miércoles, 29 de abril de 2009

Too much death, too many deaths

Difficult compositional period these days. Too much death, and too many deaths involved in my music. My second cantata which is supposed to deal with "Libertas" (hence the title) turned out to be depressingly pessimistic : instead of liberty, it deals with its deprivation. Mea culpa : I am using poems about dead heroes fighting for liberty. Even the word "libremente" (freely) was used by Luis Cernuda in his last phrase ".. permite a tus amigos , en un rincón pudrirse libremente" (allow your friends, in a corner to rot freely). It is a poem about the death of Federico Garcia Lorca and his anti-Franco colleagues (whose bodies, as you know, were never found) ! So there you get your freedom ... afterdeath. What a coinci.. I mean contradiction : it is commissioned for the celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day in August. I wouldn't have so much doubts if it hadn't been for this occasion. Anyway, that's how the music turns out.

My previous works lately were also closely involved with death. The film Romeo - Juliet obviously was, and my opera IBU (which I just finished a few weeks ago) is about a mother whining about her dead son AND husband, for more than half an hour, from beginning to end. And at the end of the day, though it's not my favorite theme, it just gets on my nerves. Perhaps I'm just too much attached to my own works. I dunno ...

I have also started sketching my opera, Damarwulan. I work with Eka Budianta as the librettist (whose poems I always deeply admire, and have set some to music) who concentrates in the version of Sanusi Pane (a great Indonesian writer during the first half of the 2oth century) who wrote his own interpretation of this Javanese legendary hero. In Pane's version, Damarwulan was executed in the end, and Eka Budianta is going to take it further with his libretto for my opera that it should be the Queen Kencana Ungu who was supposed to be blamed for the death of Damarwulan. She is this kind of femme-fatale : "If you don't love me, then you die. (And slowly and painfully.)" Wow, now THAT I like. Oh and I'm fascinated myself with the transformation of her feelings, from her love at first sight, obsession and fixation towards Damar turning into extreme hatred. Wow that's like real life, eh ?
We still differ in opinions about how Damar should be executed ; Eka Budianta would like it to be truthful to the past period with its strict Javanese tradition, while I'd like to bring the whole scene to the present (or even future ; what do you expect from a Trekkie, eh?). Let's kill Damar with a laser beam, shall we ? But what we have agreed upon is that Damar will undergo a lot of suffering before he is executed. So, I can realize my dream of writing my "Bolero" for his pre-execution scene. I've been wanting to write my own version of Bolero since I heard it the first time (you know when ? It was when I was a teenager in Indonesia, during a show "Holiday on Ice" of dancing ice-skaters. It was the first time that I heard music with just one melody and one rhythm, repeated again and again !).

Hey, am I exercising plagiarism ? Of course not. I am just taking Ravel's concept. Yeah, when you hear my Damarwulan later you might say that, but what if I write a sonata ? Am I copying Mozart and Haydn ?

Talking about plagiarism, there was a guy who aggressively criticized in his facebook page on our film Romeo - Juliet : "Hey, Yusuf (the director) is committing plagiarism. I know that story before ! Even the names of the protagonists were, as I remember, the same ones."
Gosh, I hope that guy won't come to see my opera .... "Opera ? Hey, that's not original! I knew someone has made a show called opera before ! I believe he was Italian !!"
You're mistaken, pal. It's a she, and she's American. Her last name is Winfrey.