Live Performances

The Ouroboros Concert

Voor nederlands even naar beneden skrollen.

Here is a letter I wrote earlier this year when I was about to turn 50 (want to get on the mailinglist too? let me know!):

I love the number 49 and its symbolism. Much better than 50. So I prefer to send out a shout to everyone on the last day of my 49th year in which I am walking on this strange and wonderful place called earth, rather than on the first day of the 50th year. My dear sister Daphne somehow knew I wanted to celebrate while I was still 49, when she organised a surprise party for me several months ago. I completely and totally bought it, even after my mom and two friends showed up in a park where you would not expect that. What a great present!

And then the Tuvans, for whom 49 is a special number, play their magic on me too. Tuva and its inhabitants have shaped my life in many ways. When I was halfway on to this point of my life and getting close to 25 years old, I first visited Tuva and fell in love with the place forever. 12 Years later I visited Tuva with June Wen, and it was then and there that we found out that we are destined for each other. That led to our marriage, to our kids, to me moving to Taiwan. Life-changing experiences in which Tuva seemed to play a role.

And right now, guess what? Earlier this year I began organising several Tuvan concerts here in Taiwan, and I was asked to curate two different acts for the Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. And today (last day of 49) the first Tuvan group, a young quartet called Ezengi, has just finished their job (which they did very well) and returns to Tuva. And tomorrow (first day of 50) four fine senior musicians arrive from Tuva to Taiwan for this weekend’s performances: Shonchalai and Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei and Valerii Mongush. Coincidence?

 

And then, there was this other coincidence this year. When I fist visited Tuva I learned about a Scythian ornament found during archaeological excavations, consisting of a panther biting its own tail. A wonderful symbol of infinity and the ever-repeating cycles of events. “Ma fin est mon commencement” (“my end is my beginning’) as mediaeval poets and musicians such as Guillaume de Machaut knew so well. This spring a very noble and inspiring friend, the philosopher Fons Elders, sent around a message with his view about this symbol, which is known as the ouroboros in the western world. A little later I performed in the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam with the wonderful Turkish ney player Sinan Arat, a concert I had arranged to be filmed so that I could share it with everybody. In the background of our stage happened to be . . . an ouroboros. So a few days ago, while working on the video I decided to call it “The Ouroboros Concert”. The next day I took the Tuvans to the Pacific Ocean – Tuva being very far removed from any sea or ocean. They decided to try surfing and that’s how I noticed the Scythian ouroboros tattooed on the arm of Anchy Damdyn. What a great idea! The first time ever I imagined I could have a tattoo too.

So by way of celebration and to express the gratitude I feel for being a human amidst so many wonderful human beings I share this Ouroboros concert video with you.

 

Nederlands

Hier is een brief die ik onlangs rondstuurde, toen ik op het punt stond 49 te worden (ook op de mailinglijst? laat het weten!):

49 Is een prachtig getal met een prachtige symboliek. Veel beter dan 50. Dus stuur ik een groet aan iedereen op de laatste dag van de 49 jaar dat ik op deze vreemde, wonderlijke planeet rondloop, in plaats van de eerste dag van mijn 50e. Mijn lieve zus Daphne voelde kennelijk al aan dat ik liever even stil sta bij mijn leven op mijn 49e, toen ze een surprise party voor me oganiseerde enkele maanden geleden. Ik stonk er totaal in, zelfs nadat mijn moeder en enkele vrienden spontaan opdoken in een park waar je hen toch niet 1-2-3 samen verwacht. Wat een geweldig cadeau!

En de Toevanen, voor wie het getal 49 ook speciale betekenis heeft, duiken ook weer op haast magische wijze op. Zoals jullie weten hebben Toeva en haar inwoners mijn leven op allerlei manieren vorm gegeven. Toen ik halverwege het punt was waar ik nu ben, dus bijna 25 jaar oud, bezocht ik Toeva voor het eerst en raakte voorgoed verslingerd aan deze plek. 12 Jaar later ging ik naar Toeva met June en we ontdekten, toen en daar, dat we voorbestemd waren voor elkaar. Dat leidde dus tot ons huwelijk, kinderen en tenslotte mijn verhuizing naar Taiwan. Nog een levenswending waar Toeva haast een sturende hand in leek te hebben.

En wat is er nu aan de hand? Ik begon eerder dit jaar een aantal Toevaanse concerten te organiseren hier in Taiwan, en werd onder andere verzocht twee programma’s in te vullen voor het Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. En vandaag (de laatste dag dat ik 49 ben) vertrekt de eerste Toevaanse groep, een jong kwartet genaamd Ezengi (nadat ze zich trouwens uitstekend gekweten hebben van hun taak). En morgen (de eerste dag dat ik 50 ben) arriveren er vier geweldige senior musici uit Toeva: Shonchalai en Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei en Valerii Mongush. Toeval?

 

En dan was er nog iets dit jaar. Toen ik Toeva voor het eerst bezocht leerde ik een Scythisch ornament kennen, dat bij archeologische opgravingen gevonden was en dat bestaat uit een panter die in zijn staart bijt. Een prachtig symbool van oneindigheid en de eeuwigdurende cycli van gebeurtenissen. “Ma fin est mon commencement” zoals middeleeuwse dichters en musici als Guillaume de Machaut heel goed wisten. Dit voorjaar stuurde vriend en inspiratiebron Fons Elders een bericht rond met daarin zijn visie op dit symbool, dat bekend staat als oeroboros in de westerse wereld. Iets later trad ik op in de Oosterkerk in Amsterdam met een geweldige Turkse ney-speler, Sinan Arat, een concert dat ik liet opnemen op video (en waarvoor je de link onderaan vindt). Juist achter ons podium bevond zich . . . een mooie uit hout gesneden oeroboros. En dus besloot ik een aantal dagen geleden toen ik met de video bezig was om ons optreden Het Oeroboros Concert te noemen. De volgende dag (afgelopen zaterdag) nam ik de Toevaanse musici mee naar de oceaan (waar de Toevanen verder van verwijderd zijn dan zo’n beetje wie dan ook ter wereld). Ze wilden graag gaan surfen en zo ontdekte ik de tatoeage van zo’n Scytische oeroboros op de arm van Anchy Damdyn. Wat een geweldig idee! Nooit eerder had ik ook maar een seconde de gedachte gekoesterd dat een tatoeage voor mij zelf ook best interessant kon zijn.


Dus om even stil te staan bij dit bijzondere moment in mijn leven en uitdrukking te geven aan de dankbaarheid om een mens te zijn te midden van allerlei fantastische mensen met wie ik mij omringd weet, deel ik nu deze Oeroboros concertvideo met jullie.

 

Focus on Holland concert Taipei

Excited about playing with some great Taiwanese and Dutch improvisers next week here in Taiwan.

Wilbert de Joode, Felicity Provan, Mark Alban Lotz, Onno Govaerts, and Rogier Hornman come over from The Netherlands, and from the local scene we have Lee Shih-Yang, Dawang Yifang Huang, Tung Chao-Ming, and Min-Yen Terrie Hsieh. Oh and myself as well, in a category of your choice. More info here.

Concert with Sinan Arat in Oosterkerk, Amsterdam

Over enkele weken doe ik een dubbelconcert met Sinan Arat in de Oosterkerk in amsterdam. Hij is vooral bekend van zijn ney spel, zijn hoofdinstrument. Ik heb hem nog niet ontmoet maar we hebben wel overlegd hoe we het willen gaan doen. Vanwege ons beider voorliefde voor improvisatie hebben we besloten te proberen om niet twee solo-blokken te spelen met een beetje overlap, maar de uitwisseling aan te gaan. Ik ben al langer op zoek naar samenwerking met een goede fluitspeler. In Taiwan zijn die dun gezaaid, zeker spelers die een dergelijke rijke, luchtige klank produceren. Dat heb je natuurlijk in Japan met de shakuhachi en in India met de bansuri (die Sinan ook bespeelt). Maar ik werd helemaal stil van het spel van Sinan toen ik gisteren onderstaande video van hem bekeek. Van die prachtige, lange, rustige tonen, waarin de adem steeds doorklinkt, en daarmee de ziel van de speler – of van de muziek zelf zo je wilt.

 

 

Sinan bespeelt naast de ney rietfluit ook lijsttrommels en zingt, en hij heeft Indiase muziek bestudeerd. En aangezien ik de laatste jaren ook experimenteer met fluiten en met de Marrokaanse bendir lijsttrommel én omdat ik ook al jaren met Indiase muziek bezig ben, hebben we aardig wat overlap. Ik ben heel benieuwd hoe dat gaat uitpakken, zijn voornamelijk traditionele spel met mijn meer experimentele benadering.

 

Het concert is op zondag 15 juli en begint om 12:00

Gratis toegankelijk (donaties welkom).

Adres: Oosterkerk, Kleine Wittenburgerstraat 1, Amsterdam.

 

De dag ervoor doe ik een eendaagse workshop boventoonzang, ook in de Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, voor wie wil kennismaken met deze techniek.

 

Beluister ook het mooie interview met Sinan rondom de VPRO sessie.

“Sinan Arat uit Turkije speelt en improviseert op de ney (Turkse fluit) en laat zich inspireren door de Ottomaanse en Anatolische traditie. Hij wordt begeleid door Alper Kekeç op percussie. In het interview met Giovanca vertelt Sinan hoe hij kennis leerde maken met de ney.”

 

 

 

Taiwan Tour 聽舞觀聲/Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound

Taipei Dance Circle (光環舞集) continues to bring their piece Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound to theatres across Taiwan. I will join them in one of the three choreographies. Read more about our collaboration and co-founder Liu Shaolu in a previous post here.

 

TaipeiDanceCircle宣傳圖(大石頭)

 

Program:     “Lending Ear To Dance, Eye To Sound” 聽舞觀聲

Dancers:

姚凱蕾 Yao Kai-Lei
蕭靈鳳 Siew Lin-Fong
王憲彬 Wang Hsien-Pin
陳英豪 Chen Ying-Hao

Tour to:

Taidong

Saturday 3/5    19:30
Performance Hall of Taitung County Government Bureau of Cultural Affair

Taichung

Wednesday 3/23     19:00
Providence University Zhi Shan Hall Stadium

Tamshui (Saturday May 1, to be confirmed)

Hsinchu
Saturday 5/27     19:30
Performance Hall of Cultural Bureau, Hsinchu County

Sanxia

Saturday 6/18    19:30
Performing hall of Xinzhuang Culture and Arts Center

Yingge

Friday 9/23  13:00

Yingge Technical High School

 

Read a Taipei Times article about the program here.

Taipei Times 2

 

 

Lending Ear to Dance, Eye to Sound

 

This week Taipei Dance Circle (光環舞集) presents a new evening program with three new pieces, a little over a year after founder Liou Shaw-lu (劉紹爐) passed away. I got to know Shaw-lu over a decade ago when I was teaching at the Taipei National University of the Arts in Kuandu, not far from Taipei Dance Circle’s base in Bali, on the opposite side of the Tamshui river. These classes were organised by Prof. Chung Mingder, then dean of the Department of Theatre, and attracted also people from outside the university (artists outside the school like Shaw-lu, or nuns from the Huayen monastery). To anyone who knew Shaw-lu it is needless to say I immediately I liked him: he was such a likable, positive soul, constantly curious, constantly creative, or ‘creating’ to say it more actively. When I see him with my mind’s eye, I see him moving: moving his hands, his head, his torso, expressing whatever he wanted to say or responding to whatever he saw with his full body. And of course, he did not just move: he always moved beautifully, elegantly, from somewhere deep inside himself, and at the same time summoning forces much bigger than himself. He absorbed the environment and reflected it back with his body, with his mind and also with his voice. He was very passionate about learning to use the voice in new ways. He felt and saw from the perspective of dance, what I felt and saw from the perspective of music: the possibility of integrating sound and body.

 

Shaw-LuTaimuMark

Shaw-La, taimu, Mark some 10 years ago

 

He followed my classes, but of course I learned as much from him. His presence as a dancer helped me feel comfortable to do all kinds of unusual physical exercises in order to experiment with the sound of the voice. I remember we rehearsed and performed a piece when the semester of the ‘official’ theatre class (I think it was called Overtone singing and Meditation) was about to finish. All students presented their own work, and I did a piece with Shaw-lu. It was a delight to improvise with him, even though I felt quite clumsy doing the physical work next to someone so flexible, so much in a constant, physical flow. Shao-lu and I also presented something together at Huayen Monastery, who at that time were interested in the integration of overtones in body-mind practices.

 

TaipeiDanceCircle宣傳圖(大石頭)

 

It was a great honour for me to receive the invitation from Taipei Dance Circle’s co-founder Maura Yang earlier this year, to collaborate with the dancers now that co-founder and choreographer Shaw-lu passed away. A challenge, too, since we all started work on integrating movement and sound: the piece we created,  involves all four dancers and myself on stage, doing both sound and movement. After throwing ourselves into each other territories (they singing/sounding, me dancing/moving), we found it necessary to take a step back and stay more within our own disciplines. It is a long and difficult, but rewarding process to move out of your comfort-zone: I think we all shifted into this new territory, and we are searching still for the right mode. Tonight is the première, but the last adjustments are still being made.

In Last year’s dance projects I did with Horse (驫舞劇場: Play Dead / 裝死) and then with Yeh Ming Hwa (葉名樺 :  Nordic / 寂靜敲門), I was first purely a musician, onstage but separated from the dancers, then a musician/actor sharing the space with the dancers Will that turn out to be the better option? I hope both are possible, though there is no doubt that these three pieces are a world apart.

Yeh Ming-Hwa's piece Nordic

Yeh Ming-Hwa’s piece Nordic (Photo Lee Hsin-Che)

 

In order to commemorate Shaw-lu, we are singing a Hakka song. As Yao Kai-Lei (姚凱蕾) one of the dancers of TDC, explained today for Hakka TV, Shaw-lu loved old Hakka mountain songs, which used to be sung not as concert pieces, but in daily life by the tea planters in the old days. Hakka people just sang them while working, sometimes over long distances in the mountains, improvising phrases (and no doubt, also texts). I am not sure Shaw-lu actually heard that when he was young …. But taimu (Prof Chung) encouraged us to sing old songs in this project, and since many of the songs that we tried would not work for the group as a whole, it was natural to chose Lao Shan Ge (old mountain song).

About the other vocal parts, I wrote this for the program booklet:

In Western art music and dance, sound and movements are rigorously controlled by what they present and what is taught, from one generation to the next. Not only that; it is also controlled by what is not presented, by that which is controlled by expelling it. Musicians are basically taught to play their instrument from a still position, and not to make unwanted movements. The accepted movements that we see from a pianist or violinist are highly stylised and may be likened to a kind of choreography. Many musicians and dancers alike were taught not only to control their movements but also to suppress the sounds that might accompany those movements. The presence of unwanted sounds almost amounts to a taboo, both for dancers and for musicians. There may be valid practical and also esthetic reasons for it, but are we not robbing dancers or musicians of some of their most powerful means of expression when we subjugate the performing body to these unwritten rules? What do we find, for example, when we allow the performing body to freely make noise, make sound, make music, and when we allow the musicking body to move or to dance?

These questions are not new, and have been explored from various angles in the past decades, not in the least in many of the late works of Liu Shao Lu, who was deeply committed to integrating sound with movement. Yet unwritten performance rules run deep in the veins of artists, be they musicians or dancers. It is hard for the dancer to work the muscles of the vocal cords and mouth just like she is used to work the muscles of torso, arms and legs. And it is hard for the musician to really see himself moving, and to move freely beyond the need of musical gestures. Trained in one art form, we are partly blinded by the aesthetic language we are most familiar with. How can we re-integrate these two seemingly different languages of dance and music with each other? Can we find some more or less natural meeting points? Is it even possible, perhaps, to really ‘forget’ our own disciplines and create something from a common bodily language, becoming sound and movement at the same time?

 

Program:     “Lending Ear To Dance, Eye To Sound” 聽舞觀聲

Dancers:

姚凱蕾 Yao Kai-Lei
蕭靈鳳 SIEW LIN-FONG
王憲彬 WANG HSIEN-PIN
陳英豪 Chen Ying-Hao

Five performances tonight until Sunday (Sept 10-13) in Experimental Theatre 實驗劇場 / National Theatre 國家戲劇院

Tickets here.

After that: tour to HsinChu (October 16), New Taipei City (November 8), Taoyuan City (November 14) Pingtung City (November 21), Hsinchu county (November 28).

 

Read a Taipei Times about the new program article here.

Taipei Times 2

Taipei Times article

 

 

Shaw-Lu Singing

Sept 5: Sound Travels concert

This Saturday evening (September 5, 19:30, at Yuppy Cafe/Bookstore) I’ll be doing a concert of songs I have learned from oral traditions of various places around the globe. Tea (Tina Ma) is going to help create some links between them in her own magical way. After that, I will sing together with the audience and give an idea what we do in the R e s o n a n c e course.

For me this is a real first, to sing ‘plain’ traditional songs: I have never quite thought of myself as a ‘traditional singer’ of any kind and only reluctantly began to sing Tuvan khöömei (throat singing or overtone singing) when I was asked to. I developed an interest in singing Dutch songs at the time my son and daughter were born. Since then (and maybe because of that) I have changed my attitude towards traditional music. I slowly started to learn more songs in traditional ways, instead of ‘appropriating’ other music for my own musical language. I am now learning and singing songs from Tuva, Corsica, The Netherlands and other places for some years, and feel ready to present them onstage.

I began travelling to collect and learn music in 1990, when I visited Bulgaria. Then to Corsica in 1991. Then Russia in 1992, which was the upbeat for Siberia in 1993, where I went back several times. In the 2000s I visited New Zealand, Dharamsala, Jerusalem and Sardinia, amongst other places, and began moving to Taiwan. All the while I also met many travelling and migrant musicians, learning from or with them from time to time.

This Summer I visited Turkey and had an opportunity to learn a song from a well-known Turkish folk singer, Aysegül Aral. I was curious to learn more about singing with the quartertones you can find in Turkish and Arabic music, and I was happy to find I was doing alright, according to my instructor Aysegül. The song we sang (and which I will perform Saturday) is called Havada bulut yok, a well-known folk song.

Aysegül Aral, me and the interpreter

Aysegul Aral, the interpreter and me

Another special meeting several years ago was with Firaz Ghazzaz, a muslim reciter for the Palestine community of Eastern Jeruzalem. We collaborated in a project by two Dutch composers, Merlijn Twaalfhoven and Paul Oomen, helping to give voice to the suppressed communities of Palestines in Jerusalem. Firaz is the descendent of a long line of reciters for the Al Aqsa Mosque (going back for as much as 422 years when I visited). Al Aqsa is one of the most important mosques in the Arab world, situated on holy, historic territory in Jerusalem. I was struck by the humanity and the willingness to improvise, leaving his religious tradition behind to look for common ground in my improvised, coloristic, harmonic language and his own modal chanting. There is tremendous power and refinement in his singing, as you can hear in Firaz’ collaboration with another musician from Europe here.

Me and Firaz Gazzaz

With Firaz Ghazzaz, 2009

In Corsica, the French isle, you can hear echoes of this kind of intonation, though very distant ones. In this case they stem from the need for voices to harmonise according to pure, Pythagorean intonation, and not because of a modal tuning system as developed by the Arabs. In recent years, when I re-visited Corsica, I had many opportunities to immerse myself in polyphonic singing, and take part in it. Now I feel ready to sing some Corsican songs, but of course there will be no polyphony this Saturday (though I am considering to teach the audience a simple line so we get two parts). This year I joined the concert of musicians from Pigna: Nando Aquaviva and his daughter Battista, and Cecce Pesce, the guitarist. When we first met, Battista was beginning to be famous in Corsica. This Summer, she suddenly was famous all over France due to her appearance in the popular TV show The Voice.

In 2013 I sang some ‘alle-male’ polyphony with Claude Bellagamba, a middle-aged singer with an exceptional, powerful and natural voice, and Nando, who is past his prime years (he is 70+) but still getting along well and very active musically.

BellagambaAquavivaVanTongerenBW

Claude Bellagamba, Nando Aquaviva and me singing polyphonic songs, Corsica 2013

Of course there will be music from Tuva, Siberia. Choduraa Tumat and Otkun Dostay, who came over from Tuva to perform in Taiwan this spring, helped me with the lyrics of a well-known song by the folk singer/composer Maksim Dakpai. In their concerts we did not sing this song, but  contemporary and shamanic improvisations with voice and Jew’s harp. I did not quite feel up to singing traditional songs with them onstage: to be honest, I think for singing traditional music you need to know the lyrics by heart, and I am still struggling with that. In that sense my concert this Saturday is not so traditional: I will need the help of written lyrics on a sheet for sight-reading for most of the songs. The ‘shamanic’ improvisation is one possible way out of that problem, but not just second choice. Besides singing Dakpai’s song Saturday, I will also do a shaman-styled improvisation.

Otkun Dostay, Choduraa Tumat & me at Wistaria Teahouse (photo by Ewan Kuo)

Otkun Dostay, Choduraa Tumat & me at Wistaria Teahouse, 2015 (photo by Ewan Kuo)

I visited Hungarian shaman and sound practitioner  Joska Soos several times.

I visited Hungarian shaman and sound practitioner Joska Soos several times in Belgium.

I have spent much time learning a Hakka song, Hakka being one of the Chinese minorities in Taiwan (and China) with a distinct culture and music. I have always liked Hakka music when I heard it on the radio here, but it is not easy to sing it. My kids learnt some Hakka songs at school and I had great difficulty to get the melody right when I asked them to teach me (and how lucky I am with children who have such critical ears at such an early age!). This year I am working on a dance piece with Taipei Dance Circle, founded by Hakka choreographer Liou Shaw-lu. In order to pay tribute to Shaw-lu, who passed away a year ago, we decided to sing a Hakka song for him. The dance performance will première next week in Taipei’s National Theatre (Experimental Theatre), so I take the chance to do a try-out of Lao shan ge at Yuppy Bookstore.

Then there will be an indigenous Taiwanese song and things from  Mongolia, India and of course the Netherlands.

Talking about oral traditions, there is Tina ‘Tea’ Ma, or … is she? It is still a little bit of a mystery what she will do, or even that she makes it, immersed as she is in Taiwan’s East Coast indigenous Amis communities. She seems to be forgetting the time in Hualien (we all do when we go there!). I am not even sure she will manage to get out of the spell of the songs and rituals she is learning there. If she makes it, she may turn out to be the most ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ of the voices you will hear this Saturday. Let’s hear!

Info and reservations at Yuppy Cafe and Bookstore .

Tina 'Tea' Ma with moonlute

Tina ‘Tea’ Ma with moonlute