sábado, 11 de marzo de 2017

Rapsy Littlehands, and one thing about Rapsy 18

With so many children prodigies on the piano, many of them (or their parents or teachers) asked me if there is a Rapsodia Nusantara, without being less virtuosic, that is playable by small hands. That means there are no chords that span wider than a 7th, since playing octaves is still quite difficult for them. I indeed have thought about it for a long time. It's not easy to make, since we usually need those octaves in the climactic sections. This is a unique period in classical music (and mostly cases in Asian countries), where children already acquired the pianistic techniques of the adults, but of course physically they are still, well, children. And virtuosic works for piano usually need big hands that can strech the interval of an octave or more. ............................................................................................................................................ Since I was stuck (already about a year or more) with my Second Balinese Mosquito Dance, I thought that it might be a material to be integrated into a Rapsy. And voila, I was right. This new Rapsy has a Toccata mood. It is also a break from the previous Rapsies which turn to be more and more heavily contrapuntal. Through the years I've grown an affinity with the passacaglia form, and both Rapsy 17 and 18 have passacaglias (it started already with Rapsy 10). I still don't give a number to this Rapsodia, which is based on a central-Javanese folktune "Padhang Wulan". ............................................................................................................................................ One thing I forgot in my preface for Rapsy 18 is about the beginning of the piece. Those tremoli are inspired by gangsing (or "gasing" according to some provinces in Indonesia), a toy made of wood or bamboo which I couldn't find the English translation to it. During my childhood, I dreamed about making music out of gangsing of different sizes. Gangsing turns with a gyroscopic law, and a small hole on it makes the wind blow inside and sounds into a certain pitch. Apparently the oldest gangsing in Indonesia is in Riau, since before the Dutch colonization, and therefore this Rapsy (which is based on a folktune from Riau province) is appropriate to be opened with a gangsing-effect prelude.

martes, 10 de enero de 2017

Bagaskara's In Love

Still about Annanolli's Sky (please check my previous entry). I told ya that I wanna write this music which is just an exhibition of combining vibrant and dark colours, without so much sturm und drang. Sort of like the new Zhang Yimou film, The Great Wall which is a delight to the eye. In the architectural plan of the music, there is about 2,5 minutes of slow music, sandwiched between fast sections, and of course I thought "oh it will come". And the time did come, but "it" didn't. I just didn't have any clue what to write, or on the contrary, I had every possible motifs worked out, developed, exploited and with all the compositional techniques inside my bag of tricks, somehow it still didn't work. I knew what was the problem. I always know HOW to write, but I don't always know WHAT to write. I was clueless about the character, about what to express. I was stuck for about a week, a week spent writing other "useless" music, going out with friends, and oh yes, it was around New Year, and I got drunk for about 3 days in a row, until ..... A young friend popped up through Whatsapp. He asked me for some time to listen to his life problems. And yeah, he is in love. Not that tormented love that I used to have; this is plain, simple, straightforward love. The kind of love that I need to express in this particular music. Becoz ... u know how to write music, right? Fall in love, get your heart broken, analyze it, turn it into music. The greatest art are always made with a broken heart. But certainly this method doesn't work for the slow part of Annanolli's Sky, which is so vibrant and exuberant. And I don't want to involve my own past (which is painful, therefore always inspirational) in this music, coz memories are the worst enemy of the heart trying to heal from the wounds of the past. ............................................................................................................................................ And hey, he has a nice name too, Bagaskara which means Sunrise. What could be more vibrant than sunrises? And those 9 letters make a sweet 4 notes from the pentatonic motif connected with my first theme with an extra tritone, from A to (e)S, which makes it even more strangely exquisite. I start to believe in destiny ... and Ecclesiastes 5:11, you know, God makes everything beautiful in His time. And so I started to sketch the piece. I designed it to be playable as a separate piece for violin and piano, of course with the quintet in my mind. So, I finished Bagaskara's In Love, a 2'20 piece for violin and piano, and I will orchestrate it and link it to the first section of Annanolli's Sky. .............................................................................................................................................. I know, I know, you're gonna ask me, well this has nothing to do with Annanolli's works? No, of course not. But a work of art, though inspired by another work of art, is independent in itself. It is a diary of the artist's life, at that moment, and simply a development of a series of musical materials. And well, I could argue that this kinda love is exactly what is needed in my piece. Not a tormented, or unrequited, or dramatic one. In fact, I gave an advice to my young B friend, that while they are separated in distance, just look at the sky and remember that they both are looking at the same sky. The sky, as anything else in nature connects us, not those shitty Whatsapp Video call or Skype. Those are electronics, artificially made by man to give artificial closeness and togetherness. And then, Bagaskara's In Love was written very quickly and almost intuitively, just like many of Annanolli's works. It was written in the night right after I finished talking with B, took me about an hour and I revised a few things the next day after I tried it on my piano. ............................................................................................................................................ Thank you God for making this couple in love and solve my musical problem!

jueves, 5 de enero de 2017

In Search of Another Sky

(my own program notes for Annanolli's Sky for piano & string quartet) ............................................................................................................................................ The sky always have romantic implications for me. When I miss someone I love, I always look at the sky and imagine that we are looking at the same sky, no matter how far our distance is. "The sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los / And every space that a man views around his dwelling-place / Standing on his own roof or in his garden on a mount / Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his universe", said William Blake. ............................................................................................................................................ But then, "There is another sky, / Ever serene and fair, / And there is another sunshine, / Though it be darkness there" said Emily Dickinson. And I, throughout my life, have been searching for this other sky. And since I couldn't find it in the sky we are all under, then I search for it in the skies we artificially --and beautifully-- created, through works of art. .............................................................................................................................................. I have always been impressed by John Constable's Study of Clouds at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Practically any Turner sky touches my heart deeply, but the late skyscapes (does this word exist?), generally painted at sunrise, often on the spot, and very nearly abstract, for me are more sublime than anything in the history of English art. .............................................................................................................................................. I have written my work for flute and piano, Rescuing Ariadne, based on Titian's painting Bacchus & Ariadne to which I have stared at (even gazed is a better word, since it's like a shining bright star for me) hours and hours at the National Gallery every time I visited London. Of course it is a masterpiece, but during the years I started to realize that I am more impressed by the sky he created. He painted eight glimmering stars, a silver lining and a faint glow from the east: it's a small corner of deep blue heaven. Even if you didn't know that the scene below represented love at first sight, you would still sense some poignant dawning in the sky above – the exact transition between darkness and light. Titian is, as far as I know, not known as a painter of skies; of all the great claims you could make for him, this would probably be the most kitsch. But the sky in Bacchus and Ariadne is as wondrous, and profound, as the whole painting itself. ............................................................................................................................................ Recently I attended the opening of an exhibition by a Finnish artist, Tero Annanolli in Jakarta, organized by the Embassy of Finland here. What struck me is how unromantic his skies are. ............................................................................................................................................ His paintings are based on the material of the "canvas". I managed to talk with him briefly, asking this techniques, his artistic views etc., and I transcribe what I heard from him in the following. If you read this, Tero, please correct me if there is something wrong here. ............................................................................................................................................ The creative process itself is fast and intuitive. He uses ink, tempera, oil paint, acrylic and ballpoint pen and charcoal technique. The artist uses in his painting also of metal sheets to create several layers and shades. He also employs recycled materials such as curtains, tablecloths, bedspreads. The recycled material gives the work its significance. Basic materials are part of the colors and the message of the painting. The issues that occupies this fascinating artist are plants, flowers, landscapes, boats and human figures. In representing humanity Tero is passionate about the relationship between a man and landscape and the surrounding space. ............................................................................................................................................ So you see, he didn't really mention about the sky. The space, yes, since it is part of the "canvas". Well, we composers use silence as the canvas of our music. And it is that very space that fascinates me. I am trying to make music without any significant melody, unlike the music I have written before. I try to bring forward that space, that sky which makes his paintings look so different than the others I have seen. It's another step of my search for Dickinson's other sunshine, though it be darkness there. That splendid, silent sky. Anyhow, we are all under it, you and I. ............................................................................................................................................ My new work for piano quintet (piano & string quartet) Annanolli's Sky, is commissioned to open the Arnuero International Chamber Music Competition next April 7th. It will be premiered by the Cuarteto Ars Hispanica with myself on the piano. The duration is ca. 10 minutes

martes, 20 de diciembre de 2016

Foreword to Rapsodia 17-19, "December 2016" & "Variations"

It's been almost 2 years since I published my latest scores of Rapsodia Nusantara (at that moment it was almost simultaneous with my Fantasies & Variations which contains 5 pieces), and Rapsy 17-20 was indeed written during this period, but they were just lying around waiting to be finished and totally revised. Finishing a rather complex piece is the most procrastinating thing for me, since I know exactly what to write, but I am so lazy writing the actual (millions of) notes. ............................................................................................................................................ Even though I have Rapsy 20 and 21 80% ready, I decided that they will be for my next publication. It's funny that the 2 remaining pieces in this book, December 2016 and Variations on "Ibu Pertiwi" were written pretty quickly, in just a few days, as you can read below. ............................................................................................................................................ Rapsy 17 and 18 contain piano sketches for my Chamber Symphony no. 1 and orchestral work "An Ode to the Nation", both commissioned by Indonesia's 3rd President B.J. Habibie through his Habibie - Ainun Foundation. There are bits that aren't included in the orchestral works, since they are purely pianistic. Rapsy 17 is based on the Central Java folksong "Lir-Ilir" and no. 18 is a set of variations and passacaglia on "Soleram", a folksong from Riau province, Sumatra. Rapsy 19 is based on the first half of the Sundanese (West Java) folksong "Manuk Dadali", with treatments resembling the atmosphere of a Balinese gamelan. ............................................................................................................................................ The two remaining pieces are not as virtuosic as those Rapsies above, and they were written relatively quickly, triggered by the events in December 2016. They could be played by, say, young pianists of grade 7 or 8, as long as they are musically quite mature. But speaking of maturity, my older Rapsies are now played by many children in Indonesia, even as young as 11 years old, as you can search in youtube. Yeah, in some parts you can almost hear their age, but certainly not in the fast, furious and virtuosic passages! ............................................................................................................................................ The Variations on "Ibu Pertiwi" started itself while I was watching TV, when our hard-working, highly dedicated & kind-hearted governor of Jakarta, Basuki Purnama or more famous by his nickname Ahok, was sitting in court, being a patsy, slandered by a group of so-called Islamists. Ahok had put many corruptors in jail, and he is popular among the people. Next February there will be a regional election so he is of course standing in the way of the other candidates, and the only way to put him away is through smearing him by editing a video of him talking, so that the edited video became viral. To make things worse, he is of Chinese descendant, and a Christian. Ahok was weeping in court, and I immediately tweeted "Ahok's tears is the tears of Ibu Pertiwi (translated literally, Mother Country)". There is an old nationalistic song, Ibu Pertiwi, whose composer and lyricist remain anonymous until now, and so I started to scribble some sketches, a set of variations based on it. It turned out to be quite a melancholic piece, with only 1 fast variation. The trial was on the 13th of December, the day I started to write the music, and it was finished on the 15th. ............................................................................................................................................ This situation of increasing religious intolerance in Indonesia triggered me to write a piece, which, for not having trouble in looking for a fancy title I decided to call it simply December 2016. So, in fact the title is not "what happened in December 2016" but more of "what I would wish December 2016 would be". The concept of the piece is simple : that 2 music of different religions could sound together in perfect harmony. I start the music with "The First Noel" tune which grow dissonant, and then the melodic material of the usual adzan (a call for prayer in the mosque) creeps in from afar. It then intertwines itself with the First Noel tune, which is still in minor mode, but gradually both separates from each other, and the music ends with both melodic materials in full glory, each not killing each other but securely establishing themselves instead and even complementing each other into a victorious final. ............................................................................................................................................ When the Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Jakarta (Jakarta Legal Aid Institute) asked me to do something for their fundraising event, I thought this new piano piece of mine would suit well for it. During that charity event, this piece was bought by Andi Gani Nena Wea, to whom this piece is then dedicated.

lunes, 31 de octubre de 2016

My speech at the World Culture Forum 2016, Bali

Since the video of our performance at the closing of the World Culture Forum 2016 in Bali (which has now turned to be the most viewed video from all events recorded on youtube from the WCF 2016) my speech has been circulating around too. Here is the link to that video, and I post the transcript of my speech below it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_2fxlD2XGw ............................................................................................................................................ His Excelencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, ............................................................................................................................................ If you google "classical music is", google will automatically continue with their three most searched words: "dying" , "for snobs" and "boring". This may be the most 3 top searched words in Europe or the USA, but let's check the facts. For example, I am sure you all know the town Salzburg or the country Finlandia. Now, what automatically connect with those two names? The first would be Mozart, and the second Sibelius. Two icons of classical music separated 100 years apart. Their names are used for chocolates and also a beautiful park with Sibelius monument in Helsinki. Now THAT'S the power of classical music. I believe if a country is a shop, its artistic product is the shop window. Mention Florence and we immediately think of the great paintings, mention Barcelona and we think of its buildings by the architect Antoni Gaudi. ............................................................................................................................................ Sometimes art looks as if it is cheap, and we even give it for free, as we can see and listen now through social media. But we all know, when a product is free, then the consumer IS the product. Art is one of the most powerful means to introduce our country to the outside world. A way to attract tourists and investors, if we want to connect it economically, but also simply it is a way to make friends and diplomatic relationships. ............................................................................................................................................ I believe that music is a universal language because it can connect to our emotions directly, bypassing the mind almost entirely. Also, the inherent mathematical structure of music can easily cross cultural barriers as well. But things are not so simple. ............................................................................................................................................ Music as a medium of expression is universal the same way spoken language as a medium of communication is universal. Just like languages which vary from similar dialects to virtually mutually unintelligible languages, music of various cultures and various styles are not readily accessible and understood by everybody. Also cultural conditioning and assimilation is essential if someone wants to speak an accent-free language as a native or like a native. The same goes with music. The so called Western classical music is only a form of music. It is now widespread in the world thanks to centuries of western colonization and modern media. I, as a musician deeply rooted in the western tradition, can often hear a foreign "accent" when western classical music is performed by musicians who come from countries far removed from the west, or western performers no longer in touch with the traditional styles of performance. It is neither a bad thing nor a good thing per se. It's like listening to CNN international where almost every reporter has a foreign accent. Is it noticeable? Yes! Is it distracting? Not really! But of course, the best reporter is one talking and expressing in his own mother tongue. ............................................................................................................................................ In any case, music is like a foreign language. You need to learn the notes like you learn the alphabet. Then you study the grammar, and then try to speak it or write in it. If you want to learn a new language you have to start from scratch again. The same with music. In order to sit through a 3-hour long Italian as well as Chinese opera, and to truly enjoy it, an open disposition won't be enough. You will need to know much about the style and culture. And to give a believable performance of it, you need much more than that. You need to have fully assimilated the Chinese culture and language. Otherwise, your performance will always have that foreign accent which on this particular case may distract the listener. And that is why Indonesian musicians need Indonesian classical music in order to present ourselves in the international forum. We can't compete with those international musicians performing Mozart and Beethoven, our "foreign accent" will always be revealed. We perform the best music of our heritage, although using western instruments and even western techniques. ............................................................................................................................................ Indonesian classical music does not really exist, because we have great diversity of ethnic cultures. Or shall I rephrase it: Indonesian classical music exists BECAUSE of our diversity. That's why it's so difficult to pinpoint how Indonesian classical music sounds, since an influence from a Sumatran ethnic music could be so different than one influenced by ethnic music of, say, Java or Bali. But in the end it is the composer's identity and particular character that produces music that is characteristically Indonesian. ............................................................................................................................................ Indonesia has started establishing its identity in classical music, and this is what our orchestra is presenting to you today. The orchestra consist of the best musicians from all over the country. The musicians come from the islands of Sulawesi, Sumatra and Java. First we all rehearsed in Jakarta and 3 days ago we all flew to Bali together and come to this forum. We hope you enjoy our performance, and thank you.

lunes, 24 de octubre de 2016

Foreword to Alicia's 6th Piano Book

Writing easy music is not easy. Well, we composers know that, so there are 2 types of us: the ones who avoid writing music which is easy to play, and the others who then delve into it, do the pedagogical researches and start trying to write it. I used to belong in the first club, but since I had my daughter Alicia studying piano, I joined the second club. But there is something more difficult than writing easy music, and that is writing easy AND GOOD music to be performed. Now, who could have imagined that I would keep on publishing Alicia's Piano Books when she is already a mathematics student at the University and not touching the piano at all? With this fact, Alicia's Piano Books are now simply a collection of any kind of short pieces. There are some new themes in this book that weren't in the other books. First is the piano imitating other instruments, or rather, exploring the character of other instruments. Therefore we have The Happy Bassoonist, The Nostalgic English-Hornist and The Mellow, stuck-in-the-past French Hornist which is also the 7th Love Song. This will serve two purposes: for young pianists to understand and to imagine the particular sound of the instrument, and as sketches for myself if I gotta write for the corresponding instrument in the future. A propos of Love Songs, I also decided to simply put numbers in them. In the previous Alicia's Books we had Falling in Love, When I See your Smile etc., which are basically Love Songs but with different titles. Since I am now too lazy to be fancy and being poetic and nostalgic, I will from now on put numbers and simply call them as they are, Love Songs. Just the musical notes are enough to make me feel mellow, let alone in thinking the exact situation that triggered the music! ............................................................................................................................................. Apart from a new "piece of cake" for 4 hands, there are also 2 sets of Variations, not as difficult as Rapsodia Nusantara, based on a children's songs. This would serve for a quite-but-not-so virtuosic piece for young pianists in their concerts. ............................................................................................................................................. About Variations on Kupu-kupu I wrote these following lines, kept in my computer and forgot to publish it in my blog: Now that the Foundation for Autistic Children commissioned me for a new piece based on a famous children song "Kupu-kupu" (by the very popular children songwriter, the late Ibu Sud), I gotta succeed in making a quite elaborate (I mean longer than the pieces in Alicia's Piano Books) showpiece but playable by intermediate pianists. And yeah, in the midst of orchestrating my opera Tumirah, I finished a Theme and 5 variations on it. I finished them just now, in a hotel in near the beautiful town of Arnuero. I am serving as the president of the jury for their International Chamber Music Competition this weekend. One thing which is nice about writing "not-so-difficult" pieces is that one doesn't need a piano to try everything, unlike writing the Rapsodias where I constantly had to go to the piano and check whether something is (not) playable by our poor over-exploited fingers. ............................................................................................................................................. Now that my friends in 5 cities are organizing a piano competition for young people, I regularly talk to them too about this. Especially Eveline Philips in Makassar who told me that in Alicia's Piano Books very easy piano pieces are lacking. I mean very, like, for real beginners, just a few months touching the keys. Anyway, it's been nice chatting with her while writing several very easy and short pieces. I don't always succeed, as I said about it's not easy writing easy pieces, but I got some for Alicia's 6th Piano Book. And yeah, it's a wonderful initiative those friends of mine have about this Piano Nusantara competition. The idea is each of them in their respective cities organize a competition, and then the winner of each city would be eligible to do the Grand Finale in Jakarta. And it's a very friendly one, unlike the Ananda Sukarlan Award, which is tough. The idea is to show the (very) young pianists that competitions are not meant to "kill" them. Everyone is a winner, they will receive comments from the judges, and they can prepare any kind of music they want. The 2 things they have to comply are: 1. They have to prepare 2 pieces, one by an Indonesian composer and the other by a classical international one, you know, Bach, Schumann and those guys. 2. The duration, which as usual there is a limit. You can check everything out at pianonusantara.wordpress.com . ............................................................................................................................................. The composer would like to thank Eveline Philips and her team at the Grazioso Music School in Makassar, South Sulawesi for her inputs and her gradings of each of the pieces. She is a pioneer of classical piano playing in the island of Sulawesi, and one of the very few first timers in the East of Indonesia. We all hope that she would serve as a catalyst for many more pianists and piano teachers in that region to bloom.

sábado, 17 de septiembre de 2016

Music & Drama, On & Off the Stage (Jakarta Post)

This time, my article for The Jakarta Post that was published on September 16th was heavily edited that many things became erroneous. Even there are some discontinuities between sentences. That's why I uploaded it here as soon as possible. Here it is. ............................................................................................................................................. On- & Off-stage Drama of the Opera , by Ananda Sukarlan, composer & pianist ............................................................................................................................................. The Jakartans were experiencing it, enjoying it, inspired by it but certainly were not aware of it. Not even the organizers. From September 7th to the 10th we had an exhilarating and intense classical voice festival. There was no official term for these series of concerts, in fact it wasn't planned as such, but we clearly had a festival. If it were publicized as an official festival, fans of classical singing from all over the country (and even other countries) would have come and stayed in Jakarta who could boast an abundance of great voices singing opera arias, folkmusic and "artsongs" as we called it rather snobbishly (aren't jazz or rock songs "art" enough?). Imagine the artistic and economic impact it would have caused. ............................................................................................................................................. This is an inside story from one who was involved in these events as a composer, pianist and friend of all artists. It all started with the Indonesia Opera Society (IOS) celebrating its 10th anniversary with a spectacular showcase of international talents on Wednesday, 7th September. Hosted at the Segara Ballroom of The Dharmawangsa Jakarta, the Opera Gala featured world-class singers from 10 countries: 13 artists (including the conductor) of different languages & cultural background working together for the first time. Just from the financial and organizing aspects, this is a huge if not mammoth undertaking. The impressive line up of artists include sopranos Gayane Vardanyan (Armenia), Anna Dinnah Migallos (Philippines), Evelyn Merrelita (Indonesia) and Amelie Fleetwood (Sweden); mezzosopranos Angelique Noldus (Belgium) and Tamta Tarieli (Georgia); tenors Anando Mukerjee (India) and Francisco Corujo (Spain); baritones Massimo Di Stefano (Italy) and Tim Kuypers (Netherlands); and bass singer Harland Hutabarat (Indonesia). They were accompanied by the Nusantara Symphony Orchestra (NSO) conducted by Hikotaru Yazaki from Japan. They performed 18 numbers, from solos up to the whole ensemble, reaching the peak which was Giuseppe Verdi's "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" from the opera La Traviata. Famous arias performed include Puccini's "Nessun Dorma", Delibes' "Flower Duet" and Mozart's "Soave sia il vento". ............................................................................................................................................. Being one of Indonesia’s finest, NSO is now managed under its CEO, Miranda Goeltom. For this event, IOS commissioned me a short orchestral work with piano soloist, so I wrote (which I played myself on an exquisite Bluthner) "Fantasy on Selendang Sutra". I am glad it touched many hearts that it was asked to be performed again at the World Culture Forum next October, and I thank the IOS founder Erza S.T who insisted me on doing it since I was involved in another commission at that time. The original song by Ismail Marzuki is itself very operatic indeed: meaning "Silk Scarf" that was given by a girlfriend of a warrior before he set off to war. It was written in 1946, but I elaborated it into different styles that explore even to the most innovative instrumental colors and rhythms. ............................................................................................................................................. After this colossal celebration which was attended by 600 distinguished invitees, those great singers went on giving recitals organized by the respective Embassies who co-sponsored their visit. It was an unfortunate incident that the pianist who was supposed to perform with the Dutch baritone Tim Kuypers fell sick just the day before the Opera Gala. Tim had prepared 17 highly intense artsongs by German composers Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler (his most famous songs based on poems by F. Rueckert) for this concert. Nobody dared to step in, while time (and budget) made it impossible to fly a pianist from Holland, so I had to do it which now I don't regret it at all; Tim is such a professional that we, in his words, "are in it together and we will pull it through". It turned out to be a happy ending. I prepared my part in the late and early hours before rehearsing with him the whole day, and in the end we performed 14 songs since we squeezed the rehearsal time up to, literally, a few minutes before the concert. I substituted those songs with my own 2 numbers of Rapsodia Nusantara, virtuosic works based on Indonesian folksongs that are always "under my hands". It took place at the Erasmus Huis on the 8th of September. ............................................................................................................................................. "Artsong" (in Indonesian we have a more accurate term, "Tembang Puitik" which means "songs based on poems") is the term we use for those classical songs based on existing poems, pioneered by Franz Schubert who wrote no less than 600 of them. In Indonesia it was Mochtar Embut who pioneered it in the 1950s. ............................................................................................................................................. Earlier that day, Tim together with Amelie Fleetwood and Angelique Noldus gaveopen and free masterclasses as well as a chit-chat to several young vocalists, also organized by, and took place at the Erasmus Huis. This turned out to be so fruitful since the audience were exclusively vocalists. What opened their eyes was that they could listen to 3 different, equally experienced and professional singers, each having distinctive ways of handling vocal techniques and artistic interpretations. What a way to discover that there wasn't only one, but so many different roads less traveled by that could make all the difference. ............................................................................................................................................. But in the midst of the international stars, two recitals were held at Balai Kertanegara by young Indonesian singers. First was mezzosoprano Indah Pristanti, who since winning the Female Voice category of the National Competition Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan (organized by Amadeus Enterprise in Surabaya, 2011) has gone so far, careerwise and musicalwise. At the moment Indah is pursuing her studies at Vienna Conservatory. Curiously enough, her concert (together with pianist Terra Rimba, harpist Rama Widi and other soprano Regina Handoko) took place on September 9th, 5-minute by car from another concert by baritone Massimo di Stefano organized by the Italian Embassy at the Ambassador's residence. I managed to witness both artists' artistry, although arriving rather late at Indah's concert. On the 10th, it was soprano Yosefin Emilia (now studying in Freiburg) performing, which I totally missed since I attended Anna Dinnah Migalos' recital singing arias, artsongs and Filipino folksongs together with pianist April Merced-Misa at Erasmus Huis, too far from Kertanegara. ............................................................................................................................................. This is what I meant by a well-coordinated festival: if only these events were better scheduled ahead, music lovers would have been able to attend each and every one of the concerts, talks and masterclasses, not having to choose which ones they would go. It would also be interesting to hear the same works sung by different singers, though of course we would like an even broader range of repertoire. ............................................................................................................................................. Nevertheless, never have those foreign embassies and private sponsors been so united in making a series of events. Kudos to Erza S.T and the stage director and program coordinator Chendra Panatan for making the impossible possible and contributing in paving the way to make classical music part of Indonesia's creative industry.

sábado, 27 de agosto de 2016

Article for KOMPAS KLASS, Aug. 24 : Musik Sastra, sudahkah Merdeka?

This is my original article sent to Kompas Klass, published with very few editing. My original title was "Classical Music, is it already Independent (or Free?)", since this article is commissioned to be related to the Day of the Declaration of Independence, August 17th. Kompas changed it into "To Fertilize the Soil for the Classical Music", taken from a phrase in my article. ............................................................................................................................................. 71 tahun kita telah merdeka. Apakah dunia seni dan budaya kita sudah merdeka? Di dunia musik sastra, sudahkah kita benar-benar menjadi Indonesia? ............................................................................................................................................. Musik sastra (istilah yang lebih tepat daripada "musik klasik") adalah salah satu genre musik di Indonesia yang masih belum memiliki identitas Indonesia yang kuat, bahkan banyak dari golongan kelas menengah ke atas masih menginginkan kesan bahwa "semakin kebarat-baratan semakin baik" dan musik ini justru harus dibikin(-bikin) eksklusif. Padahal jika kita lihat sejarahnya, musik ini berasal dari gereja di Eropa sejak Abad Pertengahan, dimana gereja adalah tempat berkumpulnya orang dari segala kalangan. Kemudian, musik ini banyak mengambil bahan musikal dari musik etnik di Eropa, sehingga menguntungkan kedua belah genre: musik etnik terlestarikan dan berkembang, dan musik sastra mendapat angin segar. Sejak abad 20, musik ini kemudian mulai kehilangan popularitasnya dengan datangnya musik pop, sehingga para pemerintah tiap negara Eropa merasa perlu untuk mensubsidinya untuk biaya produksi yang tidak murah dan tidak dapat tertutup dari pemasukan tiket penonton. Di sinilah masalah dimulai, antara lain karena 1. proses kurasi untuk menentukan seni(man) mana yang mendapatkan subsidi, dan 2. para seniman tersebut sering menjadi terbuai karena subsidi itu dihibahkan tanpa persyaratan dalam daya komunikatifnya dengan masyarakat, sehingga jarak antara seniman dan konsumen seni semakin menjauh. ............................................................................................................................................. Seni dan budaya adalah hak setiap warganegara, sama dengan hak-hak di bidang politik, sosial dan ekonomi. Semua warga negara memiliki hak untuk terlibat dengan pelestarian warisan budaya dan penciptaan karya artistik baru. Mereka juga memiliki hak untuk terlibat dalam menghasilkan produk kreatif, untuk memiliki akses ke pengetahuan dan ketrampilan yang diperlukan untuk memainkan alat musik, menggambar, menari, menulis atau desain. Hak budaya yang universal ini terkikis setiap kali kita gagal mendapat dana untuk organisasi seni dan seniman yang menyediakan akses ke kebebasan berekspresi. ............................................................................................................................................. Sebetulnya, sebagai negara yang tidak memiliki tradisi musik sastra serta cukup ketinggalan di bidang itu, kita banyak bisa belajar dari banyak kesalahan yang telah dilakukan negara lain. Di Eropa, musik ini jauh menurun baik peminatnya maupun pelakunya, salah satu karena alasan subsidi di atas (dilihat dari minat anak muda yang mau masuk fakultas musik). Bahkan, jika kita google "classical music", google secara otomatis menyambungnya dengan "is dying" (sedang sekarat), yang membuktikan kebenaran asumsi ini. Para seniman yang terbuai dengan subsidi pemerintah tidak biasa dengan berbagai inovasi serta strategi pemasaran yang kini jauh dipermudah dan dipermurah dengan adanya media sosial. Padahal kinilah saatnya musik ini bisa berkembang, setelah bertahun-tahun dimonopoli oleh para perusahaan rekaman. Sekarang lah saatnya para "independen" (indie) dapat berkembang dan menghadapi pemikiran ulang konsep kepemilikan. Kita telah menggantikan opsi penjual - pembeli dengan realitas pemasok - pengguna. Semua ini mengubah cara musik dikonsumsi, sehingga kita tidak bisa lagi menjual musik klasik dengan cara yang juga klasik (apalagi dengan metode yang dipakai di Barat). ............................................................................................................................................. Di Cina misalnya, bukannya berinvestasi di bakat dan sumber daya manusia, pemerintah daerah malah menggunakan subsidi budaya untuk membangun gedung opera, arena pertunjukan, dan proyek properti high-profile lainnya. "Tak satu sen-pun dari uang itu masuk ke para seniman, hanya ke para promotor artis sebagai perantara," kata Scarlett Li, salah seorang promotor musik terkemuka. "Padahal para perantara itu tidak berada di posisi untuk menciptakan konten. Ini tidak masuk akal bagi saya. Kita justru kekurangan komponis dan penulis" lanjutnya di koran Inggris "The Guardian". ............................................................................................................................................. Di Indonesia musik sastra mulai bisa berkembang karena dua elemen penting: 1. peminat yang mulai sangat meningkat. 2. para sponsor atau "patron" yang lebih banyak karena secara pribadi memang menyukai jenis musik ini. Tokoh-tokoh yang telah lama mensponsori konser musik ini antara lain B.J. Habibie dan sekarang putranya Ilham Habibie melalui Yayasan Habibie & Ainun, Pia Alisjahbana, keluarga Panigoro (kadang melalui MEDCO, kadang masing-masing secara pribadi. Perlu dicatat bahwa Hilmi Panigoro pernah menjadi juara nasional gitar klasik di waktu mudanya), Giok Hartono (kadang juga melalui departemen CSR perusahaannya, DJARUM). Beberapa organisasi seperti Rotary Club malah sering menyelenggarakan konser musik ini untuk mengumpulkan dana. Sebetulnya, dengan pemberdayaan cara pemasaran yang baik, dua elemen ini akan bisa bersinergi dengan sangat efektif, karena di dunia seni, pembeli/pelanggan bukan lah raja. Mereka adalah rekan, bahkan kadang mitra kerja yang harus dipenuhi tuntutan kualitasnya, tapi bukan tuntutan seleranya. Seorang patron yang baik harusnya tidak memaksakan seleranya ke para seniman, mereka justru sudah tahu seniman mana yang cocok dengan selera mereka, dan hanya harus menuntut kualitas produk seninya. Mereka tidak berhak untuk mengubah "genre" musik sang komponis, dan sang komponis (ataupun seniman apapun) harus diberikan kebebasan berekspresi untuk bisa memaksimalkan --serta bertanggung jawab atas-- kualitas karyanya. ............................................................................................................................................. Kemerdekaan juga berarti kita bisa "go international" dengan apa yang kita miliki. Dengan adanya social media, semua seniman praktis bisa dengan mudah "go international". Pasang saja karya foto atau lukisan di instagram, karya musik di youtube atau soundcloud dan seluruh dunia bisa mengaksesnya. ............................................................................................................................................. Musik sastra seperti seni lainnya bisa diibaratkan satu lahan yang luas. Untuk bisa berkembang, dibutuhkan bermacam tanaman yang tumbuh bersama-sama, tapi yang paling utama adalah membuat lahan itu subur dahulu. ............................................................................................................................................. Mari kita mulai bekerja, karena jika kita tidak hati-hati dan memulainya segera, satu hari kita akan bangun tidur dan menyadari bahwa buku yang kita baca, film dan televisi yang kita tonton semua datang dari luar negeri, bahwa musik yang kita dengarkan tidak senada dengan suara kita, dan panggung sandiwara kita tidak mengisahkan sejarah, budaya atau tradisi kita bahkan aktornya tidak berbicara dengan bahasa kita. Jangan sampai kita akan bertanya, "kenapa ini terjadi?"