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