Happiness Recipes: a musical massage! (25/3/18)

For guaranteed fun and uplift try Gamelan! If you’re in the Paris area, it’s easy, keep reading. If not, it’s easy, too, scroll down for link to online version  🙂  (Photo: Javanese gamelan at CitĂ© de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04180

This is really a cool thing to do, alone, with friends or family. If you’ve never heard of it before, gamelan is an ensemble of 30+ elements, native to Indonesia, mainly composed of percussion instruments such as gongs, metallophones or drums. Sometimes there are string insturments such as rebab, celempung (kind of cithare), and woodwinds like the selung, a sort of bamboo flute. Gamelan plays an important role in Indonesian society. Every village or wealthy family owns one. Each is blessed and respected. Playing is not reserved for an elite, all social categories can participate. Gamelan is played on many occasions, religious or official ceremonies and holidays, and is often accompanied with other art forms: dance, song, and shadow theater. (Photo: gamelan workshop, CitĂ© de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04185

Shadow theater shows (Wayang Kulit) take place all over Indonesia. They can last all night. A dalang (storyteller and puppeteer) uses hand decorated leather marionnettes behind a scrim to illustrate epic tales from the Ramayana that relate the good and evil deeds of mankind in relationship with the supernatural realm. DSC04186

Gamelan uses fewer notes than the western chromatic scales– one with 5 notes (selendro) and one with 7 notes (pelog). Virtuosity results not from individual solos but from coordination between all the players, who don’t learn alone at home, but always in a group. The 30+ piece ensemble is considered as a single instrument. There is no sheet music as such. The learning process is oral. Instead of naming the notes, numbers are used to indicate which gongs and which metal bars to strike with special mallets. Gamelan uses repetitive cycles that overlap to form sound mandalas! (The dragon below is part of a Balinese gamelan at La Villette, Paris 19)DSC04181

If you are in Paris, sign up for the next gamelan workshop:

http://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr/activite/atelier-du-week-end/18745-gamelan-de-java?date=1528632000

If you are not in Paris, or just want to explore, click on this link to see 5 gamelans from different regions (Java, Bali, Sunda). You can play them using the buttons on the panel at left:

http://pad.philharmoniedeparis.fr/gamelan.aspx

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.14.41

and see how the cycles form sound mandalas!Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.15.18

The workshop leader at the CitĂ© de la Musique is very nice and well versed in gamelan culture. He demonstrates the techniques and gets everyone in the groove. Can’t recommend it highly enough! A musical voyage away from our western habits into a shared experience of soothing, almost transe-inducing, musical relaxation and massage.

Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

Text about Gamelan adapted and translated from CNED, Éducation Musicale, 4/e, 2018

 

Happiness Recipes (updated 14/3/18)

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Winter is still with us, how can we love it? Let me count the ways… Number one: new discoveries and passions like Madame, my favorite woman street artist, whose interactive mural collages I discovered on a recent cold evening at Art 42, a Parisian programming school and street art gallery in the 17th. In honor of International Women’s Day, I posted the one above, shown by the stairs in Art 42’s courtyard: “By calculating everything, we made our lives indecipherable equations…”

From Madame’s website Bio: “…I work with and rework vintage documents and photographs from the last century up to the 50’s and 60’s, to create new, more contemporary images. 

These original visuals are always articulated in the following characteristic way: an image and a punch line that dialog, but don’t illustrate one another. 

Once these small format collages are finished, they are scanned and then printed in very large formats and affixed in the street, to offer passersby a door to another more playful, offbeat reality.  

It’s about offering viewers an image that can be interpreted in many ways, an open door to elsewhere.” 

Photo of photo displayed in the basement of Art 42, “Building paper castles, we don’t cause the storm, we defy it.”

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And a detail from wall sculpture upstairs, “Day and night always end up in embrace” DSC04084DSC04083

Below: “To be sure I’d never find myself, I sowed my heart like a tiny bread crumb” has frames that swing open like windows:

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She keeps her own identity and image secret, posing beside “I sometimes embrace the past to stay standing”DSC04082.JPG

To see and find out more, see her website and Instagram:

http://www.madamemoustache.fr/

http://www.instagram.com/madamemoustachestreetart/

All the pieces above and examples of her earlier work can be seen at

Art42 Urban Art Collection and Coding Institute
96 Boulevard de Bessières
75017, M° Porte de Clichy
01 77 12 54 55
The name refers to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (42 being the ultimate answer to Life and the Universe)
The gallery/coding school concept is the brainchild of Nicolas Laugero-Laserre (collector, director of ICART art institute, former director of Espace Cardin) and Xavier Niel (CEO of Free, married to Delphine Arnault of LVMH) and it doesn’t disappoint: 150 works by 50 artists cover the walls of 3 floors, a courtyard, and the cafeteria, including Banksy, JR, Invader, Shepard Fairey, Philippe Baudeloque, Romain Froquet, Monkey Bird, Swoon, Bault, Evol, Jef, and Aerosol… Admission is free, Tuesday evenings 7-9 pm and the first Sunday of the month 3-6 pm, with tours in French, English, and Spanish. Reservation is required.
Highly recommended! xxxxx Aliss

A Tale of Two Christmases (updated 12/26/17)

IMG_0927Rockefeller Center, of course 🙂

As Josephine Baker said, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two loves, my country and Paris”) That’s totally me! Both Christmas styles are genius, if very different…

It’s taken longer than I expected to synthesize my pictures and thoughts, due to jetlag and holiday socializing, but, here goes..

I had to go to the Washington D.C. area in early December for a family funeral in Arlington. It was very solemn but heart-warming, bringing family together to commemorate a life well lived.DSC03934a

It was amazing to return to the area where I grew up and then take the Amtrak train north from Union Station, like when I was in college.

 

Seeing NYC from afar over northern NJ  marshes reminded me of the first time I saw it rising on the horizon like the Emerald City when I was a teenager.

 

This time I was on my way to see beloved younger family members who are building careers in the theater and IT worlds. Not having been in NYC at Christmas time for several years, I had to make every moment count: a long taxi ride Uptown from Penn station with a very chatty cabdriver:  DSC03945

A walk across Central park for an afternoon at the Met:

 

Midtown Christmas windows:

 

Rockefeller Center:

 

Bryant Park Winter village:

 

Visiting in Washington Heights (near GW bridge) and Queens:

 

Theater outings (The New School, The Public, Japan Society):

 

Thai “smashed” ice cream on MacDougall Street:

 

Shopping and pilgrimage to the Stonewall Inn in the Village:

 

A gorgeous fluffy snow storm:

 

Singing along with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” at the top of our lungs with the crowd at a cool tequila and mezcal bar called The Ghost Donkey downtown, then Uber home on the FDR:DSC03983.JPGhttps://www.atabula.com/2017/10/31/images-panorama-de-11-buches-de-chefs-patissiers-stars/

Hours on steep subway stairways and deafening dirty platforms enlivened with occasional mozaics: DSC03954

Pounding the broken pavement between stations with a capella groups singing on street corners:DSC03978.jpg

And before I can blink, time to fly back to Paris: DSC03998

First adjustment: Paris is much farther north, so it gets darker earlier here and even a bright day is muted compared to NYC. Also Christmas lights seem to be more of a public than a private thing here. The shopkeeper in charge of ordering the display over our street has retired and no one has taken over. Local cafés, bakeries, chocolate and cheese stores did their best to cheer things up:

 

Our own little family invested in a very tall tree for indoors and a floor-to-roof outdoor string of LEDs for our balcony:

 

Driving around the city, I noticed posher neighborhoods all lit up with specially designed garlands, welcoming visitors and shoppers, but there’s less self-expression by private individuals here. It seems to be catching on slowly and the occasional bright balcony takes your breath away. A welcome relief: hopping on public transportation to shop is a breeze in Paris, quiet, clean and easy to navigate:

 

But another adjustment: most of the good Christmas playlists are in English. Maybe because everything in France is still less commercial, holiday music is mainly religious with a few notable exceptions, including francophone Canadian, African and West Indian imports.

For me, the epitome of French Christmas spirit is the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log cake, a form of edible folk art reaching new levels of refinement every year. Star pastry chefs are now vying to create more extravagant versions in every shape and color, from electric guitars to Santa hats to playing cards, at astronomical prices.

https://www.atabula.com/2017/10/31/images-panorama-de-11-buches-de-chefs-patissiers-stars/

The less expensive ones in our humble local establishments are good enough for me: rolls of sponge cake and butter cream icing or slabs of mousse and ice cream with fruit glazes and every possible variation of tiny plastic forest scenes, wrapped gifts, Santas and snowmen.

 

Of course Paris is the uncontested world capital of food and can’t be beat for the availability of fresh ingredients for home cooking along with gourmet restaurants at affordable prices. Chef Philou’s foie gras and smoked salmon:Philou_boutiquehttp://www.facebook.com/Philourestaurant/

Lunch at Yam Tcha, Michelin-starred Franco-Chinese fusion:

 

http://www.yamtcha.com/reservations.html

And on the 24th, our French relatives hosted a traditional Christmas Eve dinner for 18 of us with almost that many nationalities represented around the table:DSC04041

In former days, everyone would have attended midnight mass. Now we open presents at about that time and stagger home in the wee hours to recover.

Our American background calls for stocking presents the morning of the 25th, then another round of gifts in front of a virtual fire, under the watchful eyes of our kitty, who got a new scratching box with catnip and lots of her favorite–ham:

 

This was followed by a late afternoon skype with the US family in their sparkling White Christmas landscape, whereas ours was dreary and Wet. They were spending the day in the kitchen, we were still full so didn’t have to…

So… New York definitely wins the contest in terms of music, personalized lights, and great music. Paris wins in terms of deliciousness, cozy internationalness, and human-friendly transportation. New York has the big tree at 30 Rock (see above) but Paris has the world’s biggest artificial tree, the Eiffel TowerDSC01934

… Feeling privileged to spend time with loved ones in both places and enjoy both atmospheres…

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! On to 2018! xxxxx Aliss

 

Doing Dior?

DSC03904From the Dior Show at MusĂ©e des Arts DĂ©coratifs: One alcove in the floor-to-ceiling cathedral of mousselines or toiles (second wing of the exhibit) one of my favorite rooms… These are preliminary muslin versions of couture designs to test life-size patterns before cutting more expensive fabrics. Almost more beautiful than the final garment…

The good news… “Sublime” doesn’t begin to describe this show, staged with loving reverence for detail: 300 haute couture creations, from the house’s establishment in 1947 to the present, iconic photographs by Richard Avedon and others, every accessory imaginable (hats, jewelry, bags, shoes, perfume bottles), illustrations and sketches, plus a selection of paintings, furniture and art objects…DSC03905 (Salvador Dali, Buste rĂ©trospectif d’une femme et La Chaise atmosphĂ©rique, 1933)

A tribute to high style, tradition, craftsmanship, marketing savvy, and sheer French genius.

For a quick glimpse:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrGgxM9QiXI

and

http://www.dior.com/couture/fr_fr/la-maison-dior/expositions/christian-dior-couturier-du-reve

In a palette arranged by color, I fell for these miniatures in B&W DSC03906DSC03907

and this classic shape in pale blue:DSC03908

The bad news: You may not see very much of the show. Even with a “fast pass” ticket bought via internet, you will stand in line outside for at least 30 minutes, again at the cloak room if you have a backpack or large bag, then you will try to climb the stairs against a stream of fleeing attendees (you’ll understand why in a minute) only to shuffle two or three-abreast through a series of dark under-ventilated chambers linked by bottleneck passageways, straining to see the displays over heads and between shoulders. At the end of this ordeal you come to a narrow stairway down to a lower level of less crowded larger rooms, where you can catch your breath.DSC03909 Exiting this wing and crossing the lobby, you access another stairway leading up to a reading room on the left and another series of crowded rooms linked by bottle necks on your right, finally opening into the muslin cathedral mentioned above, and then a vast space called the “Dior Ballroom” where you can move around and admire exquisite gowns, historic portraits, and red carpet film footage of celebrities and royalty in Dior.DSC03903

I’m sure it cost a fortune to mount this event, so its success is great for Les arts dĂ©cos and for Paris. It’s unfortunate, however, that the museum staff in charge of ticketing and crowd control have so little respect for their audience. There are actual mathematical formulas to calculate flow in small spaces and set up schedules:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_network_analysis

Why isn’t this taken into consideration? Trip advisor comments describe people fainting, disabled visitors who can’t navigate the passageways, long-distance travelers  giving up at the entrance and leaving.

TIP: Judging by the graph on the museum FB page, the best time to plan a visit is 11am on weekends. http://www.facebook.com/lesartsdecoratifs/

Potential idea: other sites like the Parc Asterix post notices at the entrance when the crowds are overwhelming: “Complet” (SRO), so you can still enter, but in full knowledge of what to expect.

http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/francais/musees/musee-des-arts-decoratifs/actualites/expositions-en-cours/christian-dior-couturier-du-reve/

Courage! xxxxx Aliss

Noticing (updated 11/11/17)

DSC03876 (1)Funny sidewalk face, Place des Vosges, on a recent autumn day…

Blog has been in slomo for several days, busy busy with other writing projects and life…

As promised, thoughts about noticing:

Since the Paris attacks two years ago, I’ve been meditating every day to stay calm and raise my vibes, in various ways. Tibetan compassion mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum:

Om-mani-padme-hum_02.svg

Also the Oprah/Chopra (W&D) meditation series, which I highly recommend. It’s freeeee (and there are lots of free sample meditations to try out), and you can subscribe if you want to redo, which I do:

http://www.chopra.com/articles/guided-meditations

http://chopracentermeditation.com/

Then there’s the On Being site, with (not too shabby!) meditations by Sylvia Boorstein, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others:

http://onbeing.org/blog/sylvia-boorstein-a-lovingkindness-meditation/

And last but not least, Krista Tippet’s On Being interview with Ellen Langer, who says we don’t have to meditate to get the same and better results. To be mindful (instead of mindless) all we have to do is NOTICE. Notice 5 new things about our significant other, about our job, about our neighborhood on our daily walks (see above, that’s what photography does for me):

http://onbeing.org/programs/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness-nov2017/

…and question all our assumptions and received ideas… Her outlook reminds me of climate activist David Gershon’s minute-to-minute life question, “What’s possible?”

http://www.thetrumpantidote.com/interview-david-gershon.html

And Empowerment activist Gail Straub putting on “John Lennon’s glasses”

http://www.thetrumpantidote.com/interview-gail-straub

Noticing noticing noticing…

To be continued… xxxxx Aliss

Back on the Beat

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I’m embarrassed to admit that while other people are surviving hurricanes, earthquakes, and violent religious and racial persecution, all it took to knock me down was a cold virus. Very humbling and frustrating!

Venturing outside again after several days of extreme inertia, inspired to see new murals in the ‘hood, like this one, rue Henri Noguères, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, signed Lima Lima-Raphe. The title is a latin translation of a quote from Hippocrates, open to different interpretations:

…”it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one’s expertise (in, say, medicine) and one has but a short time in which to do it”.[3] …”art lasts forever, but artists die and are forgotten”[3] (in this use sometimes rendered in the Greek order as “Life is short, Art eternal”), but most commonly it refers to how time limits our accomplishments in life.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ars_longa,_vita_brevis

Thinking about art, trying to keep playing music, writing, researching, has kept me going over the past few low energy days. Here’s more nourishment for thought and soul, a beautiful article from the Washington Post, “This is Your Brain on Art.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/your-brain-on-art/?utm_term=.c8a54fbdf078

To be continued, xxxxx Aliss