sábado, 17 de diciembre de 2011

Don't know who, don't know why

This entry is a statement on behalf of all people in my building, the Ananda Sukarlan Center, and of the Indonesian Classical Music Foundation (YMSI) whose office is there too.

Last week for a few days suddenly a flock of people came to our office to ask for reimbursement of a cancelled concert .. but not a classical music one! It's the cancellation of the visit to Indonesia of a Korean boyband, CN Blue. Apparently the Event Organizer, one called "Starlight Management" has put our address as their office. It was stated in their website (not available anymore) and on the tickets. Now that the show has been cancelled they dismantled everything to make themselves inaccessible to hundreds (or thousands) of those who've bought the "tickets" and want their money back. They don't answer the phone and even their website is down. Fortunately after coming to our building people understood that we, all of us who are at the Ananda Sukarlan Center, know NOTHING about them and are only aware that we are being used by Starlight to cheat the public. We have been told that many people are reporting this to the Consumers Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga konsumen Indonesia) and even to the police, and we told them to go ahead, since we at the Ananda Sukarlan Center are also victims of their hoax. Not financially, but they are using my name, my office and my foundation to back up their "plan", and this whole thing do disturb us in the midst of our preparation of our Java New Year Concerts.

Yesterday the whole story and its investigation by the Trans TV was broadcast on their channel, you can see it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAiiqI0WcbI . The person talking on the phone was Chendra Panatan, my manager and the director of Ananda Sukarlan Center, not me, by the way. If you want to have an English translation, please click the "cc" button on that video.

Now that I am stating about this hoax, I would also like to clarify other things. Our office and foundation doesn't finance anything that is not stated at our website or facebook. Our foundation is not a big and bombastic one, we focus on small things and do it honestly. Greatness, for me, is making ourselves and things around us better, doing small things in a great way. I don't want to change the world! We give musicaleducation to children who are less priviliged and few scholarships, and we are thankful to some donators. We admit, we do need to market ourselves better, not to get fame and acclaimed for our small achievement, but in case of a hoax like now, people should know our foundation and our very clean reputation. Our next authentic event is the JAVA NEW YEAR CONCERTS, and we have done that event for the 7th year now. It doesn't involve thousands of people and we don't sell expensive tickets. It is meant for those who really love classical music, and our ambition doesn't go beyond that (unfortunately). This year is very special for us, since we are doing it in 3 cities: Jakarta (Jan.8), Surabaya (Jan.13) and Bandung (Jan.15). We are grateful for the collaboration with Amadeus Enterprise of Surabaya (who also organized the National Vocal Competition and therefore we could get the winners, certainly the best Indonesian classical vocalists of today to perform in these events) and Bandung International Music Academy. If you want to know more about it, please check http://www.facebook.com/events/321042434575881

Do NOT think that the world of (classical) music in Indonesia is something very clean, no no, it's the ugly business of beautiful music. A number of people have put the status "Dr." or PhD in music without being one, and that's just an example. I might be the most badly bruised musician in Indonesia. My music has been pirated and used without my permission (oops sorry, I should say a couple of them indeed asked for permission, but after Chendra caught them red-handed). Not only my music: an article from this very blog has been published in a major newspaper in Indonesia under a different name -- and yes, translated in Indonesian, therefore it couldn't be categorized as plagiarism. And now just my name, not my work, is used. And this case of using my name is not the first time that it happened, but since this very moment those who do anything of this kind will have the honour of being mentioned by me in my facebook and twitter account. Enough of being a good boy, I am now defending myself clearly, since my trust & kindness has been badly abused by some people.

I would like to express my deepest sympathy to those who have been cheated by Starlight Management. It is a highly irresponsible and insensitive act, and I obviously condemn it. If there is anything me or any staff of the Ananda Sukarlan Center could help, please just let me know by tweeting me at @anandasukarlan . I, myself, feel cheated and am on your side, so I'd be more than glad to help.

miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2011

Know thyself

I was so exhausted last night at 3 a.m., and it was too cold (and I was too lazy) to put on my coat to take a walk outside, so I stayed in bed with my laptop, browsing ("stalking" is a more appropriate word) other people's facebook and twitter. And so I realized why I have written so much music. There are people who spend hours, days, weeks and months of their lives playing those games such as FarmVille, Texas HoldemPoker, errr... what else? Oh yes, that Social Sims thing. And then other people spend their spare time doing sudoku and crossword puzzles. Well, my game is made of notes. As I have always said about the beginning of my pianistic interest when I was around 4 or 5 that I considered piano as a toy, so do I with notes. Writing polyphony for me is like doing a crossword puzzle. Setting words into music is like doing a sudoku. And I do it everywhere: on trains, planes, at home, on holidays ... and even in the midst of a big project like writing operas.

Writing big pieces means that one has to obey the big structural plan, which means less freedom in composing for weeks and sometimes months. Of course one can change part of the plan during its execution, but again one designs a rule, not so different than a map, and gotta stick to it. After a while one loses the fun of being creative and free. While writing short piano pieces (or other instruments) or vocal music based on poems doesn't need a real plan. A simple structure, yes, but then one immediately execute it and finish it in a few hours or less. And sometimes I know how it sounds as a whole so I don't need to plan anything, I just write the notes....

...like what I discovered about my own songs based on poems by Nanang Suryadi, whose tweets I follow. Just before I started to write this blog entry I browsed my archives, and realized that I have done 7, yes seven, songs based on his poems! And I thought I had done only 3 or 4 at the most. Some of them are very short poems, and therefore they were done very quickly in a flash of mind, so I forget them very quickly too. Just try to do something on a train, and when you arrive you get to be introduced to the people who pick you up at the station, eat and gossip around with a bunch of new acquaintances ... and you will forget what you did on the train. And this doesn't happen only with the short poems of Nanang Suryadi, I also "discovered" my own songs based on that lady champ of very short poems Medy Loekito and even one of Walt Whitman who normally didn't write short poems.

When I said that I know how the music sounds as a whole I refer to my short pieces, a maximum of 3 minutes or so. Now, do you know that people like Mozart could conceive A WHOLE SYMPHONY in one flash? And I wouldn't be surprised if he could conceive a whole opera as well. That is amazing, I know, but in fact it should not be that mind blowing. I mean, what's the difference of 3 minutes and half an hour, if we consider perceiving music is like dreaming: a long dream with a complicated plot can occur for just 1 second. Which means that time is subsituted by space.

It shouldn't be that amazing ... but why was there only one Mozart?

viernes, 18 de noviembre de 2011

Isn't it (suddenly) rich? Are we a pair?

Now that my opera MENDADAK KAYA ("Suddenly Rich") is almost finished less than 2 months before its premiere, I dare to write my thoughts about it. Unintentionally it sounds much more "masculine" than Laki-Laki Sejati. Of course there are melancholic parts especially when Alung, the guy who visited the witchdoctor to ask for wealth, realized that he wasn't as happy as when he was poor. But mostly it has very strong rhythmic elements, and I (over?)exploited the "rap" influence throughout the piece.

I have been fascinated how composers "steal" foreign elements outside himself and transformed it into his own. As for rap, Sir Michael Tippett has done it in his last opera, "New Year", and what you hear there is just Tippett. You sort of know that it's taken from rap, but it's become so Tippett. I hope I succeeded in stealing rap into my own music in my opera.

The piano part is surprisingly (even for me) virtuosic. Lots of notes and quite thick. In fact I am toying the idea of taking the whole overture and extend it (doesn't need much more, though!) into an Etude, most probably my 6th etude. The score of the opera will be more than 60 pages because of those notes on the piano. Influences come from Stravinsky, Ligeti and even some Philip Glass creeped in.

I am using, in some parts, a new mode which I am deeply attracted to these days which is a mix of lydian and mixolydian mode. So it's a whole tone from the third to the fourth note AND another whole tone from the last note back to the tonic (which means a half tone from the 6th to the 7th note). It sounds very peculiar, sort of oriental but weird. I use it when the witchdoctor is being possessed, or exorcised perhaps.

Anyway, I wonder how the tenors Pharel J. Silaban and Adi "Didut" Nugroho are taking this. My repertoire for tenor is quite limited in fact, so it's another surprising fact that I am writing an opera for 2 tenors! I have known them for a while now, and it's a big stimulation for me that they are really nice people; both don't "act like tenors", so I am very much looking forward to working with them. There will be female dancers involved as well here, ad.lib. Much more acting is demanded in Mendadak Kaya compared to Laki-Laki Sejati and of course the choreography of the female dancers, so Chendra Panatan will have to work harder. This is not just a dialogue; the witchdoctor has to be "possessed" and Alung comes and goes as both a rich and poor, happy and unsatisfied person, and singing rap should involve a bit of dancing or at least a typical "rap" gesture. Oh God, forgive me for I have sinned ...

Just when I finish writing this Chendra appeared in my chat room. Apparently, two months before the show, tickets are selling quite well. (The "early bird" period just finished yesterday and apparently many tickets are sold) and he asked me about the possibility of a second performance. So, next Monday the 21st we will contact the hall (Auditorium of Bank Indonesia) and see if we can do another performance on the 9th of January, the day after the premiere. It will be a Monday, not a good day for a performance, but we'll see ...

Mendadak Kaya will be premiered at the Java New Year Concerts, Bank Indonesia Auditorium on January 8th, 4 p.m. together as a double-bill with my other opera Laki-Laki Sejati. It will be repeated in Bandung (hence we changed "Jakarta" into "Java" in the event's name which is already held for the 7th time now) on the 15th of January without Laki-Laki Sejati. Laki-Laki Sejati itself (without Mendadak Kaya) will be performed in Surabaya on January 13th. Tweet me at @anandasukarlan if you are confused with this ...and I'll give you a more complete info.

domingo, 30 de octubre de 2011

The Unsung (Romantic) Heroes

In my experiences as a judge in piano competitions in Indonesia (I can't say a lot, since there are NOT a lot of (decent) piano competitions in this country), I've always been struck by one thing: the similarity of repertoire chosen by the participants. Even in my own Ananda Sukarlan Award competition, where participants can choose ANY piece of a romantic composer with a maximum duration of 12 minutes, I bet you that 70%+ chose a Chopin's Ballade or Scherzo. Then comes some Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies (yeah, their popularity in Indonesia somehow are decreasing, dunno why), Mendelssohn Variation Serieuses and very few other ones.

Certainly that situation is due to the limited repertoires of the teachers of the participants. That makes competitions quite boring to watch, since we are listening to the same pieces again and again, and most of the time in similar manners (again, due to the limited knowledge of the teachers and their inability to allow freedom of interpretation to their students, they just "teach" the student how to "interpret"). Gone are the expectations of boldly discovering "new" pieces that no (Indonesian) man has heard before. And yes, in this era where music scores and recordings can be downloaded free from internet, things haven't changed. We come to see competitions to listen how the same pieces are "executed", sometimes in a brutal way. There's so much inbuilt inertia in musical education, concert programmes etc here in Indonesia that it's very difficult do stimulate interest in the so-called "lesser" composers.

Now, who are the other Romantic composers, apart from the ones we know: Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Tschaikovsky? Certainly the most "romantic" of all is Gustav Mahler, but since I am talking in relation to the piano (competition), I can mention a few. Perhaps these names will help in arousing your curiosity in those beautiful music still unheard in Indonesia.

Carl Czerny (born in Vienna but from a family of Czech origin, hence his name, 1791 - 1857) may be considered one of the victims of history. Known almost exclusively as a lesser composer of boring, ugly and didactic (are they really?) piano pieces today, he was in fact a highly sophisticated artist who wrote in almost every know genre of music, including symphonies, masses, string quartets and much more, and his opus number goes up to the 800s. Student of Beethoven, Salieri and Hummel and teacher of Liszt and dozens more piano virtuosos of the 19th century he was arguably a key figure in his days. His most famous piano piece now is the Variations on the theme by Rode, since it was recorded by the great Vladimir Horowitz, but there are many, many other interesting and elaborate piano pieces of this great composer.

If you think that the title "Transcendental Etudes" only belongs to Liszt, you are wrong. There was another composer who also wrote 12 etudes of the same name, and they are not worse than those of the great Hungarian. Of course they were written inspired by Liszt's, but that's not a reason that we should think that he is "only" a followeer. His name is Sergey Lyapunov. In fact if you mention his family name, one's mind would go to his more famous brother, Aleksander who was an influential mathematician. Sergey's (1859-1924) most important works are in fact for solo piano. Himself a gifted pianist who concertized in Russia and Europe, his piano writing shows mastery of the instrument and a complete understanding of the piano's musical and technical capabilities. His finest works display considerable melodic gifts and, in its effective exploitation of the instrument's timbral subtleties, compares favorably with those of Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and Balakirev. As an orchestral composer, Liapunov wrote expertly in the style of colorful and imaginative orchestration that characterizes the works of the nationalist composers of his period. One hears that Liapunov had a voice of his own.

Now, have you ever heard of Sergey Taneyev's Prelude & Fugue in G# minor, op. 29? That's a great piece, I've played it several times during my busy concert career many years ago. That piece taught me that even a most "academic" form like a fugue can be poignant, expressive and .. well .. romantic. Taneyev (1865-1915) was an important Russian pianist, educator, and composer. Although he wrote a large quantity of keyboard, orchestral, vocal, and chamber music, he is known today primarily as the teacher of Scriabin, Rachmaninov, and Glière. As a young man, Taneyev made his first impact as a pianist, giving the first Russian performance of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, and the Russian premieres of all of Tchaikovsky's other works for piano and orchestra. For many years, Taneyev's teaching and administrative duties at the Moscow Conservatory prevented him from touring as a performer, but later in his life, he resumed his career as a pianist, particularly in chamber music. He was indeed a not-so-prolific composer due to his perfectionist mentality, but what he has written are mostly of very high artistic quality.

Apart from those 3 names I mentioned above, you should check these names too: Sigismond Thalberg, Moritz Moszkovski, Ignace Jan Paderewski (he was the Prime Minister of Poland, for God's sake!) ... and your curiosity will lead to hundreds of other names. And now, you can start to pick your pieces for the Ananda Sukarlan Award - BIMA International Piano Competition next year. Be innovative, be original and be creative, ok? Good luck!

jueves, 6 de octubre de 2011

Pain and pleasure (Violence in music)

I am glad that Laki-Laki Sejati's world premiere went so well, much more than I imagined. The singers, Indah Pristanti & Evelyn Merrelita performed their roles so brilliantly, technically and interpretatively speaking. Everyone adored their passion, their high expressivity, their total dedication, and some media have even written about "a discovery of new & brilliant talents". Erza ST of the Jakarta Post mentioned about both of them: "Evelyn not only excelled in performing this challenging part, but she did it in an elegant and effortless manner. Indah Pristanti’s velvety voice was the right combination with Evelyn’s, and together they gave a remarkable and harmonious performance."

What's next? Lots of things. Laki-laki Sejati (LLS) suddenly is in everybody's tongue and is now well in demand, with further new productions in Surabaya and another in THE classical music concert of the year: The Jakarta New Year Concert (JNYC). Everyone involved in the production of this event told me that Laki-Laki Sejati is just tailor-made for the typical JNYC audience: a "high-brow" one eager to have a light but classy entertainment. I don't want to call myself or my music classy, but certainly the quality of the performance up to the minute details (plus the posh costumes by Alleira Batik) can be defined as one.

But LLS is just half an hour long. So I have to do another thing to fill up the other half of the program. The program would then be an operatic double-bill. Therefore I am hard working on my next opera at the moment, again from a short story of Putu Wijaya, called Mendadak Kaya ("Suddenly rich"). It is a very Indonesian story about a guy who visits a witchdoctor, asking the latter to make him rich. His wish is always fulfilled, but something wrong always happens so he keeps coming back to "correct" his wish, which then make us delve into the psychology of the rich and the poor and the concept of happiness. But you're wrong if you think that this is just a typical money-doesn't-buy-happiness type of story. As usual with Putu Wijaya's stories, it is full of twists and philosophical ideas. This opera will be for an unusual formation of 2 tenors, and will be sung by winners of "Tembang Puitik" Ananda Sukarlan Vocal Award, Pharel Silaban and Adi "Didut" Nugroho.

I am trying to do a different kind of "humor" here, more of a slapstick one. That's why I've been watching a lot of cartoon movies these days, mostly my all time favorite Tom & Jerry and therefore I discovered the new element in music: violence. Of course you can hear those violent characters in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Britten's War Requiem and everywhere in Shostakovich and Prokofiev's music, but what I want to tell you here is the impact to us, getting pleasure from listening to it. In the extreme case, of course you can get it in rock music.
Visually speaking, one might not be aware (especially children) that there are a lot of violence in cartoon movies. How many times Jerry is smashed by Tom (and vice versa), how many times Tom bumps into a door and countless scenes like that? All those are accompanied by abrupt changes in music, which could work well even without the visual scenes.

The psychological impact of music to our lives is much much stronger than we could imagine. As music can make us better people, it can also make us extract the potential violence and all other dirty rubbish in our psyche. I am not talking about the violence in the words or text of a song, I am talking about the musical elements itself: It is odd to remember that Stalin got very nervous to the violence in the music of Shostakovich, while we know that he was a ruthless dictator. Up to a certain limit, I think the violence in music is a good cathartic method to relieve our anger, just as we like to listen to sad music or watch a sad movie when we are feeling blue. But as anything else, if it is too much (especially in classical music where it can easily carry you away) things could get out of hand eh?

martes, 30 de agosto de 2011

The real man's been fussy

Whatever my next opera is, it's definitely gonna be an all-male cast. And I'll write lots of falsetti! Huff ... during the creative process of Laki-Laki Sejati, those soprano voics (especially the coloratura one, the "mom") is banging in my head ... and it is LOUD AND HIGH! So I definitely miss those low, male voice who do those beautifully weird falsetto sometimes.
They say the older you get the more fussy you become. Perhaps that's true. Laki-Laki Sejati at last took longer to write than I imagined. According to my plan, the music is about 24 minutes long, so I estimated between 24-30 days to compose it.

I got back home just 10 days ago, and I just emailed the whole score to the singers yesterday. During my 16-hour plane trip home I completely finished the vocal lines, and sketched the accompaniment. But it took me a whole week to clean up all the mess, revise, write down the accompaniment and the most important thing is the finishing touch. I wonder why I am getting fussier now. When I wrote "Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu" (The Mother whose son was kidnapped) with a kinda similar formation I remembered I wasn't like this. IBU was a bit longer (around 40 minutes, almost twice longer than Laki-Laki Sejati) but I wrote it in less than two months. True, at that time (in 2009) there weren't any distractions, and now the work has been so many times interrupted. Since June when I started writing Laki-Laki Sejati I also wrote several songs, piano pieces to be included in "Alicia's Second Piano Book", orchestrating Fons Juventatis (a 5-minute overture for piano & orchestra) AND performing it, wrote my 4-hand piece for the inauguration of the Berlin-Jakarta Festival as well as finishing "A Sicilian Diary" for 3 flutes which is not a small piece, and did a few concerts (mostly of my pieces, so I didn't have to practice a lot). Those aren't big tasks, but if one adds them up, they do take some time. And I spent almost the whole summer in Jakarta, so the traffic jam didn't help either. I can compose on a plane, but not in a car during the traffic jam.

One thing which was also rather "not my nature" is the comic side of Laki-Laki Sejati. I had to invent ways to make the funny parts funny, and those spots didn't flow easily, I tell you. But I learned a lot anyway in exploring the "funny" side in me.

By the way, the wifi aboard the airplane is a nice invention, but what I need is electricity to charge my laptop battery! I had to write lots of music on paper while I was on board, and copy and elaborate them when my feet are on the ground here back home. I can survive hours without internet, but I need more than 2 hours to compose on my laptop, so please airplane makers, would you consider some holes to plug my laptop cable?

sábado, 27 de agosto de 2011

List of works up to now


Chamber Operas :
- SATRIA, for soprano, baritone, 3 actors/dancers & 9 musicians 1 hour 10'
- IBU, YANG ANAKNYA DICULIK ITU (The Mother, whose son was kidnapped)
for soprano solo, piano, flute & percussion 40'
- LAKI-LAKI SEJATI (A Real Man) for soprano, mezzosoprano & piano 20'

Orchestra :
-FONS JUVENTATIS, an overture for piano & orchestra 5'
-Cantata no. 2 "LIBERTAS", for solo baritone, choir & chamber orchestra 28'
-STANZA SUARA, for choir, orchestra & angklung (Indonesian trad. instrs.) 7'
-A work for flute & orchestra (in progress) to be premiered by Andrea Griminelli in 2012-2013

Choir :
Cantata no. 1 "ARS AMATORIA" for soprano & baritone, children & male choir & 4 instruments 30'
Choral Fantasy for soprano solo, choir & piano 6'
Psalm 148, for SATB a cappella 4'
Jokpiniana no.1, for SATB a cappella 4'
Jokpiniana no.2, for SATB & piano 4'

- BIBIRKU BERSUJUD DI BIBIRMU, for soprano, flute (doubl. alto-fl), violin, piano 13'
- VEGA & ALTAIR, for flute, violin, cello, harp 20'

Chamber music :
- LONTANO, for string quartet (choreographic interlude from the opera "Mengapa Kau Culik Anak Kami") 5'
- REQUIESCAT, for english horn & str. qt (from Cantata no. 2 "Libertas")
- RESCUING ARIADNE, for flute & piano 6'30"
- PRELUDE AND INTERMEZZO from the opera "IBU", for flute & piano 6'
- ECHO'S WHISPER, for oboe & piano 4'
- LUST'S PASSION, for clarinet in Bb & piano 5'
- A SICILIAN DIARY, for 3 flutes 6'
- THE TRAITOR'S TORTURER TANGO (from the unfinished opera PRO PATRIA) for cello & piano 4'

Chamber music written for handicapped pianists (LH normal, RH only functioning with 2 fingers) . Can be played by normal (intermediate level) pianists

- Someone's stolen her heart (and I found it) , for viola & piano 3'
- The Sleepers, for violin & piano 4'
- SWEET SORROW, for violin & piano 3'
- Two pieces for trumpet & piano 5'
- Nothing Gold can stay (Robert Frost), for soprano & piano 2'
- Daun Jati (S. Yoga), for baritone (with falsetti) & piano 2'
- The Pirates are Coming, for 1 pianist with only 2 fingers acc. by 1 pianist (both hands)
- Eine kleine (sehr) leicht Musik, for bassoon & piano 2'


- "... and the twain shall meet ...," for piano 4 hands 5'
- SCHUMANN'S PSYCHOSIS, for 3 pianos 6 pianists 5'30"
- VIVALDI'S WINTER OF DISCONTENT, for 4 pianos (4 pianists) 6'
- 5 ETUDES for piano solo
- RAPSODIA NUSANTARA no. 1 - 7 (number still growing), virtuosic works for piano solo
(Rhapsodies based on Indonesian folksongs. Each rhapsody is based on folksongs of 1 province)
- JUST A MINUTE ! , 13 pieces for left hand alone
- 37 easy to moderately difficult pieces in "Alicia's First Piano Book"
- 32 easy to difficult pieces in "Alicia's Second Piano Book"

Vocal works (accompanied by piano otherwise indicated)

- SENYAP DALAM DERAI , 6 songs for soprano
- GEMURUHNYA MALAM, 4 songs for baritone
- CANDA EMPAT PENJURU, 4 short songs (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) for baritone
- A UNTUK AKIS, ALAM DAN ANGKASA, 5 songs for baritone
- ILHAM DI PENJARA, 3 songs for high voice
- NYANYIAN MALAM, 12 songs for medium voice
- LOVE AND VARIATIONS, 8 songs for soprano & baritone duet (in English, Spanish & Indonesian)
- SAJAK 3 BAGIAN, for tenor and guitar
- FIVE FRIENDS, 5 songs for medium voice & piano (in English & Indonesian)
(the order of songs can be changed)
1. Senyap Sedang Sendirian (Clarentia Prameta). 2. Jemari Menari (Nanang Suryadi), for & about "Tris". 3. As Adam, Early in the Morning (W.Whitman), for Winson Chaivin. 4. Chrysanthemum (H. Aspahani) for Henoch & Yenny, happily ever after. 5. Meeting at Night (R. Browning) to Dody & Ida, happily ever after.
- 3 duets (soprano & baritone) from Cantata no. 1 "Ars Amatoria"

Solo instruments

- SATRIA SENDIRI, for bassoon solo (from the opera "Satria") 3'
- YOU HAD ME AT HELLO, 3 pieces for flute solo (choreographic intermezzi from the cantata "Ars Amatoria") 8'
- 2 short pieces for piccolo solo 3'
- THE 5 LOVERS OF DRUPADI, for guitar solo 5'30"
- 3 STAR SIGNS, for oboe solo (one of them is for circular breathing). each 1 - 2 mins.
- THE BIRTH OF DRUPADI , for marimba solo 4 '

lunes, 8 de agosto de 2011

It's a double gift if U are twice doubled

It's been a busy week for our foundation. After the start of Children in Harmony, last night was the amazing performance of 2 young pianists whose surnames start with a common letter (though uncommon for musicians save for Wagner and Wolff), Edith Widayani (as you know already, winner of Ananda Sukarlan Award 2010) and Lavinia "Vinny" Wibisono. You might not have heard the latter's name since she's just graduated from China Conservatory in Beijing, but I'm sure you will hear her name much more often in the future.

Musically speaking it was a heavy program last night for the public : Edith played 3 Ballades of Chopin, and Vinny played Brahms' Handel Variations. That's a treat for Jakarta's public, since the trend now is to "give what the audience wants", so to say. And honestly, it WAS quite hard to take Brahms' Variations immediately to start the program, although I can't help but admire Vinny's (mental) stamina to sustain a solid construction of this half-an-hour Romantic masterpiece. The hall (Teater Kecil, TIM) is a very difficult hall to conquer acoustically. I would suggest Vinny next time to play a short piece before tackling a big piece like that Brahms, since one did notice a bit of insecurity of playing at the first (very few) minutes. She managed to tackle the rest of this gigantic work with her solid technical ability and high musicianship, though. A short (and easy(er)) piece would make her get acquainted with the hall and the public ... as well as giving a chance for the late-comers (not so many last night, since the Jakarta traffic was surprisingly not that heavy). One needs ample experience and maturity to start a concert with a big piece such as the Brahms. But still, hats-off to the promising young talent.

Experience and maturity. Those two words can indeed by applied to Edith Widayani's playing. One can notice how she communicated with the public right from the start. Her interpretation wasn't anymore that kinda "do-what-your-teacher-tells-you" thing; on the contrary, Edith has conveyed an interpretation which was a quite adventurous one. Her awareness to the silences, as the canvas where she paints the music on, is admirable and rare to the Indonesian musicians (living abroad must have helped in this case. Indonesian musicians go too often to the malls, where silences --and even good music-- are forbidden to exist). Highly attractive is her sensitivity to colours too, which she managed to explore on that poor Steinway who starts to manifest her sufferings from her unrequited love to the management of the concert hall.

On the fun 'n funky side, both Edith & Lavinia entertained the public with some 4-hand pieces of Leroy Anderson (including his famous Typewriter, which might not be understood anymore by the young generation who now type on the touch screens of iPad. I suggest Twitter would add that "ding" sound when we reach 132 characters, to warn that there are only 8 charachters left) and 3 pieces of cakes which I did on Sundays with my daughter to distract her from disturbing her mom making those namesake cakes (and to compete with her mom to taste who's cake is more delicious). I am happy with the audience too, a very civilized one who seemed to really enjoyed the concert and didn't applaud (nor tweet) when there is silence. I have seen men at the emergency alert when their Blackberry beeps and women abandon their facials at the hint of a ringtone. At this double double-U concert we were free from the demands of rapid response.

Summer holiday is almost over, it was nice to listen Wibisono and Widayani, two of the best Indonesian pianists at the moment living abroad. We do miss concerts of our musicians who had holidays in their homecountry this summer, like the soprano Bernadeta Astari, tenor Ivan Yohan, baritone Dody Soetanto, pianists Henoch Kristianto and Ananda Sukarlan Award 2008 winner Inge Buniardi. And of course the recently-married Stephanie with her duo partner (or did the love come before?) Edward Neeman. Quantitywise we have (more than) enough classical music concerts in Jakarta but not qualitywise, so hopefully those musicians I mentioned --and highly admire-- would present us something next time when they are in town.

viernes, 5 de agosto de 2011

Children in Harmony, Harmony in Children

When you give, it will be given back multiplied to you. I think the Bible said that and it's perhaps the most repeated phrase in history, and today I proved it (again). Today was the first day of our foundation's project, CHARM (Children in Harmony). CHARM was the original idea of our ambassador, Mesty Ariotedjo, and thanks to the solid team of YMSI (Yayasan Musik Sastra Indonesia or Indonesian Classical Music Foundation) it can now be realized, after a few months of discussion, hard work ...and fund-raising. Certainly, CHARM can also be used to describe Mesty, who is just graduated from her medical studies at Universitas Indonesia, as well as a harpist... and die-hard classical music lover. There are many beautiful women on this planet, but not half of them have the charm, outside and inside, of Mesty.

When I said today was the first day, I mean the first day that the children had their lessons. CHARM's idea is to give musical education (starting with playing a musical instrument) to children under 11 coming from underpriviliged families. Since this is purely YMSI's project, we are not receiving any cent, or even just false promises, from the government or political parties. Therefore we start this in a quite small scale, working with the children around our foundation's office at the Ananda Sukarlan Center, at the area of Kebayoran, Jakarta.

It was pure happiness what happened today. Watching the glow in the eyes of the children, playing or even holding an instrument (we start with the violin) that only appeared in their dreams, and now they can even bring it home. We lend them the instruments, and after 6 months there will be a small "exam" that will determine if that particular child should continue his education and therefore can still keep the instrument with them. Today Mesty came with one of our violin teachers, Ali Hanapiyah and what occured perhaps could be described as heaven on earth: pure happiness of all parts: the teachers, the children and their parents who witnessed it. Education costs money, I know, but so does ignorance. So it's better to educate than let people be ignorant. Even if it's for free. By educating, we learn so much.

miércoles, 3 de agosto de 2011

The flute, all the flute and nothing but the flute

After a highly exciting concert (+discussions +lunch +gossipping) of JAKFlute (the Jakarta Flute Community whose members are always growing) at my place, the Ananda Sukarlan Center last Sunday July 31st, my sheet music with all my chamber & solo works involving the flute is now officially published. It was launched during that concert last Sunday. Its title is "Narcissus Dying and other works for flute(s)".
It took me several days to decide on the cover. The most natural is of course using Caravaggio's painting of Narcissus as it was the painting that helped me shape the piece, but somehow I wasn't convinced to use it as the cover. At last I cropped the painting "Echo and Narcissus" of John William Waterhouse, took only the Narcissus part as its cover.

All my flute music are connected with someone (mostly flutists), except "Rescuing Ariadne" which really just popped up from the blue. Well, Titian's painting was the trigger, but I didn't specifically write it for someone. There are 8 titles in that book:

-Narcissus Dying (now becoming my most popular work for flute)
-Rescuing Ariadne
-My recently premiered "The Sicilian Diary" for 3 flutes
-You Had Me at Hello (3 movements for flute solo, for Chendra Panatan's choreography)
-Vega & Altair's Love Song (for flute & harp)
-2 pieces for piccolo solo, for Rudy & Liz's 2 boys
-Prelude & Intermezzo from my opera "Ibu yang anaknya diculik itu", which is original written for flute & piano. Therefore this is not an arrangement
-Choreographic prelude to "Bibirku Bersujud di bibirmu". Now this title is missing on the score, but written down in the index of the book. This piece is a prelude (but can be performed separately) from my piece for soprano & piano based on the highly moving poem of Hasan Aspahani.

Aaaand ... I will use this opportunity to thank my flutty friends: Liz Ashford, Wendela van Swol, Roberto Alvarez, Mesty Ariotedjo who is also the ambassador of our dear Indonesian Classical Music Foundation (YMSI), founders of JakFlute Metta F.Ariono & Marini Marnoto, my new flutty friend Andika Candra and many more flutists who have played my music. I learned a lot from listening to you all playing it, and glad that you include my music in your repertoire. Hope my music can enrich the tutti flutty world!

jueves, 28 de julio de 2011

Not funny!

I'm glad I've overcome my "sick" ambition of proving to the (Indonesian) audience that I have written more music than just "Dalam Doaku", or that there are pieces of mine which I myself believe to be better than that. Dalam Doaku, for me, is just a product of lonely nights in a Belgian hotel and a kind of self-therapy for my bad mood. I write what I believe, my music is part of me and just let the audience have their own opinion. As usual when one's being honest, some people don't like what you say (I am grateful that in this case it's the other way around). In a much bigger scale it has happened in the history too: The Spanish Joaquin Rodrigo is remembered by one movement (not even the whole piece) of his "Aranjuez" Guitar Concerto, and many people know Rachmaninov through his one short piece, the Prelude in C minor.

So I have stopped trying to make my pocket opera in progress, Laki-Laki Sejati (LLS), an attempt to convert the audience of Dalam Doaku to like this instead. To start with, LLS is a duet for soprano and mezzosoprano, whose colours when combined wouldn't be as tear-jerking as a duet of male and female being in love with each other. There are indeed some "romantic" arias in LLS, especially for the young girl, but those are expressions of craving of love and dreaming of an ideal man, so the love is, shall we say, unreal.

LLS is a comedy, so I am confronted with the issue: how do you make music funny? You can be funny with words or gestures, but in music? And is "funny" an adjective which means you should laugh to? Even in comedies you have different kinds of humor: cheap humor, slapsticks, and even satires base themselves in humor, a black one that is. And then you have the British ironic humor, the Latin over-the-top exaggerating ones and I think I start to understand the Indonesian ones. And why is it that comedians usually are depressed people (the famous example is Pagliacci the weeping clown; and you know Rowan "Mr.Bean" Atkinson just came out of a long depression period, right?) ?

The key is, I think, incongruity. Things are not in their right places or their right moments, incorrect proportions, strange situations. In German, the word "komisch" reflects it perfectly: it doesn't have to be funny, it's just about something wrong, incongruent and strange while in English, "comical" is indeed funny.

So I think that's the key to make the music "funny". In my opera, you'll hear the girl blindly in love, singing 3 arias consecutively. Each aria is just normal, but put together, I hope they will sound "unproportional": too much, over the top. No operas before have asked the same singer to sing 3 arias, real ones, one after the other. Not even in Broadway musicals. And that is just one example of making incongruences in music. I am having fun in doing some research on this. I don't have a bassoon to play that "Sorcerer's Apprentice" tune nor a tuba imitating an elephant, but I am sure I can do it with just two fantastic singers and my poor old piano.

martes, 14 de junio de 2011

What's a real man?

OK, it's now official. Scarily official. I have started writing my next opera, this time a real mini pocket opera, and I am happy to tell about it. It will be for 2 singers (mezzo-soprano & soprano) and I (or for the future productions another pianist) will accompany it. No other instruments except some small percussions which I bring with myself. It will be produced by its commissioner, Bimasena, in October this year.

This opera is based on a very short story by Putu Wijaya, a renowned Indonesian writer who has written more than 1000 short stories. The title, which will also be for my opera, is Laki-laki Sejati (A real man), and the story is a dialogue between a mother (a (high) soprano who's wisdom is solidly based on her knowledge of men!) and her daughter in her late teens (sung by a mezzosoprano or high alto who --unfortunately-- can be (much) older than that, since it does happen, and often, in real life) who is desperate on having a boyfriend. The story starts with her asking her mom, "Mom, what is in fact a real man?" and ends with a catchy conclusion of what, or where, or how, a real man is indeed.

I spent most of the time during my flight from Bilbao to Jakarta last weekend in making the plans from Putu Wijaya's script. I am now waiting for his approval of my cuts and small editions, which will make the duration of the opera about 24 minutes. In fact I have been looking for a script with 3 characters involved, one of them a male, since I am writing this to be premiered by the winners of the Ananda Sukarlan Vocal Competition (Tembang Puitik AS) last April: coloratura soprano Evelyn Merrelita, mezzosoprano Indah Pristanti and the tenor Adi Nugroho, the latter had performed with me 2 months ago in Magelang and will again do so in Makassar, hopefully in October. After I browsed Putu Wijaya's many short stories (for a long time I've been thinking to do something with his works) I found this kind of tragi-comedy, brilliantly written by this Balinese writer, and decided to do this for now. Adi Nugroho will have to wait, but I am sure I'll get hold of a nice script for an opera for him to be involved.

It will be too soon to say more about Laki-laki Sejati, since I barely written the notes (I did start a chaconne for an introduction to an aria for the mezzosoprano on the plane), but I really would like to discover "the other side of me" with this opera, not me who people call "romantic". I refuse to be called a romantic. I prefer to be like Winnie the Pooh, a bear of very simple brain who doesn't like difficult words (nor music).

sábado, 4 de junio de 2011

More complete interview at Kompas Kita, May 31 (in Indonesian)

I am deeply grateful to Kompas for not editing and/or cutting the interview done by their readers to me, published last Tuesday May 31st (which is also the birthday of my favorite poet, my hero & idol, Walt Whitman). However, due to the limits of space (I mean for the printed newspaper, not the final frontier!) KOMPAS can only publish 12 questions. They sent me 16 chosen questions which I have answered, out of the more than 50 questions that were sent by the reader throughout the country. I post here my answers of those 16 questions, hence there are 4 new topic here that you haven't read at the published article. It is, naturally, in Indonesian, but in case you don't understand it you can use Google translator who gets better every time.

1. Om Ananda, saya kini berusia 13 tahun. Sejak usia 5 tahun ikut kursus piano klasik sampai hari ini. Dibandingkan prestasi Om saat usia 13 tahun, saya bukan apa-apa. Apa yang perlu saya lakukan lagi.
Kinsky Gisela Mentari, Kampung Rambutan - Jakarta Timur,

Jawaban: Bukan apa-apa? Lho, waktu saya 13 th malah abis di dropout dari sekolah musik di Jakarta. Katanya, saya nggak berbakat! Jadi prestasimu udah lebih dari saya, ya kan? Tapi saya jalan terus sampai sekarang. Dengarkan kata hati dan ikutilah. Kalau memang cintanya di musik, teruslah. Mempelajari & berkarya seni itu nggak pernah selesai, karena itu perjalanan menuju kesempurnaan. Dan kita, manusia, tidak akan pernah bisa mencapainya. Keindahan berkarya seni ada di prosesnya, bukan tujuannya.

2. 1.Mohon saran dari Mas Ananda, bagaimana cara meningkatkan minat pelajar dan mahasiswa terhadap piano dan orkes? karena menurut saya, karya piano dan orkes mulai tenggelam di kalangan muda Indonesia .
Robert, Tangerang, Banten,
Jawaban: Kenapa film Hollywood sangat diminati? Karena gedung bioskop kualitas & kuantitasnya sudah memadai. Nah, gedung konser yang berakustik bagus, dengan sistem manajemen yg juga bagus belum ada satu pun. Gedung sih banyak, tapi tanpa konsep akustik yang benar. Jika kita belum bisa menganggap gedung (dan akustiknya) sebagai sebuah instrumen musik (seperti biola, piano), kita tidak bisa memilikinya. Di satu konser piano tunggal itu ada 1 musikus (pianis) dan 2 instrumen: piano dan akustik gedung: itu mesti selalu diingat. Bukan hanya piano. Dan tiap instrumen itu ada pembuatnya, yang merupakan ahlinya. Jadi akustik gedung bukan di desain oleh arsitek atau musikus, tapi oleh ... ahli akustik!
Mendengarkan satu konser di gedung yang akustiknya memadai (dan pemain yang bagus, tentu saja) itu adalah satu pengalaman yang luar biasa, pasti akan sangat menarik minat masyarakat untuk musik sastra. Sangat lain dengan mendengarkan rekaman (apalagi kalau bajakan!). Itu sebabnya orang Indonesia berbondong-bondong ke Singapur & Malaysia nonton konser. Gedung seperti Philharmonie Berlin atau Concertgebouw Amsterdam menjadi ikon kota itu, dan akan menarik orang untuk menjadi tempat "hang-out" yang "hip & cool", selain utk mendengarkan musik juga ketemuan dan ngobrolin musik (dan lain hal), dgn aktivitas lain seperti diskusi dan masterclasses ... dan tentu saja dengan "coffee shop" di berandanya yang enak dan nyaman dong! Banyak hal lain untuk menarik minat ke musik sastra, terutama dalam pendidikan & pengenalan yg kami lakukan lewat Yayasan Musik Sastra Indonesia. Cek saja website kami di www.musik-sastra.com

3. Apa saran Anda untuk anak SMU yang berniat memilih jurusan non-eksakta? Apa pendapat Anda mengenai steretotipe bahwa anak IPA lebih sukses dari yang non-IPA?
Fransiska Ully Artha Situmorang, Duren Tiga , Jakarta Selatan
Jawaban: Dukung 100% dong! Walaupun dulu di SMA (Kanisius di Jakarta) saya anak IPA, saya kayaknya "nyasar" deh. Apalagi seni itu sama sekali tidak eksak, malah seni itu justru semakin tinggi ambiguitasnya biasanya semakin artistik, kan? Lihat saja lukisannya Da Vinci atau naskahnya Shakespeare yang penuh dengan rahasia dan ambiguitas. Ah, sukses? Kalau sukses jadi ilmuwan atau pengusaha seperti keinginan orangtuanya, tapi hatinya ada di dunia seni misalnya, apa itu namanya sukses?

4. 1.saya cukup kagum dengan prestasi yang anda miliki, saya ingin menanyakan apa langkah terbesar yang anda lakukan sehingga anda menjadi pianis terkenal?
2.mengapa anda lebih memilih untuk tinggal di spanyol daripada di indonesia
mei rosseliny gultom, medan
Jawaban: 1. Terbang 10.000 km dari rumah setelah lulus SMA untuk meraih mimpi. Kurang besar gimana langkahnya coba? Tapi setelah itu karir sbg pianis ditentukan dengan memenangkan kompetisi2 internasional sewaktu saya muda. Sayangnya itu masih satu-satunya jalan memulai karir sampai saat ini. 2. Soalnya di Indonesia masih belum bisa berkarir & mencari nafkah sebagai pianis dan komponis. Dengan segala kesempatan yang ada di Eropah setelah kemenangan saya di berbagai kompetisi, siapa sih yang mau meninggalkan itu semua? Tapi saat ini tokh saya bisa lebih banyak berbuat untuk negara di luar negeri daripada di dalam negeri, kan? Oh ya, saya juga terus pegang paspor Indonesia, walaupun saya berkewarganegaraan dobel: Republik Indonesia & Kerajaan Galau hehe..

5. Pertanyaan : Apakah faktor keturunan (Bakat) mempengaruhi kemahiran seorang musikus dalam berkarya? Bagaimana bagi mereka yang tidak terlahir dalam keluarga seniman? Bisakah mereka menghasilkan karya setara dengan yang berbakat ?
Stella Chrisfanny, Cilincing Jakarta Utara,
Jawaban: Ah, keluarga saya juga bukan seniman kok. Saya anak bungsu dari 7, ortu dan kakak2 saya tidak ada yg jadi seniman. Bakat tentu saja membantu, tapi tidak mutlak. Semua itu 1% bakat dan 99% kerja keras.

6. Pertanyaan:
Ananda sudah konser di berbagai kota di Indonesia . Berkaitan dengan apresiasi audiens terhadap karya-karya yang Ananda tampilkan, apakah Ananda bisa menangkap karakter audiens dari masing-masing kota terhadap selera lagu/komposisi yang Ananda mainkan? Bagaimana Ananda menyesuaikan dengan karakter audiens yang berbeda tersebut?
Anton Asmonodento, Yogyakarta
Jawaban: Kalau dari satu negara mungkin tidak begitu kentara, tapi kalau beda negara iya. Yang terjadi di audiens adalah psikologi massa, dimana audience menjadi satu karakter, dan itulah cara saya berkomunikasi dengan mereka: menganggap mereka sebagai satu "orang" saja, satu orang yang benar2 saya ingin sampaikan apa yang ingin saya ekspresikan. Saya tidak perlu menyesuaikan di tiap negara, karena musik sastra, seperti seni lainnya, berbicara sama kepada siapapun. Seorang performer harus menjadi "bunglon" bukan terhadap audiensnya, tapi untuk jenis musik yg berbeda-beda cara interpretasinya. Banyak ulasan tentang ini saya tulis di blog saya http://andystarblogger.blogspot.com

7. Mas Andy,
Ada niat bikin karya tentang seorang menteri yang suka ngomong (ngetwit)
sembarangan ga?
Anita, Bandung , tabbyche@gmail.com
Jawaban: Sembarangan atau sembiringan? Ah, ogah beneeur. Mendingan untuk menteri seperti alm. Fuad Hassan yg telah banyak jasanya ke dunia pendidikan dan musik sastra (termasuk mengusahakan beasiswa waktu saya mau melanjutkan ke Belanda). Karya saya utk piano solo, Etude no. 3 "This Boy's Had a Dream" saya dedikasikan ke beliau. Tentu anda tahu, siapa "boy" yang bermimpi itu. Btw, setiap karya saya yang untuk seseorang itu pasti ada "pesan rahasia" terhadapnya, yang biasanya dekat atau selalu ada di hati saya. Seumur hidup saya nggak akan pernah lupa jasa pak Fuad.

8. . Dear Ananda
1. Sebagai Pianis senior yang telah lama bekecimpung dalam dunia musik apakah Anda melihat dan merasakan adanya kesenjangan terhadap perkembangan seni musik sebagai Ilmu Pengetahuan di negeri kita ini? Terimakasih.
Christanto Hadijaya, Yogyakarta
Jawaban: Sangat! Padahal harta karun musik (terutama etnik) Indonesia adalah sumber yang tak habis-habisnya di penciptaan karya-karya baru di Eropah. Selain itu pemerintah tidak mengerti mempromosikannya ke dunia internasional, yang dapat menjadi aset negara untuk memperbaiki image bangsa serta memasukkan devisa. Contoh: kita memiliki bakat-bakat yang luar biasa. Ini saya bukan "ngegombal", saya sudah lihat sendiri, paling tidak ada 2 anak kecil : Sally Yapto (9 th) di Surabaya dan Ralf Vivaldo (10 th) di Semarang yang bikin saya terbelalak waktu mendengarkan mereka main piano. Menteri kita harusnya dalam 1 masa jabatan bisa menaruh posisi mereka setaraf Mozart di dunia internasional . Mozart itu jadi Mozart bukan hanya karena dia unik, tapi karena pemerintah Austria tahu cara "memungut"nya sebagai aset negara. Dan kita punya kok Mozart-Mozart juga.
Selain itu juga saya nggak ngerti dengan tiadanya Pusat Kebudayaan Indonesia di negara lain. Indonesia yang budayanya begitu kaya masa nggak punya semacam "Erasmus Huis" untuk Belanda atau "Goethe Institut" untuk Jerman sih?

9. apa kunci kesuksesan seorang Ananda Sukarlan? dan apa cita-cita yg belum tercapai?
akbar fauzan, Yogyakarta
Jawaban: 1. Menurut ayah saya (dan saya masih percaya walaupun beliau sudah almarhum) tidak ada 1 kunci kesuksesan, tapi ada 1 kunci kegagalan: berusaha menyenangkan hati semua orang. Itu yg saya selalu hindari. Makanya saya nggak demen politik. Soalnya menurut saya sukses adalah bebas & bisa melakukan apa yg kita senangi & kita percaya yang terbaik, bukan untuk menyenangkan siapapun. Apapun pendapat anda tentang saya adalah urusan anda, bukan urusan saya. Seni dan hiburan itu 2 hal yg sangat berbeda, demikian juga seniman dan selebritas. 2. Walaupun resminya saya Islam, saya percaya karma, dan setelah banyak mendapat berkah & keuntungan sekarang saatnya memberi dan membantu terutama ke anak2 muda dan yang kurang mampu, antara lain lewat Yayasan Musik Sastra Indonesia. Selain itu, kerja dengan anak2 muda bikin saya awet muda! Dalam segi artistik, masih ada 2 obsesi saya: Bikin lebih banyak opera, baik skala kecil maupun besar, dari karya sastra Indonesia. Yang lain adalah ingin memperkenalkan lagu-lagu rakyat Indonesia di dunia internasional, dengan cara membuat karya-karya "Rapsodia Nusantara" untuk piano yang virtuosik. Sama seperti cara kita mengenal lagu rakyat Hongaria lewat "Hungarian Rhapsodies"nya Franz Liszt. Saat ini sudah 8 nomor Rapsodia yang saya buat, dan saya berterima kasih kepada mereka yang mensponsorinya, terakhir adalah dr. Oei Hong Djien pemilik museum seni rupa yang besar di Magelang yang meminta saya membuat berdasarkan lagu rakyat Jawa. Selain itu, ehm..., buka restoran yang melayani makanan Padang DAN gudeg Jogja tapi yang benar2 asli. Itu dua makanan favorit yang selalu saya idamkan (apalagi kalau sedang musim dingin...); asik kan kalau bisa dapet 2 jenis makanan itu di 1 restoran?

10. Mas Ananda, selain musik klasik, apakah juga main musik lain? Jazz misalnya? Kalau iya, bagaimana cara mas Ananda berlatih musik jazz dan musik klasik? Terima kasih
ini inug,
Jawaban: Tidak, walaupun saya suka banget dengerin jazz. Bahkan saya nggak menganggap saya main musik, tapi melukis. Tapi kalau pelukis melukis di atas kanvas, sedangkan saya melukis di atas kesunyian. Disitu keindahan musik sastra: bukan di not-notnya saja, tapi juga apa yang ada di antara not-not itu .... dan itu yang tidak bisa lagi dimengerti dan dinikmati kalau kita terlalu banyak ke mall di Jakarta dan jadi kebal dengan bunyi musik yang bising dan terus-terusan disana.

11. Siapakah komponis musik klasik Eropa yang menjadi idola dan mempengaruhi kemampuan bermusik Mas Ananda?
Iman Sudibyo, Cirebon
Jawaban: Yg nggak saya kenal karena sudah keburu "pergi" adalah Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, Sir Benjamin Britten (terutama opera2-nya) & Maurice Ravel (Piano Concerto-nya sudah saya mainkan puluhan kali dan masih nggak bosen!). Sedangkan yang saya kenal dan banyak belajar langsung dari mereka a.l. Sir Michael Tippett (yang saya anggap "penemu" saya yg pertama di Eropah dan merekomendasikan saya untuk disiarkan pertama kalinya di BBC di tahun 1994), Peter Sculthorpe (Australia) serta komponis Spanyol seperti David del Puerto dan Santiago Lanchares.

12. Pak Ananda Sukarlan,
Kami memiliki anak laki-laki usia 10,5 tahun. Sejak 3 tahun terakhir dia ikut kursus piano klasik di sebuah sekolah musik, atas keinginan anak tsb.
Informasi guru les nya, dia cukup cepat menangkap pelajaran yang diberikan. Yang menjadi masalah adalah, motivasi dia untuk menekuni piano klasik ini kurang konsisten. Tapi pada saat-saat tertentu dia semangat sekali. Guru lesnya dan kami sebagai orang tua yakin, kalau anak kami ini memiliki bakat di piano klasik.
Pertanyaan saya adalah: Bagaimana tetap menjaga konsistensi anak tersebut untuk tetap menekuni bakatnya, dan bagaimana kami memotivasinya dengan benar.?
Terima kasih
Yohans Sunarno, Kota Bekasi
Jawaban: Wah itu juga sering terjadi dgn anak saya, tapi utk dia solusinya gampang. Tiap kali dia jenuh, saya bikinin dia lagu untuk dipelajari; lama2 lagu-lagu itu saya kumpulkan dan terbitkan di buku "Alicia's First Piano Book". Kalau putra anda lagi jenuh, mungkin butuh curhat ke teman? Mungkin ada masalah yang tidak dapat dibicarakan dgn orangtuanya, yang buat saya (sebagai seorang ayah) sangat wajar. Curhat ke orang lain sangat membantu meringankan uneg-uneg, terutama dengan yang memang berpengalaman di bidang yang lagi bermasalah itu. Kalau mau tweet ke saya boleh aja, twitter saya (@anandasukarlan) sering jadi "dokter konsultasi" kok, baik untuk para ortu maupun ABG. Jangan kuatir, anak saya yg sekarang 12 tahun juga suka curhat ke orang lain kok (terutama ngomongin papa-nya yang paling sebel sama Jonas Brothers yang dia kagumi).

13. - Anak umur 3 tahun,, bolehkah diikuti kursus musik ?
- bagaimana kita dapat mengetahui apakah anak kita menyukai music apa tidak ?
- alat musik apa yang mudah untuk anak anak umur 3 tahun ?

pearl priscillia, jakarta barat,
Jawaban: 1. Tentu saja boleh, tapi hati-hati pilih guru / sekolah musik ya. Saat ini terlalu menjamur & banyak yang kualitasnya tidak memadai yang efeknya akan kontraproduktif. 2. Tidak akan bisa tahu sebelum dia mulai main instrumen & mendengarkan banyak musik. Mulailah dengar musik Mozart, itu paling "bersahabat" dengan telinga anak. Lalu lanjutkan dengan "Piano Concerto no.2"nya Shostakovich dan "Peter & the Wolf"-nya Prokofiev. Dengarkan saya juga yang siaran dari Spanyol tiap Minggu malam di radio Delta atau Female FM, acara musik sastra, jadi ada "pengantar"nya dan cerita-cerita dibalik musiknya. 3. Hmm ... piano saja gimana?

14. 1) Kebanggaan terbesar apa yang pernah anda raih sebagai seorang pianis profesional?
2Pertunjukan apa yang paling berkesan yang pernah anda buat?mengapa? Nabila Azzahra Syahbani, Surabaya
Jawaban: 1. Kalau saya belum bisa membawa musik Indonesia ke taraf yang sama dengan musik komponis Eropah di dunia internasional saya belum berhak bangga deh. 2. Mungkin bukan pertunjukan, tapi pembuatan suatu karya. Misalnya lagu "Dalam Sakit" untuk tenor, permintaan dari AIDS Foundation dan saya dedikasikan ke para korban AIDS, mengingatkan kawan akrab saya yang wafat karena itu. Ia pemain biola yg luar biasa dan teman yang paling setia, dan kami pernah bercita-cita membuat duo yang terbaik di dunia. Sebetulnya banyak sekali karya-karya saya yang berdasarkan pengalaman pribadi, tapi ini yang mungkin "paling dalam lukanya" waktu menuliskannya.

15. Mas Ananda Sukarlan, Saya dengar Anda seorang Trekker (penggemar kisah fiksi ilmiah Star Trek) juga. Apa yang paling Anda senangi dari Star Trek dan tokoh siapa dalam kisah itu yang paling Anda kagumi? Live long & prosper.
Berthold Sinaulan, Jakarta Timur
Jawaban: Star Trek itu persis sama dengan musik sastra: we boldly go where no man has gone before. Dua-duanya juga mengejawantahkan satu hal yang sangat saya percaya walaupun masih dalam teori: paralel universe. Kita juga bisa tiba di satu semesta yang berbeda dalam hitungan mikro-detik. Saya pengagum pencetus ST, Gene Roddenberry: saya lebih percaya dia dan teori2nya yg berdasarkan research ilmiah daripada banyak "sejarah" misalnya: saya benar-benar tidak percaya bahwa orang sudah mendarat di bulan! Selain itu saya mengagumi Captain Jean-Luc Picard yg cocok mewakili abad 25 : seorang berwawasan luas dan sangat toleran dengan perbedaan. Saya nggak pernah ikut Pemilu karena tidak percaya kepemimpinan siapapun (saya pernah "salah" mengagumi Obama, tapi sekarang saya lihat dia ternyata "just another politician"), tapi kalau Picard jadi calon presiden saya langsung coblos deh.

16. Sebagai pianis, komponis, dan juga Trekkie, saya yakin Ananda Sukarlan ingin sekali mengisi soundtrack untuk film Star Trek tahun 2012 nanti. Sejauh manakah keinginan Anda untuk hal itu?
Ismanto Hadi Saputro, Jakarta ,
Jawaban: Wah, soundtrack Jerry Goldsmith di "Insurrection" atau Dennis McCarthy di "Generations" nggak ada yang menandingi lah. Itu sama seperti impian aktor yang ingin jadi James Bond: pingin sih, tapi setelah Sean Connery siapa yang bisa menandinginya? Saya sudah bbrp kali bikin musik buat film, dan tidak menutup kemungkinan bikin lagi (tentu saya harus merasa cocok dengan sutradaranya), tapi passion saya sebenarnya bukan bikin musik film tapi opera, karena musik film lebih mencerminkan suasana, sedangkan musik opera mencerminkan karakter orang atau tokoh. Kalau tentang Jean-Luc Picard sendiri saya bisa deh bikin musik, semacam leitmotif utk penokohannya, karena saya (dan pasti anda semua) mendambakan seorang pemimpin seperti itu. Saya yakin, Roddenberry menciptakan Picard berdasarkan apa yang digambarkan oleh filosof Plato di bukunya "The Republic". Saya kira gambaran seorang pemimpin menurut Plato itu hanya telah diejawantahkan oleh satu orang sebelum Picard: Mahatma Gandhi. Saya jauh lebih terinspirasi oleh manusia, karakter serta hasil karyanya daripada oleh suasana atau pemandangan alam, betapapun indahnya. Saya selalu melihat sesuatu yang indah di diri setiap orang yang membuat saya gampang kagum & jatuh cinta. Saya gampang jadi korban "Borg" nih: I am to be assimilated. Resistance is futile ....

lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

and the twain shall meet .. and shall live happily ever after?

I am thankful to the piano duo, and duet, and twin sisters Shanti & Sonja Sungkono from Berlin when they thought of, and mentioned my name when they were asked by the Berlin-Jakarta Arts Festival about which composer's music should inaugurate its event. Sonja & Shanti were asked to perform in front of a distinguished audience that include the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit and the mayor of Jakarta Fauzi Bowo.

When they asked for music which would be a "meeting point" between Berlin and Jakarta I immediately thought of Rudyard Kipling's words : East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet". Well, I want to contradict his words, but not with words which I am not good at, but with music. And as a title, I would just use 5 of Kipling's : ".. and the twain shall meet".

It's funny that I can't even say whether I am "east" or "west". Even for this particular piece, I can't pinpoint which "east" element it is; it is gamelan, yes, but which? West or Central Java, or even Bali? The scales are sort of confusing. What I did in "meeting" the east and west is by juxtaposing them both vertically (one pianist is playing the "western" melody" while the other is playing "eastern" figurations accompanying) and structurally; hence there are sections which are clearly "east" or "west". The western part is quite obvious, though also dubious: it is a sort of mix between the Latin-American rhythms and Shakira's (who of course is very Latin American).

It is also rather difficult to make a virtuosic piece for 4 hands on one piano, since both pianists' hands should not bump into each other! Listening to Schubert's fantastic 4-hand piano pieces definitely helps, but not as much as I would like to. And that apparently explains my scarcity of 4-hand repertoire; until now I have just written those short and easy 4-hand "Pieces of cake" pieces to be played with my daughter Alicia. "..and the twain shall meet", after more than 35 years of pianistic life, is my first "real" piece for piano 4-hands!

"..and the twain shall meet" will be performed by Shanti & Sonja Sungkono at Admiralspalast Berlin on the 25th of June at 8 p.m.

lunes, 9 de mayo de 2011

original interview with Erza S.T. for The Jakarta Post

Erza S.T., founder of Indonesian Opera Society & writer for the newspaper The Jakarta Post interviewed me on my opera Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu. It was published on April 28th, as usual heavily cut & edited by the newspaper, so I thought to post our original interview here which contains some more information

1. What's the background story of this opera? What inspired you to start composing it?
Many things: first & foremost of course the monologue of Seno Gumira Ajidarma itself which I read in a newspaper back in 2008. After I was commissioned to do an opera of any theme of my choice by the Jakarta Opera (which is a small but significant opera company here in Jakarta) I immediately thought of this. But the idea of writing for just 1 female singer was too crazy at that time, both because it was something quite new not only for me but for the world of music, and second because I didn't really believe that a single singer would be able to do that: singing & acting for 40 minutes non stop.
But as you have seen, Aning Katamsi proved it to be possible. And then there was another example of an opera as such already in the history of music: La Voix Humaine by the French composer Francis Poulenc, which I luckily could witness live at Teatro Real, Madrid, where it was about a lady who was talking on the phone all the time. But even that opera with its similar rich themes of loss, fear & death lasts shorter than my opera.

2. Why do you choose pocket opera as the style of the opera?
The idea of "pocket" opera is an opera which can be carried easily, toured easily (like a "pocket book"). So, since I will write it only for one soprano and nobody else, I am thinking it to be accompanied by a very small group of musicians. In fact, only 2 : piano (myself) and a flute doubling piccolo. I am thinking of its practicality and low budget of its repeated production, and luckily I proved my point in this. In 3 years, this is the 3rd time this opera is produced.

3. Did you revised the opera since its premiere in 2009 for this performance now? Musically no, only Chendra Panatan (the stage, acting and lighting director) changed (I should say "improved") some things.

4. How do you describe the music in this opera? Do use some Indonesian sound in this opera?
People has been describing my music as having "Indonesian sounds written by a composer from another planet" and I think it can be applied here. You can't blame me, in spite of my Indonesian-ness, I've been living in Europe for 23 years! Now with facebook & twitter I am of course much more Indonesian than, say, 10 years ago since I am much more connected (I even know new Indonesian slangs through twitter which some Indonesians themselves don't know!), but the ghosts of European music still hangs around me.

5. Your opera is considered to have a contemporary sound and style to some. What do you think on that comment?

Well it better be. I am trying to express a theme which is very contemporary, and I am aware and do admit that musicians who perform my music were always baffled when they see the music for the first time, since many things in my music are quite new and are not to be found in earlier music, although my music is deeply rooted in those of Mozart, Puccini or Britten -- and Javanese traditional music I absorbed in my first 17 years living in Indonesia.

6. Is there any new opera that you plan to compose?

Oh yes! I love opera, and in fact, like Mozart, the only thing I want to compose in my life are operas. But I know its problems of productions, financially and artistically, so I compose other things in between. Even Mozart, who had a generous patron, couldn't do only operas (thank God for his beautiful piano concertos and sonatas!). But my real passion in music is opera, and my absolute favorite instrument is the human voice. I am working on a prequel of the opera we are talking, this time about the mother 10 years before when her husband was still alive, and it will be about the dialogue between them about their kidnapped son, Satria. It is, naturally enough, called "Satria" and commissioned by the Indonesian Opera Society, and is again based on a play by the same inspirational author, Seno Gumira Ajidarma. His genius lies in writing a play where the real protagonist, Satria, is totally absent on stage. In my opera Satria will be represented by a dancer who doesn't talk nor sing, and will be directed again by Chendra Panatan.

sábado, 23 de abril de 2011

Surabaya Singing

A few days ago this article was published in The Jakarta Globe newspaper, edited as usual. Therefore I post here my original writing, unedited and uncut.

It's just unbelievable that in this country of 200 million people there is yet a classical music voice competition of a national scale, while there is an abundance of great vocal soloists and choirs all over the country. There is even the erroneous term "lagu seriosa" (serious songs) for the genre of classical music songs (and sometimes even opera arias), which automatically condemns the other genres (such as jazz, folk music etc) as "not serious". Sometimes it's not even applied to the genre but to a manner of singing, so that one can sing a pop song in a "seriosa" way, i.e. you should wear a Maria Callas (or even Bianca Castafiore?)-like gown and sing in an incomprehensive and loud voice that will break all the glasses around you. It was a myth in this country until very recently that classical music singers should sing words that were not meant to be understood. Just sing high notes, higher than the seventh heaven but still audible to (break the) human ears, and you'd be accepted in the "seriosa" exclusive club of high art.

Therefore it is highly admirable that Surabaya's Amadeus Performing Arts with its director & founder, that hyperactive lady Patrisna May Widuri would organize a competition of a national scale for classical vocalists. They even use the term which I and a handful of Indonesian classical musicians agreed on for this genre, "Tembang Puitik" (Poetic Songs), since most of the songs of Schubert, Mahler, Britten up to yours truly are based on existing poems and not just inventing and repeating texts as happens in pop music, such as "You're beautiful" (repeated to death) and just ends with "it's true". Let's just use this term "Tembang Puitik" for art-songs (I don't even like this English term, as if, hey, that Spanish flamenco passionate singing is not art or what?) of both Indonesian and international for the future, shall we?

In spite of the name, "Ananda Sukarlan Art-song National Competition" (Kompetisi Nasional Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan), this event was neither my idea nor organized by me. It was 100% Amadeus' iniciative. I was there to serve as the head of the judge, and am honoured to sit with the other jury members Aning Katamsi (should she need an introduction, I could only say that she is Indonesia's most prominent soprano of today) and choir conductor-voice expert-former dean of the Music Faculty of the Satya Wacana University of Salatiga, Agastya Rama Listya.

Although joined by 34 highly talented vocalists from all over Indonesia, 2 cities still stood out for the quantity and quality of their singers: Jakarta & Surabaya. Medan follows behind, but it has its shortcomings: they don't have classically trained teachers to polish the singing techniques. The competition's high artistic & musical demands were the reason why it wasn't a target for beginners or "Indonesian Idol" type of singers.

Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan (TPAS) is planned to be a biennal date for vocalists to meet in Surabaya, so the next one will be held in 2013. My name is used, I guess because quantity-wise I am currently the Indonesian composer who has written the most artsongs; more than 100 until now (no, no, this is by no means an achievement at all. Franz Schubert wrote more than 600 before he died at the early age of 31. And they were waaaay better). About 50 of them were sung by the participants during that weekend.

The competition was split into 2 categories : Professional and Non Professional, and the non-pro one was again split into 4 categories : Junior, Senior Male, Senior Female and Senior 2 (which meant to accomodate singers above 40 but turned out to be not so effective, since there were only 2 participants in this category. We, above 40, have lost the spirit of competitivity, I guess! The organizer, with the consent of the artistic board decided to keep this category to maintain the spirit of tirelessly learning and perfecting the techniques even at this age).

One groundbreaking thing I would like to mention is the way TPAS was introduced, socialized and managed by Amadeus. It was done almost exclusively by the social media, Facebook and Twitter. Since this does not involve a highly lucrative genre of music, most conventional media such as the newspaper, let alone TV stations turned their back on this event. The results of the competition were also announced in real time through twitter while I was announcing the results (both semifinal and final) to a live audience of just a few hundreds at the Petra University Auditorium. This time I let my twitter account @anandasukarlan being "hacked" by them, since among all of us involved I have the dubious honour of having the most followers. But I can assure you that only those few crucial minutes in my tweeting career that "my" tweets were typed by someone else since it would be annoying to the public listening to me reading the results on stage and tweeting at the same time. Apart from those moments my tweets are like my music, typed by my very own 10 fingers. Those tweets of "mine" during the announcement were then numerously retweeted all over the country, and that made me believe that twitter, not a dog, is man's best friend if he loves classical music and arts in this country.

This event, followed minute by minute by literally thousands of classical music lovers throughout the country through social media hopefully demonstrated how badly needed a concert hall is in Surabaya, even a small, decent and simple one. My heart broke when the tenor Ivan Jonathan who turned out to perform excellently had to stop and waited for more than half an hour due to the noise of the heavy rain .. and the electricity failure that "naturally" followed it. One should remember that during that period of waiting he should be always prepared to perform any minute just when the rain stopped and the lights went on, and maintaining that kind of artistic awareness in a tough competition like this is a thing which is not at all to be taken lightly.

As there are 5 categories, so there are 5 first winners in this competition, but for me personally 3 vocalists stood out -- the tenor Adi Nugroho, soprano Indah Pristanti and the coloratura soprano Evelyn Merrelita, each won first prizes in their respective categories. However, since Adi Nugroho won the best interpretation of all my works, he receives the honour (if one calls it so) of giving concerts singing my works organized by my management , accompanied --unfortunately stressful for him, I believe-- by myself.
This has been a big classical music landmark, not only in Surabaya but also nationally. It has certainly put Surabaya on the map. And in our hearts.


The complete list of winners of Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan National Voice Competition are :

Professional : 1. Evelyn Merrelita 2. Eriyani Tenga Lunga 3. Pharel Silaban

Non professional, cat. JUNIOR : 1. Theodora A. Beatrice 2. Vallerie Chr. Gunawan 3. A. James Sofyan

SENIOR 1 Female: 1. Indah Pristanti 2. Christine M. Tambunan 3. tied between Agatha Stella & Mariska Setiawan

SENIOR 1 Male: 1. Adi Nugroho 2. Ivan Jonathan 3. Anggana Bunawan

SENIOR 2 (over 40 years): 1. Linda Hartono 2. Natalis Sidhanta

Best interpretation & understanding of the music of Ananda Sukarlan : Adi Nugroho

sábado, 26 de marzo de 2011

Eternal-Liz yours

As a huge admirer of the late Michael Jackson, inevitably I also admire Elizabeth “Liz” Taylor too, who remained as an idol for MJ until his death. Now that Liz died last week, and here I am alone in my hotel room in Madrid for a concert of Santiago Lanchares’ piano music on Sunday, March 27th, I feel like blogging on my thoughts on the American diva, though this is through the ideas of the absolute, irreplaceable idol of mine, Andy Warhol.

Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe & Jacqueline Onassis/Kennedy were the 3 icons of the 20th century, and Warhol had immortalized them in his creations. There are no royalties in the USA, but if there were, those 3 would be bestowed with those royal titles. The 3 divas achieved their aim to acclaim independence & equality of the female sex in a world of male domination. We all, with great intensity, love and hate those 3 divas, and they were the prelude of what Warhol called “the 15 minutes of fame”. Their struggle can best described in that catchy Pet Shop Boys song: “We’re shameless, we would do anything to get our 15 minutes of fame”. In case of the 3 divas, those 15 minutes were repeated constantly until the moment of their death. It was more difficult for them then, since there were no facebook and twitter as instruments to achieve popularity. Without them there would be no such madnesses of today’s Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and now it’s Justin Bieber. The iconic (if not fakely ridiculous) couples of today such as the Beckhams, Brangelina and Penelope/Javier (and even Cruise/Kidman tried, but failed) would not have existed if not modeled on Richard Burton-Liz Taylor, perhaps the most fascinating couple of the last century. Liz defied everything, from gossips to gravity with her numerous plastic surgeries, both on her face and on the story of her life.

Nothing went incalculated in the life of Liz Taylor; she planned every minute detail except her death. What will stay in our memories will be her natural ability to survive and flourish as a woman in a world of men, and as a celebrity unlike Beethoven, Van Gogh or Shakespeare we will remember her as who she was instead of what she had done. Shakespeare created great works of art, Liz Taylor was and will remain the work of art herself. Requiescat in Pace, Liz.

viernes, 25 de marzo de 2011

Satu satu, Aku sayang Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu

I am writing this entry in Indonesian, since you will have to know (a bit of) Indonesian anyway if you wanna see my opera, "Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu". But as google translator is getting more sophisticated nowadays, I kindly ask you to use that device if you wanna read this anyway (and am thankful for it).

Tanggal 16 & 17 April ini opera saya "Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu" akan dipagelarkan lagi dengan soprano yang memperdanakannya 2 tahun yg lalu, Aning Katamsi yang dengan spektakulernya menggali segala macam emosi selama 40 menit durasinya. Sigmund Freud akan dengan antusias menganalisa keadaan Aning setelah dia selesai pagelaran!

Opera ini saya berani tulis setelah saya menonton operanya Francis Poulenc, "La Voix Humaine" yang juga ditulis hanya untuk 1 soprano saja. Voix Humaine ditulis juga berdasarkan sebuah monolog dari Jean Cocteau, tapi Poulenc dan Cocteau ada satu "advantage" yang saya tidak miliki: monolog mereka adalah seorang wanita yang "berbicara lewat telpon". Sedangkan opera saya adalah benar2 monolog seorang ibu, menceritakan banyak hal (termasuk juga menerima & berbicara lewat telpon selama beberapa menit). Jadi benar-benar monolog, bukan dialog (walaupun imajiner, lewat telpon).
Waktu itu saya kira saya akan membuat kesalahan, baik dalam proses komposisi maupun secara konseptual, karena ini sangat "experimental" buat saya : membuat musik untuk 1 soprano saja yang terus bernyanyi dan menguras tenaga selama 40 menit (hanya dengan 4 menit intermezzo di tengah, dimana sang soprano bisa keluar sebentar sementara saya dan pemain flute bermain intermezzonya). Tapi Aning Katamsi benar2 berkomitmen tinggi, dan walaupun saya tetap merasa bersalah membuat musik yang kadang-kadang ritme dan interval-intervalnya cukup ... ehm ... tidak begitu konvensional, saya tidak merevisi apa-apa lagi dari partiturnya. Kalaupun ada hal-hal yang saya tidak puas, biarkanlah ini menjadi dokumen dari "kebodohan" saya di tahun 2009. Apalagi untuk mengubah beberapa hal berarti meminta Aning untuk mempelajari hal-hal baru, dan dia sudah "rela" (oh ya?) untuk mempelajari hal-hal yang mungkin bisa disederhanakan atau diperbaiki. Jika saya harus menulis sebuah pocket opera berdasarkan monolog lagi, saya akan membuatnya dengan cara lain. Bagaimanapun, penulisan setiap karya adalah suatu proses pembelajaran buat saya, dan walaupun itu tidak menjamin bahwa karya berikutnya akan lebih baik, paling tidak saya belajar apa yang TIDAK akan saya lakukan di karya berikut. Mozart atau Britten pun tetap merelakan karya-karya awal mereka (yang juga penuh dengan hal-hal yang tidak memuaskan mereka sendiri) untuk diterbitkan. "A poem is never finished; it is just abandoned", kata penulis Paul Valery. Ganti saja kata "poem" dengan "piece of music" dan anda mengerti apa yang saya maksud. Kalau tidak begitu, setiap seniman hanya akan berkutat dengan satu karya saja seumur hidup!

Saya telah banyak bercerita tentang proses penulisan opera ini di blog ini, dalam bahasa Inggris (maaf saya kok lebih merasa mudah menulis dalam bahasa Inggris, walaupun grammarnya mungkin ada yang jeblok). Silakan cek di bulan Maret & April 2009 saja, atau silakan klik kata-kata yang menjadi "tag" dari artikel ini (IBU atau Aning Katamsi).

Ibu, yang anaknya diculik itu, akan dipagelarkan lagi tgl 16 & 17 April di Auditorium Bank Indonesia, Jakarta dengan para pemain yang sama. Selain Aning, Liz Ashford juga akan mendampingi saya dengan flute dan piccolo-nya, serta kami bersama-sama bermain beberapa instrumen perkusi juga. Silakan cek www.musik-sastra.com untuk info lengkapnya.

jueves, 17 de marzo de 2011

1 minute for Japan

One minute can last a lifetime. And life can change completely in one minute, whether it's love at first sight ... or death. As I did with my previous piece which last for even less than a minute, the Theme for Eric & Ananda Classical Eve, I now write again for my newest one, 1 minute for Japan.

Just as Spain was commemorating the March 11 terrorist attack (and I tweeted about it in the morning of that date still in bed of my hotel room in Zaragoza; you can check my twitter timeline on that date), a huge earthquake (which turned out to be the 5th most powerful since earthquakes could be measured) and the tsunami as its consequence happened in northern Japan. I first learned about it from several tweets just after I finished tweeting about the Madrid bombing commemoration, but as the tweets got more intense, so I turned on the television. And what I saw was (an unfortunate) history.

Those days I was rehearsing with the orchestra of Cadaques; we were preparing the weird but attractive Concertino for piano & ensemble by Czech composer Leos Janacek, as well as "Bitacora", a fascinating piece for piano & strings by Spanish composer Jesus Rueda. After we performed them in Zaragoza we all travelled together by train to Madrid (Zaragoza is 1,5 hours by fast train from Madrid). On the train, 2 days after the tsunami happened, I watched on TV the terrible impact it did to the Japanese people, land and most scaringly to the nuclear reactors. Not as usual travellings with companeros musicians full of laughs & jokes, this time was a somber one; we all watched TV and talked about it. All those sufferings triggered a melancholic feeling, so I took off my earphones and isolated myself to an empty seat at the back since something in my head started to sound. It turned out to be a simple melody, and even its instrumentation isn't so exact. So I wrote it down, and "1 minute for Japan" became a tune with an accompaniment of just long notes underneath it. The first version of it is for piano left hand alone, and I might use it as a material for a bigger piece in the future.

At home several days later I copied it neatly and played it on the piano. It sounded like a strange Japanese not-so-Dorian mode. I guess the very Spanish landscape of grassy plain savannas outside the train window did influence something on the piece. There is a kind of Copland-esque open-air-ness in it. Again, as in my observation with my other pieces, this one scarily reflected candidly what I felt at that time, which couldn't be expressed by words.

Although not written in the score, I had in mind while writing "1 minute for Japan" my Japanese musician friends who have worked with me in the past, such as pianist Kazuha Nakagara who premiered 2 of my Etudes (and yes, I will keep my promise to write a 6th etude for her) and Midori Goto, the world famous violinist who commissioned and performed many times my 5-minute string quartet "Lontano", as well as many other dear Japanese friends. The real dedicatees of my piece are obviously the numerous victims out there in Japan. I would like to ask the listeners of "1 minute for Japan" to pray during the duration of the piece (which turned out to be just a bit more than 1 minute) for the souls of the victims. That's the least we can do to them. So they can Rest in Peace.

I think the score of 1 minute for Japan will be included in "Alicia's Second Piano Book", but I am giving it for free to anyone who wants to play it. Just tweet me at @anandasukarlan .

jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Defining, defying, divine?

I am, honestly, deeply thankful for all your interest with our radio program at Delta FM, and really am very sorry for not being able to answer each one your questions and respond your comments to my twitter account @anandasukarlan . Please don't think that I answer only the questions that I like to, or worth answering, or other reasons. Well, there is one reason that I answer some questions at twitter, and that is because it can be answered in less than 140 characters. Some of your questions need really elaborate answers and I'll try to answer them in the radio program. And please, don't give up tweeting me and listening to our program because you thought I am ignoring you. When you went to the toilet during the program, it was when most probably I was responding your question!

One quite common "misunderstanding" among some new listeners (hopefully turn out to be future fans) of classical music is to think that composers wrote only a few works. Very wrong, folks. Usually a composer produces hundreds of works (and in case of Johann Sebastian Bach or Franz Liszt, thousands!), but it's true that his reputation lies in a handful of pieces of music. Ravel didn't only write Bolero, and neither you can say that it is his best work. It is his most popular, yes, and of course as any works of his, it's incredibly of high artistic quality. But note this: many times, a composer's best works are those which are not the most popular.
Composers cannot be pigeonholed with their "genre" of works either. Tschaikovsky wrote not only ballet music (such as The Nutcracker or Swan Lake) but many many songs, piano pieces and 6 symphonies among others. John Williams doesn't write only film music, he wrote great concertos (for violin, harp etc) and other orchestral works. Verdi and Puccini didn't write only operas. And in my case, some singers think I only write works for voice (which indeed take a big portion of my production: I wrote some 100 songs and 2 cantatas and 2 and a half operas) and some pianists think I write only Rapsodia Nusantara pieces (it's 8 and a half at the moment, only). Aaand, I wrote many many chamber music, for violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, bassoon, string quartets, as well as choir works.

So, I don't think one has the right to call himself a composer by writing a handful of pieces. Not even with the case of Ignace Jan Paderewski who was the Prime Minister of Poland. He was, first and foremost a pianist and composer. OK, ok, his production went down drastically after he was elected Prime Minister, but before that he was extremely productive.
The same case with an instrumentalist, a pianist for example. One can't claim to be a professional pianist by having a repertory of, say, the same program for recitals and 2 (or even one!) piano concertos. In my case, I have played at least 20 piano concertos, and that's the least quantity of concertos a pianist should have in his hands. My colleagues usually have more than that in their hands. I have a good excuse: I compose too, so half of my time is dedicated to composition! Hehe .. good excuse eh? A composer, a pianist or whatever is like an architect, a medical doctor. It is a PROFESSION, and like in any profession, we do it almost on a daily basis, and therefore we inevitably produce a lot. It can be a lot of rubbish (as in my case!), but that's what you call luck. It's not a thing we do "in our spare time".The best works are struck with luck which we like to call inspiration. And luck or inspiration or whatever you call it doesn't come everyday. But we have to fulfill the needs of those commissioners, whether they are institutions, musicians or whoever who need our music and so we just gotta put our asses to work. No excuses.

Therefore usually composers bring a notebook with us everywhere. That flash of luck can come anywhere anytime, and that's when we write it down, whether in the middle of our sleep, in a dream, in the toilet, on an airplane etc. That thing we scribble down will be used in our works. And I always spare some "boring" tasks such as filling up orchestrations or making a neat score for my "unlucky" days.

Oh dear, I am revealing all the secrets behind the glamour of being an artist, eh? It turns out that we are just simply workers, like most of the rest of the mortals. No mystery anymore in our tasks. No divine involvement. It's so very human. We are not those incurable romantics, daydreaming and doing what we like. Now, do you still think we are special? A work of art is a product of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, we always say. What a disappointment, eh?

martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

The Return of the Curse of the 9th

Yeah, intriguing eh, that curse of the 9th symphony? Since there were many questions from all of you (especially those who tweet to my @anandasukarlan account) who needed answers of (much) more than 140 characters, I've decided I'd blog (again) about this theme.

As I have answered in my radio program, the composer who broke, but not completely, the curse was Dmitri Shostakovich (oh yes, yes, I have this inextinguishable urge to say that he's the greatest composer of all time, too!). He managed to write 15 symphonies, and curiously enough, a same quantity for his string quartets, also 15. The last one is perhaps the most amazing quartet ever written in history, which consists of 6 adagios. Try to listen, if you can get hold of it.

Now Shosty, as I use to call him, wrote his 9th symphony and waited until the death of Joseph Stalin to write his 10th. Curiously enough, Stalin died at the very same day of the death of Prokofiev. It's rather disconcerting to know that when Shosty started to write his 9th he told his friends that he was writing a grand symphony, with choir etc. It turned out that his 9th is a very light, even Mozartian kind of music, and one of the (if not the) shortest of his symphonies. It's that kind of music which Stalin would be able to chew, or in a cooler term, "appreciate". So, was this a case that the curse was "transferred" to someone else?

At his lifetime, up to the death of Stalin, Shosty wasn't the "greatest" of Russian composers. Oh nooo, not at all. On the contrary, he was the biggest enemy of Russia's dictator. In fact, Shosty always kept a small suitcase in his house with some clothes and toiletries, just like any enemy of Stalin at that time. He was prepared that someone from the Secret Service would knock on his door anytime and take him to Siberia where he would "disappear". Can you imagine packing that kind of suitcase?
At that time the official composer (which means that he should be the one to be promoted so that the Russian people should know and admire) was Tikhon Khrennikov, who held high positions in the Soviet government. Needless to say, his music is that kind of "light" classic, that which entertains those who listens to it, just like any other "official" artists of any dictators (it also happened in other dictatorships. If you come from a dictatorship country, well, it's time to think and reflect about this). Everytime I came across his music, I always ask "so what?" when it's finished. It's nice, but it lacks a raison d'etre. From his music I learned that real music is not just something nice. Art, I think, should reflect the truth, and the truth, my dear friends, is not always nice.

Meanwhile the real artists, who created "honest" and profound art should be banned as much as possible, and in (not too) extreme cases, taken to "disappear". Some of them preferred to be exiles and live in another country where he could live and earn his living with dignity, and at that time the USA became the refugee camp for Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Korngold, Rachmaninov and many other great composers of the last century. A situation which is not exclusive for a dictatorship; it still happens in many countries until now. But it's always like that. A prophet is never loved in his own land.

viernes, 4 de marzo de 2011


Oh dear, did I write that Mahler is the greatest composer of all time in my last entry? But I've been saying that about Stravinsky too. And Britten. And Sibelius. And Mozart. And ... many others. Oh dear, it shows how unfaithful I am, eh.
Anyway, I do think that Mahler is one of them, if I have to mention my top 5 composers. Since I was listening to his great (and long! It's a bloody 70-minute piece) "Das Lied von der Erde" last week, I couldn't help uttering my total admiration and blind love to that music. And I do admit, I am obsessed again, as I have been about 10 years ago with him. So, in the course of 5 days, I have listened to "Das Lied" about 4 or 5 times complete, from beginning to end. And I plan to do it again one of these days. More than once, most probably.

What I have been lately thinking is about the "alcoholic" elements of the poems which Mahler used for "Das Lied", and how it became an important part of this Sturm und Drang thing of those Romantics. Some poems are by the Chinese poet Li Po, and in his poems he poignantly mixed the drunken euphoria with a deep sadness. A translation in English on one of his songs which I googled would sound sort of like this:
"The wine in the golden cup calls us, but first let me sing you a song of sorrow which shall ring laughingly in your soul. When sorrow comes the gardens of the soul lie waste, joy and song fade and die: Dark is life, dark is death. Master of this house! Your cellar is full of golden wine! This lyre I shall call mine, for emptying the glass and sounding the lyre are things that go together. A full beaker of wine at the right time is worth more than all the riches of this world: Dark is life, dark is death. The sky is endlessly blue, and the earth will long remain, and bloom in Spring. But you, Man, how long will you remain? Not even a hundred years shall you enjoy all the mouldering trinkets of this earth! A wild, ghostly figure crouches in the moonlight on the tombs - it is an Ape! Listen, its howling cuts through the sweet scent of Life. Now, drink the wine! Now is the time, comrades! Empty your golden cups to the lees! Dark is life, dark is death."

That reminds me of another dark, pessimistic and "alcoholic" poem, "The Age of Anxiety" this time by a Westerner, the great W.H. Auden, which I also have been obsessed by, many years ago. The poem talks about man's quest to find substance and identity in a shifting and increasingly industrialized world, set in a wartime bar in New York City, the most capitalistic spot on earth then (if it were now, I would say Hongkong or Singapore, eh? Or even Jakarta).

In both works of art, drinking becomes the symbol, a part of communal existence in the search of the meaning of life. One just wants to remain intoxicated .. and to sing, either with poetry or with a symphony. Both deal with the loss of personal identity and the gaining of total identity in a Bergsonian idea of the all and the nothing being equal. And both end with a farewell full of agony, once the effect of the alcohol dried up. All the four characters in Auden's poem thus said their farewells:

MALIN: "My deeds forbid me
To linger longer. I'll leave my friend,
Be sorry by myself. I must go away"

EMBLE: "I must slip off
To the woods to worry"

ROSETTA: "I want to retire
To some private place and pray to be made
A good girl."

QUANT: "I must go away
With my terrors until I have taught them to sing"
(W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety)

But also I was struck by a tweet by a certain @ravatama at twitter who said (and I retweeted it yesterday) : There are only two types of honest people in the world, small children and drunk people.

And therefore I believe them: Li-Po, Mahler and Auden. Apart from them being drunk I also believe that they remain small children when they wrote those mentioned works. No grown ups could create such masterpieces.