Monday, July 25, 2011

Back in Paris, encore visit to IRCAM

After Tokyo, I briefly returned to New York to pick up my kids, and arrived in Paris this weekend.  I'm visiting IRCAM again, following up with our work together and discuss new developments.   Frédéric Bevilacqua, the head of the Real Time Musical Interaction Team and I, met last Monday in New York, the day after we both arrived from our  original home countries: Fred from Lausanne, me from Tokyo.  Fred invited me for "VIP only" MOMA opening for "Talk to me" exhibition, where IRCAM's "MO", Modular Musical Objects, which include my bowing motion sensor "mini-MO" (the smallest and the latest model) won the first prize in a competition and is now displayed there.   We were both spectacularly jetlagged that we were wide wake :)

Then Frédéric went on to visit his old school UC Irvine (Fred has PhD in Biomedical Optics!) giving lectures, and returned to Paris today, joined us for lunch practically right off the airplane.  What a guy! :)  Then he went to an appointment at IRCAM...  I on the other hand, herded my kids through JFK where our Air France flight was about 2+1/2 hrs late, but somehow pulled through since my kids slept through the flight.  I admittedly was quite tired, since my jet-lag from Tokyo/NYC was never cured :) decided to enjoy Air France's free Champagne and free red wine, and happily went to sleep.  Only a few hours later, woke up feeling so sick!   Bad decision, and my French husband scolded me later "Don't mix Champagne and red wine... if you have Champagne, drink only Champagne all the way!"  Oh well I did learn my lesson LOL!  All is well, and my children are with their French grandparents who very kindly are keeping them so I could work at IRCAM staying in Paris, and of course, for their second summer of complete "French immersion".  And my brother-in-law kindly let me stay in his apartment near Republique where his family is away in Madagascar.   I can walk to IRCAM from this quiet part of town.  Here are my poor kids, waiting while I was looking for our luggage at CDG (there was Air France strike, and everything like baggage collection took a very Loooong time :)

Here is Nicolas and I, Nicolas Rasamimanana, my formidable collaborator at IRCAM who now runs his own NPO, Phonotonic, a 'spin off' of IRCAM pursuing individual projects. He said he might incorporate by the end of the year, to go "for-profit"!  :)

Nicolas is a violinist also, and such a wonderful mathematician and scientist, that when we are together, what I do is to start saying something, and he goes, "Yes, that's right..." or "That's something I wanted to do anyway..."  Although he speaks fantastic English, we really don't have to say much, and we could communicate with motions, music, or mime :)  I count my blessings being able to work with him.  I discuss what I need from the sensor data, and he starts talking to himself programming, and I just listen to his murmuring like music :)  Then we try, then he programs, repeat....  In short half a day, we got already so much done.  We also tried our scenarios for Fukusuke Nakamura, Kabuki actor wearing the sensor while he dances, by looking at the movies and data I made in Tokyo two weeks ago.  (See the last post)

And of course, I'm in Paris, so my first lunch out with Nicolas was Salade de Gésiers.... I was dreaming about this :)  Nicolas had crêpe, and we both had Cidre... :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

My monumental day with Fukusuke Nakamura (中村福助)

I have been visiting Japan almost for the week, giving lectures and performances here in Tokyo.  I decided to do this, leaving behind my family in NYC, after hearing that young Japanese artists and students are feeling rather depressed and helpless in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.  I wanted to at least give some hope and joy of being creative in a unique way, and by all accounts, from the letters I received from enthusiastic students at my lectures saying "so encouraging, so much fun, astonishing, flabbergasted" (!)   I am so happy that I came back.

A few years ago, I had an earth-shattering, shocking experience seeing the extraordinary performance by one of the foremost Kabuki actors of our time, Fukusuke Nakamura, (Japanese here) who gave an avant-garde performance dancing with a pianist playing Chopin  (see  "Where am I from?").  Yesterday, I had one of the most inspiring meeting with this extraordinary artist.  I visited him in the backstage of Shinbashi Performance Theater (新橋演舞場), in between his Kabuki performances.  I was introduced to him by Today's top Shamisen virtuoso Mojibe Tokiwazu 5th, the head of the House of Tokiwazu(常磐津文字兵衛5世)whom I collaborated a few years ago when I curated Music from Japan Festival in New York. Mojibe is the most astonishing artist; no one can be more traditional, yet he does completely outrageously adventurous activities.  (see his Shamisen Rock video!) I can't say how much I respect his open-mindedness; we worked together on interactive computer with Shamisen and Violin.

Fukusuke, a Japanese celebrity, a theater actor as well as a movie star, is one of the foremost Japanese Kabuki actor in the female role (Onna-kata 女形) recognized over the world.  I was quite star-struck at first, but I immediately realized he is a true artist completely free of pretension, who is tremendously open-minded and genuinely interested in all forms of creativity.  He was wonderful to speak with, about all issues regarding the very essence to performance.  We are in very different fields, but I think we connected instantly at the artistic level.  We spoke about the 'flow' of performance, 'preparations' gestures, what is the 'quality' of movement, and how one must remain connected to the tradition, as well as being experimental.  I wished that I recorded everything he talked about; Fukusuke comes from a long line of the prestigious House of Nakamura, the family who has been Kabuki actors since the 1700s.  He spoke about many of his legendary relatives and how they worked, their discipline and what he learned from them; many of his relatives were given the titles of Living National Treasures by the Japanese government.

The picture is Fukusuke wearing one of the motion sensors I'm working with, developed at IRCAM in Paris.   I took Fukusuke's hand gesture data, and let him try out some interactive computer music with his hand.   I was very happy that he seemed genuinely interested in collaborating together, and he wrote so in his official blog (in Japanese) , and more pictures here too !!!  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Off topic: obsessions :)

This post is not related anywhere near Subharmonics, but I think I have an addictive personality.  From childhood my mother used to complain that I would get into one thing and ONLY one thing, like food, book, toy etc. going through phases.   I still haven't recovered from this 'sickness' which continues to my adulthood.  Maybe because of this obsessive personality, I get to do such esoteric thing like Subharmonics LOL!

To take an example, I watch same movies over and over and over again, actually ONE SCENE of a movie over and over again.  There is this movie called "Evil Under the Sun", an all-star cast Agatha Christie movie starring Peter Ustinov.  In this 1982 movie, English/French actress Jane Birkin has a scene towards the end where she dramatically changes her demeanor and especially clothing, making a spectacular entrance.  I am so obsessed with this scene, with the accompanying march-like music, I believe by Cole Porter arranged by John Lanchbery.  Peter Ustinov tapping his hand and his feet with the tune, and the tempo slows down in crescendo changing into more jazzy music, and Jane Birkin's character descends the spiral staircase while everyone watches her open-mouthed in awe. (if you have netflix, it's about 1hr 48 min)

I think what I'm obsessed with is the TEMPO change.  It's the effect of this music and the scene that are so perfect together.  I'm not giving away the plot since this is a mystery, but for some reason, I can watch this scene, over and over again :)   I'm curious, what are other people's silver-screen obsessions?

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th :) and "I-Quadrifoglio"

To my complete surprise, in today's New York Times there is an yearly ad placed by the Carnegie Corporation entitled "100 immigrants: Pride of America", which I am included as one of them.  A friend alerted me on my Facebook page. (I'm right next to the word "America" on the right side, middle of the page)

It is such an honor, and I am so grateful to the Vilcek Foundation whose founder, Jan Vilcek himself is listed right next to me as well in this page.  It was the Vilceks, who sponsored and presented my solo recital in May, recognizing my work as an immigrant artist.

In the meantime on earth :)  I went shopping with my daughter this morning for all-American (or trying to be) July 4th dinner, which I imagine consists of hamburgers (although we can't barbeque on the upper west side NYC apartment) corn on cobs etc.  I haven't gotten beer which is a huge oversight.  (but we got wine)

AND in the meantime I'm very busy preparing for visiting the Cassatt String Quartet tomorrow morning to do some basic soundcheck for my new commissioned work "I-Quadrifoglio" for string quartet and interactive computer, which will premiere in October in NYC.  It would be absolutely my first composition, which I will NOT be performing myself!   Although the first violinist, Muneko Otani and I studied with the same teacher and we have been a long-time friend.  I know her violin playing and how she would phrase music.  As for the title, it was very simple; Muneko emailed me one day almost in panic "I need the title!!" since they were doing a presentation at an Apple Store in Manhattan.  Everything Apple starts with "I", and I happened to be browsing at hybrid cars (!) one of which was Alfa-Romeo.  Quartet /4-leaf clover + Interactive = I-Quadrifoglio !!!    A lot of times, title of my pieces actually start to take over my imagination and this one probably will :)  And not to worry, for the premiere, I will have more 'legitimate' program notes and the origin of this title :):)

It is very VERY interesting for me to be working on this project, as processing a string quartet is quite monumental compared to processing just one violin as I usually do.   It has already been done by many composers, but I guess what would be quite unique about mine is, that I am trying to make this work completely "hands-free", that is, using absolutely no computer operator on or off stage, but with absolutely no pre-recorded materials, just real-time processing.