problem with my formidable collaborator Nicolas Rasamimanana at IRCAM, and I am hoping to get something very concrete by the end of the week. We are trying to make the computer know when the piece is over (!). It is strange, but any interactive performance system or improvisation program have one thing in common; it is hard for a computer to detect when things are 'over'. You have to manually turn it off unless it is a pre-recorded material or sequence with fixed timing. I think we are solving this simple but tricky problem, which is very exciting for me. The picture means "End", computer can tell when I'm done. It looks sort of like a heart monitor, "dead"!
Today I spent a fun lunch with a friend Martha, who took me to a little Quiche/omlette place on Rue des Rosier (will get the name of the restaurant later). I had the most delicious omlette with blue artichoke. I didn't eat this but this is their famous lemon pie. Next time. Must take husband.
On the way to IRCAM I saw some kind of protest on the street, and I thought it was funny people were accompanying the speeches with Vuvuzela! Somehow I think they didn't used to do that before the World Cup this year. Then on the way back from IRCAM, all of the sudden military fighter planes started to pass over Paris every 10 seconds in formation; is this a rehearsal for the Bastille Day? (7/14)