sábado, 17 de julio de 2010


Manuel Guillen is considered one of the most important violinist in Spain in developing and enriching the violin repertoire of today. His most important contribution is perhaps his commissioning and championing the incredibly virtuosic Violin Concerto by Spain's hottest composer, David del Puerto. Not mentioning violin pieces by Jesus Rueda, Jose Manuel Lopez and other big Spaniards in music of the present day.

We had fun in recording two short violin+piano pieces of mine (Sweet Sorrow and The Sleepers) together with another beautiful piece by Santiago Lanchares for a CD of music for handicapped pianists (Santiago's and mine are for 2-fingered right hand pianist). After the recording Manuel Guillen asked me to write a piece for violin solo, with a special request that he would like it to be "lyrical, like most of my music", to be included in his repertoire and hopefully many other violinists.

That was last year. I told him then that it would be long before I could write one. There were "urgent" pieces at that time : my third opera "Pro Patria" and my orchestral-choral-angklung piece "Stanza Suara" commissioned to inaugurate that mammoth festival of ITB. The scary thing is that 95% of all musicians involved in vocal music in Indonesia, plus a few hundreds from some Asian countries will be there to hear my piece live. So it's not that Stanza Suara would be enjoyed; it would be, strictly speaking, JUDGED! Now that both huge pieces are -thank God!- finished, I could take a break and write for just 1 instrument. Whew, I tell you, it feels REALLY good to write just in one pentagram line after months of writing all those huge chords and complex polyphony of my previous pieces!

In this new violin piece I want to experiment in "relationships" of different musical materials which have nothing to do with each other to be put in one piece. In order to do that, they must have something, even very small, in common, otherwise the piece won't have a solid form, therefore I should think of a motif that binds them all. Now, "relationship" in Indonesian is "relasi", which comes from the Dutch word "relatie". As I am in the mood of using people's name initials as motifs for my piece now the motif for "Manuel's piece" comes by itself. What else but Re-La-Si?

So, I had been working on Relationships this weekend, prior to the most important week for the Indonesian classical music scene, the national piano competition Ananda Sukarlan Award. Relasi is a kind of variations without a theme, only bound to each other by a simple motif of 3 notes: Re, La, Si. Writing the variations, I am thinking of the characters of the people I had relationships with in the past, not necessarily the amorous ones. That explains the nostalgic flavor of the piece. Now, if Manuel asks a composer to write a piece, one usually tends to exploit his extremely accomplished technical virtuosity. And so do I. But I won't this time. I am thinking of young violinists, those young ones who are having relationships, some beautiful, and some complicated. Like those I had in the past.

Re-la-si is a motif which I apparently have used in my tiny song for a birthday present to my dear friend Karina Suklan, based on a poem by WS Rendra, "Tidurlah Intan". I wasn't thinking of the meaning of "relasi" then; I was purely thinking in the intervals. Now, those 3 notes appear again in another piece of mine. And needless to say, these two pieces are not re-la-ted. They are two completely different pieces each with its own character...and weirdness.

jueves, 15 de julio de 2010

Now you write pop music ?

Many questions and reactions, with a bit of cynical tone have come from my classical music colleagues about my pop song “Tembang Gesang” I wrote for the "Idol Divo" winners of Indonesian Idol (that’s the Indonesian version of Americal Idol TV program). Why did I do that, and will I continue doing that?

I’ll answer the first question with another question : what’s wrong with writing pop music, if you can do it? And for the second question, my answer is that I doubt if I would do another pop song. I might, why not? Anyway, I am he who would like to try as many things as possible in life. Some things I regretted doing, but others (like writing a pop song) I don’t regret at all; I just feel it’s not the thing I want to do in life, even if I could earn much more money from it.

We, classical musicians, don’t have to be arrogant. We don’t have to tell the world that we are smarter than the other musicians, just because we need years of higher education to make (and/or play) the music we love. And I can prove that we are NOT smarter than pop musicians: just think of how much money they make, and how much (to be precise : little) do we, classical musicians, make? Is it because classical music is better music, so that it becomes too exclusive? Is our music only destined to a select, distinguished audience? “Culture which is exclusive is determined not to last long”, said Mohandas Gandhi, and I couldn’t agree more.

And why is classical music considered "better" music? Is it because our harmonies --and their progressions- are much more sophisticated? Is it because contrapuntally it's much more complex? Is it because great music needs a much more elaborated form and structure? If so, to who does it matter? Who has the right to determine the "better" and "worse" things?
And is it because there has been numerous researches and analysis in classical music ? Yes, of course future Ph.Ds are writing their thesis based on Britten's or Beethoven's or (I have the honour of which I don't think I deserve) my music, but do you know that there is a faculty of music in Liverpool now where you can study the music of the Beatles ? You can be a university graduate and be a Beatles scholar now. Yes, yes, perhaps its importance in the history of music is more on its social aspects, but that is also important, right ?

"Classical" style (whatever that means) is the music I love doing. If I write pop songs it would be betraying what I really feel I should do. Besides, I write pop music because I can, not because of artistic necessity. And I can, but there are many more people who can do it better, and even studied and educated in it thoroughly.

miércoles, 14 de julio de 2010

Looking forward, and Foreword to Ananda Sukarlan Award 2010

This time my entry is in Indonesian, which is the foreword for ASA 2010.

"Music is the food of love" (William Shakespeare).
"Like food, if it's instant, it is junk" (Ananda Sukarlan)

Ananda Sukarlan Award 2010 kembali kami selenggarakan di tengah keadaan yang serba instan yang semakin marak. Ketenaran dan karir yang diraih langsung dari atas adalah ciri khas "seni" pertunjukan saat ini di Indonesia. Sayang sekali banyak yang lupa, jika anda mendarat langsung di puncak gunung, jalan satu-satunya yang ada hanyalah kebawah. Saya tidak pernah percaya ramalan baik Joyoboyo maupun Nostradamus, tapi saya hanya selalu percaya pada satu ramalan saja, yaitu dari seniman Andy Warhol di tahun 70-an: "In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes". Dan hal itu sedang dalam proses realisasinya, baik berkat siaran-siaran TV dari Amerika Serikat yang menjanjikan ke"seniman"an dalam beberapa bulan sampai penawaran predikat "terbaik", "terbanyak" dan banyak ter- lainnya yang harganya lebih murah daripada sebuah mobil termurah pun. Masih terus terngiang-ngiang di telinga kita persembahan Glenn Gould memainkan Goldberg Variations dari tahun 70-an, atau konser terakhir Leonard Bernstein yang legendaris mengekspresikan Four Sea Interludes dari Benjamin Britten di tahun 1990. Tapi saat ini sebuah kejadian atau kreasi seni penting, betapapun tinggi nilai artistiknya, betapapun besar karya seninya, hanya akan terkenang selama sebuah status facebook belum diganti. Tidak ada lagi misteri dan ambiguitas lagi di dalam sebuah karya seni, karena semua misteri kini bisa dipecahkan lewat google.

Saya merasa sangat terharu bahwa ada sekitar 60 (dan pasti lebih lagi diluar ini) peserta ASA 2010 yang masih percaya akan jalan yang sulit dan berliku-liku dan "kuno" dalam dunia seni, khususnya musik sastra. Jalan tradisional inilah yang saya yakin akan menempa mereka menjadi seniman sejati yang mengerti liku-liku dunia ini, yang mau belajar dari kesalahan, yang mau menerima kritik dan kekurangan untuk memperbaikinya, yang mau jatuh berkali-kali tapi bangun berkali-kali lagi. Tidak ada kata "kalah" dalam dunia seni, tidak ada kata "salah" dalam berkespresi. Yang ada hanyalah introspeksi dan kerja keras yang terus menerus untuk mencapai puncak yang tidak akan bisa diraih oleh manusia manapun di planet ini, yang bernama "kesempurnaan".

Saya ingin mengucapkan selamat kepada para peserta ASA 2010. Dan juga rekan-rekan juri yang terdiri dari musikus-musikus yang sangat saya hormati dan kagumi yang punya kepercayaan yang sama dengan saya, terima kasih sedalam-dalamnya saya ucapkan. Tuhan memberkati anda dalam berkompetisi dengan anda sendiri untuk menjadi anda yang lebih baik di masa depan.

Pianistically yours,

Ananda Sukarlan