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 .