Taipei (now and some years before…)

Rob and I just made our journey back to Taipei for the week. I will be meeting with a Schoenhut toy piano dealer from Taiwan tomorrow! Check out their site here.

I have quite a lot of memories coming back to Taiwan to visit family throughout my childhood. I still remember the long flights I would take with my brother while we excitedly anticipated the great home-cooked meals we would have of our Grandma’s. It was also customary for us to make an additional trip to southern Taiwan to visit my father’s family for several days. Back then, there wasn’t a high-speed train, so it would sometimes mean taking a 14-hour bus ride. Some years later, my father came back to Taiwan while on sabbatical and the entire family came back to live for six months. I attended fifth grade  at Chiang-Kai Shek Middle School right outside of Taipei city. I still remember having a hard time grasping the disciplinary acts of teachers. On Fridays, my brother and I would go to Taiwan University for our traditional chinese bamboo flute lessons. This was probably the only period of time I studied Chinese music whatsoever. Years following, our lives became busier and the visit back to Taiwan became less frequent. When I was younger,  I felt there were so many cultural differences–not just the language, but the way of life, the way people dressed, acted and bought.  The traffic driving behavior was always daunting. There use to be a lot more bicyclists also. I don’t know whether it’s because I have grown more accustomed to some of the differences, or if it’s the result of a rapidly changing country, but Taiwan doesn’t seem so distant or foreign to me any longer. My relationship with the country has changed significantly since my parents moved back here seven years ago. Since then, the eating part of our visits are still highly anticipated, but now I am getting more of a chance to know modern Taiwan.

Just starting last year,  I have started looking for more of the new developments in the music and arts scene from the younger generation. (The web has helped tremendously and also the number of Taipei websites that are in English.) I was pleased when someone contacted me last year through facebook to set up a toy piano concert for me. It was just a chance happening and a kind act of strangers who wanted to bring a toy piano concert some place in Taipei.  It turned out to be a joint effort between a student at National Taiwan University (Timmy Chen) and the curator of a music and movie series (Taven Huang) at a cafe. Though this was just a small glimpse into the younger music-goers, I was touched and excited to see a generation of people curious about experimental music in Taiwan.

Anyone know of good shows happening in Taiwan this week? We are open to suggestions!

King’s Place and Limelight

Johannes and I played at King’s Place last night and will be leaving for our last Sounding Off concert  in a few minutes at Limelight.  The space at King’s Place was  more like a concert setting. We are told that the Limelight venue should be a little bit more like a bar/club performance. Yesterday evening was the first time I was also handling the images/video for our performance. I am relieved that the technical aspects of the show went relatively smoothly, considering how much we had prepared.

One thing Johannes and I have had to get use to is a lot of last-minute changes. The Stockhausen Tierkreis invites so much exploration from us and I feel that we have continually changed our arrangements in performance. It has been a really rewarding experience for me because each performance really is different. There is less sense of “execution” that might be involved in some other more traditional pieces. Instead, we really have a chance to sculpt the sound to each performance space and I feel more of a heightened sensitivity knowing that many of these “performative” aspects can only be determined on stage. I am looking forward to our last performance of it tonight!

Bloomington radio

wfhblogoWhile being back in Bloomington (IN) to fulfill some of my doctoral obligations, I noticed there are many things about Bloomington that makes this place very live-able, such as the good air quality, organic foods, close hiking trails, good coffee shops and laid back sort of feeling. (It’s a shame that many of these things become harder to appreciate as an anxious graduate student.) However, I would say that one of the best things about Bloomington is the radio stations. I use to be an experimental music DJ for the school radio station WIUX that plays a good bunch of Indie-rock, and there is of course WFMT Classical Radio. Every time I drive into Bloomington the first thing I do is look for WFHB Firehouse. They always have such great programming and I have not found any other radio station that has such a unique,eclectic music mix from a dedicated group of volunteers. While driving around this weekend, I heard  such programs like Roots for Breakfast, Native Spirits, Melody Unasked, Youth Radio and Sound Opinions, and many more. It is possible to hear them outside of Bloomington as well so please check out their website!

Music venues and performers

Since moving to New York, I have been looking for great music venues that have a lot of interesting stuff on a regular basis. Often times, artists that are performing there are publicized and previewed in online magazines but the venues themselves don’t get as much limelight attention. Sometimes I think venues have a hard business supporting artists like myself and keeping themselves afloat. Here are a list of some of my favorite alternative new music venues in the NYC area:

The Stone

Issue Project Room

Galapagos Art Space

Le Poisson Rouge



The Tank

This is just a shortlist, but go check them out!

Ecole Café in Taipei

I am excited about my upcoming concerts in Taipei and Tokyo this month. I heard about Ecole Café from a Taiwan University student as a potential venue for a toy piano concert while I am visiting. I was surprised to see the quaint venue located close to Daan Park in the middle of Taipei City, right in my parents’ neighborhood. The curator of the venue, Taven, has done a wonderful job bringing unique local musical acts and films to the venue for the last couple of years. She responded to my request for hosting a toy piano show that will take place this coming Monday, March 15 at 4pm.

I am rather ignorant to the contemporary art and music scene going on in Taipei. Taven is so thrilled that there will be a toy piano performance here. I guess it is something that doesn’t exist at all in this country. From a classical music background, it is apparently rare (or unheard of) to see someone that “crosses over” to something less traditional. I was encouraged to hear that there is now a developing art/music scene that has never existed in Taipei city before.

The café is beautifully decorated with interesting antique furniture and a good collection of art magazines, postcards and Asian toys/gadgets. I also have never seen a row of theater seats in a café. We went down a spiraling staircase to see the basement where all of the performances take place. There was a really interesting art exhibit by a Taiwanese artist, Mia Liu. There is also a velvet curtain that drapes over a nice view of a small rock garden. I feel very lucky to be performing in such a unique and eccentric space. Thanks to Taven, I will have the opportunity to present the toy piano to a group of people in Taipei.