lunes, 25 de agosto de 2008

RIP, Soetarno Soetikno

Do you believe in destiny ? Premonition ? I'm not the one who could answer it, since I still can't differentiate those words with just pure chance. Or, is that the real point I miss ? As in I-Ching, chance IS destiny, right ?

Look, for some of my concerts in my 40th year I have programmed a piece which I always love, that A major Sonata of Schubert (no, no , not the big one. The "easy" one, as people say. I'd tell those people, try to play it and see what's so easy about it). I studied it for the first time with my former piano teacher, Soetarno Soetikno, back when I was a teenager in Jakarta. I programmed it this year more for nostalgic reasons, as I am reaching 40, than for other reasons.

Just like the concert I did in Santander, the nearest town where I live now, last Saturday. I programmed that piece again, together with other pieces by Beethoven, Liszt and myself. My concert started at 9 p.m CET, which means 2 a.m on Sunday in Jakarta . Soetarno Soetikno died about 4 hours afterwards in Jakarta. He was in his 70s.

Soetarno Soetikno was what you call that real, authentic teacher. He dedicated his whole life to his students. What you call "maestro" in Latin, or "guru" in Sanskrit. We often confuse that word with someone, a celebrity as we say, who performs all over the world, highly praised, having lots of affairs in his travels, having a flashy life with having apparently so many friends (especially in high places) but in reality having very few (or none at all) real friends he can trust. All those "friends" he has are just people waiting for the right time to stab him from his back.
Soetarno Soetikno, the real Maestro, was not that one I just described. He is a real one. And a teacher, as I always say, is the most underestimated, underpaid, underpraised and overworked job on earth. No, I am not talking about those pedantic university professors who earn a lot teaching how to do all those mental masturbations to the would-be intellectuals. I am talking about one who worked in a developing ( are we really ?) country with no social security and other facilities from the government. And he taught his students how to be artists, not intellectuals. And what he had suffered from his envious colleagues (some millionaires included) are just undescribable. I've seen it with my own eyes, back about 25 years ago. That's the price he had to pay for being honest and truthful to his job.

Requiescat in pace, Soetarno Soetikno. Without you, I (and many other musicians in Indonesia) wouldn´t be here now. Indonesian classical music world is deeply grateful to you (although we haven't treated you so well).

domingo, 3 de agosto de 2008

I Sit and Look Out, con molto tristezza

During these days post-Ananda Sukarlan Award, I had nice times hangin' around with many of the winners and finalists. Most of them are teenagers, with their dreams to follow, and most of them just had experienced their first love – or first break up. Anyway, I enjoyed immensely being around those young people. You can see love in their faces, in their eyes, in their mirada ; and it brings back memories – and therefore, inspiration !

Back to the present, or not so distant past. Sometime around 2004, lying in bed of a hotel room somewhere in Italy I watched on TV the re-election of George W. Bush, coincidentally with Walt Whitman poems with me in bed. I remember my feeling depressed, affirming to myself that WE choose our destiny, which sometimes means our destruction. D’you know, by the way, that most of the Jews voted for Hitler back in the 30s ?
Well, history repeats itself. And Bush continued his massive destruction : killing millions in Iraq and everywhere else, legalizing tortures, drowning the world economy etc etc. What Whitman wrote in his dark poem “I Sit and Look Out” is not so different than the situation during this first decade of our millennium. That horrible news on TV had triggered most of the notes and chords in my song. But then I had to head back home, and it remained unfinished – and forgotten …

...Until a few weeks ago. My friends, Bernadeta Astari “Deta”, Joseph Kristanto “Akis” and myself (well, no need to mention a nickname for this latter) talked about recording my songs. They are, in fact, new friends of mine. I met Deta just about 3 or 4 years ago, and Akis even more recently, through a common friend the conductor Tommy Prabowo whom I knew since I was a teenager (both Tommy and Akis will be involved in my opera "Mengapa Kau Culik Anak Kami"). Since then, those two have inspired me a lot, both as great musicians and as wonderful, humble, down-to-earth humans they are. I wish all those "superstars" around us would possess their technique, sensitivity and artistry !
At last, 24 from about 70 of my songs will be in that first CD. Now with the hope of Barack Obama for the next president I suddenly remembered my poor Whitman song, and thinking of Deta’s voice that has always, and will always inspire me, I looked for it among the heap of my manuscripts … and finished it. And we’ve recorded it in Jakarta a few days ago. So, it will be the only song in English in that CD. The rest is all my Indonesian songs … well, I’ll tell you later the titles. So, that 4-minute lament is doubly dedicated to Deta, and to myself looking forward to the end of GWB’s pestilence and tyranny. Still four months to go !

Here’s the complete poem of Whitman's "I Sit and Look Out" :

I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end,
I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.