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 ¬†ūüôā ¬†(Photo: Javanese gamelan at Cit√© 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, Cit√© 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:


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:


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 Cit√© 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, √Čducation Musicale, 4/e, 2018


Sanity Savers 19: Hope


I’ve been having a hard time taking pictures… Paris is gray and cold, there’s a national psychodrama going on due to the presidential elections, the atmosphere is very heavy.

I look for openings in the clouds. No matter who is elected on Sunday, we will have to keep hope alive, as we are doing in the US, by every means possible.

Some lightness from Emily Dickinson:

‚ÄúHope‚ÄĚ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I‚Äôve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”
And what if we are extra kind to everyone we meet every day? Can that open the clouds, even a little bit?

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 Caf√© 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




Sanity Savers 5: Celebrate!

dsc03231Today is February 2, Ground Hog Day, Candlemas, La Chandeleur!

Dinner tonight: buckwheat cr√™pes with cheese, ham, fresh mushrooms saut√©d in butter and garlic, maybe an egg, and a glass of hard cider… A blend of pagan, religious and culinary traditions:

“Among the¬†Celts, the pagan celebration of¬†Imbolc¬†occurred on the first of February. This was in honor of the goddess¬†Brigid¬†and was associated with purification and fertility at the end of winter. Peasants would carry torches and cross the fields in procession, praying to the goddess to purify the ground before planting.

In churches, the torches were replace by blessed candles whose glow was supposed to take away evil and symbolize that Christ is the light of the world. They would then take the candles to their homes to bring protection to their homes. In 1372 this celebration would also be associated with the purification of Mary at the Temple (similar to the churching of women).

Cr√™pes¬†with their round form and their golden color are reminiscent of the sun, an appropriate symbol during Candlemas, as this is the time of the year when the days get longer. It is also the time of year when the winter seeds begin to grow. The people therefore used left-over flour to make these cr√™pes, symbolizing prosperity for the coming year.”


“In the¬†United Kingdom, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later: ‘If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.’[22]¬†It is also alleged to be the date that¬†bears¬†emerge from¬†hibernation¬†to inspect the weather as well as¬†wolves, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least.

“In the¬†United States, Candlemas coincides with¬†Groundhog Day, the earliest American reference to which can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at¬†Franklin and Marshall College. The reference implies that Groundhog Day may have come from a German-American Candlemas tradition:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

‚ÄĒ‚ÄČ4 February 1841‚ÄĒfrom¬†Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris’ diary,¬†[2]

In¬†France¬†and Belgium, Candlemas (French:¬†La Chandeleur) is celebrated with¬†cr√™pes.”


“In addition, the¬†Festa candelarum¬†in Rome commemorated the search for the Goddess of Light¬†Persephone¬†kidnapped by the King of the Other World¬†Hades, by her mother the Goddess of Life¬†Demeter. As Persephone was no longer in our world, darkness was everywhere, so her mother used a torch in her search, and in the end obtained that her daughter would be on Earth and¬†Olympus¬†for two thirds of the year (the light period), and in the Other World (Hades) for the other third of the time (winter season). The festival of candles symbolizes the return of the Light.

February takes its name from the Latin verb¬†februare¬†which means ‘purification’. Christianity has therefore placed the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin at this time. The purification in question is the departure of the ‘winter darkness’. The myths of¬†Sleeping Beauty¬†or¬†Theseus¬†and¬†Ariadne¬†(for example) relate to the release or liberation of the light (Dawn of the year) by the ‘solar knight’.”

Bon appétit!

xxxxxx Aliss

Sanity Savers 4: Go out with the girls

Young mom having a citron pressé with a friend, early evening in a cafédsc03216

Do you know there are places in the world where women are told not to go out without men after 6pm? ¬†Going out with your women friends, occupying public space, is not just good for the soul, it’s a political statement. ¬†More about this in my next interview…

xxxxx Aliss

Why I’m here

Pixelated Paris sky…DSC02719

To stand on this bridge, looking into the light, full of conversations with others drawn to this place by love of words, ideas, color, images, sound, rhythm… thinking of everyone I care about, sending out this picture…This is why I’m here…