sábado, 22 de mayo de 2010

The sound of .... music?

These last few days am putting finishing touches to my work Stanza Suara for big choir, orchestra and angklung which I mentioned here in March. It's only about 8 minutes long, but it took much more time than usual for me to write, due to many things : my unfamiliarity with the angklung instruments and how to write for them and integrate it into my own language (it will be played by amateur players which always complicate the situation), my travellings and my musical intentions which also complicate my own life. The poem by Hasan Aspahani is a wonderful one but strangely enough it didn't immediately "sound" in my head --which turned out to be a good thing, since this long process matured the music in my head. This angklung business isn't easy stuff either, since it will be part of its presentation to the UNESCO (the UNESCO director is planned to come to its premiere in Bandung during the ITB International Choir Festival who commissioned the piece) to establish it as the Indonesian National Heritage. So I should show the world that it's not just children's toy, it's a musical instrument as serious as a french horn!

I want to emulate the evolution of sound since its creation throughout this 8-minute piece. It was too big an idea, I know ... and in fact I am toying the idea to extend the piece in the future, since there are lots of underdeveloped materials in the piece, although the underlying foundation is simple : from unpitched noise, through the most basic intervals (fifths, thirds to the most "recent" interval of tritone) reaches the triumphal tonality in the end. Basically the interval of perfect fifths appear as the motif throughout the piece. Inevitably the piece goes through a lot of styles, from the baroque polyphony up to ....ehm, Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams type of epic film music and even a touch of Shakira sexy rhythms. All those are served on one tray of "Western" orchestration mixed with bamboo instruments, my usual chords and dotted rhtyhms and even constructed with the fractal geometry principals in mind (by changing the word "space" into "time", and "size" into "duration") so hopefully one can find a unity of musical language throughout the whole piece. I mean, Palestrina, Schumann, John Williams and Javanese gamelan players all exploited the interval of fifths and major/minor thirds, right? Same intervals but different usage and different perceptions by different people & culture. That's the point I wanna say in the piece.
Anyway, I do learn a lot from writing Stanza Suara. One of them is that this is the first time I write music (I mean a structurally complex one, not a 3 minute song or piano piece) really from beginning to end! However, I couldn't break the habit of writing backwards during finishing the orchestration of the piece, so I sent it to the players (ITB Choir) starting from the last section. And for your information, I still read all books (especially fiction stories) jumping to the end after the first pages. And then finish the rest of it, obviously. Oh well, old habits never die. I wonder what psychologists would say about this.

As usual, I work on 2 pieces at the same time, so these days I am also working on my opera Pro Patria to be premiered around the same time of Stanza Suara (and coincidentally both have repeated letters for their initials!). Am gonna write about my opera in my next entry. When Stanza Suara is completely finished (hopefully in a few days), I'll need another piece to write together with my opera, and almost certainly it will be a new Rapsodia Nusantara.Part of it is already written. Its ending, of course, is already complete.