Got the email with the article by Erza Setyadharma (founder of Indonesian Opera Society) in the "Kabar" magazine of last February. He is a big fan of my vocal music, and is busy at the moment in mounting Menotti's "The Telephone" in Jakarta for next month. Here is the article , cut & pasted from that mag :
Ananda Sukarlan, The Spider and Silence
Erza Setyadharma meets two of the most talented people performing in Indonesia at present: pianist Ananda Sukarlan and dancer and choreographer Chendra E. Panatan.
Ananda Sukarlan returned to the stage this New Year with A Trilogy Concert, a series of performances that took him from Bandung to Bali and back to Jakarta, where I was fortunate to witness Indonesia’s premier pianist in action.
As with many of his previous concerts, simplicity was the key to both performance and staging.
Opening the concert in a lively fashion with the funky rhythms of Igor Stravinsky’s Tango & Piano Rag Music, Ananda followed this catchy piece with his own composition from last year, Kama, with Farman Purnama as the tenor soloist. Based on the poetry of Ilham Malayu, written while he was in Bangkok prison on drug charges, Kama is truly unique; not only the words but also the musical composition, which draws on gamelan influences.
Later, another Ilham Malayu poem was the inspiration for a world premiere of Ananda’s new work, Spider’s Ballad, again with Farman Purnama as the tenor soloist. This is a piece that brought a wide grin to my face; the song is about an imprisoned man who experiences a moment of joy while watching an industrious spider as he creates his web. Ananda injects brilliant comical tones into the ballad, with the evocative arpeggio increasing in volume and speed as the spider weaves and weaves…
The David Del Puerto composition Alio Modo was truly intense. A piano piece created by David Del Puerto and dedicated to the victims of the Bali bombing on October 12th 2002, the song was visualized by Chendra E. Panatan’s contemporary choreography with dancers from Sumber Cipta Ballet. It started in silence, with empty chairs on stage. Dancers rolled in, dancing in silence. Ananda and Farman Purnama were also part of this life installation. The dance captivated the audience absolutely until suddenly the silence was broken with the first note of the piece. The movement thus became assimilated with the music; a very powerful collaboration.
Freedom from fear was the overriding theme of this collaboration. “The dancing movement in Alio Modo is about how to be free from being scared and worried,” Chendra tells me the next day when I meet him and Ananda in suite 1809 at the Shangri-La. “The chairs have two functions; partly as stage décor for the second half, partly to represent and symbolise the place of human existence. I would also like to emphasise the emptiness of terror or fear caused by violence acts. Through my choreography, I want to evoke visually the ambience of the music itself.”
Chendra’s choreography uses silence as its core and this is what inspired Ananda to adapt it to his music compositions. Chendra finds that Ananda’s music has the same background as his choreography. “For us the idea and concept should come first, music will follow. That’s why I always work in silence. I believe that silence is the mother of sound.”
Ananda describes his own music as “eclectic.” “It will always have elements of rhythm and certain chords that reflect my musical characteristics. If you notice, my music and singing always separate in order to create a different texture. It’s like a mini opera where they have recitative, interlude, instruments and the aria. It’s different to usual songs where the lyrics and music are all together.” He has been writing his own compositions since 1991 when he wrote a piece for string quartet. Not until 1998 did he feel that he had become truly fluent with composing.
“For me, composition is what to write, not only how to write. The depth and content are very important, not only beautiful notes and melodies.”
Indonesia itself is an important influence on Ananda’s work. “As a composer, I want to be more Indonesian, whether it’s the music or my inspirations. I think it is important to have a national identity as a composer.” His next project will be an opera that relects contemporary Indonesian life. “I am trying to define Indonesian opera and that is why everything in my opera will be Indonesian: Indonesian musicians and bahasa Indonesia as the language.”
Ananda is also keen to change people’s misperceptions of contemporary music, which he says often gets confused with a rather less accessible genre, avant-garde music. The basis of avant-garde music is atonal, meaning literally “not tonal”, a genre introduced by Arnold Schoenberg around 1912. Atonal music is that in which the composer systematically avoids reference to tonal centers by avoiding harmonic and melodic formulas. Contemporary classical music, on the other hand, keeps changing and evolving through time. “The current perception of contemporary music is that it is hard to understand, but it is not. The tendency of contemporary music these days is to go back to what classical music used to be. People often get mixed up between avant-garde music and contemporary music.”
So apparently contemporary music and dance are not scary or difficult: they are enjoyable! Bravo to Ananda Sukarlan and friends, this was really a delightful start to the year.