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

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 :

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

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" .