viernes, 26 de diciembre de 2008

Book of faces, Midori and my string quartet

Today, officially the tickets for Java New Year Concert in Jakarta, January 4th are completely SOLD OUT. I would like to congratulate the whole team of JNYC for this. Chendra Panatan, my manager, choreographer, and head of the team of JNYC, has experimented a new method for the publicity for this concert : we don't spend any cent in publicity on newspapers or other mass media. He does it all through the internet, especially facebook. And I must admit, I hated Facebook up till a few weeks ago. Chendra convinced me of facebook a few months ago, by saying that my greatest idol with the great baritone voice, Barack Obama has done a most successful presidential campaign through Facebook. If he does it, then it must be correct.

Preparations are going well. The young pianists who will perform are at their best stamina. My flute and piano piece, "Rescuing Ariadne" was the last piece I rehearsed with. The players will be the English flutist Elizabeth Ashford and the young pianist from Bandung, Alfred Young Sugiri. This 5-minute piece was inspired by the painting of Titian, "Bacchus and Ariadne", hang in the National Gallery of London. Why the title ? Well, because Albert Roussel's Third Symphony (great piece, by the way) is titled as the painting, and I don't want to make a piece with the same title.

The soprano Bernadeta Astari has arrived from Holland, and we performed today at the Federasi Teater Indonesia some of my songs, including the one based on a poem of WS Rendra, Tidurlah Intan. We chatted with him afterwards.

Several days ago the Japanese legendary violinist Midori played my short string quartet "Lontano" with 3 other young musicians (from Singapore, Australia and USA) at the residence of the ambassador of Japan in Jakarta. Her foundation, Music Sharing (based in New York) commissioned it last year and I already finished it before summer this year. After this performance they then toured it to Jogja and Medan, and then to Japan. I didn't have time to rehearse with them beforehand, so I was rather nervous before the concert (and they played Debussy's --which is my all time favorite, adored, admired quartet-- as the last piece, which was the first time I heard live). But then they played so marvellously that they took my breath away. Still, nobody could beat the greatness of Debussy ; I admire that Frenchman more and more thru the years. What a f***ing genius !!

After the New Year Concerts, I will face my biggest challenge : writing music for solo guitar, commissioned by the fantastic Spanish guitarist Miguel Trapaga.

lunes, 15 de diciembre de 2008

From A to A (that makes us the A-team, eh?)

If one wants it, then it's done. Among my busy periods recording for the film "Romeo*Juliet" as well as rehearsing & preparing for the "Prelude" concerts for the New Year Concerts, I managed to write 4 short pieces : one choral work commissioned by ITB Choir to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of their prestigious university, and 3 songs for baritone & piano. The ITB Choral work is a festive one, based on Sapardi Djoko Damono's breathtaking & majestic sonnet (also commissioned for this event) called KITA CIPTAKAN KEMERDEKAAN (We Create Freedom). Its sketches were done on the plane from Bilbao to Jakarta and Jakarta-Surabaya-Jakarta in the last days of last month, and then it was written out completely and finished 7 days ago on Chendra's computer whose Sibelius program had gone mad. Until this minute I still haven't heard one note of that music, which will be the explanation if suddenly one or more chords would sound "avant-gardish".

The three songs for baritone & piano were done on Friday and Saturday 12th and 13th, between two concerts of mine. I wrote them for my good friend, the always F-word (I mean fabulous & fantastic) singer Joseph Kristanto "Akis" who celebrated his 39th birthday on the 15th. To those 3 songs I added 2 more older songs, one written in London during one of my stays with Chendra last spring when one day suddenly it snowed, and another piece already written for Akis one day after we rehearsed. So, this new cycle for baritone & piano is called "A untuk Akis, Alam dan Angkasa" (translated (in-)correctly it will be : A for Akis, nature and the universe). The songs are :

1. Kesetiaan Pohon (Sapardi Djoko Damono)
2. Masa Kecil di Pegunungan (Eka Budianta)
3. Salju di Musim Semi (Chendra Panatan)
4. Selokan (Sapardi Djoko Damono)
5. Berkicaulah Burungku (Eka Budianta)

I am always touched how Akis loves nature. Apart from his love and dedication to music, of course. He always thinks of his fish, and once we rehearsed at the Jakarta Conservatory and he pointed out a peculiar tree which had been there, unnoticed by me, during these years. And this is a guy who lives right in the middle of Jakarta, the most unfriendly city in the world, full of bricks, mortars ... and greedy corruptors. So, what other birthday present is more appropiate than a songcycle about nature ?
And I am so grateful to his dedication to my music ; he practically has sung, beautifully, 90% of my music for baritone ( I wish he would sing the 10% of the rest), and memorized them (no matter how strange they are) . These 5 songs is my gratitude and my celebration to his artistry and to our friendship that I highly cherish.

PS : Thanks to Akis' sister Ita for her help in its "special delivery" after lots of hassle with the printer. And another PS : just 1 day before his birthday, his fish whom I baptized under the name Nijinsky died. Requiescat in pace ...

miércoles, 3 de diciembre de 2008


So I keep my promise ! Rather late .. but hey ...

Who would have guessed that my first music for the film would be for a film about football ? I was baffled when the Indonesian film director Andibachtiar Yusuf approached me earlier this year to ask me to score the music for his "Romeo*Juliet". Yes, you got it right. But instead of Montague and Capulet, it is the Jakarta against the Bandung football fanclubs. The confrontation between them goes back to many decades, and when it happens, they are notorious for being violent. People got killed during their fights. So, you can guess how the story goes ...

... which reminds me, inevitably, of WestSide Story. It IS difficult not to have that masterpiece as a reference ! But Yusuf's film is not a musical film, so my job is a bit easier. Oh, I forgot to tell you that he wanted me and only me for this job, because of his huge crush on my duet from the cantata Ars Amatoria "Dalam Doaku" (In my Prayer). Definitely that song became an important part of the film ; in fact, the film revolved around that song. Yusuf was (is, and always will be) a great fan of rock music, and he has never fancied any kind of classical (read : soft, boring) music. But I am dubiously flattered when he discovered through my music that classical music is not that bad! Something is definitely very wrong with my music, or ... ?
For the film, I used other songs ("Kasih" and "Ketika Kau Entah Dimana", which happens to be my favorite amongst my songs) of mine, recently released in the CD "Ananda Sukarlan Vocal Works" for that film as well, besides writing quite a lot of new materials purely instrumental. So you can hear the voices of Bernadeta Astari and Joseph Kristanto in that film once in a while blasting from the cinema loudspeakers. The motifs I use for the whole soundtrack are taken from the hymn of both football clubs, and I just make some variations out of them, according to the situation which it accompanies.

This version of Romeo*Juliet is very Indonesian. I mean, the unromantic oriental type of love. Passionate, but unromantic. There is even no balcony scene in the whole film! I was quite confused when I read the script, but when I received the rough cut of the film, I honestly was pretty impressed. And I was quite inspired after I watched the rough cut. I decided that I don't have to escape from my musical style ; the film is very, very Indonesian in many ways, so that my "western" musical style would just compliment it without "stealing the show" as they say. As Aaron Copland said about writing music for films : "The best film music is the one you don't notice". In other words, you can hear it, but you don't listen to it.

The film is due to be shown in cinemas 21 throughout Indonesia starting late March 2009.