miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2007

Fauzi Bowo's gift to his wife : help those with AIDS

Last Sunday the 16th, the Singaporean Ambassador’s wife and one of the most charming and wonderful person I have met, Mrs. Gouri Mirpuri held a fund-raising concert for the AIDS Foundation by inviting me to play in her beautifully decorated residence in Central Jakarta (thanks to the US Ambassador for lending us his huge Christmas tree !). I then invited my two favourite singers to perform with me : the soprano Binu D. Sukaman and the tenor Farman Purnama. They sang my songs, and the whole thing reached climax when they sang my duet from Ars Amatoria, “Dalam Doaku” .
The concert was attended by the crème de la crème of Jakarta, among others Indonesia's former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, Deputy Governor of the central bank Dr. Miranda Goeltom, Indonesia’s top fashion designer Harry Darsono and Jakarta’s new governor, Mr. Fauzi Bowo. Two days later, Mr. Bowo contacted us telling his interest to buy and dedicate Dalam Doaku to his wife. Both Mrs. Mirpuri and me indeed have auctioned that piece in the concert to raise more money to be donated. Mr. Fauzi Bowo offered a really generous sum of money out of his own pocket, much higher than the price that was orientated by us during the concert. Now, in the published score of Dalam Doaku these words will be written above the title : a gift to Mrs. Sri Hartati Fauzi Bowo from Mr. Fauzi Bowo, the new governor of Jakarta.
That song, together with 24 other songs of mine based on poems by Indonesian writers, will be published on January 1st. The launching will be, obviously, during the Jakarta New Year Concert.
If you wanna listen to Dalam Doaku, just check out http://www.youtube.com/ and search for Ananda Sukarlan Dalam Doaku. Or, just come to the Jakarta New Year Concert where Ars Amatoria will receive its world premiere (Graha Bhakti Budaya, TIM, on the first day of 2008 at 4 p.m) !

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2007

My "AIDS song"

Today I met with Farman Purnama, my favorite Indonesian tenor, a beautiful man with a beautiful voice (you can check the truth of this statement in his website http://www.farmanpurnama.com/ ) . We are going to perform my new song, Dalam Sakit (In Sickness), for the Fundraising concert for the AIDS Foundation organized by the Singaporian Ambassador for Indonesia at his place Singapore House on the 16th of this month. Dalam Sakit was commissioned by a philanthropist whose name prefers to remain unknown. He has commissioned some other composers from other countries for the AIDS Foundation, as a tribute for someone he loved who died of AIDS. I dedicate Dalam Sakit to all those who have died of AIDS . Its text is from a deeply moving poem by Sapardi Djoko Damono.
This is in fact my first song written expressively for tenor voice. All my previous songs for male voice were written for baritone. Farman has the kind of voice which I like, not that Italian heavy stuff, but closer to …hmm… perhaps Peter Pears who is another favorite singer of mine. I mean, have you heard the recording of Pears singing Britten’s Serenade ? Its beauty could break all the toughest hearts on earth (ok, perhaps not George Bush’s, I wonder if he's got one to be broken ? ...but he’s got no brains either).
Dalam Sakit will exist in two different versions : for tenor and piano, and for tenor and children’s & male choir as part of my cantata ARS AMATORIA which will be premiered in the New Year’s Concert at Graha Bhakti Budaya, TIM Jakarta, on the 1st of January 2008. It should not be transposed to another kind of voice . After I heard Farman singing it, I am convinced that this is the final version. His wonderful high voice is exactly what I wanted to express in this song.
This song now, even before its premiere on the 16th, has already a nickname : Ananda's Aids song.

lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2007

Betty and the snakes


Too many things happening lately. The most important was perhaps my first visit to Brisbane, to the Queensland Conservatory of Music. I was invited as a speaker on the panel for the conference about music and its relation to government subsidies and the audience. A classic theme, so to say !
I also gave a solo piano concert there on the 23rd of November , with programs of Australian & Spanish composers : Peter Sculthorpe, Elena Kats Chernin, Betty Beath, Barry Conyngham, Vincent Plush, David del Puerto, Jesus Rueda and Polo Vallejo. The most memorable event is perhaps Betty Beath’s invitation to her beautiful & rustic house at the bank of the river the day after the concert (which also happened to be a historical day for Australia, since the general elections were held and the Labour party won ! Hallelujah ! So, down with the Liberal party after like … what, 20 years or so ?). We had a very nice breakfast in their backgarden before they went to the polls in the afternoon. She lives there with her husband, David Cox, who is an illustrator of children’s books and gave me several books for my daughter. Apparently I am the third Indonesian who visited their house ; the previous two were, (oh, such a small world !) the poets Goenawan Mohamad and Sapardi Djoko Damono ! Betty has set some poems of Goenawan Mohamad to music. She is one of Australia’s prominent composers of today, and I am a huge fan of her music, and have played them in many of my concerts in Europe.

They are beautiful people and such a charming couple, and they love Indonesia. She has written a piece which I played in the concert the previous day, called “Merindu Bali”. Their house is so full of Indonesian things, and they even built a bamboo fence surrounding their house. I felt very much at home there, like in a village in Central Java, you know.
The really scary thing about her house is that it is in the middle of the route for the snakes when they go to the river to have their morning bath. So they receive visits of those beautiful (yikes !) creatures almost every day, and sometimes they even use their bathroom ! It's great to be friendly with nature, but aaaarrghh... imagine entering your bathroom and finding a goddamn SNAKE lying around there !!!

martes, 13 de noviembre de 2007

website updated

Now that Chendra Panatan my manager has come back in Jakarta and finished his Master's Degree in London, he has updated my website, so you can check it out : www.anandasukarlan.com . Thanks Chendra !

domingo, 4 de noviembre de 2007

Rapsodia Nusantara : Jakarta is no. 1

I stayed awake until 5 a.m this morning, finishing, revising and copying my First Rapsodia Nusantara—the first of a collection of Lisztian rhapsodies based on Indonesian folk tunes. In fact the idea of these rhapsodies came from conductor/composer/pianist Yazeed Djamin (1951-2001), with whom I often spoke about the identity of Indonesian classical music in general. The first piece will be premiered by myself in the concert to celebrate the newly elected governor of Jakarta, Fauzi Bowo who is a classical music lover and the dedicatee of the piece. It will also be the obligatory piece for the contestants of the Ananda Sukarlan Award, a piano competition founded by Mrs. Pia Alisjahbana (founder of Femina Group) and Mr. Dedi Panigoro (one of the founders and directors of the petroleum company MEDCO Energi). Besides this piece, I will also require the contestants to play another piece by another Indonesian composer, besides the standard repertory. Rapsodia Nusantara no. 1 is based on two folk tunes from Jakarta, “Kicir-Kicir” and “Jali-Jali.” It is also influenced by the inversion and retrograde techniques of Schoenberg, as well as Salvador Dali’s idea of the transformation of two elements. Like the Liszt rhapsodies, Rapsodia Nusantara (and those that follow) is meant to end a recital with virtuosity and flash. But for this one in particular I concentrate more in the different colours of the piano sounds, although certainly the piece doesn't lack virtuosity. I only enjoy listening to musicians who has a wide palette of sound colours, and that is what I would like to hear from the participants of the AS Award .

The Ananda Sukarlan Award for young pianists (under 26), by the way, will be held in Jakarta on the 24th- 27th of July 2008.

miércoles, 24 de octubre de 2007

Love on Screen , from "Fast Music"

Just now I finished copying and revising my new piano piece "Love on Screen" . The piece itself was begun & finished in Mexico, at the beginning of September of this year .
"Love on Screen" will be a movement of my ballet for Chendra Panatan entitled "Fast Music" . The title does NOT refer to the tempi of the music ; it refers to the state of globalization (but I personally call "Americanization") of everything in this era. Like fast food, all instant, all fake . So, I modelled my music on something, and make something fake out of it, just like Kentucky Fried Chicken makes a sort of meat from real (well, sort of) chicken . Love on Screen is, obviously, "about" romance on those trashy soap-operas. I took a phrase of my own, a very "innocent" sounding one, from the introduction of my second song from "Tiga Sajak Pendek" on poems by Sapardi Djoko Damono, and deliberately twisted it into something that sounds "fake", but maintaining all the original notes intact.

Oh yeah, I plan each movement of this ballet to be not lasting for more than 3 minutes, since it's now a kind of rule for writing those "instant" music . I will use a material that can (and must) be quite fully developed in 3 minutes or less, so it is a good exercise to limit my material. It's also the ideal duration for serving you at MacDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I still don't have any slightest idea about the other movements (any suggestions welcome !), and Chendra doesn't have the premiere planned yet. He's still busy thinking of the choreography for my cantata, Ars Amatoria, to be done on the first day of next year. I was inspired to do "Love on Screen" being in a short stay in Mexico and watching those crappy "tele-novelas" in my hotel-room to get me to sleep .

Now you can call me an authentic avant-gardist . At least, I have one common intention : trying to make cheap trash . No, to be precise, what I am doing is trying to evoke, or depict, cheap trash, without being trashy (hopefully I succeeded in doing this !). All I do is being inspired by something that is very contemporary, that is happening NOW. But I don't share with those avantgardists the intention to cheat the public ; on the contrary, I want them to "understand" my music and honestly express what I need to in less than 3 minutes. It took me more time than I thought to compose, though.

Oh, and someone asked me what's my favorite opera. Well, since we are in this globalization era, I shall answer : Opera Winfrey .

sábado, 20 de octubre de 2007

Snow, winter and .... E major ?

Just finished writing the song "Snowflakes" , based on a poem of the same title by Henry W. Longfellow. It will be part of "Love and variations", my song-cycle for soprano and baritone in-progress .

After a sort of atonal introduction, the piece went itself to E-major. That was the tonality of my song "Winter" from Canda Empat Penjuru . And no matter how hard I resisted, that tonality kept coming back. Now, is there a relationship between that tonality and my impressions (or expressions ?) of snow ? Or cold weather ? Or the darkness of winter ? ... I wonder ...

jueves, 18 de octubre de 2007

Answers : questions about composing

A piano student from Melbourne asked me some questions for her paper at school. That's why all those things relating to Australian composers appeared in my answers. Here they are :

1. Is there any Indonesian pianist that you admired?
Yazeed Djamin, not only as pianist but as a composer. He was a great friend and my greatest "Indonesian Idol" . A pity he died too young . I don't know anybody (Indonesian, I mean), as greatly talented as him now.

2. When you play a very well-known piece, do you consciously try to bring something new in your interpretations?
No, not consciously. I just try to get to the composer's mind (perhaps because I am a composer as well, so, if I want to bring something new, I just write my own music !) ; that's already quite a task for all performers.

3. When do you start to compose music?
Around early 1990s, but I have thrown away all my music pre-1998 . Before 1998, I was forced (by outside circumstances) to write what I consider "horrible" and avant-garde music. But then I understand that that kind of music are designed to be taught to people who canNOT write real music, and since I can write real music, why bother writing those rubbish ? Writing avant garde music can be taught , but writing real music cannot. Although to be honest, I learned a lot in doing all those stuff, like twelve-tone music etc ; because I "composed" using just my brain, and so somehow it did help me realize and see music objectively and in a "cold" approach. I did all the good counterpoints, orchestrations, correct structures without thinking how the music should sound. But also the turn of the millenium really change the way artistic circles think & create, I think.

4. Does inspiration come easy for you?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. ( And that was the nice thing about those "avantgarde" music I wrote pre-1998 ; I didn't need inspiration, the music always turned out correct. It just sounds horrible, but all those complicated counterpoints and rhythms were done impeccably ! ) . I do have long periods (the longest is about 1 month) of "total block" where I could not write anything, I don't know why. And sometimes I am inspired in times & places where I don't need to be inspired, that's why I carry a notebook always with me, to notate or just scribble down some ideas when it pops up .

5. You write some music for poems, are those kind of compositions different to piano pieces? Well you have to ask me better. Of course, each piece is different from another ! If you mean that the piano accompaniment for the vocal works are less virtuosic, well, in many cases yes, but check out my song "Saksi" or "Summer" or the second song of "Gemuruhnya Malam" in youtube . And tell me that they are not virtuosic !

6. Where do you see classical music going in this 21st century?
Exactly like its development all these centuries. It's not going to get better or worse, and it will always be for reduced amount of audience instead of having a mass follower. There has been the "avant-garde" crisis in the 50s to 80s, and even those "avantgardism" still exists in very small freaky clubs. It has done much harm to music, and as you know, it's much easier to destroy than to build ! But now classical music is much richer, due to external influences such as folkmusic from around the world, pop music etc. In Australia & NZ, Carl Vine, Matthew Hindson and Elena Kats Chernin, John Psathas (and others) are influenced by pop, and Sculthorpe, Gareth Farr etc by Indonesian folk music. And classical music is not just "European" anymore, thanks to what great composers like Peter Sculthorpe, Toru Takemitsu, Aaron Copland or Alberto Ginastera have done and contributed to the musical culture of their countries.

domingo, 14 de octubre de 2007

Ars Amatoria and its secret messages

Today I finished, at last, correcting every detail of Ars Amatoria, including its orchestration. In fact I want a string orchestra for it, but for practical reasons, I will only use an electric organ for its premiere at the Jakarta New Year Concert, plus flute & english horn . And piano. Some parts from my previous ballet for Chendra, "You Had me at Hello", will be incorporated as the interludes here. The premiere will take place at Graha Bhakti Budaya, Jakarta, on January the 1st at 4 p.m
As in Ovid's book and in Sapardi Djoko Damono's poems, there are many secret messages in my music . They are contained in the notes & intervals. This will be my "Enigma" Variations ! I am not going to share those secrets to anybody ; I am just content of putting them in the piece and get them out of my system. Perhaps in the future I will even forget some of their existence and meanings.

Work on Ars Amatoria has been so many times interrupted. The version for voices and piano was in fact finished already last spring, and only for the last month I did the orchestration, as well as composing the new song for the ending, "Yang Paling Menakjubkan" (The most incredible thing) . Perhaps it has nothing to do with love, but it contains my secret messages as well (and I believe SDD has also put his ones in his poems).

In the period after coming back from Jakarta I have also finished a piano piece, Rapsodia Nusantara, and am starting a cycle of songs --again about love-- for soprano, baritone & piano. The working title is "Love and variations", and this time I am using different poems of different languages by SDD, Laksmi Pamuntjak, Walt Whitman and others, of which I will talk in my next entry .

domingo, 9 de septiembre de 2007

More music in YouTube

Chendra has been busy uploading some performances of my music in YouTube ! You can listen to Bernadeta Astari & Rainier Revireino singing duets from my cantata Ars Amatoria :
Dalam Doaku : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwIV4gBlhCs
Hatiku Selembar Daun : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WS5HztZlyQ

And the baritone Rainier himself singing my songs :
2 songs on Chendra's poem : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=migUwTlGaAE
Oh , well, just search under my name "Ananda Sukarlan" for more videos !

martes, 4 de septiembre de 2007

¿ Donde esta El Salón Mexico ?

Just came back from Mexico after a whole week there. Whew ! Interesting experience.

I worked with some composers there, and am sad to say that the situation looks bleak. They just discovered avant-gardism (like many developing countries at the moment) but they haven't learned from European contemporary history how avant-gardism died ! So, for them now, avantgardism is not everything : it's the ONLY thing. So sad. And unfortunately, I haven't met a great talent to continue the legacy of the great Carlos Chavez or Silvestre Revueltas.

In a way, it is a lot like Indonesia. The Mexicans don't really appreciate their own composers. The real ones, I mean, like Chavez or Revueltas, not the avantgarde ones . I haven't seen those two great names in the programs of the orchestras there. Why is it happening ? Why can't people appreciate the achievements of their compadres ?

viernes, 31 de agosto de 2007

In memory of the victims of Bali terrorist attack, 12-10-02

In 2003 and 2004, I gave a series of concerts in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Scandinavian countries dedicated to the victims of this barbaric event. I wrote this article back then. Next November I will perform some of these pieces in Brisbane, Queensland, and so I retrieved this article I wrote for those concerts. This will be revised for Brisbane, and the original was as follows :

"Abashed the devil stood,And felt how awful goodness is." (John Milton, "Paradise Lost")

Unlike the previous centuries, literature music in the present day belong to the whole world ; the Mozarts and Beethovens of today live and create in every part of the world and are not concentrated in a few countries in West Europe. There is also a much wider range of expression, and much more influences to be absorbed and adapted to the musical language of each composer. Technology make it easy to listen and see, for example, a Maori dance in a living room in Scotland, and if that Scottish guy wants to see it again, he will just have to press a button. News travel faster than ever, and one can learn what had happened ten thousand miles away in just a few minutes difference, getting almost the same impact as those who were present at ground zero.Two powerful elements which contradict AND compliment each other are present in this concert ; both can be defined in just one place and one date : Bali, 12 October 2002. Before that date, Bali only meant one thing : paradise, and all that it embodies : peace, beauty and harmony. On the late evening of that date, a group of irresponsible, intolerant and ignorant terrorists brought hell to this paradise island, and therefore with all its components : evil, violence, ugliness, chaos, hate and horror. Afterwards, never before in history of mankind that a place could be perfectly associated with those two elements of good and evil. Naturally this event moved the emotion of the hypersensitive artists around the world. It brings horror, but it also serves as a catalyst for inspiration. Composers around the world now turn to the lost beauty of Bali and its culture, and with their own unique expressions, integrate it to their musical works which expresses their deep feelings far beyond anguish, anger and fear. Today we present only a few selected pieces created with that intense and traumatic memory and dedicated to the memory of the innocent victims of terrorism by the world's best composers, created not only as a manifestation of their repulsion against terrorism, but also as a wish to heal the pain and sorrow. And to heal, only our love, generosity and friendship could do.
"The excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with beauty and truth." (John Keats)

If I have to mention a part of the world which produces the most interesting, new, honest and exciting literature music, it will certainly be Australia and New Zealand in one extreme, and Spain in the other extreme. Spain has a unique history in the 20th-century music literature : its composers were so deeply rooted in traditional music that it took decades for the next generation to free themselves from this idiom. The death of Manuel de Falla in 1946 practically left Spain a vacuum in musical creation. There were certain talented mavericks such as Federico Mompou who was completely alone writing such intimate, introverted exquisite little pieces which were totally opposed to the nature of the fiery Latin temperament, the Les Six-influenced Xavier Montsalvatge, and the younger Anton Garcia Abril (b.1933) who looks back to the tonal possibilities or Gonzalo de Olavide (b.1934) who has been living in Switzerland and looks at the atonalists around him. But the real resurrection of Spanish music arrived just around the turn of the millenium, when suddenly a group of highly energetic, prolific, sharp and smart composers emerged bringing to an end of this uncertainty. Unlike their older generation who searched inside themselves for an identity, this new generation opened up and absorbed all what is around them like a sponge. Each of them is highly individual and none of their music could be easily pigeonholed, which baffled the musicologists (especially the Spanish ones who were still shocked !), most of them still doubting how to label their music. Some of the composers, although equally interesting, are not represented in this particular concert, such as Polo Vallejo, who is one of the world's most prominent etnomusicologist in African music ; too prominent that we sometimes forget his other side of being an accomplished composer who naturally integrated his deep knowledge of African rhythms and melodies into his characteristic music. In fact, it was Vallejo who introduced African music to David del Puerto (b. 1964). Del Puerto's tightly constructed rhythms owes a lot to his studies of the intricate and refined changing pulses of African music, which makes his music -- added with his unique and rigorous treatment of mosaic forms -- so exciting, both defining and defying gravity. His masterpieces include a Violin Concerto (1998) and a string quartet, while his "Alio Modo" will be extended into a full-range concerto for piano and orchestra called "Nusantara" to be premiered in 2005 which, listening to the 6-minute Alio Modo, promises to be another masterpiece. Jesus Rueda (1961) is certainly an incurable romantic but also the most radical in this generation. Some of his works employs instruments such as gasoline tanks or gongs dipped in and out the water, but he is too musical to let these gimmicks to be just pure gimmicks ; on the contrary, they serve to open a new world of sonic expression integrated into his deeply thought and moving masterpieces such as his three symphonies. His contribution for the pianistic literature is invaluable, and he certainly is one of the most important composer for this instrument of this last few decades with highly expressive and innovative works among others two sonatas and 24 interludes as well as many pieces written for young pianists, skillfully written with his lush and luscious harmonies.Santiago Lanchares (b. 1952) is the oldest of this generation. Born 6 years after the death of de Falla, Lanchares is comfortably integrated to this new generation since he is a late-beginner in composition ; his first works --which immediately gave a huge impact-- dated from 1985. Unlike Del Puerto or Rueda who already has a huge output in his late 30s, Lanchares works slowly and continuously revises his older works ; being hypersensitive to all what happens around him, his music absorbs a variety of influences without being ecclectic. His meticulosity manifest itself in the size of his best works : they are either short in duration or compact in instrumentation, such as the 7-minute "hommage to the Arabian culture" Maqam for 11 string instruments which was written in 1991 with a strong impact by the Gulf War, "Remembering Ma Yuan" for solo clarinet and electronics or the hyperactive and supercomplex Anandamania which, immediately after the sensational premiere, was selected for the UNESCO Rostrum of Composers.

Australia and New Zealand have the (dis?)advantage of being far away from everywhere, and practically they "go their own way". That's why such different and fresh kind of music have been and is still created there. Most of the victims of the 12/10 attack were Australians and New Zealanders, which provoked a strong reaction to the artists to honour their countrymen. Being very close to Indonesia, they have always turned to gamelan music for source of inspiration. Some of them : Gareth Farr, Jack Body from New Zealand and the Australians Betty Beath and Peter Sculthorpe have been deeply influenced all their lives by gamelan music, and they have studied gamelan profoundly and even have lived for short terms in Indonesia. Peter Sculthorpe (b. 1939) is considered as the first Australian composer who received worldwide fame and the first who could be defined as the composer writing Australian music, which is very much connected with Asian and Aboriginal music. His involvement with Balinese music is not limited to the gamelan ; his 8th string quartet, for example, employed ostinato patterns taken from a recording of Balinese women pounding rice. He was highly respected as a composition teacher as well, whose student include Barry Conyngham (b.1944), an equally prolific and highly respected composer who has also studied in Japan with Toru Takemitsu. It was in Japan that he wrote his most striking music : Ice Carving, for solo violin and four string orchestras, or Water ... Footsteps ... Time, for 4 amplified soloists and two orchestras. He once stated in the fascinating book of interviews "Composer to Composer" by fellow composer Andrew Ford : "I was committed to the notion by then [in the 1970s] of there being such a thing as Australian music. I got this from Peter [Sculthorpe] of course, and it meant far more than simply writing music in Australia -- it implied a music which consciously occupied itself with things that are unique to the country. ... I also came up with the idea that isolation and loneliness could be seen as a kind of metaphor for being Australian".Born in 1957 in Uzbekistan, Elena Kats-Chernin emigrated to Australia at the age of 18 and entered the NSW Conservatory, and in 1980 she moved to Germany and stayed there for 13 years, returning to Australia in 1994. Her music is characterized by chiseled rhythmic pulsation reminiscent of Stravinsky / Prokofiev and the bittersweet melodic / harmonic language of Kurt Weill ; some modernism adds an occasional dash of vinegar. She is highly renowned for her stage works, among others two operas Iphis (1997) and Matricide, the musical (1998).Jack Body (b. 1944) has always been highly regarded for his two double careers : as a composer and as a professor in Wellington University who has produced practically all the most interesting and stylistically highly diverse younger composers in NZ who have now equally achieve worldwide recognition of their own : from the rock and techno influenced John Psathas with his incredibly energetic, funky and well-crafted pieces, as well as the Buddhist / Zen influenced Ross James Carey (b. 1968) who now lives in Canada, and Michael Norris (b. 1973) who has found his own abstract, intricate, refined and expressive voice already in his young age. Jack Body's most moving work is perhaps the piano piece Sarajevo of 1991. In honoring the 12/10 victims, he collaborates with the Balinese composer I Wayan Gde Yudane in creating the piece, and Yudane himself plays gamelan with me in this piece. Gareth Farr (b. 1968) is certainly the most flamboyant of all : not only he is famous for his brilliant, elegant, attractive and exuberant orchestral works, he also performs singing, dancing and playing percussion (he was for many years percussionist of the NZ Symphony Orchestra, which explains the strong presence of percussive elements in his greatest works) as his alter-ego Lilith Lacroix, the highly seductive queen of the South Sea.


Nancy v.d Vate's music goes back to lyricism and modality though with still-not-so-traditional harmonies, although she too has been very much in the forefront of avantgardism in the 1960s and 1970s. Born in the USA, she is a highly prolific composer of operas and other stage works, although her output also includes many splendid orchestral, choral and instrumental works. An inveterate traveller as well, her music reflects a wide variety of influences of world cultures, especially Indonesia where she lived in the 1980s, during which her invaluable contribution to the (very) young local musicians including me was not only letting us discover the excitement of 20th century music but also to light the spark of enthusiasm and love for music. Her greatest works are many times strongly related to the world events that provoked their creation, such as the impressive Chernobyl or Krakow Concerto.
John McLeod (b. 1944) is the only Scottish representative in this program. He has, for the last few years, very much influenced by Asian music in general, perhaps due to his constant travels to Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asian countries, and his idiom has developed into a unique kind of music which no man has heard before. Therefore, his master-pieces dated from the last few years : "The Chronicle of Saint Machar" for SATB and children choir, baritone solo and orchestra (1999), Symphonies of Stone and Water - a virtuosic concerto for piano accompanied by a highly original scoring of 3 saxophones, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and percussion (2000) as well as a multi-media work for solo percussionist, electroacustic tape and film projection entitled The Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Ananda Sukarlan, Sept 2003

jueves, 16 de agosto de 2007

JCOM Fest is over

Work, work, work. OK, and the internet connection is rather slow, that explains my absence these days from my blog. Anyway, JCOM Fest is over, and am glad that it’s not just over like that. It will be talked about for a rather long time afterwards. Lots of coverage in the media, but what made me really happy is that it generates lots of gossips, since new talents are being discovered. The established ones are trembling ! Among them I can mention an ex-student of JCOM, Inge Buniardi who is now studying piano in Holland, gave an excellent recital with among others Kabalevsky’s Third Sonata and Gareth Farr’s Jangan Lupa. Andhanu Candana is our 14-year-old composition --and piano --student, and two of his works were played that stunned the audience. I am sure he will grow into a composer Indonesia can be proud of (which means that he will have lots of jealous enemies ; well, some of them are already around the corner, I am sure). Baritone Rainier “Pepi” Revireino sung my songs based on poems by Goenawan Mohamad and Chendra Panatan wonderfully. Our ex-guitar teacher, Sudirman Leman also gave a stunning recital with among others David del Puerto’s Winter Suite. But certainly the star of the month is the soprano Bernadeta Astari, our guest star who gave a stunning recital accompanied by Elwin Hendrijanto. Afterwards they toured in 4 cities on their own and the audience everywhere had a big crush on them.
The one we missed the most is our dear soprano, Rozana Unsulangi, who was recovering from an operation and couldn’t sing during the festival . She is recovering very well and we hope to listen to her singing again in not such a long time.
And of course we are all thankful to the hardcore of JCOM, who were overworked, underpaid and sometimes underestimated to make this a success. The piano teachers Ruth Wibisono, Ingrid M. Cahya, Dian Matondang, our academic director Iswargia Sudarno (oh yes, he performed a most sensitive & touching Kinderszenen) and our always helpful “Tante” Anneke (and her husband who lets his wife being exploited by us !) are, as always, so dedicated even until the early hours, as all our staff including Upie and Yongki .

Next destination : Mexico .

sábado, 7 de julio de 2007

Gemuruhnya Malam (program notes for JCOM Fest)

This cycle for baritone & piano, based on 4 poems by Goenawan Mohamad, started from setting the poem "Sajak untuk Bungbung" on flight from Jakarta - Frankfurt beginning of January 07. Someone gave me the complete poems of GM for a present during my stay in Jakarta that turn of the year and that was my "official book" for the flight. Having finished setting that poem, I realized that I have created a material that has a hypnotizing effect (which suits very well with many of GM's poems) : repeated notes, and that material could be developed in further works.

Another poem, Perjalanan Malam (Journey of the Night) also attracted me immensely, since it was based on Goethe's poem "Der Erlkönig" which was later set to become Schubert's most famous song. So, I took my repeated-notes material and also studied Schubert's song before setting GM's poem . Of course I wouldn't dare to emulate the Austrian master, but my piece certainly couldn't have existed without it. It turned out later that all the songs are all based on the note C, although one couldn't pinpoint whether it's major, minor, bi-tonal or even atonal.

This work will receive its world premiere during the closing of the JCoM Fest on the 12th of August, with myself accompanying one of Indonesia's best baritones, Rainier Revireino.

viernes, 6 de julio de 2007

No regrets

Ok, ok, so you complained that lately I write more about airlines and less about music. Well, you can see a new (very short) video of Deta Astari & Elwin Hendrijanto brilliantly playing my song on Sapardi Djoko Damono's cute poem in :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xk0Ac2E5WPQ

That is one song from my cycle of 6 songs "Senyap Dalam Derai". Deta & Elwin will sing the complete cycle in their concert for the opening of the JCOM Fest, on the 28th of July in Goethe Haus, Jakarta.

Also another email asked me about "what's my biggest regret until now". What about if I answer it with "That I wasn't the composer of WestSide Story" ? And neither of Candide .... nor Shosty's Fifth or Seventh Symphony .... or Britten's War Requiem ..... well, there is always something to regret in your life ! He he ....

miércoles, 4 de julio de 2007

Being Beauteous

Well, well, airlines can (although they’re not supposed to) take passengers wherever they like, with whatever delays. And politicians can invade countries. But, surely, you don't expect that just by having a pretty face, you can mess up the schedules of hundreds of fellow passengers and be able to get away with it. Right? WRONG! My first thought on reading this Penelope Cruz fuss was: “Why doesn't she buy her own f***ing airplane?” Or, would it deprive her of the satisfaction of playing The Superstar and of feeling that everybody else is less important than she is? Read the following from the Daily Mail (London) of today :

Penelope Cruz panic attack allegedly delays plane by two hours
By Martin Delgado - More by this author »
Comments (5)

Actress Cruz alledgedly suffers from panic attacks

Penelope Cruz is reported to have suffered a panic attack on an aeroplane moments before take -off.
The actress had boarded a Continental flight from Newark to Barcelona, where she is due to make a Woody Allen film.
Seated in first class and apparently travelling alone, she initially appeared to be alright.

But as the plane started taxi-ing onto the runway, she became agitated, according to fellow passengers.
After a brief conversation between Cruz and a flight attendant, the aircraft returned to the departure gate and she disembarked.
To the consternation of others on the flight, all the luggage was removed from the hold and placed on the runway in driving rain while airport staff searched for the actress's suitcases.
One passenger said: "She was freaking out and refused to fly."
Flight 120 eventually took off nearly two hours late on Thursday evening.
It is not the first time Cruz has had problems flying. Three years ago she was on trip to Mexico with her friend Salma Hayek when their plane was forced to make an emergency landing.
Last night Ms Cruz's publicist Carrie Gordon denied the Oscar-nominated actress had been overcome by nerves. "There was no panic attack", she said.
"The airline let her know there was going to be a three or four hour delay due to the storm. She had work so she figured she'd deplane and fly when the storm had passed."

jueves, 28 de junio de 2007

24, episode 3 (Ryanair again)

Although my last entry in May hasn't finished the story, there is a new development (or rather non-development) about the case. Ryanair has sent this following letter to our colleague who submitted a complaint. Apparently their favorite excuse is "weather conditions" . What a nonsense. Just to remind you, on April the 20th (a fine, clear & shiny day it was) Ryanair took us from Santander to a destination (Valladolid) where nobody wanted to go (it should be London) since they wanted to carry their technician for free. And then they abandoned us there for the whole 24 hours. So, nothing concerning flight safety, weather conditions and other bla bla bla . Here is their letter :


On behalf of Ryanair, we sincerely apologise for the disruption to your recent flight with us. Ryanair is committed to providing on time services for all passengers and continues to be the No. 1 on-time airline with the lowest level of flight cancellations in Europe, as detailed in audited statistics issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. However, notwithstanding the above, there are rare occasions such as adverse weather conditions, unexpected flight safety problems, strikes security risks that affect our flight operation. We sincerely apologise that your flight was one of those occasional flights disrupted. As your flight disruption was outside of the control of Ryanair, we regret to advise you that no monetary compensation is due in this instance. Should you have incurred any additional expenses in relation to this flight disruption, contact your travel insurer to initiate a claim. Please note that UK and Irish residents who purchased Ryanair's (Primary) travel insurance receive cover forTravel Disruption - see Section H of your travel insurance policy for details.

Yours sincerely
RYANAIR PASSENGER COMPENSATION DEPARTMENT

Well, apparently there is another recent case of Ryanair : in another flight, they took the passengers to Girona, while they were supposed to fly to Rome. The news (in Spanish) you can check out here :
http://www.eldiariomontanes.es/prensa/20070628/cantabria/juez-condena-ryanair-pagar_20070628.html

I think I know what poem is the favorite of the Ryanair CEO (whoever and however insensitive he is). It must be Robert Frost's famous poem that ends with :

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And that difference is beneficial : cheaper for Ryanair !

martes, 26 de junio de 2007

JCOM Fest

Am sure this will be the most exciting classical & contemporary music festival in Jakarta . It's going to be held from the 28th of July to 12th of August, and one of the guest stars will not be a musician, but the greatest Indonesian poet Sapardi Djoko Damono ! And another idol of mine, dancer & choreographer Chendra Panatan will dance to my new short piece for violin & piano, "The Sleepers". Yeah, it won't be just ANOTHER festival .... music, literature, dance, everything will mingle there. Also lots of world & Indonesian premieres of works by contemporary composers such as David del Puerto (a guitar piece played by Sudirman Leman), Nancy Van de Vate, the child prodigy Andhanu Candhana (13 years old ! ) , Polo Vallejo, Geoffrey King and myself . And of course one can enjoy terrific performances of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss and all the other classics.

More info : Jakarta Conservatory of Music, 021 - 769 0470 . I'll put more info next week in this blog.

4 Sonet Sapardi Djoko Damono

I promised to put the newest sonnets of Sapardi Djoko Damono written for me (or rather for Andy the busker), so here they are . They were published in Kompas Minggu, June 10th, 2007.

Sonet, 1
: Andy, Pengamen

"Aku menyanyi untukmu," katamu. Aku diam,
mendengarkan gerimis yang berderai lalu
bagai benang terurai dari langit yang dalam.
Adakah kausaksikan aku mendengarkanmu?
Aku diam, mendengar dan tidak mendengar
suaramu. "Biar aku menyanyi, hanya untukmu,"
katamu. Aku diam, mungkin gerimis bergetar
bagai tirai warna-warni, hanya untukku.
Apakah kau yakin aku bisa menyaksikan
mahasunyi yang meniti butir-butir gerimis,
apakah yang kauinginkan dariku yang bertahan
agar tak ada sebutir pun dari mata menitis?
"Aku menyanyi untukmu, selalu," katamu.
Gila, kautusukkan juga senyap senar itu!


Sonet, 2
Aku tak lain sebutir telur
kubayangkan tergolek di sarang itu
ketika siang sudah luhur --
"Dan tak juga menetas," katamu.
Aku tak lain seonggok sarang
kubayangkan terbaring di awan biru
ketika hari menjelang petang --
"Dan tak ada burung hinggap," katamu.
Aku tak lain seekor burung
kubayangkan lepas dari ketinggian itu
ketika malam menjelma senandung --
"Menidurkanmu dalam telur," katamu.
"Kau akan mendengar dendang hening
merawatmu, tak lekang mendenting."

Sonet, 3
"Jangan lupa kirim pesan kalau kau tiba
dengan selamat di bandara," katamu.
Kudengar getar dari kota nun di sana,
terpisah oleh jalan-jalan berdebu
dan langit yang bagai rasa cemas.
Kata melenting di dinding-dinding
kabin, tak berhak lepas
dari kaca jendela yang tak lagi bening.
Awan yang di bawah bergumpal melata
tampaknya tak siap lagi menjadi lambang
cinta kita, "Apakah ia akan tetap ada
sehabis hujan?" Pesawat mendadak goyang
ketika kubayangkan matamu mendesah,
"Jangan lupa, di sini ada yang gelisah."

Sonet, 4
Hidup terasa benar-benar tak mau redup
ketika sudah kaudengar pesan:
suatu hari semua bunyi rapat tertutup.
"Penyanyi itu tuli," katamu pelan.
Tapi bukankah masih ada langit
yang tak pernah tertutup pelupuknya,
yang menerima segala yang terbersit
bahkan dari mulut si tuli dan si buta?
"Penyanyi itu buta?" tanyamu gemetar;
kita pun diam-diam mendengarkannya,
Cinta terasa baru benar-benar membakar
ketika pesan kaudengar: padamkan nyalanya!
Kita pun menyanyi selepas-lepasnya,
sepasang kekasih yang tuli dan buta.

viernes, 22 de junio de 2007

Recording Jesus Rueda's "Ketjak"

So, Rueda's Sonata no. 2 "Ketjak" has highly enthused the public that I am asked to immediately record it. A CD of Rueda's piano music is of course long overdue, as he is, with Santiago Lanchares, the most important composer for the piano from Spain today. Lanchares' CD of his complete piano works (well, complete means until 2003) won the Best Recording of the Year last year, so a CD of Rueda should have at least the same impact, especially because Rueda has this sort of Scriabinesque passion in his music which appeals to the romantic music fans. Anyway, am planning a short period of rest and doing composition these 2 weeks, but I see that this is the best time to record it since it is still "in my fingers" as we say . And it will be good for my second performance of it in Mexico in September, since practising for a recording means meticulously dissecting the piece and really "assimilate" it . Also I would like to record Nancy van de Vate's beautiful piece she wrote in 2003 commemorating the Bali terrorist attack, "A Balinese Diptych" ; it will be released next year in Vienna Modern Masters, but since I am entering the studio recording, I'd better record it now. So, these 2 days I worked on and finished my piece "Psalm 148" for SSAATTBB choir, sent it to Vox Angelorum (who commissioned it) this morning and now back to my piano, boisterously practicing those exhilarating Ketjak rhythms. Again, my gratitude to Jesus Rueda is beyond words for writing this incredible piece of music. Am really, really honoured to be its dedicatee .

jueves, 14 de junio de 2007

World premiere of Sonata no. 2 "Ketjak" of Jesus Rueda

YES !! I just premiered it about 5 hours ago in this historical place, La Residencia, in Madrid (Ravel, Poulenc, Stravinsky once did their Spanish premeires here). Very happy , although not really 100% satisfied, but hey, it's the first performance, right ?. Jesus Rueda's Second Sonata "Ketjak" (yes, it's based on the polyrhythms of the Kecak dance of Bali) aroused great, GREAT interest of the public. I hope they get it : not only its virtuosity, lots of noise, brilliance, ebullience .... but also the impressive mastery of the great composer in manipulating the musical material and the really solid structure of the piece.
Jesus Rueda is THE composer of the piano of today from Spain, and one of the best composers in the world, so expectation was high . And it's been 10 years since he wrote his -- equally successful -- First Sonata. But yes, I feel happy , after lots of work (from his and my part), at last it has been premiered with my interpretation as I expected, more or less. I hope to play it in Monterrey (Mexico) next September and Rome (Italy) next October. And more, and more, and more. I am sure this masterpiece will grow and have a life of its own. I am proud beyond belief, obviously, to be the dedicatee of this great piano work.
And a very nice concert as well. The "elite" society of music of Spain were there : David del Puerto (who just happily came back from New York, having his Second Oboe Concerto performed for the first time in the US), Santiago Lanchares and his wife, the critics Arturo Reverter, and of course Jesus Rueda himself being admired by the ladies ....

Now am going home, and I have to finish my composition for SATB choir, "Psalm 148". It is commissioned by the Vox Angelorum Choir in Jakarta and its director, Henry Sutjipto. My idea is to write really a happy (which, in my musical terms means "funky") piece, and I know some churches in Indonesia are not really eager to have a funky (and loud !) piece performed in their churches ... but I just want to write what I feel and believe. Why can't we be happy pronouncing "Laudate Dominum !" ? And I think God wouldn't mind at all people listening to a happy piece ....

domingo, 10 de junio de 2007

A poetic birthday

Woke up very late today (even that was because a phone call from a friend wishing me a happy birthday and so I didn't have breakfast with my family), and then had breakfast in my back garden . I am 39 today !! Afterwards we had lunch in our garden ; my wife has bought many seafood yesterday from the beach, and fortunately it's such a beautiful day .

Many birthday wishes today, so I spent like 2 hours answering emails. My friend the choreographer Chendra Panatan made a short poem about the 88 keys of the piano for me ; you can check it out at his blog (if you speak Indonesian) : http://chendraefblogger.blogspot.com . But the most special for today is that the great Indonesian poet Sapardi Djoko Damono made especially a poem for me consists of 4 sonnets, and it is published along with some other new poems of his in "Kompas", the main newspaper in Indonesia. It is dedicated to "Andy the busker" (Andy, pengamen) . I like being called like that ! Anyway, those 4 sonnets are really new masterpieces of his . They have many "inner" meanings taken from our cyber-relationship and creative processes, they are sophisticatedly constructed, strong and so deeply touching -- as usually his poems are. Next week I will post them here in my blog. He also sent me a nice short email wishing happy birthday. The great poet also confessed that it wasn't easy to do those sonnets ; it took him several weeks to change and revise things until its impeccable final version . Thank you Maestro ! And thanks to all my friends !

In 3 days I will give the world premiere the Sonata no. 2 "Ketjak" by the great Spanish composer Jesus Rueda. Hope to meet the crème de la crème of Spanish music in that concert : Santiago Lanchares, David del Puerto, Polo Vallejo .... cool musicians and cool guys .

martes, 5 de junio de 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

This is a translation of my article published in Spanish last month in a magazine in Spain.


"It is not enough to deface the Mona Lisa because that does not kill the Mona Lisa. All art of the past must be destroyed." -- (Pierre Boulez )

"I dare suggest that the composer would do himself and his music an immediate and eventual service by total, resolute and voluntary withdrawal from this public world to one of private performance and electronic media." ( Milton Babbitt )

"What happened there is (...) the biggest artwork of all times. That spirits achieve in a single act what we in music cannot dream of, that people rehearse ten years long like mad, totally fanatical for a concert and then die.This is the biggest artwork that exists at all in the whole universe...I couldn't match it." (K. Stockhausen, on the 9/11 attack ) . -- All quotes are from The New York Times.


Those three composers are supposedly "great" composers of the 20th century. Their piano works (in fact, ALL their works) were written "for the future" in the 1950s and 60s, when they were (and still are) a tough nut to crack for both the pianist and the audience. Now, if they were indeed "great", as Chopin or Bach undoubtedly were, why are their works still not in the repertory of most pianists or other instrumentalists ? And why don't we members of humanity, no matter how "retarded" we are according to those "great" artists, respect them now as we respect Beethoven or even their contemporaries such as Shostakovich or Benjamin Britten ? When is the "future" they were talking about ? Is 2007 not "future" enough for those works created half a century ago ?

The answer is simple. Boulez, Babbitt and Stockhausen are (or were) "great", because they rely on, and receive huge government subsidies and were leaders of a very small but controlling establishment consisting of academics, critics and art politicians. They are "great" according to their colleagues in this group, but not according to musicians and the public. In fact, their "avantgarde" music is mostly written against musicians and the public. It even goes so far as calling the 9/11 event "the greatest artwork" (see Stockhausen's quote above) , not only creating a work against people, but even more, killing (how can one be more against people ?) them all, "artists" and audience. In other words, they write music to gain, and only to gain, government subsidy. What Walt Whitman said, that "It takes great audience to make great poets" is not valid anymore for this kind of "art". In principle, government subsidies are supposed to be given to marginal artistic activities, and the more "minority oriented" that art is, the more it deserves subsidy ; this subsidy has enabled those artists to stay in their ivory towers without making any contributions at all to the public. Which is alright if one doesn't think of the amount of taxpayers' money that is used to subsidize those "artistic" works.

Let's take one example, the IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique) who was built by Pierre Boulez in Paris. It was kitted out with equipment to Boulez's own specification to compose music for the future. IRCAM also swallowed 80% of the national subsidy for contemporary music of France(1) . It was built at a cost of 90 million francs and thereafter at a cost of 15 million a year to the French taxpayer for its concerts, staff and upkeep. It happened that in 1969 Boulez got Georges Pompidou to build for him a huge high tech underground bunker , beside the site of what was to become the Pompidou Centre. Now, in 2007, shall we look back and reflect on how many masterpieces have been created out of this building ? What I mean by masterpieces are works that the general public recognize as such, like Britten's War Requiem, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms or, coming from the other continent, Copland's Third Symphony. I don't have to answer this question. When I was living in Holland in the 1990s I had several encounters with"ex"avant-garde turned real composers, such as Toru Takemitsu, John Adams or Louis Andriessen. And it was in Holland that I met for the first time my amazing Spanish composer friends Jesus Rueda or David del Puerto (both winners of Premio Nacional de Musica, in 2004 and 2005 respectively). At that time, they were in a "transitional" period after getting out from the heavy influence of their avantgarde teacher, Paco Guerrero. All of them realized then, that our older colleagues had achieved their goals to "impress" the public by presenting them with uncommunicative works, and certainly they have gained a lot by doing that, but that we the younger generations have to pay for it. There have been composers at every corner of the street ever since, given that avantgarde music was designed to give jobs to many who could not compose in the sense of writing "traditional" music. Good or bad quality is not the criteria anymore. But there are simply not enough subsidy for all of them , whose works sound more or less the same.


Fortunately we are in a state of transition to a more audience-friendly kind of music. The avantgardists had achieved in emptying the concert halls, and now we will have to work harder to gain them back and convince them that the word "contemporary" is not equal to "avantgarde" ; on the contrary, "avantgarde" was a thing very much in the past, and not con ("with")-temporary (our time) anymore. This situation reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen's story, about an Emperor who is very fond of clothes. One day came 2 tailors, saying that they can make very special clothes that only good people can see. Naturally the emperor cannot see those clothes, but afraid of being called a bad person, he praises the beauty of the clothes. And if the emperor can see it, everybody in the whole country should do as well. Until comes a very young kid, much too young to be called a bad person, during the festive celebration of those clothes , shouting innocently, "Look, the Emperor is naked!"


A very good story about how to cheat the public. If you cannot design clothes, well, make the audience think that it is THEM who do not see -- or understand it.

Did I make a point ? If so, let's see how many composers can make a counterpoint
....

sábado, 2 de junio de 2007

Hey ! Don't break it .

Got only 10 days to stay at home, preparing the next concert as well as finishing my new choir piece, commissioned by the Seven Chorale and its highly (pro-)active director, Rizal Tandrio. This choir consists of mainly teenagers. They are based in Jakarta, and they are going to participate in the next Asian Choir Games in November where Jakarta has the honour to host it.

I have long been wishing to set to music Sapardi Djoko Damono's exquisite sonnet, freely translated would be like "Hey ! Don't break the stem of that flower ...". He then continues in describing the flower's beauty and life. Basically, there is a moral behind the poem, which is to love nature. I always thought of doing it for a youth choir, so when Rizal offered the commission I gladly accepted it. It will be for SSAA, and during my trips in England and Portugal I sketched a lot of the piece. It's 2' 45" long, with a funky beginning and a quiet & lyrical ending .The title in Indonesian is "Hei ! Jangan Kaupatahkan" . Today I sent Rizal the last section of the piece, while I am letting a few days go by to visit the first 2 sections, because somehow I feel I would change something from the original idea. There are some difficult harmonies in the first section, but I am sure the Seven Chorale could do it very well. The first line of the poem triggered a rhythm which is not unlike a folksong from the island of Papua, "Yamko Rambe Yamko" .

martes, 29 de mayo de 2007

Birthday of the romantics tomorrow














Strange that I idolize the romantics, while I can't find anything romantic in myself !

And it is quite a coincidence that two of my romantic heroes have the same day as their birthdays, almost 2 centuries apart.

It's the birthday of the great poet Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) tomorrow . I have set to music some of his poems, such as "Hours continuing long" as well as his poems related to animals, The Dalliance of the Eagles and A Noiseless Patient Spider, for soprano & piano. You know Vaughan Williams' great Second Symphony "A Sea Symphony" ? It's also based on his poems, obviously relating to one of his favorite themes, the sea. Ned Rorem and Oliver Knussen also did some music based on his music, as well as Leonard Bernstein in one of his songs from "Songfest". I still don't know what attracts composers to his poems ; it's just something natural, I guess ....

And also tomorrow will be the birthday of one of my favorite composer, very much alive, Jesus Rueda. He turns 46 . Exactly in 2 weeks time, I will give the world premiere of his Sonata no.2 , "Ketjak", inspired on the rhythms (and noise !) of the Ketjak dance of Bali . Jesus Rueda is one of the most admired and loved composers of Spain today, and certainly the most important composer for my instrument, the piano, coming from this country. I simply love, LOVE his music ; his Third Symphony was just premiered last month and am literally DYING to listen to it. He also has 3 string quartets, and the third is definitely a masterpiece . All of them have been recorded by my friends the Arditti Quartet ; in fact, it became historically important, since it was the last recording of the Ardittis with Rohan de Saram as their cellist. It is a double CD, where I also played with them his Piano Trio and Piano Quintet, as well as 4 of his Love Songs with the fantastic viola player of the quartet, Ralf Ehlers. I think Jesus Rueda has achieved in continuing the thread which was broken after the death of Britten and Shostakovich .

Happy Birthday to all those incurable romantics under the sign of Gemini .

lunes, 28 de mayo de 2007

24, episode 2

One week after our adventure. Meanwhile, about 10 of us Ryanair victims have exchanged emails. Some have submitted their complains to the company, but still no signs from them until this very moment. I guess it's pretty normal for Ryanair to use passengers as escorts to the pilots and engineers, and that they can fly anywhere bringing all the passengers.


Anyway, we stayed in the Valladolid airport lounge for about 2 hours, until midnite. During that time, we tried to ask the Ryanair staff for their conscience ; we thought that they were not so coldblooded enough to just let us sleep at the airport waiting for uncertainty, not knowing our destiny. Unfortunately the airport is in the middle of nowhere, unlike Madrid or New York where we can just buy tickets for the next plane to London. We are under the mercy of Ryanair !! (2 b continued)

martes, 22 de mayo de 2007

24 , episode 1 (don't worry, it won't be 24 episodes)

Kiefer Sutherland ? Well, I don't even think that he could solve the problem me and other 153 passengers had during our flight (to be precise, NO flight) with Ryanair, the cheap but ONLY direct flight from Santander to London.

It happened last Sunday, when we had all fastened our seatbelts and the doors were securely locked. Thus spake the Captain : "L & G, welcome to Ryanair. Unfortunately we have to take an engineer to Valladolid to repair an airplane there, so our arrival in London will be delayed for approx. 1 hour" . Eeehh ??? 154 passengers had to escort our Very Important Engineer, Esq. to Valladolid, which is reachable by car in less than 3 hours ???

But anyway, since we are nice people (and helpless), we just obeyed the orders of the captain. Half an hour later, after landing in Valladolid airport, came another order from the captain "...unfortunately, now it is OUR plane that has something wrong. So, we would have to wait for around half an hour". Almost instinctively, all of us picked our mobile phones up and told the people who are supposed to pick us up at London airport to come 1,5 hours later. And half an hour later, the captain spoke again, the second sentence of those phrases above. And half an hour later, again . In total, we were IN the body of that plane from 7.20 to 10 pm (remember this, it's very important for the next episode of the story) . During that time, I remembered a passenger badly need for sugar, and another for a glass of water, and they were told "That would be 1.50 euros, sir". (sorry if I got the price wrong , maybe the water was 1.25 and Coke was.... I forgot) . In the end, 2 British children was hospitalized in Valladolid for asthma attack and another reason.
At 10 pm, at last we are told to disembark to the airport lounge after telling that we could not take off that evening due to weather conditions (it was a thin shower, but if a pilot couldn't deal with that, to be honest I'd have to question his credibility...) , and contact the Ryanair staff there. Which turned out that .... they didn't receive any instruction what to do.

Anyway, I cannot continue now, since I have a lunch appointment (yes, I am safe in London now), but if you read Spanish, you can check Diario Montanes, which is the local newspaper of Santander) of today's edition . Ah, this is the exact address of that news : http://www.eldiariomontanes.es/prensa/20070522/cantabria/santander-londres-horas-pasando_20070522.html

viernes, 11 de mayo de 2007

Answers: contemporary piano music

Another question I have been very frequently asked : 1. What, in your opinion, are the great piano pieces written recently ? 2. Which great composers (dead or alive) who haven't written any important piano music you would like to ask to write one ?

Let's limit the word "recently" to the last 25 years, which means starting from 1982. On top of my list is still David del Tredici's "Virtuoso Alice" from 1984. And then comes Oliver Knussen's Variations, op. 24 from 1989 . Then there are these pieces which I couldn't put in order of my preference, so I'll order them alphabetically on the composer's surname : Geoffrey King's "Pithecanthropus Variations", Santiago Lanchares' "Anandamania", one or more of the sonatas of Luca Mosca, David del Puerto's Alio Modo, Jesus Rueda's Sonata no. 2 "Ketjak" from 2005 (as well as his First, from 1991), Toru Takemitsu 's "Les Yeux Clos II", Rob Zuidam's "Spank". And then there are works which are limited in their piano techniques --mostly percussive, the trend of this era -- nevertheless they have great depth and understanding of the instrument and its sound & specific colours ; but hey, each of Chopin's Etudes are like that, right ? I am thinking of John Psathas' "Jettatura", Gareth Farr's "Jangan Lupa", Peter Sculthorpe's "Mountains" and Louis Andriessen's "Trepidus" . I am not sure of the dates of Peter's and Louis' pieces, but they are from the 80s ... let's be flexible, right ?

Answering the second question, I don't think we miss a great piano work by Gustav Mahler, Edward Elgar, Jean Sibelius or Richard Strauss : they are great composers but they very much specialized in orchestral work. The world of music is thankful enough for their orchestral & lyrical masterpieces ! Some of them did write some piano pieces, but they are just "nice". And I personally don't really like the piano works of the lyrical composers I usually highly admire such as Giancarlo Menotti or Ned Rorem. But a peculiar case is about Samuel Barber : he didn't put any of his highly lyrical gifts in his most important piano works : his Sonata and Concerto. He treated the piano as it is : a piano, a percussive instrument, and those two pieces are indeed masterworks by a genius. But I do wish that Benjamin Britten would have written a big piano work : he was a great pianist, and unlike many musicians, he "descended" from Schubert. Also a pity that we don't have one from Leonard Bernstein. And from a composer today, a big piano work from the "Hollywood" composer John Williams would be great, as well as from John Corigliano, Rautavaara, Krzystof Penderecki or Peter Sculthorpe.


By the way, you guys know the piano concerto of Andre Previn ? It is F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C . Although nothing can be compared to the beauty of his Violin Concerto "Anne-Sophie" . That's just pure beauty, of the first degree.

Answers : About my relation with gamelan

Among questions regularly asked to me are these ones by a graduate student in Yale. There is no easy answer, but I will try however. He asked :

... what I am really interested in is what your reaction is when you hear gamelan music. Do you have an emotional connection to themusic, even though it isn't 'current'? Does the sound of gamelan conjure up particular associations for you? And can you compare it at your experience of any kind of western music - like listening to aBeethoven Symphony or a Miles Davis recording?Also, how do you think your education in music shaped the way that you experience music - both when listening to gamelan and when listeningto any other kind of music?

My answer : Of course I have a STRONG emotional connection to gamelan. Not only because of memories of childhood, but also due to the fact that I know it is a culture which is dying, for lack of government (and popular) support. If you love someone, you love him/her more if you know that time is running out, right ? And funny enough, now the music of gamelan penetrates strongly to my mind if I am composing ; hence some "gamelan" sections in my most recent music (maybe because my recent music deals with Indonesian poets and issues and way of thinking). Those gamelan "sound" just appears, and of course I have to work it out in integrating it with my own musical language, which has, I have to confess, nothing to do with Indonesian traditional music but more with Stravinsky or Britten or Bach. So, that sound comes in and out, sometimes explicitly, sometimes just being there without being noticed. Perhaps I can compare my music (although far more inferior in quality !) more with David del Puerto's "Nusantara" Symphony or Sir Michael Tippett's Triple Concerto than to Britten's Prince of the Pagodas or Poulenc's Concerto for two pianos : in del Puerto's, Tippett's or mine there are no clear "gamelan sections" (in fact, many Indonesian non-music lovers cannot really detect the gamelan influence in our music ; yet they can immediately recognize when the "gamelan section" arrives in Britten's or Poulenc's music.)
Yes, I feel differently when listening to gamelan as to other kinds of music, but it is as different as listening to Beethoven compared to Oscar Peterson to Ravel to Copland to Scottish ballads to Elton John . What do I feel ? Ooops ... I can't say it with words . It's even beyond happy and sad.
But funny enough, I don't feel closer to gamelan than to other kinds of music. I think because I listened to different kinds of music when I was a kid : Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Queen, gamelan, Rachmaninov, even avant-garde music (not anymore after I realized that most of them are just faking due to the lack of compositional techniques and musicianship) . But one thing is the music I love, and the other thing is the music that influence my thinking and my composition. I love Chopin, Rachmaninov and the romantics, but one cannot find their traces in my music, no romantic whooshes and big emotional expressions. I hate most of twelve-tone music, but I realize that something good has come out of it ( I am talking only about the music of its inventors : Schönberg, Berg & Webern : what happened afterwards was just monkey-ing and photocopying what has been done before), and I am fascinated by how Berg treated the row ( note the word "fascinated", not "like") . One can use whatever method he likes, but first and foremost he must be a "real" composer with high musicianship and accomplished technique.



jueves, 3 de mayo de 2007

Paths and highways

Am enjoying immensely practising the complete ballet of "Castor & Pollux" by one of my favorite composers, Santiago Lanchares. It is a work for piano & percussion (I will do it with my friend, the number one, second to none percussionist Miquel Bernat), 40 minutes of brilliant, exhilarating, inexhaustibly driving rhythmical work. We will do the complete work (12 episodes) for the first time in 3 weeks time in Portugal, and during the next season we will do it several times with the famous choreographer Dani Panullo in Madrid and several other cities.

The combination of piano and percussion produces a fascinating sound world ; especially in this ballet Lanchares uses 90% only marimba and vibraphone. The range of the character of the sound it produces is so wide, from the dark low register of the marimba to the ear-piercing resonating sounds of the combination of the piano and vibraphone. The dynamic range is also astonishingly wide, as well as their colourful sound palette and textures. Sometimes Miquel Bernat plays those two instruments simultaneously, each with one hand (that's a technique that he has developed through the years). You can hear the results of Miquel playing both instruments in http://www.youtube.com/ , if you search for Santiago Lanchares' name , where "Lamento de Pollux" is shown with the film by another friend of us, Chendra Panatan.

There is of course the problem of balance of loudness, since those percussion instruments are by nature louder than the piano, but Santiago Lanchares could deal with it in a clever way . He is, I consider, the best composer for piano coming from Spain of today together with Jesus Rueda. But Rueda takes his influence from the romantic tradition broken after Rachmaninov (although Rueda has many highly imaginative works for percussion ; in fact Miquel and his group "Drumming" will record a whole CD of his percussion works next year), and Lanchares follows the percussive path of Bartok and Britten. So, two composers each walking on their own paths, and the artistic result is equally valid and of the highest quality. Meanwhile, there are some music dictators out there who are "metaphorically killing" (a quote from Times magazine) future generation of composers who didn't follow their (presumably one and only) path. Even some of those dictators just ORDER other people to follow their path, while they themselves don't walk through it ; they don't compose, just dictate !!!
It reminds me of the period of Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, when they built one highway to connect two cities. One HAS to pass through that one and only highway if you want to arrive at his destination. And of course he has to pay the toll . Now, what can Suharto do now with all that money ? I wonder ....

domingo, 29 de abril de 2007

Happy Birthday, David del Puerto


Tomorrow the 30th is the birthday of my friend and one of the most prominent Spanish composer of today, David del Puerto. This previous week has been indeed a "Del Puerto week" : our CD of his Second Symphony "Nusantara" and Violin Concerto has at last arrived in the Spanish shops ; I performed many of his piano pieces at the Spanish Residence (a historical place where Ravel, Stravinsky and others had stayed and presented their works when they were alive) last Thursday, and on Friday his ethereal, dark and deeply moving orchestral work "Variations in memory of Gonzalo de Olavide" was succesfully premiered, and repeated during the next two days. I could only go to the general rehearsal in the morning previous to the concert since I had to leave back home after lunch, but it was already excellently played by a young promising and highly talented conductor with whom we went out for lunch afterwards, Pablo Gonzalez. And he is very very nice as well, so he has a double merit ! The orchestra, by the way, was Orquesta Nacional de España who sounded brilliant under his baton, who I also heard with Beethoven's Second , to end the program.
I have known David for more than 12 years now. During those years our collaboration has given birth to many piano and chamber works, and culminated (but hopefully won't be the last !) in his masterpiece "Nusantara" for piano and orchestra. Now "Nusantara" has been hailed as "the great Spanish symphony", but I consider it as THE great Indonesian symphony as well, since it deals with many issues and even musical material from my country. It is rather ironic, isn't it, that the first symphony in history dealing with Indonesia is written by a Spanish composer ?
We both are a big fan of Death in Venice (both Thomas Mann's novel and Benjamin Britten's opera), and we took these photos during the Italian premiere of "Nusantara" in Teatro La Fenice, Venice last October 2006. That was the hotel where Mann was inspired to write his masterpiece ( it was David who told me that Tadzio was inspired by a real boy bathing at the beach right in front of the hotel) and also where Diaghliev died in one of its room. And we visited the tomb of our other idol, Igor the greatest, at the memorable Isola di San Marco. During this visit, David was inspired to write his Third Symphony, which he is writing now. Hopefully another masterpiece from the 43-year-young great composer.

lunes, 23 de abril de 2007

Orchestral spring

There has been a lot of world premieres of orchestral pieces here in Spain during this month, and I heard that they are very exciting. I haven't heard any of them (spent too much here among the hills writing my own music !), but hope to listen to them when the Radio Clasica broadcast them in a few weeks time.
The first was Apertura by Santiago Lanchares. The title, meaning "Opening" refers to the commissioner, which is the new Auditorium of Music in Valladolid to house the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon. The conductor was the Columbian Alejandro Posada
Then there was Hyperion II by Jesus Rueda, also commissioned by the same orchestra mentioned above and done by the same conductor. Jesus Rueda's "Tierra" ("Earth") will be premiered by the Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla next month with Pedro Halffter conducting. This piece, hopefully, will compliment the missing planet of Gustav Holst's "The Planets", although naturally the musical language of both composers are very different.
And in 3 days I hope to hear David del Puerto's Variaciones en memoriam de Gonzalo De Olavide , played by the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid. Also next month is the premiere of Santiago Lanchares' 3 episodes from Castor & Pollux, by the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, conducted by the woman conductor Gloria Isabel Ramos .

Here in Spain we are back in the period like in the 1950s, where everybody was excited to hear the new things of Britten, Shostakovich and Stravinsky. And another war is going on, unfortunately -- although not in Spain, but Spain is very much involved --, and not a cold one. But musically speaking, we are so lucky to have our brilliant composers hanging around here, writing brilliant masterpieces to be enjoyed equally as we enjoyed music by dead composers. And orchestras and musicians being enthusiastic in playing them, and those composers having lots of fans of their music.

Now, who said that the orchestra is a thing of the past ?? C'mon, get serious.

sábado, 21 de abril de 2007

Sabbatical over, Ars Amatoria not over yet

Practically my sabbatical period was over yesterday, and I closed it by going to the hospital to do some check up. Who knows that composing is not good for your health ! Am happy that my health is ok, but unfortunately I would need one or two weeks more to finish Ars Amatoria. But in the end, I have done more than AA, since I did set to music many more poems of Sapardi Djoko Damono which I definitely took out from the cantata, and put them in cycles for voice and piano. And 70% - 80% of AA also exist in versions for voice (solo or duet or choir) and accompaniments of piano, piano 4-hands or string quartet. Those versions will be premiered during the JCOM Fest in August in Jakarta, and in summer I will have to finish AA completely. Perhaps the performances in August will do it good, since I will listen to it "live" and will give me a chance to revise things to improve it.

I always thought that composition is exactly like architecture. Once the structural plan is done, one can just write based on it, minute by minute. It has been like that for me in the past. But apparently it's not like it this time. Since Ars Amatoria is the biggest piece I have done until now (more than 30 minutes long), some things twisted by itself and took their own paths during its creative process, and even worse, sometimes they are the "paths less taken". It seems as if the piece has a life of itself, like a child who grows up and starts to rebel against her parents. That's why poems are substituted and orders are changed. But until now I am happy with the result . And I learned a lot from writing this.

Next week I will recover my stage presence in Madrid, playing Ravel and David del Puerto (who with me are enjoying a good acceptance for our "Nusantara" Symphony CD), and the week after that I have to perform in Vigo (that's near Portugal) with an all-György Ligeti program .

lunes, 16 de abril de 2007

Frozen trees, inspired moments and triumph of the youth

Good poems make good music ? Hopefully so. I was so inspired yesterday that it seemed every sentence, every phrase that I saw could turn into music. When I drank coffee and visited my friend Dian Rosita (Tita)'s blog, which always combine her fantastic photographs with poems (her's is one of my favorite blogs which I visited every few days), I found an exquisite, poignant picture of Frozen Trees with a poem by an unknown author. Suddenly I found my hands already writing the music. It is for SATB choir, and I gave the altos the melody. Its low register with quite a far distance from the sopranos gives the piece a dark & brooding colour & mood . In fact, the poem could be by Robert Frost ; it had that sort of lonely feeling of his. It is appropriately dedicated to Tita who had indirectly provided me with the inspiration, a combination of the poem and the photograph. Today I had a look again at the music, and it sounded fresh, simple and contained some delicious harmonies, so I decided to keep it.

I am imagining what would happen to great composers of the past if blogs would have been invented then. Britten, for example, would have had the time of his life. By the way, you might be interested in visiting Tita's blog : http://dianrosita.blogspot.com

Yesterday was indeed a good day. Another friend of mine, a very young but very talented soprano Deta Astari who is now studying in Utrecht Conservatory won the First Prize of the Princess Cristina Concours. I knew she would ; I had good vibrations about it (besides I heard her in a recital in Jakarta which confirmed her great talent to me) which I told her a few days before through email. No, this is not a kind of Nostradamus-ian prophecy which are always realized AFTER the real event has occured. I just had good premonitions, that's all. In fact I had prepared a gift for her, a song cycle based on poems by ... yes, who else ... my one and only Sapardi Djoko Damono . Deta is also a big fan of his poems. So, these are his poems which I really wanted to set to music, but are not included in my cantata Ars Amatoria . It's mostly about rain (and other wet things, like the lake !) and of course about love. 6 songs in total. Can't wait to hear Deta singing them . Congratulations, and bravissima, Deta Astari.

And spring is definitely here to stay. Life is beautiful, don't you think ?

sábado, 14 de abril de 2007

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

That's what Borg always says. They are the no.1 enemy of any living being, member of the Federation of Planets. Even Captain Jean Luc Picard was once captured and assimilated by them. Assimilation is very powerful.

But I want to talk about gamelan music. What Debussy did, what Britten did, what Geoffrey King did and the most recent, David del Puerto. Our new CD of his Symphony no. 2 "Nusantara", by the way, is doing quite well in Italy, but it hasn't arrived at the Spanish CD shops ! Just yesterday David got a phone call from Juan Lucas, director of the Spanish distributor Diverdi, who has received the CDs from Milan and was absolutely, crazily, madly IN LOVE with his Symphony. David del Puerto will be featured in the next month's magazine of Diverdi, and they will start distributing them very soon. Anyway, it can be purchased at www.stradivarius.it .

Like the Borg (no plural, please. They are one.), assimilation is always done to "improve the life quality". Britten was stuck, you see, when he wrote his great ballet Prince of the Pagodas. In the middle of the (un-)creative process he travelled to Indonesia with Peter Pears, heard gamelan and then discovered how he should continue with the piece. Well, Debussy, David del Puerto and Geoffrey King haven't been to Indonesia, nevertheless they were very much influenced by gamelan music in some of their pieces. It's not just borrowing ; it's assimilation. Assimilation of different cultures. Not like Borg, and not like MacDonald or George W. Assimilation, not colonization. That's the future of classical music, I believe. Now that avantgarde is dying, and proved to be completely useless, assimilation is a good path to follow. Resistance is futile ! But let's talk about it in a few days time .... I have been composing many hours today and not feeling like sitting again in front of my computer ! I'll have a walk in my garden which now is totally covered with flowers of spring.

jueves, 12 de abril de 2007

Help me find a title (in Indonesian)

Having a break from writing Ars Amatoria, Kit Kat is not enough. So I travelled to Frankfurt (among others rehearsing with my friend, the violinist Jagdish Mistry of Ensemble Modern) and to Amsterdam with Chendra, where we worked out my new songs about the four seasons (not so original, eh ?) . Mixing business with pleasure is one of my specialties, you see. He has written the poems, and I set it to music. You can read the poems in his blog (http://chendraefblogger.blogspot.com ) .

Now, I need your advice, you guys out there. My habit is putting a title for my cycles of songs according to the initials of the poets, relating to the characters of (most of) the poems. So, my cycle of 3 Walt Whitman poems is called Whispering Wind , and the one of 4 Goenawan Mohamad's is Gemuruhnya Malam. Chendra's initials are C E P (Chendra Effendy Panatan) , and we both have thought of titles such as Cuaca Empat Pergantian or something like that, but nothing has satisfied us completely. The title should relate to the four seasons.

Can someone help me out ? As my gratitude, if I use your title I will dedicate one of those songs for you. Not "Spring" though, since it was already dedicated to my friend and patron Mr. Dedi Panigoro, whose birthday is just around the beginning of spring, last March. But you can choose among the other three seasons. It will be put above the title in the published score, and also will always be mentioned in the programs every time they are performed (by the way, those songs should always be performed as a unity, not separately -- unlike Vivaldi's ! ). AND ... I will give you one (sorry, I can only promise one !) free ticket for the premiere of the piece, by the baritone Reinier Revireino and myself accompanying the piano, on the 12th of August in Jakarta.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2007

Article on Australia New Music

This was an interview done to me last year (April 2006), and published at the end of the year 2006. Since the magazine is now expired, you can read it here.

Now, the times of political troubles between Indonesia and Australia don't seem to hinder you from keeping your activities involving Australian music.

Ananda Sukarlan (AS) : Of course not. Music, and art in general, doesn't have anything to do with politics. Even real life should not have anything to do with politics, but unfortunately many people suffer and become victims of the selfishness of greedy politicians.

Tell us about your new Peter Sculthorpe recording.

AS : The most exciting thing of course is that this is the first time I did a recording "with myself" 4-hands, with Peter's Four Little Pieces. It wasn't as easy as I imagined ! Recording 4-hands, I realized that I am already a different person just one hour after I recorded "the other me". Apart from that, I also did the World Premiere Recording of that moving piece Peter dedicated to me, "Little Passacaglia", commemorating the victims of Bali terrorist attack October 2002. Other works I included are Mountains, Night Pieces, and the short and exquisite Sometimes when I'm dreaming (which, if I am not mistaken, is also a world premere recording). To fill up the CD I recorded with 2 fantastic string players from Plural Ensemble, two trios of Peter (Night Song and From Irkanda III) and some duo pieces. The CD is already released as a supplement of "Sibila" cultural magazine (I am sure you can get a copy of it at any Spanish embassies or cultural centres) this April, but this summer (which means winter in the southern hemisphere !) it will be released by the company Verso. By the way, my recording of the Complete Piano Works by Santiago Lanchares with this company has already won the Best Contemporary Music CD of the Year 2005 by the classical music magazine CD Compact in Spain. This is my second CD with them. So, I have great expectations !

You just came back, with your duo partner the cellist Rohan de Saram from Edinburgh, doing a program of Australasian music.

AS : Yes, it was an invitation from the Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust. After Rohan left the Arditti Quartet last November 2005 we have been intensely performing as a duo. In Edinburgh we did the new piece, "Cathedral" Barry Conyngham wrote for us. Also Matthew Hindson's fun and funky "Jungle Fever" of course provided us an upbeat closing piece for the recital ; it was an arrangement of an earlier piece for french horn and piano, but it works perfectly in the new instrumentation. Both are brilliant pieces, wonderful additions for the repertoire for cello and piano which is quite poor comparing, for example, to the repertory of violin and piano, or even piano trio. That is why we are actively asking composers to write for us. We are going to repeat the performances of those pieces at the new Queen Sofia Center, Madrid later this year, together with other pieces we commissioned by Santiago Lanchares, Polo Vallejo, Jesus Rueda and Tapio Tuomela.

Where and when did you and Rohan meet ?

AS : It was when he was still with the Arditti Quartet. We did a program of Jesus Rueda's music for quartets and quintets during the Alicante Festival, and then we recorded them for a double CD in London (adding his duos and trios). This recording became the last recording of Arditti Quartet with Rohan de Saram as their cellist. We also do mixed classical and contemporary program, since we believe that that is the best way to get public to listen and discover good contemporary music : they come to hear us play Beethoven or Brahms, and then find two or three contemporary pieces in the program, and hopefully find out that they are not bad at all ! Of course we are very selective in choosing which contemporary pieces should be programmed in those "classical" concerts.

Are you now concentrating more in your duo projects ?

Not really, although we are performing a lot as a duo. We both are still very much soloists ! I am now very much looking forward to the new Piano Concerto Barry Conyngham is writing for me. I'll premiere it in November 2007. Meanwhile, there is another Piano Concerto due to be premiered by me next week, closer to home. It will be in Madrid, and it is a big Symphony for Piano and Orchestra called "Nusantara" (the old name of the Indonesian archipelago) by the Spanish National Music Award winner, David del Puerto, which I hope to play the first movement (which can be played separately) together with Barry's new Concerto next year with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

martes, 10 de abril de 2007

New discovery, this time REALLY embarrassing

You remember last January when I "discovered" Sapardi Djoko Damono and his poems, right ? Well, this time, it's a contemporary composer. I heard it for the first time at a dinner at Jeroen Kohnstamm's (a friend of Chendra, and now a friend of mine as well) beautiful house beside the river Vecht. He was cooking a very nice meal based on chicken, salad and some pasta, and we were drinking wine in his living room (Geoffrey King, Chendra Panatan and Iman Ahimsa -- a photographer and ex-fashion designer he is a friend of Jeroen and someone new to me who I was happy to get to know). In the background was the Dutch classical radio (oh yes, I forgot to tell you that I am writing this in Amsterdam) . At one moment sounded an incredibly beautiful, exquisite choir piece (we were talking so we didn't listen to the presenter), and silence dawned on us . Everybody was asking to himself who that damned composer was, and Geoffrey was the one who told us it was John Rutter (although he didn't know exactly what piece it was) .

So, "one of the world's leading pianists of new music" (that's what Sydney Morning Herald wrote about me, as well as some other newspapers) ..... and I didn't know John Rutter until 3 days ago . My God, now THAT is music.

In fact, I should confess that a few weeks ago I received a program of an English flutist who played my piece "You Had me at Hello" and she also played a piece by John Rutter. But since I thought that he was just a fake composer like a few other thousands who are comfortable writing avantgarde music, I didn't bother to check him out. Oh, well, nice to know that there are many good composers I still haven't discovered .... in fact, I am sure that many people have not discovered Geoffrey King. He is a really fantastic composer, and I will talk about his music in a few days when I am not in a rush like now . By the way, Chendra made a blog for him so he can have fun while taking breaks from his composing. Check it out at http://gfjking.blogspot.com

jueves, 29 de marzo de 2007

Chendra and sculptures



These are photos of Chendra Panatan related to sculptures. The black and white one is himself in one of the 20 images designed to be projected with my music "The Sleepers", to be premiered in Madrid next July. Photograph by Dian Rosita.

The other one was taken by me during our trip in Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, two days after Chendra's triumphant performance in Madrid. The dog is still not completely covered with flowers, since spring is coming rather late, thanks to the global warming (or global freezing ?)

miércoles, 28 de marzo de 2007

Chendra the Champ

Many things happened last week, which include many new notes coming from my pencil during my travels.

My new CD of David del Puerto's Symphony no. 2 for piano & orchestra "Nusantara" was released and presented in Milan on the 20th. The CD is produced by Stradivarius , and I recorded it with the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid conducted by Jose Ramon Encinar . Another great piece in that CD is del Puerto's Violin Concerto with the same orchestra & conductor accompanying the celebrated Spanish violinist Manuel Guillen . I am so proud of this CD (not only half of it ; the Violin Concerto is also indeed a great work. In fact, many people believe that it's the greatest violin concerto coming from Spain during the last 50 years or so) . So, if you happen to be in Italy these days, just enter a CD shop and ask for it. It will be distributed in Spain starting in April, and in 30 other countries starting in May .

Two days later I travelled to Madrid meeting Chendra Panatan & David del Puerto (we stayed in the latter's house). The great occasion this time is the presentation of Musica Presente (an article in the Spanish newspaper "ABC" describes us as "The dreamteam of Spanish music". If you read Spanish, you can visit our website at www.musicapresente.com ) to some VVIPs of Madrid, which include some performances either by Musica Presente members or artists invited by us. One of the guests is my idol Jose Luis Cuerda, the film director and producer, among others of "The Others", a film that was shot in Las Fraguas, near my house in Cantabria starring Nicole Kidman. David del Puerto, Jesus Rueda and Javier Arias Bal have written music soundtracks for his films. Other guests include some high politicians, senators of the Socialist Party, and Carlos Llamas, the popular radio presenter who became the successful Master of Ceremony that night.

At that event Chendra danced to the music of the fourth of movement, "Samudra", from Del Puerto's Nusantara Symphony . 7 minutes of spectacular solo dancing, completely being one with the dazzling orchestration which employs among others the gamelan pentatonic mode, played by a huge orchestra of the best virtuosos in Spain . His show was certainly the absolute highlight of the night. I cannot recall anyone who wasn't impressed by his interpretation of the music, his dance technique and rich vocabulary of movements. His dancework is an embodiment of the virtuosic western "ballet" technique and the profoundness and grace of the Balinese traditional dance, achieving a sense of both defying and defining gravity with precise meticulosity and spontaniety. Simply impressive, nothing short of spectacular.