My message to the dear supporters of my first crowdfunding campaign!

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So…
Completed!

With 24 funders and 30 days of campaigning, this bunch of exceptional people that are my friends, family, and both old and new fans raised 2000$ to support this new album I am releasing with MoonJune Records, called ‘Life Is…’!
'Life Is...' Cover
I am so honoured and touched that I want to publicly make the promise that I will do everything that is in my power to keep making music and to never stop.To keep deserving all the trust these sweet people have instilled me with. And I  am so touched to know that there is support out there, for anyone who dares to ask for it, and hope this will inspire others to set up their own campaign and find out what a life transforming process this is. Not only do you get support in the form of money, but even more valuable – it creates enormous amounts of connection. People see what you’re doing and they give your their honest opinion about your art, your music, your communication, their feelings, their passions and their dreams. You get to connect with people that resonate with what you are doing and you get SO much out of it! It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. I intend to keep connecting with all these beautiful people – not only the ones who contributed financially (because that option is just not available to everybody!) but with everyone who cares and wants to connect.

Amanda Palmer was right – people don’t need to be forced into doing anything! If you just give them the chance, and ask for their support, they will gladly give it to you – and in more ways than you ever dreamed possible.
I look forward to each and every request for support of each and every one of you, and I am so happy to start spreading out all those goodies & gifts I have prepared and am still in the process of preparing…

Oh shall I say it? Yes I will… I! LOVE! YOU! ALL!!!!

Susan

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5 Movies about weird talents

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There’s a kind of movies that we found out over the years we had a special connection with. They’re movies about people with an unconventional talent. People who are among the best of the best at what they do, and often compete for the title of THE best in the world. But what they do is extremely specific, unpopular, or weird. So only a very specific community knows and sometimes considers them like gods.

Here’s a selection of 5 movies we watched and enjoyed, around that theme. If you think of others, let us know in a comment!

1. The King of Kong (a Fistful of Quarters) – old-school arcade video games
Seth Gordon (2007)

The King of Kong (A Fistful of Quarters)Now this is one really great documentary. It shows the journey of Steve Wiebe as he tries, from his home, to beat Billy Mitchell’s world record of the old arcade video game King Kong. It is told as a fiction but the characters they film are real…
It’s amazing to see the importance those games can have on the characters. That record – and that of the “perfect game” of Pacman – is Mitchell’s greatest life accomplishment. With that record in hand he always considered himself a winner. Wiebe’s a highschool science teacher with a very clear Asperger’s syndrome, he’s presented as never having won anything, he’s a fair player and a kind man. And he’ll be confronted to the lengths Mitchell would go to to preserve his record.
This movie gets you all excited about a King Kong game. Now that’s a performance! It’s funny, well-filmed, and has a certain depth too. Strongly recommended.

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2. Butter – butter sculptures
Jim Field Smith (2011)

Butter

Ok so this one really is a fiction. It shows the all-time winner of the local butter sculpture contest (Ty Burrell) – once featured in Time Magazine for his reconstruction of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in butter – as he is asked to retire in order to give other people a chance to compete. His hyper-competitive wife (Jennifer Garner) directly signs up to make sure “that power doesn’t end up on the hands of another family”. Meanwhile a little African-American girl with a passion for butter sculpting (Yara Shahidi) is adopted by a family in the same neighborhood (Reb Corddry and Alicia Silverstone) and signs up for the same competition. And it’s ON!
Very nice little comedy.

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3. Populaire – fast typing
Régis Roinsard (2012)

Populaire
A French movie where the action happens in the 50’s. A woman (Déborah François) wants to make it in life and – like thousands of women in that time – gets a job as a secretary. While she’s pretty terrible at her job, her boss (Romain Duris) does notice that she’s an absolutely excellent typer and decides to train her so she can compete for the title of fastest typer in the world. Again, a pitiless world of competition. And, more surprisingly, a story of fame. Apparently those fast typers were role-models for thousands of women in the world, and extremely popular for a while, hence the title of the movie.
Exciting and fun comedy.

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4. Duets – karaoke singing
Bruce Paltrow (2000)

Duets

Duets is a special case because while you might expect a light comedy (it’s about karaoke singers for God’s sake!), it goes much deeper than that.
The story follows several characters, several stories, all contemporary, and all with something to do with karaoke. We follow a professional karaoke singer (Huey Lewis) as he reconnects (much against his will) with his long abandoned daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow). Their common interest for singing will help bringing them together. We follow an overworked and unappreciated salesman (the great Paul Giamatti) who decides to leave home, not knowing where to go. He ends up falling for karaoke and beta blockers and drives from karaoke bar to karaoke bar, often winning the prize money, especially after he teams up with the hitchhiker he picked up on the way (Andre Braugher), who happens to be a murderer. Their friendship helps the guy get back on track… And finally a young underachiever (Scott Speedman) meets a female karaoke singer (Maria Bello), wild and competitive – a “winner” type-, who kinda forces him to bring her to the final of the national karaoke competition.
A beautiful film about crossroads, life questions, and choices. I recommend.

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5. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – magic
Don Scardino (2013)

The Incredible Burt WonderstoneMy brother is going to kill me for putting this movie in a list like this : he’s a magician himself! But I watched it with him and he really enjoyed it.
Two successful illusionists (Steve Buscemi and Steve Carrell) have been performing the exact same show for the last ten years in an important theater of Las Vegas. The routine is so installed, they lost the passion and one of them just became an asshole. But they see their routine challenged by a new magic sensation (Jim Carey, character based on some kind of trashier Criss Angel), a trashy street magician. Hooked with this new kind of magic, the crowds stop coming to their shows and they eventually get fired. From then on they have to redefine their work, their lives.
While it’s a very uneven movie, I did laugh all the way through it. A hilarious comedy with a surprising outcome.

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OFF CATEGORY

We put these movies here because they’re great but they’re a little off category for various reasons.

+ Edward Scissorhands – haircutting, bushes sculptures (Tim Burton, 1990)
+ Be Kind Rewind – DIY cinema (Michel Gondry, 2008)
+ Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain – other people’s happiness (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
+ Catch me if you Can – deception (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
+ Big – toys (Penny Marshall, 1988)
+ Little Miss Sunshine – being a little miss… (Michael Arndt, 2006)

Antoine & Susan

10 reasons to attend Staalhard at Trix in Antwerp tomorrow

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My band SH.TG.N played the day before yesterday in its hometown Ghent. The band had been on standby for almost a year so we were extremely excited to find each other again and rediscover the extreme pleasure of playing that music for a (jumping) audience!

SH.TG.N in action

The concert was meant as a try-out for tomorrow’s showcase at Trix in Antwerp where ‘Staalhard’ will be presented.

Staalhard is an initiative of non-profit 666Decibel and came to existence when a bunch of people in the Belgian scene noticed that most people in Belgium had no idea there was so much great metal in Belgium. They decided they’d do something about it. And they put together a compilation LP of their selection of Flemish Underground Metal. And they asked SH.TG.N to be a part of it. We’re extremely proud and happy to be part of such a great initiative!

Now for those who don’t know the band, I gotta tell you, SH.TG.N will be a little bit of a black sheep in that context since it’s arguable we’re even a metal band at all. There is definitely something metal about our music and the (punkish) approach to what we do.
Let’s say the only stable thing about SH.TG.N is that we play everything intensely and that our sound is raw and hard. Now for the structures, rhythms, melodies… that’s a different story. Oh and did I mention we have a vibraphone in the band ?

Staalhard

You know what, I’ll just let you (re-)discover it on your own. At the end of this post is our full debut album we released in 2012 on MoonJune Records. Now it’s time to play. If you’re around Antwerp (or willing to travel) tomorrow Saturday, January 25, I strongly recommend the Staalhard evening at Trix. For at least 10 reasons :

  1. 9 bands play a 30-min set
  2. It’s all for free for God’s sake!
  3. All 9 bands are awesome
  4. There’s for every taste in metal (death, punk, prog, hair, …)
  5. It’s probably your only chance to buy the compilation since after that it’s only meant for promotion purposes with professionals
  6. It’s a fantastic initiative, and supporting it is supporting the Belgian scene
  7. It’s a chance to meet lots of great, passionate people
  8. The venue is great
  9. The beer is good
  10. SH.TG.N will be opening at 7.30pm (bottom line : don’t be late! Be there at 7pm!)

Antoine

Playing some guitar with Beautiful Badness

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Playing some guitar with Beautiful Badness

So here’s one you haven’t seen yet, have you ? I’m up there with the wrong instrument you think!

Well this was my first time on stage on guitar (I mean on a real stage, and since I became a professional musician so high school doesn’t count). Just one song but still, damn how fun is that! I might want more…

The context : about a year ago my friend and colleague Gabriel Sesboué – fantastic singer, and a fellow pianist and guitarist – hurt his arms with a case of the tennis elbow (common with musicians). As it didn’t seem to get better quickly he asked me to replace him on the piano with his indie pop rock band Beautiful Badness for a show or two. Unfortunately his arms are still not healed today. Nevertheless it’s a chance for me to have a lot of fun with them playing piano, singing backing vocals, and occasionally playing guitar…

Anyway two nights ago we were playing at the VK – a great location in a less great (in reputation anyway) neighborhood of Brussels – as an opening act for Spanish band Fuel Fandango. By the way if anybody at VK reads this I damn want to open for Deerhoof with SH.TG.N in March, call me! The (mostly Spanish) crowd was running late so we waited a bit for them and started playing half an hour later than originally planned… then released the tigers. Playing with a straightforward rock band like this unlocks some things in me. Singing backings does too. Suddenly I feel much freer to move and jump everywhere shamelessly, occupy the space I’m given around my keys. And dams that feels good.

The band is starting to be well-oiled, the songs are good, and now the energy was just perfect. It’s a context I haven’t been so used to so it’s also fun to be a part of that for a while and get a taste of how they work… I was surprised at how much attention they have for intangible things. So if you’re a fan of nice and catchy pop rock with great vocals, definitely look up Beautiful Badness and check them out.

#mydaysasapoprockmusician

Antoine

Picture by Anneke Peeters (c)

Exclusive new track from the equally exclusive Pencils or Guitar Strings

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Susan and I have been working on a new project together.

We’re writing new songs together and arranging them for a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments.

Just to get started on that and explore some of the sound possibilities, I remixed (with her artistic assistance) one of Susan’s songs, namely the eponymous track from her forthcoming album : Life Is…

One of the challenges was to try and make it more radio-friendly, try and touch more people with the purpose of pulling them into our world and say more than “We’re up all night to get some, We’re up all night to get lucky” (sorry folks, nothing personal), with music we do stand behind. Try and accompany them into our world with some ear candy like Pink Floyd did when David Gilmour gave the audience a good blues-rock guitar solo before going into all kinds of experimentations.

And… I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty happy with the result! What do you think ?

We also made a profile on Belgian music site Vibe where you can read our bio, which translates like this :

Fukushima finished Tchernobyl’s work in creating a hybrid being that sings and produces healing energy. The tremors gave it a sense of rhythm in sync with its radioactive universe. After laying down knocked out by the fumes for an endless moment in time the being awoke to a new consciousness. And it started singing : lalalalala.

As you must already be thinking, reading the bio and looking at the picture (which is a mixture of our faces)… weirdness catches up. Well, we’re a couple of weirdos after all.

Antoine

How to write a piece for Baroque ensemble and not get caught.

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So I’m working on a piece for Baroque ensemble. A bunch of passionate musicians playing recorder flutes, guitars, cello, harpsichord and double bass. And the greatest part is I’m really getting to learn a lot. This is because – believe it or not – I’ve never ever written for guitar. Nor have I ever written for recorder flutes. Nor is there a chapter on recorder flutes or more than half a page about a guitar in any of the books  I have on orchestration and music in my cupboard. Apart from the fact that this probably says something about the books I have in my closet, I am, to put it politely, in more than a jiffy… 🙂 Oh yeah have I mentioned it’s supposed to be for this week in Christian culture called The Good Week?  And I’m not really Christian (mom’s baptised but I’m not) … nor am I Jewish, really (dad’s Jewish, but technically I’m not because my mom’s not) … but I do have my own take on spirituality and was profoundly touched by a fabulous text which was posted on the blog called the ‘Diversity Chronicle‘. To read it click here. This text was being portrayed as speeches and other thoughts formulated by the new pope. Very inspirational words, which I hope he will actually speak for real one day. Still I do believe that this pope has more balls than his predecessors and I do believe positive change is on its way…

So anyway : this blog post of mine is about how to write this composition for amateur Baroque Ensemble – right? Well : basically I did the following :
0.  Have fun (repeat incessantly with every step)
1. Find inspiration. Yes – you read it correctly –  I didn’t say ‘WAIT until inspiration strikes’. Go get it. Find meaning in what you are doing, in what you are writing. If there’s no reason to do it, don’t do it. But I bet you there always is a connection to be found somewhere. Music should always transcend music itself. Now this may sound esotherical but it really isn’t. Transcending something to me is adding a meaning to it. When you are asked to write for cello, you should find a reason why you want to write for cello. Why there is the necessity to write a piece in the first place and second why it has to be cello.
2. When you’ve found that connection and have managed to put it into notes (more on this step later – I’m still writing a blog post and not a book here) you’re ready for the logistics.
3. Pick up a guitar and try to play what you wrote. If you can play it and you’re not a guitarist – that should mean any person having studied guitar for more than a week should be able to do it. So that’s already not bad.
4. Ask another guitar player to play it. I will ask Antoine to proof-play the harder guitar-parts I wrote – which I can’t play – but that doesn’t really mean much.
5. Realize that recorder flutes will always sound a bit off – and don’t worry too much about it. The reason for this is that apparently recorder flutes are not at all ‘uniform’ in how they were made. Recorder flutes from different ‘brands’ have different tunings and in most ensembles you will find all these brands of flutes mixed together. So that makes that even when you write notes that should sound great, technically speaking, you should be prepared for some sound waves crashing into each other.
6. Have the ensemble play your piece and listen to the recordings & live sounds. Correct where you feel it’s needed.
7. Have fun. (repeat this step at every step)

So I started this blog post some time ago – lost lots of thoughts I had written down as soon as I had hit publish the blog says like ‘oops something went wrong’. So before it does that again – and while it’s still relevant – I’ll quickly post it before re-reading. So please be compassionate with possible missssstakes – yes? Thank you oh so much…

Susan

To my Belgian artist friends and other people who want to know about our situation (EN/FR/NL)

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I updated the article with some more info, it’s at the end of the text, in all three languages.

Text in English first, in French a bit further, in Dutch at the end.

Meme Generator
Meme Generator

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To my Belgian artists friends :

I see a lot of you haven’t heard about the new regulations yet so I’ll just warn you here of what I understood of it. If I’m wrong anywhere please correct me!

Soon we’ll need an artist visa (a little card you ask the government and they give you if they think you’re worthy of it…) to be allowed to make artist contracts or RPI/KVR. Since this visa is not yet available but the law is in application since the 1st of January, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED not to make any artist contract or RPI/KVR until the situation is cleared out, all the contracts you make in that period could turn out being illegal.
It’s not me saying it, it’s SMartBE vzw/asbl. I also got some valuable info from the Facebook group of the FACIR (Musicians union of the Wallonia/Brussels Federation).

I’m aware this basically means we can’t work but that’s also pretty much what our government is telling us. They also say they’ll be much harder on artists working in black so really I think they mean it’s forbidden to be a professional artist (since it’s also illegal to work for free in your own field of expertise).

The only options in the meantime imply not working, having the status of independent, or pretending there is an employer/employee relationship whenever you work.

Good luck,

Antoine

PS : more info here ; I also suggest to fill in Smart’s type letter to ask a visa and send it to Smart so they can send them all at once as they intend to, and flood the mailbox of the ones in charge.

UPDATE 16/1

After having read yet more about this situation I found out there is still a way for us to declare our work right now without having the status of independent and that is to make “interim” contracts, in which – indeed – we are employee of the interim company.

UPDATE 24/1

According to people at Smart, since the visa doesn’t exist yet, a recorded delivery of your registered letter to the Artists Commission to ask for your visa will act as the visa itself until things are put into place for us to actually get that said visa. So again I insist : send a registered letter to the Artists Commission, ask your visa! Or send it to Smart using their type letter and they’ll make sure you get your recorded delivery.

Yet more valuable info in French to be found here (by Benoît Vreux). He calls this situation the “biggest legal bug of an artist’s career”. This article is a must read if you want to know exactly what to do and what’s going on.

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A mes amis artistes belges :

Je vois que beaucoup d’entre vous ne sont pas encore au courant des nouvelles régulations donc je vais juste vous prévenir ici de ce que j’en ai compris. Si je me trompe quelque part, s’il-vous-plaît corrigez-moi!

Bientôt nous aurons besoin d’un visa d’artiste (une petite carte qu’il faut demander au gouvernement, et qu’il nous donnera s’il pense qu’on la mérite…) pour avoir le droit de rédiger des contrats d’artiste ou des RPI. Vu que ce visa n’est pas encore disponible mais que la loi est en application depuis le 1er janvier, il est FORTEMENT RECOMMANDE de ne faire aucun contrat d’artiste ou de RPI tant que la situation n’est pas clarifiée. Autrement il se pourrait que tous les contrats faits durant cette période deviennent illégaux.
Cette mise en garde ne vient pas de moi mais de SMartBE ASBL (qui a déjà mis en standby son service de RPI). J’ai aussi reçu des informations importantes du groupe Facebook du FACIR (Fédération des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Interprètes Réunis, en Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, dont je vous conseille de devenir membres par ailleurs ; et de leur groupe Facebook).

Je suis conscient que ça signifie en gros qu’on ne peut pas travailler mais c’est aussi à peu près ce que notre gouvernement essaye de nous dire. Ils préviennent aussi qu’il sera beaucoup plus difficile de travailler en noir donc vraiment je pense qu’ils nous annoncent officiellement l’interdiction d’être artiste professionnel (vu qu’il est aussi illégal en Belgique de travailler gratuitement dans notre propre domaine d’expertise).

Les seules options que nous avons en attendant implique de ne pas travailler, d’avoir le statut d’indépendant, or de prétendre qu’il y a une relation d’employeur/employé quand on travaille.

Bonne chance,

Antoine

PS : plus d’info ici ; je suggère également de remplir le courrier type de Smart pour faire votre demande de visa et de l’envoyer à Smart afin qu’ils soient en mesure de les envoyer toutes ensemble (par recommandé) telle qu’est leur intention, et inonder la boîte aux lettres de nos représentants au gouvernement.

UPDATE 16/1

Après avoir lu encore un peu plus sur cette situation j’ai appris qu’il y a toujours un moyen pour nous de déclarer notre travail pour le moment sans avoir le statut d’indépendant. Nous pouvons faire des contrats d’intérimaire dans lesquels – effectivement – nous sommes employé de la boîte d’intérim.

UPDATE 24/1

D’après des collaborateurs de Smart, vu que le visa n’existe pas encore, un accusé de réception de votre recommandé envoyé à la Commission Artistes pour faire votre demande de visa aura le même effet que ce visa jusqu’à ce que tout soit mis en place pour que nous puissions enfin obtenir ce dit visa. Donc encore une fois j’insiste : envoyez un recommandé à la Commission Artistes, demandez votre visa! Ou envoyez-le à Smart en utilisant leur courrier type et il s’assureront que vous receviez votre accusé de réception (le mien est arrivé hier donc je peux recommencer à faire des 1bis et des RPI!).

Encore plus d’info importante et en Français ici (par Benoît Vreux). Il appelle cette situation le “plus grand bug juridique de [la] carrière [d’un artiste]”. Cet article est à lire absolument si vous voulez savoir exactement que faire et ce qu’il se passe.

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Aan mijn Belgische kunstenaar vrienden :

Ik zie dat veel mensen onder jullie nog niet op de hoogte zijn van de nieuwe voorschriften dus ik zal jullie gewoon hier waarschuwen van wat ik daarvan heb verstaan. Moest er iets fouts in zitten, aub verbeter mij.

Binnenkort hebben we een artiest visum nodig (een kaartje dat je aan de overheid moet vragen, en dat je krijgt als ze vinden dat je het verdient…) om de recht te krijgen om artiestencontracten te maken, of KVR’s. Aangezien deze visum nog niet beschikbaar is maar de wet is al effectief sinds 1 Januari, het is ECHT AANGERADEN om géén artiestencontract of RPI te maken tot de situatie duidelijker wordt. Alle contracten gemaakt tijdens deze periode kunnen anders illegaal worden.
Deze waarschuw komt niet van mij maar van SMartBE VZW (die hun KVR-dienst al in standby heeft gezet). Ik heb ook belangrijke info gevonden op de Facebook group van de FACIR (soort nieuwe muzikantenbond van Wallonië/Brussel).

Ik ben er bewust van dat het betekent dat we niet meer mogen werken maar het lijkt ook ongeveer wat onze regering ons probeert te zeggen te zijn. Ze waarschuwen ook dat het moeilijker wordt om in het zwart te werken dus ik denk dat ze gewoon het verbod aankondigen om professionele kunstenaar te zijn (en het is ook illegaal in België om gratis te werken in uw eigen vakgebied).

Enige andere opties dat we hebben tot dan zijn ofwel niet werken, zelfstandige statuut hebben, of beweren dat er een werkgever/werknemer is.

Succes daarmee,

Antoine

PS : Meer info hier en hier (+ andere recente artikels op dezelfde pagina) ; ik raad het ook aan om de modelbrief van Smart in te vullen om uw visumaanvrag te maken en om die onmiddelijk naar Smart door te sturen zodat ze al die brieven ineens kunnen sturen en de brievenbus van onze regering kunnen doen overstromen.

UPDATE 16/1

Ik heb nu nog een beetje meer gelezen over deze situatie en ik heb geleerd dat er toch nog een manier is om ons werk te declareren zonder zelfstandige te zijn. We mogen nog interim contracten maken want daarmee zijn we werknemers van het interimkantoor.

UPDATE 24/1

Volgens Smart medewerkers, aangezien de visum nog niet bestaat is een ontvangstbevestiging van uw aangetekende visumsaanvraag naar de Artiestencommissie geldig als visum tot alles eigenlijk klaar is voor ons om die echte visum te krijgen. Dus is zeg het nog eens : stuurt een aangetekende brief naar de Artiestencommisie, vraagt uw visum! Of stuurt het naar Smart, maakt gebruik van hun modelbrief en ze zullen ervoor zorgen dat u het ontvangstbevestiging krijgt (die van mij is er gisteren aangekomen dus ik mag terug veilig KVR’s en 1bis maken!).

Nog meer belangrijk info in het Frans hier (door Benoît Vreux). Hij noemt deze situatie de “grootste juridistische bug van de carrière van een kunstenaar”. Dit article is een must-read moest je exact willen weten wat je moet doen en wat er aan de hand is. Gebruik dus maar Google Translate als je geen Frans verstaat maar leest het toch.

The Secret to Eternal Life in our Vocabulary ?

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It’s curious and interesting that we would use the heart as a symbol of love.

The heart is what keeps us alive, it is our battery and when it has no power left we die.

Isn’t this telling us something ? Could infinite, unconditional love be the secret to eternal life ? I most certainly think so.

Antoine.

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Image : José de Páez, Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga, c. 1770

‘Childhood Dreams’ Susan Clynes & Simon Lenski

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WebTeaser of my first Official Album, recorded entirely Live – appropriately entitled ‘Life Is…’ featuring Simon Lenski, the amazing cellist from the Belgian experimental -contemporary-folk-rock band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abend Unterhaltung) and my own compositions. Energetic musical contributions of Pierre Mottet & Nico Chkifi – and stacked with spontaneity allover. Out on MoonJune Records in February 2014 and currently crowdfunding it – with 21 days left to go!