Monday, September 27, 2010

The World Below G and Beyond, NEW CD release

On Sunday, October 10th at 7PM, I'm giving a CD release concert at Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC.   My new album is entitled "The World Below G and Beyond" released by the Mutable Music label.  At the concert, I will perform pieces on the album, as well as works using the Augmented Violin system, a bowing motion sensor and analysis program developed by the Real Time Musical Interactions team at IRCAM. I use the Augmented Violin to "clone" my playing, to "changing the past" (or what I call creating the "elastic past"), and to use it as a "sustain pedal" WITHOUT using a foot pedal :)  These new works were created during my stay in Paris this summer.  For further information on the concert program and the CD, please visit:

"The World Below G and Beyond" (Mutable Music) CD release concert
Presented by Electronic Music Foundation and Mari Kimura
Sunday, October 10th at 7PM at Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC
43A West 13th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues

$15 General Admission
$25 for tickets+signed CD
Tickets can be purchased at the door, or Online at:

“Mari Kimura has performed astounding explorations of new sonic territories on the violin, extending its range to The Word Below G and Beyond: this indispensable historic recording retraces her instrumental and compositional inventions.” 
Jean-Claude Risset

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Technology and Performance

Well, this is just about one of my main subjects in life ;)

When there is a division of labor, i.e. performers are "interpreters" and just perform, programmers program, how does one know what could work, or crash your performance?   Since I got into the "car" metaphor at IRCAM :)  if I am a race car driver I would like to know what kind of turns I can make with my car and how fast, and the tricks I can play.  I would like to know what might crash my car if I do certain tricks.

So, although I might not be able to tighten the volts on the car by myself, I would like to know how many times it has to be tightened and how often.  After all you are on the driver seat = you are on stage and you are the one to face the audience.   This isn't about being afraid if things might crash, but is a responsibility to yourself and for your audience.

Of course this is easily said and done... I wish myself good luck next time! :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Having something to say

When you listen to either a new composition, interpretation of a new composition, traditional classical repertoire, improvisation or anything really, as an audience I listen to what is "being said".   I don't listen to particular patterns, follow pitches analytically or too carefully, but the overall impression of "something being said".

I have seen and heard performers or students with perfect technique, impeccable technical skills but who are utterly boring to listen to.   What is there to teach them?   They are clearly talented, there is nothing else to be learned technically; they have mastered it all.  They might have won competitions and even have a concert career.  But they are boring to listen to.   What does "boring" mean?  To me, it is a performance that has "nothing to say".

Some teachers express their discontentment with comments like "Have more life experience, see the world, fall in love and live your life, then you have something to say!", which, in my opinion, is utterly useless.  Even with all the experiences above, boring musicians are still boring.  I think it is really a technical skill to be more expressive and communicative.  It's a skill that one could acquire to be a more effective performer, and musician.

How could one teach someone to have "something to say"?   I am thinking Stanislawski, or the "method".  Having an emotional context and logic that the listeners could follow.  You need the technique to build that architecture of performance, build the structure, finish it, decorate it and put plants and arts inside.  For some, especially child prodigies, this skill seems to come naturally without thinking. Their world seems in tact perfectly as it is, and there is nothing to be corrected.  That is, until they grow up and start thinking.  Then everything has to be restructured.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A new season, regrouping

Now that we have entered a new school year, and back in NYC, things are grinding along; YES! My new album is FINISHED, and now printing. It is entitled "The World Below G and Beyond: works for Violin Subharmonics and Interactive Computer", coming out next month from Mutable Music label. I am organizing a CD-release concert in NYC on Sunday, October 10th at 7PM. More details later....

On the family front, I have found a wonderful new assistant for my kids, a Francophone Swiss student from Columbia University. I said "assistant" and not babysitter, since I also benefit from practicing my French speaking with her! My husband and I are getting English out of the house, and I'm slowing moving towards Japanese via French :) This way, the kids will speak English to the rest of the world around them but keep the languages of their parents... or at least that's the plan. This means I am speaking French with my kids with my not-so-great grammar....and I feel I'm back in school! It's not easy! :)

There are several other projects I'm preparing at the moment. My life is moving in parallel, and I'm a list maker... my "RAM" is full, so I have to write down everything I have to do. Yet I still forget things. I did miss my medical appointment the day after we came back from France... totally forgot and must reschedule.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back in NYC, Paris peeves :)

Now everything is quickly coming back to where it was. I'm back home in NYC, and within short 3 days my children and I got haircuts (husband? hmmm...), attended a Gala Fashion show (me?!) organized by the Vilcek Foundation with whom I will be collaborating on a project this year, went to Juilliard convocation and shook hands, both kids went back to school (and here is my poor little boy crying separating from me, and who came back home so happy declaring "What an AWESOME day!!") and I made lunch boxes at 7AM. I switched my Parisian "carnet" (subway ticket) to Metrocard, and I think now my re-assimilation as a New Yorker is complete :)

I am at the final editing phrase of my upcoming solo CD "The World Below G and Beyond" (Mutable Music label) booklet before it goes to print, reading and re-reading the program notes, finding little things here and there every time. There should be an end to this! :) This is the culmination of all my works using Subharmonics, as well as some interactive computer works. I'm very nervous about casting any of my work in stone!

Now that my life in Paris is over, and those of you who have been reading my posts know how much I loved my time there. What I haven't done however, is to list the 'peeves', the reason why Paris will probably remain a place where I would LOVE to VISIT, but not to settle or to live in a long term.

Peeve No.1: SMOKE.
This is perhaps the biggest one, which might seem silly to some people. Although my mother-in-law assures me it was because of the summer and people are more outside, I just cannot, can NOT get used to smoking one cigarette a day by just second-hand smoking on the street. Wouldn't it be so nice if I could just sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee and delicious croissant in a picturesque Parisian café looking at the beautiful architecture... and when I do it, BANG! the whole experience gets ruined by the first-thing-in-the-morning cigarette-breathing experience. I went out very little for breakfast (I think only once) and ate at home. France is a country of tolerance, I understand. Then I really cannot belong to a place where non-smokers aren't tolerated but smokers are. Although there are now laws to prohibit smoking in public places, they still smoke in public places and they ARE tolerated. My husband told me to "Just get used to it". I can't, and I won't. Now I'm breathing easier here in Manhattan.

Peeve No.2: Subway :)
After getting squashed several times in those strange but powerful rubber-encased glass doors that open and shut at the most mysterious timing after you insert your 'carnet', I learned to time myself 'musically' (it seems it's a dotted-quarter note in q=86 tempo LOL!) not to get squashed. This might be speaking volumes for French culture of "control". In NYC subway, after you swipe your Metrocard, the turnstile is activated and you are free to go WHEN YOU CHOOSE to go through. You are in control. In Paris, after you insert and collect your carnet, it is the DOOR THAT DECIDES the timing when you are allowed to pass through. IT has the control, not you. UPDATE: just come to think of it, Tokyo metro works the same as Paris.

Peeve No.3: More Subway :)
There are now the newest subway cars that have automatic doors, which open after the subway comes to a complete stop. But the most of them have either a button or a little lever handle that the passengers open on their own, when the subway comes to a NEAR stop. The result is that the subway is usually still moving when someone opens the door. I'm surprised there aren't many accidents especially involving children. Then I didn't see that many children on the subway as we do here in NYC. My husband said small kids don't really get out of the areas where they live, and they really don't have much need to get on subways. It scares me a lot, and glad I didn't have to bring up my kids there. Now, contrary to the Peeve no.2, this seems to giving too much 'control' to the user. What gives?!

Peeve No.4: La Poste
I understand, it is a governmental post office/bank combined, very protective of people and has good rates. But I really would like my husband to close that account, since he cannot get a credit card to his own account (since he doesn't live there) and I, his wife but non-French citizen, have no right to the account. However I could deposit my IRCAM salary as much as I wanted there. What a business model :) So we had to go around them for me to use my own money, using husband's debit card. UPDATE: Husband says it's the same in all French banks.

Peeve No. 5: Division of Labor
This is quite general, and there must be exceptions. But my impression is that France is a country where things are done by people who are only 'qualified' to do so. You aren't allowed to touch, change, modify, even think about things that don't belong to your expertise, or what they call your 'métier'. Of course, the upside is the superb quality control; just anyone's sister-in-law can't be selling bread in France, you have to be 'qualified' to do so. Things are controlled. The downside, which makes me feel stifling, is the lack of freedom to move 'horizontally' in society. A mathematician cannot be bakers. Probably a bright neuroscientist aren't that encouraged to becoming a violinist (see David Soldier/Dave Sultzer). Even at IRCAM, engineers don't 'do art', and composers don't program; they have 'assistants' who help them. In NYC I do everything, mostly by necessity. I do everything from composing, programming, producing, and performing. By doing so I learn a lot about all aspect of music I make, and I like it that way for myself. Although I do hope that things are slowly changing, I cannot belong to a place where I have to do only one thing that I'm 'supposed to do'. Life is short. My friend Martha sent me this interesting article about French education system.

Peeve No. 6: Cobble stones
This is what the charm of Paris, France is, I'm sure. The cobble stones on the streets. It's HELL for my feet and my heels. I just don't understand how French women walk on those things with those beautiful shoes. I guess I'm not trained right.

UPDATE: And now my husband is saying I have become FRENCH, as I complain like this LOL!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Final Day in France

This is my last France posting, after 3 weeks of hiatus towards the last-spurt, my 'exit' presentation at IRCAM on Thursday, giving the Radio France interview. In the end, EVERYTHING WORKED :) And that is how it should be... and that is why I double, triple, quadruple+ times check and re-check until things run 150% of the time, since that is the only way you can be sure it runs 100% of the time. Anyone who had a conservatory training like I did, won't think twice about this discipline and I apply it to my own interactive performance. This is crucial especially when you work with Prototypes, since the builders want to constantly improve their mechanisms but I have a performing deadline. And it's hard.... Here is my main collaborator Frédéric Bevilacqua who made last-minute adjustments for me. The presentation was filmed and will be posted on IRCAM website, which I will share with you once it is up. Here is one of my slides, illustrating the two methods: things that should be but might not work ("Lamborghini") and the way I would go around it to make it work ("Toyota"). After working with four European men (French, German, Swiss and Italian!) for the entire summer I became one of the 'guys' :)

One thing though, struck me, similar to the feeling I got earlier in my stay here after listening to the formidable performance of Ensemble InterContemporain. There was a question at my presentation at IRCAM which was, "What is the FEAR factor?" for me performing interactive music, of being afraid something won't work on stage. Although I answered that I am usually with a violin, a box with 4 strings attached and have to make sure to change the string, this question saddened me. Since when, music, or musical performance, has become something to be afraid of? Of course there is 'stage fright', but this is something more serious. Music is supposed to be fun and joy. There are enough things in life to be afraid of. Fear, is when your young son has a burst appendix and lying helplessly inside an ambulance, or being told that you have a cancer and have to see an oncologist to get chemotherapy. I know these fears (my cancer was relatively benign, 12 yrs ago). Compared to these real-life events, music is just music, nobody is dying, or getting hurt. If musical experience connects to fear, what is the point of it?

Radio France interview was also a lot of fun, and considering after I had consumed three servings of Sake I served for the after-talk reception at IRCAM, I survived. After I recorded a few items in a studio at Radio France during which everyone spoke in English for me, my sweetest Radio host Bruno Letort declaired "Mainetenant, on parle QUE en Français!" (now we only speak in French). I am quite mortified with my first interview in French and kind of glad I will be sitting on the plane when it will be on the air tomorrow, but alas, it will also be on the internet... :)

I also had visitors and a bit of social life as well; my friend from Japan and today's premiere concerto soloist, Kyoko Takezawa who now lives in Paris, came to visit IRCAM and tried my system, then we went for lunch. We shared a same babysitter in NYC, but never had time to spend such a day together. I also demo-ed my subharmonics for her. Here is Kyoko wearing my sensor glove. As a violinist of the top-caliber, she understood immediately what I was doing with the bowing sensor for musical expression.

Also a good friend and French composer Marc Battier invited me to his home for dinner in Neuilly, and there I made a delightful acquaintance with an Opera composer John Eaton and his wife visiting from New Jersey. We'd forgotten to take pictures, until we were in Marc's garage on the way home, and I thought that it's better later than never :)

All in all, my 3-months life in Paris was spectacular. You have to remember that I am usually a stay-home mom, and this was a once-in-the-lifetime opportunity for me to devote my time entirely to my work, all thanks to my extraordinary support system; my parents-in-law in Picardie, who kept my children, and most of all my husband, who let me do what I do, who worked in NYC for 2 months without his family. I loved living in Paris, its food, architecture, food, pastries, and food :) I was treated so well at IRCAM and I feel I did what I set out to do, thanks to the Real Time Musical Interaction Team, all of whom went out of their way to accommodated and supported me. We now have a standing collaborative relationship, which we will be continuing without missing a beat.

I am however, equally glad to go home, to get back into my own life in NYC, to get back to reality.

Since this is my last French post, you have to bear with me; I needed a lot of help from the marvel of French pastries. Here are what I had consumed ALL on my own. This is the grand finale. You could probably tell things were quite intense, when these pastries have to pay visits next to my computer and the violin.