Saturday, July 28, 2012

Onward and upward, for young violinists of the future!

As most of you who know about my work is aware, I haven't spent my energy trying to be "famous" in the traditional sense, performing all over the world.   Early on, after I got a big push in New York Times about my NYC debut recital, I made a decision that it is not the kind of life I want to have; win a competition (or a winning review like this), get a manager who would book me to perform Ravel's Tzigane (for example) 10,000 times a year in small colleges in small towns all over the world.  That model: competition->manager->concert career still exists, but to me it presented a life too ordinary, too common, and too boring.   Why would I want to do the same thing and follow the same paths which others have done for ages?  Why would I want to drag myself in dirty airports constantly, just to make money for a manager?  For crying out loud, it's the age of internet!   But that's just me.  I chose to have a family, children, and relative peace and quiet in my personal life.

Of course, there are many ways of building a career, or starting a career: some starlets maybe desperate enough taking off their clothes playing Bach (!) but sure, you get the attention you need to stand out from those who don't take off their clothes (LOL!)  You can have strange hair-do's, wearing strange clothing or whatever works, whatever makes people buy that 10,000th Bach album you want to sell.  I would say, if that suits you, by all means go ahead and do so! :)

My work using "Subharmonics" and interactive systems I have been working with and describing in my blog, aren't these kind of "attention-getting" efforts.  Sure I did get some press and notoriety because of "Subharmonics", but my true aim is not to "become famous" because of it.  As history proves (for example, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was deemed "un-performable" when it was first written) when you do something new, those who are afraid, or those who can't do it, would brush it aside and criticize it.  In fact "Subharmonics" is quite a difficult technique to master, probably as artificial harmonics must have been back in the times of Paganini.  When unsuccessful, it sounds simply horrible!! :)  But mark my words, as I am preparing a text-book and a possible events on "Subharmonics" in the near future, this will become a standard extended technique in the coming decades, as more and more composers will feel comfortable writing it in.

I will announce shortly, that I am starting a summer program in a music festival next year, for "future strings", in collaboration with the Real Time Musical Interaction Team at IRCAM and others.  My aim is to open up the new sound world to violinists and other musicians, easily and ready to go forward with their creative projects.  This maybe easier to embrace for younger violinists and musicians who grew up with digital media, but I am getting plenty of interests and inquiries from established composers and performers which made me think of opening up, sharing and pushing forward.

So, leave the "old models" to those who want to do it the "old way" constantly dragging themselves around the world doing the same-old same-old  :)  And let's step forward, onward and upward!   This post maybe a bit cryptic :) but in the coming days and months, I intend to follow up on the specifics, and I will keep you posted!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fukushima Today

It has been 4+ months I have written my blog.  Things were quite hectic, but I have to report something today.   

But first I would like to share with you that I recently composed and premiered a new work for Soprano, piano and electronics, entitled "My Life in Fukusima".  The text was written by a Japanese (half Dutch) mother of a 6-years old daughter, Marika Yoshida.  Marika works as a mental health therapist and manager at a clinic in Fukushima.  I found her text in her Facebook "Note", contacted her and asked if I could set a music to it.  It was done very fast and I might need to do some revisions, but an occasion presented itself that I could present it, so I did.  It was performed by Japanese artists Kyoko OGAWA, soprano and Yumi SUEHIRO, piano at "Japan Perspectives: Composer's Voice Series" concert, organized by composer Douglas DaSilva at Jan Hus Church, NYC. on April 8th.

Today, Marika shared an entry by her friend named Akira Tamagawa, who just visited Fukushima site today.  He wrote this note in Japanese, but I had to translate this to share with my English speaking friends.  (please excuse my non-professional translation)  I couldn't post this in my Facebook page (too long) so I am happy to share with you here.  This is the most frightening, but realistic situation today in Japan. 

"Status update" from Mr. Akira Tamagawa's Facebook page, from Fukushima:

Today, I entered into the Fukushima Dai-ichi (no.1) nuclear plant. I am restricted not to give certain information, but I write what I can. We received the explanation at the "[Important] Vibration Prevention Ridge", and I got to see closely the No.3 and 4 reactors which is all but left with the skeletal iron frame works [from the explosions].   The highest radiation value today was 1,000sv/h. It is the world of unimaginable dimension. 

My honest impression is that [the work] is progressing, and also not progressing.  Inside the  "Important Vibration Exempt Ridge", the dosage is lower, but if you go one step outside, the radiation dosage is high.   In such an environment, it encouraged me enormously the fact that there are people at the forefront, such as Osamu [writer's friend], who are desperately trying to contain the situation doing their best as if that is their normal duty.  

I can say with certainty, that if it weren't for the work and support [of the people of the Fukushima nuclear site], the eastern Japan would have been blown away without a doubt. There are still over 1000 Fuel Rods exposed in the fuel pool, and it is more dangerous than the "containment vessel".  

The good news is this explosion only happened on the "surface". If the fuel itself reacted and dispersed, us, the team from Hachioji-shi [city of western Tokyo] would have become the immediately affected "party".  

And it is important not to misunderstand, that this was not the worst accident.  If the  "[Important] Vibration Prevention Ridge" was not completed just in time 6 months before [MK: I am not sure if he means 6 mo. before the accident, or 6 mo. ago from today], it would have been impossible for the Fukushima nuclear site to be able to cope, and there is no doubt that today's Japan did not exist.  It is important to realize and share the horrific fact, more than we do now, that we were fortunate to be able to escape the absolute worst case scenario.

I am telling you, that it was really close, “paper-thin line” [to the worst catastrophe]. Current situation is that we are discussing how to address each issue from now on, but we are able to get to this point because the worst was prevented with a “paper-thin” line.  Sumida, Hachioji, Hitachi, the entire Tokyo, and possibly western Japan would have been at a “paper-thin” line.  And if we don’t address this issue properly, it will continue to be a “paper-thin” line.

It is not the Fukushima’s issue; that is a very clear error.  It is very clearly the all of Japan’s issue, although I could guess that it is hard to fully realize it.  I might sound harsh, but I know that all of you must share this realization.  Please remember the gravity [of the situation] in your heart.

Then, I would like all of you, affected parties [that is the entire Japan] to get involved, not as an outside supporter, and to re-examine your work and lifestyles.  There is no choice but to re-think our lifestyle that depends on nuclear energy, consuming energy for work and lifestyle.

I painfully realized again, looking at the skeletal iron frames, the gravity of the situation.  It is so different from looking at it on the TV.   And there are people who are working there with nothing but their bodies; some workers are victims of the disaster themselves.

I realized that it is a mistake to “support” Fukushima.  It is Fukushima which is supporting our “now”, today’s Japan.  That is why, you all are the affected parties in this problem.  You can’t understand this if you live in Tokyo. You can’t understand this if you live in the city of Fukushima.  That is why, one must imagine the situation, rather than not understanding it. 

Inside the No.1 reactor compound, I fatefully passed a crane truck of “Da-te Heavy Machinaries”, [the company] of Osamu.  There are people who can’t escape. Because of these people, we are able to live a normal life. This fact hasn’t changed today.

Everyone, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is not solved, that is the fact.  And let’s firmly co-own the fact that this is not Fukushima’s problem.   Again I feel painfully that it is a mistake to think this is Fukushima’s problem.

This is my report today.
The original Japanese post is below.
I couldn't sleep after reading this note, and just stayed up all night and finished translating it.





... そのような中で前司くんをはじめ、最前線でこの事故を押さえていこうと、尽力している方々がいること、当然のこととして仕事をしている方々がいることが、自身にとって大きな励みになりました。













Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

I have planned to post more "Beijing" stories and pictures, but again, my life as a mom and other things got in my way :)  My family is visiting Boston for the New Years visiting family friends, so finally I have time to post some old pictures from October here. The first one is with the inventor of FM synthesis, John Chowning in Beijing, who was the featured guest composer at MusicaAcoustica Festival 2012 in Beijing which we were invited.  It was French composer/organizer Benoit Granier who found me and contacted me to go to Beijing for the first time to perform and give lectures at the Beijing Central Conservatory.

While in Beijing I met very nice people, including an American journalist named James Tiscione, who wrote a feature article of me in Global Times, an English paper in Beijing. James, who is originally from Yonkers (I think he said), has lived in China for several years now and impressively speaks Chinese fluently.  He took me around to Hutongs in Beijing, and we had a great time walking around.  Here he is treating me to a sour apple candy which was yummy! Maybe not so yummy (?) since I didn't taste it, but here are some interesting culture merger :)   "Tea Coffee" and "Mojito Milk Shake"!

My impression of Beijing was that there were so many cars which maybe driven by people who were on bicycles until recently, so it is pretty chaotic on the streets and you have to really watch out for yourself :)  The country made me think of what it must have been like in the old "wild-wild West" in California, when everyone went for new opportunities.  My father, who was born in former Manchuria as a son of Japanese pediatrician pre WWII, and have been invited to China many times as a specialist of solar energy, said that "In China, everything happens everywhere, all the time!" and I think that's pretty much correct :)

2011 was a very fruitful year for me in terms of work, and I have several projects that I am currently working on.  The very immediate project is for Maestro Pierre-Yves Artaud, the great "Dean" of France's flute society.  Prof. Artaud teaches at the Conservatoire in Paris, and the founder of Orchestre de Flûte Français.  This is a piece for solo flute (Artaud), violin (me) and interactive computer using IRCAM's latest software OMAX, and my bowing motion sensor "Augmented Violin" also developed at IRCAM, and the flute ensemble. 

My children, especially my daughter is distraught that there is NO SNOW anywhere this year :)  Her Christmas present wish included "Let it snow, let it snow..."  We shall see.... :)