miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2010

What's the use of the arts?

You might have asked (at least to yourself) this question, right? It seems as if the arts are just a fun game for the rich or for those who have too much time in this world to spend. Even worse, there are some (frustrated) artists who give you this impression; they live as bohemians, thinking it's cool to be part of this longest word in English : antiestablishmentarianism (Hey, it's not the longest! "Smiles" is even longer : there is a mile between the first and the last S). They like to be against anything, and claim that they are mavericks and they don't care about the "rotten" society they live in. Well they can do what they like, but they should remember that artists are, by definition, people who produce art. They should do it first, then worry about being antisocial later.

Well, I wouldn't say that art is useless. At least, I can argue from my own field: classical music. First of all, you've heard that music can calm you down, stabilize your emotions, help you focus, decrease your depression etc. Instead of taking a tranquilizer or an anti-depressant, just listen to Mozart! A step forward from it is that we now have what is called musicotherapy. Well ok, it can't cure everything, but it starts with your spirit. And it is even more powerful if you don't just listen, but you actively (re-)creating it by playing an instrument or singing. It's not just a myth; you can study it now at the universities in Europe. The contrary is true: junk music can wake up the dark side of your psyche and lead you to the not-so-great way of life. And it is more addictive than good music, just like junk food. And both have something in common: they are "instant"ly made. Instant food = junk food, therefore instant music = you know the answer. And yes, they are cheap.

But again it raises the question: ok, healthcare is covered by social security in European countries, but do they cover musical activities? And in those countries where (classical) music is considerably expensive, how can citizens have access to it?

It was with this question in mind that we started our foundation in Jakarta. "We" are 8 people : Pia Alisjahbana, Dedi Panigoro, Karini Nugroho, Karina Suklan, Putu Swasti, Dewi Gajahmada, Chendra Panatan and me. And the foundation is "Yayasan Musik Sastra Indonesia" (Indonesian classical music foundation). Our aim is to help the financially under-priviliged to get access and education to classical music, by starting to learn to play an instrument, giving scholarships (even to very advanced students, like to our Ananda Sukarlan Award 2008 winner Inge Melania Buniardi) or even just coming to good quality classical music concerts. You can find out more about it at www.musik-sastra.com .

Almost around the same time, 10.000 miles away (to be precise in a very small town of Urrueña, about 2 hours drive from Madrid) a strong figure of a lady who has a disabled son was thinking about the possibility of making music by the disabled people. Rosa Iglesias has since then founded her Fundacion Musica Abierta (Open Music Foundation) and commissioned many composers to write music (which should sound like absolutely normal) that can be played by disabled musicians. I was lucky to be part of this project, together with my amazing colleagues such as David del Puerto, Jesus Rueda or Santiago Lanchares (she not only commissioned Spanish composers, by the way). For this project I wrote mostly duos, for a disabled pianist and a "normal" instrument (bassoon, trumpet, violin, viola and my favorite instrument which is the human voice), thinking that it's even nicer to have nice companies in making music. I guess Rosa's project is, if not the first, one of the first project of this kind in this world. Now we are planning a "sisterhood" project between my foundation and hers, and we are brainstorming on how we can make the world a better place. Any suggestions?

By the way, Rosa's foundation's website is www.fundacionmusicabierta.org.