Friday, March 27, 2009

Twittering to Byzantium

Yes, it seems that I do have twitter. When I joined it 2 days ago, I had an average of one new follower every 10 minutes, but that's all died down now; I'm lucky if a new one adds every 5-6 hours. On the other hand, those searching for Somtow are told to go look for Tommoh.

My secret identity has been discovered!

I'm currently preparing about half a dozen operas, in various ways. On top of the heap, though, are the Bruce Gaston piece and Thaïs. It's rather interesting, isn't it, that one of the operas is about the sex industry, and the other is about AIDS.

In Thaïs, set in Byzantine Egypt, a monk successfully converts the most notorious hooker in Alexandria to Jesus, but once she has been converted, realizes that he really wanted to get into her pants, but now it's too late. In Bruce Gaston's opera which we are premiering soon, an enormous Tiger serves as a metaphor for HIV.

Mike Mahalo, the costume designer for Thaïs, was speaking to the choir last night, explaining his concept, which begins with the idea that the Greeks had wholly different notions of what nudity means. How then to create clothing which implies that people are wearing nothing underneath while simultaneously addressing the priggish concerns of contemporary societal codes? To find out how Mike solved this problem, you will just have to come to the opera....

Sunday, March 22, 2009


As a result of Bruce's arriving at Trisdee's party a day late, I conceived the idea that we might do a joint concert of wildly contemporary music ... contemporary, that is, vintage 1979 or so ... a nostalgic evening, just the two of us. After all, if one person can timselip by 24 hours, could not two people timeslip by 35 years?

I found this poster from the year 1978 which advertises a concert. The first half is a Bach cantata, the second the world premiere of an unnamed two-piano composition by Bruce Gaston and myself.

This piece is very interesting in that I wrote extremely detailed programme notes for a piece that did not in fact exist yet, and then Bruce and I improvised the piece to fit the programme notes later. Improvisation is an interesting art, especially when one is doing it with someone as wild and creative as Bruce ... you dare to play everything, living in the moment, knowing it will never come back. This 30 minute piece was an amazing spectacle and had someone tried to compose it, would have taken probably weeks of carefully working out textures, heterophonies, and so on.

The piece was a wild success and it was recorded by Anton Regenberg of th Goethe Institute, but that recording has disappeared off the face of the earth, I think. So we will try to do it again....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Helix of Semi-Precious Stones

Last night was the night after Trisdee's "farewell to prodigy-hood" party. So I was with a different group of guests ... this guy Stan from the Mahler Society, and a lady from Bulgaria, who were all enjoying Black Russians from Trisdee's bar in Trisdee's absence.

As we sat discussing the meaning of life and other such trivialities, the sound of Chopin's Etude in A flat (the "harp" one) came floating up to my living room. Everyone looked up at the same time.

"God, Jay sounds brilliant," someone said. That would indeed have been the case, as Jay has only been playing the piano for a short while although he has tried sight-reading the etude before.

"Nah," I said. "It's Maurizio Pollini."

"Wow," said another guest. You can tell the pianist just from the sound?

I didn't tell him it was the only recording of the etudes in my library. I merely smiled knowingly.

At that moment, however, an excruciating wrong note rent asunder the perfect equilibrium. I realized that it wasn't, after all, memorex. There was someone sneaking around down there ... but surely a burglar wouldn't stop to rattle of a rather difficult Chopin piece.

It turned out to be Thailand's world-famous Bruce Gaston who had come to Trisdee's birthday party ... a day late.

And a dollar short?

It makes me wonder whether time is not, as previously supposed, either linear, or cyclic, or curved, but rather a series of slightly overlapping tectonic plates, and whether our lives slide by each other in a cosmic continental drift, only accidentally intersecting....