Just a couple of hours ago I landed at the Jakarta airport, picked up by Chendra. His first words were :"Rendra just passed away". WS Rendra was one of Indonesia's greatest poets, and a personal friend of mine. I have set a poem of him, "Tidurlah Intan" which you can listen to Aning Katamsi singing it at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgrT3CCdbYo .
In 5 days, Joseph Kristanto will be the soloist together with ITB Choir and a small ensemble, all conducted by Indra Listiyanto in my newest work, my second cantata "LIBERTAS". It is now that I realize and understand the meaning and existence of this work.
When I was commissioned to write a piece to celebrate this year's Indonesian Independence day, I knew that I should have written a joyful, optimistic and celebrational work. After all, the occasion demands it, with the presence of Indonesia's president, vice president and many of our cabinet ministers. Instead, the piece turned out to be a cantata glorifying death. I was about to change the title into "Requiem" if it were not for my consideration that I didn't have any more time left to write the commissioned piece, a real "LIBERTAS". Apart from the poems which were specifically written for the occasion and included in Libertas (by Sapardi Djoko Damono & Ilham Malayu), all the poems I chose for LIBERTAS are about death. Death of all the fallen heroes, and one of them is by WS Rendra, "Ia Telah Pergi" (He has gone). But that was not the real coincidence. Another poem is "A Un Poeta Muerto" (To a dead poet) by Spanish writer Luis Cernuda, written as a requiem to the death of Federico Garcia Lorca. And this is the point I wanna make : The most crucial point in LIBERTAS doesn't lie in the most exuberant fortissimo or exciting moment in the piece. It lies in this number, where a pianissimo, etherial B-flat major chord starts the phrase "Para el poeta, la muerte es la victoria" (For the poet, death is the victory), after a long section of dark atonal utterances. I remember exactly that LIBERTAS in fact started when I read those lines by Cernuda. They trigger those chords in my head, from which LIBERTAS was born.
I certainly wasn't thinking of Rendra when I wrote LIBERTAS. In fact, the 3 big works this year (the other two are the opera "IBU--yang anaknya diculik itu" and a dance piece to be choreographed by Chendra next year which I will write about it in a few weeks in this blog) all deal profoundly, and exclusively with death. You can also check an entry I wrote here when I was deeply immersed in this definitely-not-my-favorite-at-all subject.
I can't help but dedicating LIBERTAS, in its entirity, to the memory of WS Rendra. LIBERTAS is so him. So Rendra. Sadly, it turned out that way, as I am assimilating it while I am writing these very lines.
And now, fellow Indonesians, you can shout your favorite word "Victory!" to Rendra. Because for the dead poet, death is victory.
Requiescat et libertas, WS Rendra. Your art will live forever.