Greetings from Paris — I must say, a damn fine place to be this time of year.
I have eight nights in the City of Light. Eight nights gives me just enough time to avoid rushing around, trying to cram everything in, but also just enough so that I will barely settle into the remarkable rhythms of Parisian life before I will have to head back home. Of course there are struggles and frustrations here, as anywhere, but there is also a fantastic sensitivity and respect for the highest aspirations of civilization that I find really refreshing. Returning to these streets, these gardens, these plazas from time to time is a delicious balm for any soul that despairs of the value of human achievement.
I have done a lot since arriving Tuesday afternoon, but two things stand out: visits to the Pompidou Center and the CitÃ© Universitaire. The former’s exhibition of contemporary art was a great refresher course in the wit and audacity of early minimalism — Donald Judd, Carl AndrÃ©, et al — as well as some wondrous new works, including a 2001 film, a Japanese-Vietnamese coproduction (I believe it was called Approaching the Complex) that featured images, both otherworldly and strangely familiar, of young men bicycling rickshas on the bottom of a lake — limbs straining with effort, and sudden, beautifully bubbling outbursts as they shot up to the surface to gulp down more air, before returning to their Sisyphean exertions.
The CitÃ© Universitaire is where my What Happened will premiere tonight. An international village within the city, the CU is a place where students from around the world come in order to be able to afford to pursue their studies in this cultural capital. Each building houses students from a different country, providing an oasis of familiarity to young people who may be exploring the world beyond their homelands for the first time.
My music will be played in the Danish House, a modest brick edifice with a spacious, wooden music room. The concert is being given by the Atlantic Ensemble, a group whose character is personified by Wei Tsun Chang, a terrific violinist who approaches every note he plays — whether it was put on the page by Mozart or by an unknown living composer — as though it was the most fascinating thing he could possibly be doing. In rehearsal last night, we tried a number of last-minute adjustments — shifting bowings, registers, etc. — in an effort to make every nuance sparkle. I think the performance will go very well — I will try to give a follow-up report in the next few days.
But not before I spend a few more hours sitting in outdoor cafes and soaking in the impossibly fine evening air.