Music…writing…lions, butterflies, healing and immortality…

Stock photo of a Monarch….Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 14.58.59

Music is my aeroplane, writing is my time machine…no, writing keeps me sane? Maybe all of the above…The story of my life, especially right now…

Those of you who check in from time to time have noticed I completely let this poor blog flatline over the last few weeks. Life is what happens when you’ve scheduled something else, and/or hell is paved with good intentions?

There I was early June, barreling along, getting stuff done, moving mountains and then Pow! A big disturbance in the force, that phone call you never want to get, one of my favorite people had passed away in her sleep, which is the best way to go that anyone could ask for, but a horrible shock for me, especially because I had just finalized plans to see her over the summer.Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 18.12.16

(My heart has been heavy since June 13th when this person left our lives, my sweet, funny, smart Aunt Barbie, my second Mom, inspiring mother, homemaker, health professional, business woman, story teller, hostess, fashion plate, decorator, traveler… No one can ever replace her and I can’t bear to say goodbye….)

This was two days before I was supposed to hop on a Eurostar for London to see some English music buddies and sign publishing contracts for a song we wrote and recorded together. While there I planned to take my son to see The Lion King, a required part of our family curriculum. When he suddenly came down with a flu bug and couldn’t travel, cancelling seemed like the best option… Yes, but MUSIC!

So went anyway. Put away sadness, put on a good face, and it was the perfect thing to do: move forward with a new song (more about that soon) that I can build a set around to get back on stage after a very long maternity leave, and brainstorm with my buds about sound, arrangements, the new Protools, gigs, etc.

… And the London cast of The Lion King gave new meaning to the word catharsis. (If you haven’t seen the stage version directed by Julie Taymor, you have no idea what you’re missing.) The Circle of Life and They Live in Me as interpreted by Brown Lindiwe Mkize as Rafiki were exactly what I needed.

DSC04365aIt felt like tears were coming up from my heart, through my eyes, and running down my face, in a loop of sadness and gratitude that the person I missed so much will always be in my life and our family. http://www.thelionking.co.uk/cast/

The next day, I sped back to Paris energized to sing and play a new song live at the Fête de la Musique as a guest of my favorite funk band, the Doodads.

At the top of my To Do list was journaling, going over my calendar where I scribble daily highlights and revelations, and then, when I have time, elaborate in my this-aint-no-bullet-journal-journal:IMG_1052

I had almost 3 weeks to catch up on while juggling other things, so it took many hours of pen to paper, off and on over several days until I was cross eyed and writers-cramped. Late at night when I was almost caught up I channel-flipped onto National  Geographic’s “One Strange Rock, Season 1, episode 10, Home.” http://onestrangerock.com/episodes/  Why now, why this episode?

It’s about Peggy Whitson, the distinguished, record-breaking female astronaut from Iowa. Her transformation from farm girl into Space Explorer is compared to the metamorphosis of Monarch caterpillars who liquefy in their chrysalises and emerge to migrate thousands of miles, all the way from our midwest and other far flung destinations, to Mexico, where they arrive every year on the Day of the Dead and are celebrated by local people as the souls of departed loved ones. Eye-popping Mexican make up and costumes included a full-body butterfly suit with enormous orange and black wings.

The next morning, when I journaled about this, it hit me: my aunt’s travel business was Monarch Travel and Cruises, and her logo was a monarch butterfly! OK, maybe just coincidence, but stunning, like a wink from the great beyond, a beautiful metaphor for a soul connections, to make me smile.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says writing by hand connects us to our deepest selves. Right now I don’t have time to write every morning as she suggests, but my journaling marathons open up what’s under the surface, dip into my inner well, renew and inspire me, keep me sane, allow me to time travel forward and backward, connect the dots…

This one allowed me to resurrect this blog, no small thing…

xxxxxx Aliss

 

 

Oh My Blog!

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(What we all want, right? To be welcome, to belong…This place makes me feel that…)

 Long time no post but I’m back!

Here’s the deal, all the blog energy got sucked out of my brain by unforeseen other stuff:

Finishing and publishing 4th interview for the Trump Antidote, child’s wisdom teeth removal surgery and complications, endless new administrative BS to renew son’s passport at foreign embassy that shall not be named for fear of bureaucratic reprisals, said son got his hair bleached (resulting in 2nd degree burns to the scalp), planning an author event for an esteemed writer friend who then cancelled… Mother’s Day prep (transatlantic flower order, sending card, calling), shopping for presents and dinner party for a dear friend’s birthday, overnight family escapade to the Picardy countryside, annual appointment with vet for cat vaccinations, organizing a camp out for Boy Scouts in June, managing my new Instagram account…

Lucky me! Got invited to the theater twice (El Cid, The Mercy Seat) plus 2 concerts (Lucy Dacus, Jazz Manouche ensemble) had coffees, tea, lunches and dinners with various friends I don’t see often enough who were suddenly available… Russian visitors, US visitors, planning trip to London to copyright a song co-written with English musician friends, reservations for marathon trip to NY this summer…

Thank God work schedule was light but time to make more appointments… Home-schooling (Yes, me! Who would have ever thought? But that’s another story all together…) Made annual doctor appointments, found new dentist

Rehearsed and sang briefly at a charity fundraiser for the Emmaüs homeless shelter in the 17th.

Trying to walk and do yoga regularly, meditate, keep up voice exercizes, put together a set of my songs, some covers, and accompany myself on the guitar... Learning some new stuff to sing with US musician friends at Fête de la Musique

Mainly… I made a commitment to myself on February 20th to finish revising my coming-of-age-memoir manuscript in 90 days, meaning by May 20. This was inspired by Marie Forleo’s webinar “How to get anything you want in 90 days” and the Oprah Deepak meditation experiences…

Went to my canal-side writing nook (pictured above) diligently at every opportunity…

Was off to a running start until all the above mayhem and Spring Break broke my stride, then May 1st, May 8th, May 17th and May 21st French holiday weekends made it hard to get back in the rhythm… Made amazing headway, but still have to go though it one more time, plus finishing touches and formatting. Let’s say I finished a new draft

I’ll have to ask  Marie F what she advises as a back up when you miss your deadline? Maybe I over-committed, set a too-ambitious goal?

I will keep you posted… so to speak… Meanwhile, highly recommend:

http://www.marieforleo.com

“LEARN HOW TO GET ANYTHING YOU WANT.

In this fantastic (and free) audio training you’ll learn three simple strategies that’ll give you the courage and confidence to create a business and life you love.”

To be continued!!!

xxxxxx Aliss

PS!!!! That’s not all! I just remembered I also replaced all my plants that got killed by frost during the winter and took a first-aid/CPR refresher!! Yikes!!!

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 Cité 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, Cité 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

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

The workshop leader at the Cité 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

 

How to be your own Valentine (and outsmart winter blues)

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So, as planned,  I made Christmas last until the end of January. Then decorations were put away, tree recycled,  pictures sorted, cards sent, presents played with, playlists turned off, virus waned, work and life went on along with the darkest winter in three decades, heavy, gray, damp. Jealous of NY weather, I grumbled, “This is it, I’m done, have to move to a place where I can see snow”.. and presto-change-o, Lumos Maxima! This week we had the biggest Paris snowfall in 30+ years, 10 inches in 24 hours… Suddenly lightness and brightness instead of gloom.DSC04122.JPG

Later in the week, the sun was even shining on the snowy roofs and city gardens.

Of course it wasn’t all fun. People were slipping on icy pavements, or stuck in cars and transportation. (Not to mention the homeless and refugees living on the streets.) Thirteen beautiful trees keeled over in our Buttes Chaumont park up the hill.

In any case, a big life lesson. Everything can change in a few hours…

But, we’re not “out of the woods” yet. Spring doesn’t arrive for another 7 weeks and knowing this part of the world, we could definitely enter a depressing weather tunnel again. So here are some strategies to outsmart the end of winter:

  • Be your own Valentine! Create an atmosphere of “anything can happen” expectancy. Make a list of things you love to receive and enjoy–hugs, flowers, pretty chocolates, massages, pedicures, compliments, cards and postcards, dinner invitations, high tea invitations, party invitations, concert/theater/museum tickets, hearing a favorite song, “I love you” texts in your inbox, trip to the pool, a walk in a beautiful landscape, vacation plans, flattering pix of yourself, happy pix of you with people you love, smiles, fun movies… Whatever your heart desires. Write each one on a piece of paper, fold up and put in a jar or box by your computer, labeled “Open Me.” Then open one a day until Valentine’s Day (and beyond) and give these things to yourself within 24 hours, or at least schedule it. (I guarantee you won’t remember the entire list and you’ll get a spontaneous lift.)
  • Even better! Turn the energy around. Be everyone’s Valentine! Give yourself all of the above and invite a special person or people to join you. Giving is receiving, right?  You’ll get a love boomerang!
  • Music! How to create a magic holiday updraft? Back in the 60’s, French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis discovered that Mozart violin concertos stimulate the cerebral cortex, creativity, optimism, and calm efficiency. Researchers theorize that it’s about inducing beta waves in the brain. Who knows. Try it and see. Another good bet: the complete works of the Beatles in chronological order, Irish bands Kila and Solas, Bretons Alan Stivell and Dan Ar Braz will get your blood moving (let me know if you suddenly start repainting and remodeling your apartment single-handedly). You can experiment with light transe-inducing gamelan, dance to “Happy” by Pharrel and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, float to Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé, or maybe your taste runs to Macklemore, whatever, have fun, see what works!!
  • Have a crepe party! La Chandeleur was earlier in the week and Mardi Gras falls on February 13th, two occasions to make dinner pancakes! Organic hard apple and pear ciders are prominently displayed on grocery store shelves, buck wheat crepes grilled in big skillets with your choice of cheese, mushrooms, ham, egg yolk, sautéd onions or shallots, sour cream… plus green salad on the side, is very festive, you’ll see.*
  • Take advantage of these weeks to make other winter recipes that are easy to burn off in cold weather. Some new faves: Reblochon fondue in roasted potimaron pumpkins, wild mushroom fricassee (thank you Sylvia Sabes) 🙂 Leftovers from both of these can be turned into soups and fabulous mini mushroom croissants… Pumpkin fonduDSC04062
  • Details coming… (Thank you Z Worthington for the fondue picture)

*Got these dates mixed up at first but now they’re correct 🙂

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Musicmorphosis

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Not blogging as much as I’d like because getting back into music… Just released this reggae,  about transforming scary energy, feels timely, swings. The cover is a photo I took of street art in NYC. Check it out on i-tunes, Amazon, Deezer… To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Sanity Savers 13: Real Music (updated 30/3)

Omar Sosa (Cuban pianist), Seckou Keita (Sengalese Kora), Gustavo Ovalles (Venezuelan percussionist), Meiko Miyazaki (Japanese Koto), and Ana Carla Maza (South American cellist, singer), recent concert at Café de la Danse…DSC03309

Perfect concerts are very rare. If you want to experience one, catch this ensemble on tour to promote Sosa and Keita’s latest collaboration, Transparent Water. Would you call it World Jazz? There seem to be different guest stars depending on the evening, bringing unique influences and styles. On March 16th, the line-up was Afro-Cuban, Asian, Afro-Arabic, and Latin American, beginning with Ana Carla Maza’s spirited singing in English, Spanish, and French, accompanying herself on electric cello. Her version of Serge Gainsbourg’s “La Javanaise” was a show-stopper. She was followed by the three men, who were later joined  by the Japanese virtuoso. Everything was gorgeous and surprising: sound quality, lighting, variety and intricacy of instruments, non-verbal communication between musicians, their delight in each other’s skill and playfulness, vocal solos, and harmonies. It all blended together in a pulsating sensual caress. Especially fascinating: the huge Kora looked like an extraterrestrial antelope’s head with dozens of strings stretching from its horns down its back and the Koto like a giant sea-creature carcass with many ivory bridges supporting its thread-like “bones.” Among the percussionist’s accessories was a wooden tube that released a subtle curtain of water and sparkling  treble notes into a miked bassin.  Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

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