Thursday, August 23, 2007

Last Call, Pt.1

I'm baaaaaack!!!!!

Sorry for the delay people. But thanks for wanting more anecdotes from my time in the far east. It's been a fun, strange, lonely and happy trip. I've been working hard on my music for the dance featuring Pei Pei and her friend Mia

and we're having a showing tommorrow for a few people. I really like how the piece has come together, but it's odd to collaborate via making music alone on a computer. Nonetheless, I think the music works well with the movement and the performance will be strong.

Some new characters have been introduced in the last couple of weeks. One is Vera's cousin Chiao, who is very quiet and a bit spacey.

But she has quite a knack for watercolors and illustration. I think she has an artist's disposition.

Vera and I were also reunited with her husband, Bonnie.

When Vera was at an all-girl's junior high school, she had a very unique and complex familial system with her friends. They were all husbands, wives, daughters and grandchildren to each other. So Vera had a husband, a wife and several grandchildren. But no children. I know, it's very confusing. In any case, the whole "family" was reunited for dinner the other night.

I've also hung out a little bit with Pei Pei, Mia and Mia's husband Scott.

They all live in a beautiful apartment community in the hills.

One of the best things about Taipei are these communities, which are all about 20 minutes from the city. They are like self-contained neighborhoods, with parks, community centers and restaurants. But unlike American subdivisions,

these communities are quaint and people are very friendly. This is Mama Tang's house.

Back to Scott and Mia. They have a world music fusion group called A Moving Sound. We went to see them perform outside as part of the Very Fun Park art festival.

I've tried to see a lot of music this month, particularly of the rock persuasion. Since Vera and I are talking about moving to Taiwan for a little while in a few years, I wanted to start getting an idea of what my options were for playing here. From what I can gather, there is a very small rock scene in Taipei. It is centered around 4 clubs: Witch House, The Underground, The Wall and the Riverside Cafe. I've been to three of the four clubs on this trip. My partner for these evening excursions has been Vera's brother, Kung-Pei.

We first went to Witch House, which is a funky and intimate cafe/club owned by a German couple who have a large collection of German table games that patrons can play during the day.

Witch House is also a hangout for local lesbians. The back of the club seems to be a tribute to women, with one side having portraits of female musicians

and another side having an assortment of woman-themed posters.

The band we saw was an above-average pop group in the Fiona Apple-vein, with smart arrangements and interesting interludes.

On another night, Kung-pei and I visited The Riverside Cafe. This was swankier spot than Witch House. It reminded me a bit of a modern Village Vanguard. There were pictures of Jazz and Rock musicians on the wall

and the layout was similar to that NYC musical institution. Speaking of institutions (i'm such a hack,) the owners of the club also run a large music school. The school seems to be preparing musicians for professional careers in jazz and pop. This is unusual for Taiwan, where musical training has been exclusively classical. The music that night started with a polished but boring pop singer who had labeled himself as "indie." What's interesting about this is that in America, "indie" has a very particular social and musical aesthetic. But in Taiwan, I guess it just means pop music not made on a major label. Anyways, the guy was fine but didn't really move me. However, the next band did. They were called something that I don't remember and could really play.

One thing I've been noticing here is that the level of musicianship is not very high, so it was great to see a rock band with good players. But while I enjoyed their set, it dragged at times because they insisted on playing 3-4 pop ballads. I think the shadow of pop looms far over most of the music culture here. Even more so than in the States, pop is everywhere.

And since pop is so strongly embedded, "alternative" music often seems to be simply stretching certain aspects of pop, rather than outright rebelling against it. The exception being punk and metal bands, but they stick pretty close to established templates as well. Of course, one could make the same point about American music, but I think Taiwan has yet to have a true musical "counterculture." They are still building their Max's Kansas City. I think it's slowly percolating though, due in part to a very savvy singer/record store owner. More on that next time. Sorry to be so brief, but I still have work to do on this dance piece.


Tavia said...

Welcome back! You're mail is waiting for you downstairs!

Brian said...

If you're planning to move there, I'm taking a trip over and scoping the place out. I hear they have a real ninja problem in the spring.