Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day22-interlude, Day23-Holy Grail and Bloodbath

16 years ago May, I met my future husband in NYC. He was leaving the USA for good finishing his studies, coming back to France for military service and then to look for a work. We had a dinner together on 103rd st & Broadway Indian restaurant with a mutual friend who didn't mean to 'match make' us at the time, since he was leaving the USA and I had just gotten a teaching position at NYU. Then a few months later I met him again in Paris during my 'visa/greencard' ordeal as a 'damsel in distress' stuck in Europe, whom he rescued by finding a very cheap and perfect flight out of Paris. (This episode produced a duo album with flutist Robert Dick who was living in Lucern at the time, where I stayed during my visa problems). He reminded me that it was at this second time we met in Paris at his parents' apartment, I instinctively realized he was my future husband, while watching him eat his mother's soup. Now look at us, I'm here living in Paris for the summer, and our two children are staying with his parents, eating their grandmother's soup. Life is strange, fast, and precious.

Speaking of precious life, we went for a little walk in the morning to get some medicine I needed, then he went to get somethings at the supermarket. I said, "See you back home" within a few minutes. After he left, I saw that our street was blocked off with police tape. I went around the block and tried to enter the street, and got stopped, "Madame!" by the police. I went to yet another side of the street and there were more police, who asked me where I lived; it is just next to the Memorial de la Shoah Museum. Apparently there was a suspicious motorbike parked in front of the Jewish museum and this was a bomb scare. Husband and I were reunited at the entrance of the street 10 minutes later, just below my window where we couldn't get in. There is a little 'professional' coffee shop right below my window, which we hadn't been, so we sat there and waited out the police blockage. What a great coffee place. Anyway this episode reminded me the threat of terrorism is well and alive, wherever you are. On 9/11, I was at Juilliard and husband was with our then 6-months old baby daughter one block away. In the summer 2003 during the NYC power outage I was in Lincoln Center Performance Library being 8 months pregnant and he had to walk back from Polytechnic Univ. in Brooklyn where he was teaching. I remember being very worried. Loved ones are like your limb that's attached to you remotely. You feel them remotely.

On Tuesday I was in a wait-and-see mode regarding IRCAM. I have planted the seeds all over the place, and they need time to grow a bit. I didn't go to IRCAM but worked on various other projects at home, and took care of a lot of back-logged correspondences. I really do need several of 'me' doing different tasks! I also received a very nice email from Jean-Claude Risset, who is coming to Paris for a recording session at GRM at the end of July; I look forward to seeing him again. He read this blog and found out about my obsession of Reblochon, and offered this information I didn't know: "Do you know the origin of the word "reblochon"? In Savoie, there was a tax to be paid by farmers proportional to the quantity of milk they got from their cows and sold. They had the idea not to milk the cows thoroughly - "to milk" was called "blocher". Later, when the tax controllers were gone, they would milk again - "reblocher" - and keep the milk in their own reserve to make cheese from it - "reblochon" - more creamy because the leftover milk was richer..." No wonder it is so good! The picture at the top is from a little café we went for lunch; I had a melted (and banned in the USA) Reblochon over grilled toast. There were some potato and red onion underneath.

Today, Wednesday, the seeds I have planted already bloomed. What a day. For me, IRCAM is a place where the Holy Grails are scattered around all over the place. But they maybe hidden under the ground, or in fact, it might just be inside someone's head. But I have to find it, and I did. Now I'm working between two different teams, one specialized in gesture research, one in the research of sound and almost Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) inspired human-machine communication. I used to dream such things for years, and all I have been doing until now, since I started with interactive computer music, is to simulate, or to 'fake' what I wanted to do. Now, this Holy Grail is right in front of me. I just hope that I could successfully get some and bring it back with me to New York; this is what I am here for.

Another thing about today: Paris has entered its three-week "SOLDES" season: everything is going 30-50% off and many stores have red flags like this. It is a bloodbath. It's a carnage. After the brain-storming meeting at IRCAM, I joined hundreds of French women in BHV looking through things. Curiously I saw very few males, unless they were holding bags of their companions standing around. And also curiously, it's in these kinds of madness I am reminded of my origin, feeling totally at home and comfortable. I'm a Japanese woman.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day21-22: 3rd week in Paris

Warning: this is the heaviest food posting. Husband is leaving back to NYC in one week, so I'm taking the maximum advantage of his company.

And everything is closed on Sunday. No shopping center is open in Paris. I guess the idea is still to go to church. They still take "Sunday" seriously here, people not working, not shopping, but just relaxing staying home or hanging out. In NYC generally, Sunday is when you shop since during the week people are too busy working. After so many years in the west I have a hard time as a Japanese/New Yorker to "do nothing". They said Nice, or southern France never really caught on as a destination for Japanese tourists, because there simply aren't many places to visit, but it's a place to "hang out and do nothing". But this Sunday, one of the last Sundays I will spend with my husband before he goes back to New York, we took it easy and "enjoyed" Paris.

We went out to an Italian restaurant around the corner for lunch; I had a Risotto as I don't feel like doing a serious cooking in my little kitchen. After my husband leaves back to NYC next week, I will eat drastically less in restaurants; I don't like eating in restaurants by myself so much. So I will enjoy his company while I can. This is "Café Degustation" desert, 5 Euro that comes with Tiramisu and Panacotta au Coulis de Fruits Rouges. (red berry sauce).

This morning I had some talks with Norbert and Frédéric while standing on the bridge in front of IRCAM, then in Norbert's office. They haven't complained that I have been bombarding them with ideas and materials. It is getting clear to me. IRCAM teams already have many of the "Holy Grails" I want to use, but only they are not ready to be drank from, at least by me or outside IRCAM :) We now have pretty clear idea and immediately very useful "Grails" for performance we are working on now. Our conversation spilled over a wonderful lunch by Rue du Renard near IRCAM; this is Salade de Gesiers. In the afternoon Bruno and I worked on our own projects for "Max for LIVE".

Husband had a meeting with his old school's professor and we went for a quick Tapas, then we went to Montreuil, outskirts of Paris, for a concert at Instants Chavirés for a Gerry Hemingway and Bob Ostartag duo. Gerry, who now teaches in Lucern, invited us; it has been so long since we played together at the Roulette together with Mark Dresser, and it was great to see him. Towards the end of the set I enjoyed the "testosterone overload" of his drums.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day20: work, break, ideas and sorbet

This is already my 3rd weekend in Paris. I spent the day tweaking the one remaining track, a piece for violin and interactive piano, on my upcoming album which I tried to finish mastering back in NYC two days before I left. There was something wrong with the synthesized parts so I had to redo it, and of course there was my computer problem, so I didn't get to it until now. It's finished but took me staying indoors for the most of the day. The problem about Paris for me, is that it is too beautiful. How can one stay inside and not enjoy the city. It is easier in NYC I feel, and not to say city isn't beautiful but it is more functional in a way. I love NYC, as I can just remain anonymous as I please and do what I do, without feeling guilty not visiting. Here I feel guilty not visiting Paris, almost feeling I'm being insulting for not paying homage to the beautiful city. And yes, I'm a visitor--probably different if you live here permanently.

I did take a break, meeting with a friend Atau Tanaka and his son at the playground next to Cités des Arts. Our kids are from 'their country', the mix of Japanese-French and they look alike! We spent time taking pictures of each other. We will try to get our kids together later in the summer. I think my kids' French, which is already soaring astronomically thanks to the grandparents, will be even better by then.

Husband came back from Picardie, so in the evening we met Ken Perlin again with my host Norbert from IRCAM for dinner at another vegetarian restaurant called Le Grenier de Notre-Dame, a delightful little place just across from Notre-Dame. Again I was hungry so forgot to take the picture. I think my project with Norbert is taking the most difficult but exciting path, one of what I call the "Holy Grail" (in fact, it's my husband who named it). This morning I just pulled out another 'Grail', feeling encouraged by what Ken said yesterday, "You should just go for it and make fun things with what you have". A simple, but very positive and dynamic advice. I didn't do so before assuming it won't possibly be done. This one of my "ultimate" Holy Grail caught the attention of Norbert and to my surprise I think he is going to go for it. More on this later.

We took a late-night stroll by Notre-Dame, then the guys said, "Oh so you haven't? then you must!" so we went to get the 'obligatoire' Glace Berthillon, famous ice cream and sorbet place. I guess the excuse or the reason I didn't have it for 3 weeks into being in Paris, is that the first 2 1/2 weeks have been quite cold, so much so that I had to buy a coat. This sorbet place has a huge line in front of it, and we were there at 11:30PM. I had kept quite a strict regimen of eating less since April 2009, losing about 28lbs total in one year and half. I married a Frenchman, lived almost 2 years in Côte d'Azur, then had two babies. I would think blowing up quite a bit was almost a natural course :) I finally took action to get back into my own self last year to feel better about myself, and now I do fit into my old clothes pre-marriage. The golden rule was to eat very little in the evening. I'm quite afraid I'm going to gain all back in short 3 months, especially eating something like this late at night! Will watch from now on.... I hope.... :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day19: friend, inspiration, and modern art

I think I had a bit too much intake of sensory information yesterday; I got quite tired to do a blog, so went to bed early while watching a movie. Husband went to Picardie to play Flamenco guitar in son's French 1st grader's class. He is on 'leave' from work until July 6th back in NYC, so making the most of his time spending with kids. Then it will be just me and the grandparents!

A friend of mine, Ken Perlin, a renowned computer graphics and animation prof. at NYU has been in Paris for a conference so he came over to speak with us at IRCAM. Frédéric and Bruno gave him some demos and we had a very informative and inspired conversation. Visual and auditory gesture of course have a lot in common. Then we went to a vegan restaurant called Le Potager du Marais with him. I always thought Paris must be difficult to live for a vegetarian but we are surprised how many vegetarian restaurants are now in Paris. This was a good one! I had a Tarte Tatin with Almond cream, non-diary and gluten free. How about that, in Paris.

Then Ken proposed to go to Pompidou Centre which I hadn't been (!) since I got here, where I could get in for free with a guest as I discovered. There was a exhibition called Deamland "City of the future". The art in there felt a bit naïve, or almost artificially 'forced' and not born. I don't know how else to describe it.

Then there was another exhibition called elles@centrepompidou, which said "For the first time in the world, a museum will be displaying the feminine side of its own collections. This new presentation of the Centre Pompidou's collections will be entirely given over to the women artists from the 20th century to the present day." Okay. Does that mean if you are a woman you really don't deserve to be featured alongside male artists? :) Not meant to be cynical, but then female artists should be enormously grateful for this show of attention to our gender. The collection, quite sexually explicit on purpose at times without the element of wonder of beauty, or so I found, was also feeling 'forced'. As a 'female' artist in computer music and composition, I do get asked the question of how it is to be a woman in the field. My answer, or the answer that comes to mind before I answer, is always, "Oh well, I didn't think about that until you asked". It is probably a bit naïve but I would rather not make a career out of being a woman artist myself. But then, that's just me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day17-18: more work, food, long heads and music

So there is no excuse of being with kids; I am lagging behind of the blog again :) Yesterday more recording of gesture/sound/video data, more conversation with the team at IRCAM. Got the violin from Nicolas, my 'violin' team member of IRCAM who is lending it to me to install K-Bow system. I brought it back to clean since we are calling it a "tortured violin"; it looks like it has seen a lot and being through a lot. Poor thing.

This morning more recording, more data transfer--BTW I'm doing my recordings in my studios then use yousendit.com to transfer the data to IRCAM 5 minutes walk away. It takes 15 minutes to upload! Now the Agora festival is over I might be getting a studio where I can play in IRCAM so that I can do file transfer within the building fast, or run up the stairs to give them the memory stick in person :) Since the team needs a little time to analyze the data I have been bombarding with, I went to a nice lunch with husband, to Mon Viel Ami, par recommendation of a friend, composer Eric Chasalow of Brandies Univ.

We caught the ending of their "today's lunch", poulet confite au sumac et à la menthe (chicken confit with "sumac" and mint) for two, Rhubarbe pochée, crumble et sorbet menthe (pouched Rhubarb with biscuit crumble and mint sorbet) for husband and Vacherin glacé vanille-fraise (meringue cookie with vanilla and strawberry ice cream) for me. 21 Euro each and was totally worth it. Besides I don't get to go to French restaurants in New York, since husband insists that we should rather buy a plane ticket to Paris than pay NYC French restaurant prices. So there.

Then I decided to do a tourist thing and accompanied husband who wanted to go to Musée National du Moyen Age, or "Musée Cluny Paris" which I can get in for free with the Cités des Arts card. What a place. I did get a little tired for this enormous place filled with Virgin Mary and all over and over again, but always am in awe of our human history. This is a collection of sculpture they had called "La Galerie des Rois" (kings heads) which used to be in front of Notre Dame but was only found in 1977. They are vandalized by the revolution missing noses etc, but the guide note explained that they were sculpted with exaggerated length of the heads, which they took in account that they are to be seen from below. I took a picture looking up, and on the same level. Indeed, from the first shot the artists' intentions are clear to establish a visual illusion.

Husband was astonished that this is the most impressive thing I thought about this museum, not the world famous "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestry that it is known for. Well maybe I was too tired of walking and the religious themes by the time I got to the Unicorn.

After we recovered with a Panache for me and espresso for him, we went to a children's concert at beautiful high school, Lycée Henri IV organized by IRCAM's Fabrice Guédy who also is a very important person and an asset for me in thinking about gesture, since he specializes in conducting gesture, which is quite close to string gesture in my opinion, at IRCAM. Husband who went to Lycée Louis Le Grand , kept saying, "wow I wished I'd come here, it's beautiful!". BTW he gave me what he went through in this very rigorous French public highschool. This page is in French but at the bottom there is a list of weekly studies. 12 hours of math a week!

The French children's concert program was very French understandably, with tons of Debussy and Ravel, and Rameau. I have to say that French kids get to perform in churches made of stones like these, getting used to the rich acoustics and the hearing of music in a particular way. These pieces were made to be played in places like this, by the people who grew up in these buildings. Now I understand it. On the other hand, these pieces are missing quite a bit of rhythmic elements, but in turn filled with beautiful harmony enhanced by the acoustics. I wondered if they could also learn salsa or rumba, maybe outside with no reverb :) The picture is a beautiful example of kids hanging colored papers reflecting the timber, while Fabrice performed a Olivier Messiaen piece.

Fabrice also used the motion sensor to accompany a student's piano with a virtual orchestra, and my IRCAM team, Norbert, Nicolas and Frédéric assisted on an interesting experiment performing Bach with motion sensor-embedded ball, thrown by the kids. They have to throw the ball in tempo in order to play the music accurately. It has a nice potential to be a teaching tool I thought.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day16: more nitty gritties

It's really time for 'down and dirty'. This morning I had one of the most extensive look at violin pitch in the most precise manner with Norbert at IRCAM. I have been using pitch tracking ever since I started to compose for interactive computer in 1992, but now it seems I maybe looking at the new era. My residency is really for this, to finally improve on my years of DIY "Do It Yourself" or in my case, "DIMB" (Do It Myself Badly!). The downside, or the inevitable consequence I was expecting, is that I maybe looking at getting into the anechoic chamber pretty soon, taking samples. I have done this taking samples in anechoic chambers quite a few times now, because of the Subharmonic research with several scientists. I'm 'used to it' although it isn't that pleasant. I made a joke today that I do require a bottle of Cognac, Calvados, etc to make myself happy in there! (I was just reading the above link on Anechoic Chamber and it looks grim: "radiation hazard, Fire hazard, Trapped personnel" What the...!? :)

Since my focus at the residency is quite multi-directional, and since there are about 5-6 researchers I'm working with and they travel one by one occasionally, I think I found a way to maximize my work. As usual I got several projects going on all at once and advance one of them when the other ones are paused. This way things will always advance. However I have to be in charge of keeping track of all of them so nothing will fall behind. Who knew that my concert preparation technique "no stones unturned" practicing method applies to this kind of research work :) I still do--when I have a recital or a huge concert I make a graphic list of how much I practiced and how for each of them, so I will be free of worries that I'm less prepared for somethings. If I have to worry, my head spends the energy for worrying and I cannot concentrate well. I have limited "RAM" (Random Access Memory)!

There are of course, other projects that with or without IRCAM I wanted to do this summer; one of which is to try out K-Bow, which I have on loan. I got IRCAM to lend me a violin to put it on and I'm powering it up today. It would be really interesting to see how it works, and to compare with the IRCAM system.

I know, the coffee cup is too close to that precious circuitry. I just did that on purpose to give the size-perspective for the photo :) Coffee cup was empty and way far away afterwords. A violinist and dear friend Jon Rose, who is the spokes-person of K-Bow, gave me valuable advice on this, and no doubt I will be relying on those words, pretty soon. Like tomorrow.

Day15: half a month in Paris

And I still fit in my clothes, despite eating things like this. Yesterday was the Fête de la Musique, which now seems to have immigrated to NYC--I would have liked to see that. Here in Paris the atmosphere is very 'soft' and 'tender'. I don't know how else to describe it. A lot of street corner is occupied by a musician or another, and the entire city (well at least where I am) seemed to be one giant festival, but not loud and vulgar one.

After I spent the morning/lunch/early afternoon discussing our issues with the team at IRCAM, I walked around and saw that the next door to where I live, Memorial de la Shoah, Jewish memorial museum is organizing a concert in the courtyard. I went to Notre Dame Cathedral since it said they are having an annual concert for the Fête de la Musique. I thought I wanted to hear some major low frequency without sound system (Pipe Organ) so I went.
BTW do they teach pipe-organ students to listen to themselves in a cathedral? That must be hard to do. But the amount of reverberation was not taken into consideration by the way she was playing; I would have liked to hear it with a bit more spaces in between phrases. It got kind of tiring trying to listen 'decoding' the phrases away from reverb, so after listening to two pieces, I left.

It was a concert by Conservatoire students, who were introduced by a priest who spoke like Jacques Chirac, former President of the Republic. As I was learning French back then, I loved listening to his speeches since I understood absolutely every single word he said :) He spoke to the most uneducated, most challenged in terms of language. Anyway this priest at Notre Dame said that we are going to listen to very talented musicians of the future etc. This country embraces artists, that is for sure, and the social status of students, for those who get into the "Crème de la Crème" schools such as Conservatoire Nationale Supèrieure de Musique, are revered, cradled by the society. Or at least it seems like it to me. In the USA Juilliard/Curtis students may get a temporary social acceptance while they are there: "Oh what do you do?" "I go to Juilliard", "Ahh, wonderful!" in a very 'social status' way -- who knows what happen to them after they graduate from a socially very acceptable conservatories, and their destiny is solely in the hands of musicians themselves.

I for one never felt the warmth anywhere being a music student in my youth. I still remember like yesterday; one day I was walking in a busy morning in Shinjuku, Tokyo, carrying my violin with a classmate from Toho school, Japan's premier Conservatory of Music, with Ryusuke Numajiri who is now a premier conductor of the country. We used to play piano/violin duo together at Toho School. Walking among the morning rush-hour crowd, there were two men in suits right behind us. We overheard one saying to another looking at my violin, "Hey, what's that?" "I think that's a violin". Then the first guy said, "What is she going to do with her life playing the violin?" Ryusuke and I looked at each other, speechless. That is the kind of the society I grew up in, and I feel so good for the music students here in Paris; at least, or I do hope, no one will say that to their faces in Paris! And I do believe French conservatoire graduates have a nice and comfortable future. Of course, the flip side of comfort maybe that they will stay the way they are. Unlike myself who felt the need to find my own way to create my own space. This really isn't for everyone. And if I were a French violin student and attended Conservatoire, I am not sure if I became what I am now.

I thought the Fête de la Musique was yesterday, but this morning at 7AM it was still going on! Here is a guy on Pont-Saint-Louis yesterday. Not sure he is there everyday, or just for the Fête de la Musique. He must be what Republicans in the USA called "Socialist"? :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day13-14: 1st weekend with kids

And that is why I missed a day of blog posting. And you might understand why there is little entry before June, hardly every 3 months or less! When you have young kids, something like 'blogging' goes way down on to-do list :)

On Saturday I recorded some simple sound samples for one of the researchers at IRCAM to take a look; I am interested in improving sound quality of some stuff I'm already using, and since they told me that they haven't really looked at how violin works with this particular function I wanted them work on it while I'm here :) Then I headed to IRCAM for a talk the Realtime Interaction Team, the people I'm working with, was giving for the public, on the last day of Agora Festival's La Nuit Du Prototype. They demonstrated gesture follower and interaction, but the session was cut short because there were too many people who couldn't get in, and the administration decided to divide the session in two so the first audience had to be ushered out. It was fine for me, as I knew most of what they were going to show. Here is Norbert Schnell, one of my main collaborators at IRCAM showing his graphic interface and controller demo.

I also heard a bit of outdoor performance by a French Percussion ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg performing Iannis Xenakis's Pléiades in front of IRCAM in the square. A very fun spectacle, old and young sitting on the ground listening to Xenakis on this cool Paris day in June. The performance was electrifying; at times I thought that the bizarre acoustics of this plaza, two concrete/stone walls in 90 degree angle, was throwing them off a bit for this very tightly synced rhythmic work.

The kids were coming from Picardie arriving in Paris so before the talk, I went to Les Halles, a shopping center near IRCAM, to buy some long sleeve tops/sweaters for them. Paris has been low 9-10C (50F) and windy/rainy. Husband went to Au Vieux Campeur, a camping gear store he knew since his childhood, to buy sleeping bags since the kids are going to French summer camps "Colonie Vacances" in July. I was expecting our reunion, first time since our arrival in Paris on June 7th, to be somewhat operatic accompanied by tears, but it was very sweet and light; they were just very happy to see me. Then we went to a park behind Notre Dame to play a bit, headed to brother-in-law's house where kids were united with their cousins.

At my brother-in-laws, I had my own operatic reunion. Not with my kids, but with Reblochon de Savoie au lait cru!!! (Note: the link is in French, but you can enjoy the video and get the idea). I have missed it ever since it was banned in the USA; Zabars stopped carrying it, and now sells something that labeled "Missing Reblochon? Here is your alternative!" I forgot what it is called.

The weekend continued today with the family, chez another brother-in-law minus the brother himself, but the kids were able to play with the cousins.
I am absolutely flabbergasted with both my kids' French. My daughter is also learning cursive in French, and I overheard my son is talking to himself: "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce TRUC là..." (what is this thing...). I am also flabbergasted with all this thing we ate. Understandably husband and I only had one slice of bread tonight, with salted butter though... Merguez with Kir (with Mûr Sauvage, blackberry syrup instead of Cassis), barbecue marinated with Sauce Béarnaise, homemade Far Breton by my sister-in-law, and it went on and on... a typical French Sunday family festivities celebrating a family reunion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day12; Paris, people, music...

I'm continuing to orient myself in terms of our working strategy and planning, and it is, as I expected, coming together and building as we go. And things do happen when I show up at IRCAM in person and sit next to them. It is as if when I see their faces and talk to them, ideas and thoughts come flooding out of my head. And their reactions, questions and responses inspire me to come up with more ideas. It is this human interaction that is so important, and this summer residency at IRCAM is so priceless for our work.

After two productive meetings today at IRCAM, I hit BHV---look, it is my commuting trajectory. I literally walk through BHV from Cités des Arts and IRCAM. Today I went to their famous crafts section to buy some things for my children, who are coming tomorrow to Paris to visit; we are spending the weekend together. I am nervous. Will they fall apart, screaming for mommy? Will they look at me and start blaming me for abandoning them since June 5th? I am putting them through a lot, together with my parents-in-law in Picardie where they live now. I like to believe that it is for the good of my children, learning French and get to know their grandparents who normally live an ocean away. They see the cows everyday, run around in the safe field, etc. all things hard to do in NYC's upper westside. They are studying math in French, reading in French thanks to the grandparents. But it is a long time. It's the entire summer. It will mark their lives and the only hope I have is this experience to be the good one for everyone. I might be projecting my own experience, as the similar thing was done to me. When my father, a solar energy specialist, worked at the National Research Council in Ottawa, I was put into a Canadian school at age 4 and a half for two years. Because of this experience, my life was profoundly affected; my life became more international than most Japanese.

The crafts section of BHV is where you can find just about anything to do with art supplies, and I joined many French mothers, who are also buying art supplies for their children. Then, just like them, I went up to the BHV's cafeteria overlooking the fabulous Paris landscape for lunch. Not many tourists are there, but mostly local Parisians who come here for lunch, without much fuss. The food is great--and I have to remind myself, it is a given in France :) This is a salad with cheese that I really should not have eaten, since that Brie-looking cheese was nothing but a glorified butter. French butter. I can hear the cows, and I can hear my extended Yoga session calling tonight.

I came back and practiced my scales for quite a while (which my husband calls "Mari's torture exercises". It is not pleasant to listen to for sure!). Then remembering what the face of the cheese in BHV cafeteria looked like, I was determined not to have a huge dinner. Then I received an email from my dear new Parisian friend, a Norwegian composer I met in a concert of percussionist friend Lê Quan Ninh, named Ida Heidel. She came to my talk at IRCAM a few days ago and she kindly thought of inviting me to her goodbye party, as she was leaving a residency staying at a beautiful apartment the Norwegian Composer's Association owns near St. George in the delightful 9e. Former flutist, she had invited perhaps half of Paris' flute community, and I had an honor of meeting and having dinner with Pierre-Yves Artaud, Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatoire. It was my first Paris 'soirée' in French, well almost, as they were so kind to switch to English whenever I had problem finding my vocabulary. The dinner table was however, not only French--there were Chilean, Bulgarian, another Japanese composer, and Norwegian Ida. Typical musician's get-together, very New York, very Paris. Again I have to say, because of music, musicians I know and met here, Paris makes me feel very at home, almost as if I'm still in New York, except for the language, different subway smell, and different quality of butter. And certainly a lot more in-your-face chocolate. Whoever invented the combination of dark chocolate and orange? When did it start? Is there a research on the history of chocolate and orange?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day11: Pistache and Berio

The recording I made yesterday should be OK, the data is all there; we will see what my bright team will find out---I made a very simple phrase with simple contrasting expressions using same notes, just to start simply :)

As I was told on the first informal meeting, I complied my first 'wish list', things I was always dreaming about. I immediately did answer a 'big one' off the top of my head on the spot, an equivalent of a "Holy Grail", then I saw from their facial expression and reaction, that it is a big subject (and a great one!) which might derail the purpose of my visit this summer---our work on gesture and expression. But if we don't think about these "big questions" nothing will go forward. So, today my wish list to the team contained some of these 'big' dreams, as well as what I called "Cracked Holy Grails", things that are already done, but not good enough in my opinion, for example some pitch tracking, or sound quality issues etc. These "Cracked Holy Grails" are just as important, if not more, than the 'big' Holy Grail dreams for me as a performer/composer using the interactive technology. Anyway, I'm very excited, and so grateful to be given this opportunity.

In the afternoon, I dropped by at IRCAM's Médiathèque, the library inside IRCAM, to check some Luciano Berio score and CD out. I listened while watching with TF1 France vs. Mexico in the background (with no sound, no B-flat). Sorry Mr. B... but I'm really liking some of the duos which I never played before. Their online catalog is a bit of a pain (I have to write exact words or else it's hard to find it---for example a word "Duetti" instead of duo) Then it turned out my team has already used some of the very same Berio duos for experimenting with the system! It's pretty clear we are on the same wavelength and we think of the same thing. I think I will continue on their path regarding this particular 'score following' experiments using this Berio.

I passed through BHV to get some stuff; this Saturday I'm seeing my children for the first time since June 5th! We are currently debating who sleeps where--we are getting together at my brother-in-laws's house, but I will probably have to take one child with me, likely my younger one. This could be very good or very traumatic. He will want to stay with me for the whole time, and his integration and assimilation to French will be interrupted. But we miss each other, so this has to be what a friend said about separating with kids: "Short and Sweet". Dragging out a 'Wagnerian' never-ending tragedy is never good...

The picture above is an Eclair Pistache, and a Tarte aux fruits rouges. I meant to share with my husband but he flew to Nice today to visit his former colleagues at INRIA Sophia Antipolis. I ate half of the Pistache one, which was so good, and thought he has to taste it. Then a friend skyped from LA and reminded me that my husband is French, he speaks French and he can very likely make his way to get his own Eclair Pistache. So I ate the rest of the half just now. Our fantastic 'Boulangerie' is not even a block away. I need to hit some Yoga tonight...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day10: No excuse and Sweet family

So we start; one week ago Monday I arrived, and now that my talk is out of the way, Frédéric Bevilacqua's team, Realtime Musical Interaction Team and I have started our experiments on music and gesture. Here is Frédéric setting my newly repaired computer up with video/sound/data recording, in what they call "aquarium" at IRCAM, Salle Luigi Nono. It's just below the entrance level and facing an underground courtyard, maybe that's why it feels like an aquarium.

Then I came back to my studio and ran it; I created two contrasting musical scenarios, which I recorded several times with three synchronized way: gesture data, video and sound. My hard drive was very full, so I spent some boring time today cleaning up my hard drive and finally using "Time Machine" to backup my data. Here I am in my studio, the screen-capture of today's recording. At this moment I'm sorting the data out for us to look at them tomorrow. BTW the T-shirt I'm wearing is about 20 yrs old. I got it at Juilliard Bookstore when I first arrived in NYC, and I remember they had it for other instruments as well. It reads "String of Excuses", for string students. My kids love reading it.

"String of Excuses: I haven't had time to practice - It sounded better at home - I have a different edition - The editing is awful - I practiced it faster - I brought the wrong glasses - These aren't my fingerings - The page turn messed me up - My nails are too long - It's the dryness - It's the humidity - My bow needs new hair - I didn't know we were repeating - I have new strings - My 'A' string is false - I don't like this piece anyway"

Before I came home, we had lunch together with my husbands' brother Frédéric who lives in Paris and sister Anne who was on the way to her medical conference in Rome. Plus a sonogram of "le 8me", or "the 8th grandchild" of their parents, Frédéric and his wife are expecting. This is the same crêpe place in front of IRCAM where I have eaten already for 3 times! But my family-in-law is part Bretons so it's suitable. Paris was rather chilly today, low at 10C (or 50F) so there was a outdoor heater just above us. Husband said that is "not real Breton" but it was comfortable for me.

So what about this French melon, sweet, sweetest and the most orang-est of melons. Husband bought it at a local store and it is so juicy, I had it for dinner with a thin slice of Viande des Grisons (this is in French), Swiss smoked/dried beef, which he also got at the same store.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day9: B-flat!

My talk at IRCAM went well, I did say that I am not crazy about using an ear piece or headset during electronic music performance, but didn't forget to say "BUT THAT IS JUST ME" :) I have been seeing more people putting click-track headphone/ear pieces on performers, and had to speak out. For me, as a string player, it is quite disturbing to have binaural hearing semi compromised. And I don't like the fact that players have to meddle with microphone AND headset on stage. But THAT's JUST ME :) In my demo today, I ran a piece with automated score, while I 'play along' with the changing effects. If you have to somehow synchronize with electronics, how many senses does one have to dedicate? I think one (seeing the screen) is enough, no click track necessary.

After the 5-page fax to FedEx, my computer arrived at IRCAM, just as my talk finished using husband's computer. I'm typing today's post from my own computer, and also our first test is the "TF1 Direct", soccer match between South Africa and North Koreans. They are talking about Vuvuzela, that stadium horn that reaches 130dB!! And indeed it drowns out everything, and it is in B-Flat! A soccer match in B-Flat :)

The Sake I served (two bottles) after my talk went quite fast (about 15-16% alcohol). Here is me during and after the talk at IRCAM, with my heroic husband who fought courageously with French bureaucracy to get my computer back without paying taxes. He so deserved this bottle :) Then we went out for yet another Crêpe with 'my' team, so we decided to go easy on dinner at home with salad and these cherries. Well the crunchy-outside-fluffy-inside baguette couldn't have been ignored....

(IRCAM pictures taken by wonderful administrator Florence Quilliard, who has been taking wonderful care of me making me feel at home here)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day8: one week in Paris

So it has been only one week since we arrived and it feels like a month!
My computer is held at Paris customs (Douane) sent from Tekserve in New York via FedEx. They warned me we will have to fight to get the computer without paying the sales tax, since it is an old computer. I have all the documents to prove so, husband wrote a hand-written letter as requested, and with all the forms one can possibly think of, I faxed it from IRCAM this morning. We will see what happens.

Then I spent all afternoon getting ready for the presentation tomorrow. Things are working except I'm using husband's computer which is bigger (17") but slower. I have some audio interruption problem, but will have to live with it for tomorrow. I am starting to like the Keynote (slide) presentation, as it keeps me on track and will go through things that have to be said. My last slide will show a picture of the Sake (Dai-Ginjo) bottle I got in the "Japan town" in Paris, which I am serving tomorrow for those who will make and stay through my talk :)

I am also preparing for our first recording/experiment on Wednesday with Frédéric Bevilacqua, using the gesture follower in a musical context. We will start simply but try to get some concrete results; I am in the hands of one of the most brightest group of people, being so well situated; I feel so responsible and obligated to get things done as much as I can, while I can. Especially when my parents-in-law in Picardie are taking the heaviest load of the summer, the KIDS...

Husband came back to Paris so we went out for dinner. I spent all day working so it was a nice occasion. We decided to eat out as I hadn't done so since he left. We wondered into Jewish town; a lot of Kosher bakeries here--then went into Marais and found a restaurant. Husband did his usual menu evaluation, approved, so we sat down. When we were first married and lived near Antibe/Cannes (he worked at Sophia Antipolis, the 'silicon valley' of France) he used to drive me crazy looking for a place to eat. While I was starving and ready to dive into MacDonald's, he would read each and every menus of rows and rows of restaurants and do a detailed and comparative study: "This is for tourist, this one is too chic, this is too pretentious" etc. But I always trust the outcome, so no matter how hungry I am, I wait. Today he relatively quickly said 'yes' to this one, and he was right. It was perhaps the heaviest meal I had so far since arriving to Paris, but I took Piccata de veau with mushrooms; heavenly, heavenly "pleurotes" oyster mushrooms (and no doubt the second 'heaven' came from the obscene amount of 'beurre'). Then just to go all the way, just because I have a talk tomorrow, I had my first Crème Brulée this year, which was of course the best I've had in a long time. The cream part wasn't like a hard custard which they usually are, but was creamy... how do they do that? They recommended Cahors, which was just right. Then husband did what any tipsy French mathematicians would do at this point--show his wife "Caustics" (Caustique).