I made a beautiful new friend Jen Blein who is a brilliant artist and a brilliant woman. We went for a walk around the streets of Phnom Penh and took this photo up the road at Wak Lanka. Veasna was intrigued by us and delighted to be in some photos. He was so gentle and enthusiastic, a peaceful reminder of why I love living in this beautiful country. It will probably end up the cover for my next album “Atlas”.
Here in Cambodia, my adopted home, I return to the humble upright piano at the NGO Music Arts School in Phnom Penh and find each note is a memory compared to the experience of playing on Paul’s Feurich in Bangkok. Yet, here in the chaotic heat of a rebuilding nation, I am grateful for this unnamed piano and it’s lack of sympathy to my desire for beauty. For on it, I am forced to consider the distance between the notes, and not the timbre of the note itself, to achieve Beauty. I am forced to compose well, as Bach was forced to compose without the joy of Piano and Forte….To overcome limitation is the pathway to personal Freedom. I have never resisted a challenging environment. It only forces me to lift my standards. As I feel I have done here in this beautiful country. In personal challenge lies salvation and the strengthening of the soul. The right molding of character that creates an awakened individual. Our ultimate spiritual goal.”
I have written works I am infinitely proud of on this humble upright. I walked away from everything I knew in the West to sit alone at a piano in a forgotten place, to remember why I write music. The bare room on the ground floor becoming my own personal creative mecca hidden in the backstreets of social change, development and the rebuilding of Cambodia’s future. To sit amongst portraits of great Artists who were murdered by the Khmer Rouge for simply being artists.
There is Sinn Sisamouth…his black and white portrait shining down on me….his smile reminding me that I am alive and I am free. Not destined for a brutal death in the Killing Fields in my prime as he was. In this school I am forced to feel gratitude for the very joy of being alive. I gift each note back to these portraits on the wall. The singers, painters, writers and poets who were killed for simply celebrating life.