A friend of mine sent and reminded me of an article (to be precise, interview) of me at the Jakarta Post supplement The Weekender, published sometime in 2008 after I turned 40. So I post it here to just realize that things haven't changed. Or, the more things change, the more it stays the same, unfortunately. Just one thing I'd like to rectify, today almost 2 years later. Barack Obama is certainly not my idol anymore, and definitely cannot be in the same list with Plato or Mahatma Gandhi. He turns out to be just a great public speaker and fundraiser, but it takes more than that to run a country. And the good thing about him is that he is still black.
Ananda Sukarlan: ‘I write my best music when I feel horribly lonely’
The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Sun, 10/26/2008 3:11 PM |
Pianist Ananda Sukarlan is one of Indonesia’s chosen sons, bringing his musical talent to an international audience. Dutch and U.S. educated, he is now based in Spain, where he lives with his wife, Raquel, and young daughter. The winner of numerous accolades for his music, he achieved several milestones this year. On a personal level, he turned 40: “It feels great, I don’t feel old (am I supposed to?)” he says. On a professional level he composed a hymn for the Olympics that was performed throughout Asia, wrote his first cantata, Ars Amatoria, and his first opera, Mengapa Kau Culik Anak Kami (Why did you kidnap our child?). He is a thoughtful, independent thinker and speaks his mind – the qualities that have helped him succeed in the competitive world of music.
Your first memory?
Afternoon walks with my mom in the hospital garden behind my house, always wearing white (and tiny!) shoes.
And first musical memory?
Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
If you hadn’t gone into music, what would you like to have been?
A poet. I just love poetry, and literature in general (perhaps more than music, since I am always accompanied by a good book) and I’m so envious of those great poets in how they find and combine all those beautiful words. Writing poems should be, I think, easier than writing music, since their materials are words which we use daily ... but why is it so difficult for me?
Your best trait?
I’m a hard worker, and when it comes to music, nobody has ever complained about my professionalism. It may sound arrogant, but for my artistic projects I only want to work with people who are also 200 percent dedicated to their work.
If I have to finish (or even start) a piece of music and get stuck, I get sooooo moody. Try not to catch me during those periods!
Happiest moment of your life?
The birth of my daughter ... and the many days afterward.
When a friend or colleague stabs me in the back out of envy (which has happened more than once; well, this is the ugly business of beautiful music).
Who or what has been your most important teacher?
Number one: Life. Number two: Naum Grubert, my professor at the conservatory at The Hague. Number two and a half are all my other previous teachers in Jakarta: Myra Suryadi, Soetarno Soetikno, Laura Susanti, Rudy Laban.
What is the craziest thing you’ve done?
I took a free train ride from Amsterdam to Bordeaux to take part in a piano competition during my student days. I went and stayed in the toilet every time I saw the officer. I had money to buy a ticket for the way back, by the way, because I won first prize.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have this strange hormone in me which provokes the feeling of extreme loneliness (even if I am in a crowd). It’s been working inside me since I was a teenager. And that loneliness cannot be cured by just being with someone. When it happens, it usually indicates that I should write music. My best music is written when I am feeling horribly lonely.
The piece of music you wish you had written?
Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
Your favorite, hands-down winning culinary dish?
Gudeg Jogja in a particular warung near Gadjah Mada University in Yogya, Valencian Paella, Kobe Wagyu Beef-Steak (accompanied by a Dom Perignon).
The worst stereotype of the classical musician?
Not only of classical musicians, but of all artists, is being a “celebrity” and using art for fame and fortune. The problem is that the Indonesian public still confuses “artists” with “celebrities”. They are totally different! Art has nothing to do with being a celebrity, although celebrities are, in some cases, artists. You don’t really believe Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan are artists, right? One doesn’t have to be handsome to make great music, paintings or poetry.
Who inspires you?
In life, Barack Obama, Plato, Mahatma Gandhi, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. In music, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Beethoven.
You seem such a calm presence. What makes you angry?
Every time injustice is committed against anyone. Which happens to be part of everyday life.
If you could solve one thing in the world today, what would it be?
Eliminate capitalism from this planet. Capitalism has been, and still is, the main catalyst of injustice, massive hunger and poverty in many parts of the world, and the fast-spiraling degradation of the arts since art is a reflection of the society where it belongs.
If you could go back in time, what era would it be and why?
Ancient Greece. I’d love having a symposium with Socrates or Plato (apart from the fact there was no air pollution in those days)!
Dream dinner guests, living or dead?
The old Greek philosophers above, or Andy Warhol. They must have been really cool and crazy people.
Falling in love with one who I should not have fallen in love with in the past.
“What you think about me is your problem, not my problem.”
+ Bruce Emond
Illustration by Martin Dima