martes, 18 de enero de 2011

Rapso and not so rappy

The winner of Ananda Sukarlan Award last year, the just-turned 21-year-old Edith Widayani had a big success in her short visit to her home country during the turn of the year with concerts in Makasar and Jakarta. She has played my 4th Rapsodia Nusantara several times during this visit, and now that it's uploaded to youtube the interest is even more mounting. She performed that piece quite well during the ASA competition in July 2010, but it is only now that the piece has really matured in her hands and that its virtuosity flourished in her performances. She had made a paper for her school (now she's studying at the Texas Christian Univ. under the guidance of Tamas Ungar) about my Rapsodias, and we did an interview through email several months ago.

Before you read this, you might like to refresh your memory with another entry of mine here:

So, here is an excerpt of our interview:

How would you describe your compositions? Like for example, Liszt’s are more of improvisational pieces. What compositional technique do you use composing these Rhapsodies?

I try to experiment new kinds of forms and ways of "marriages" between the two folksongs in one Rapsodia. My only Rapsodia until now which is based on one (instead of two) folksong is Rapsodia no.4. Its form is variations on the theme "Buka Pintu".

But characterwise, I always try to make the lighter and improvisational ones (hence true to its title, "rapsodia") in the uneven numbers (1,3,5), and more "serious" or adventurous (or someone has defined it as "rather weird pianistic stuff") in the even numbers. It also means that the even numbers are usually longer in duration and more complex in its forms, and the uneven numbers more "flashy" and more a showpiece to end a concert with. I know that it is diametrically opposed to its title, "rhapsodic", but in my case I think "Rapsodia" becomes just an excuse to my way of tinkering new ways of treating the basic materials, in this case, main melodies of folksongs.

Does the Indonesian pentatonic scale affect you in any way for composing the Rhapsodies? Do you think that it sets a parameter in which you have to work in?

Not until now, although it existed in disguises in Rapsodia 2 and 4. Now it is magnified ( I would even say "glorified"!) in Rapsodia 8 which I am writing now, based on "Janger" , a Balinese popular folktune. In its existence at the moment it is exclusively based on the Balinese pentatonic scale, but using the most "un-oriental" form which is a passacaglia (therefore it doesn't sound too Balinese, or perhaps let's say that it could sound as if Bach had travelled through the time machine to the 21st century .. and finds himself in Bali !)

We know that there are a lot of Indonesian traditional instruments, of which the folk songs might have been performed by. Is there any particular Indonesian musical instrument that is presented in your Rhapsodies? If so, what are they, and do they make the music sounds more characteristically Indonesian?

It's the Balinese gamelan in the Rapsodia I'm doing now (no.8). Otherwise I treat the piano as it is, a simple western instrument called the piano!

How do you decide which folk song to be featured in your Rhapsodies? Is there any categorization in any way that makes you grouped them?

Well, I have to admit, having lived 23 years in Europe I don't know much of Indonesian folk music. So I listen to them through youtube (!!), transcribe the melodies and look for the melodic materials which suits well to my compositional technique in every Rapsodia to be worked on. I try to do each Rapsodia representing a province of Indonesia, but then I broke that rule in the 2nd Rapsodia : I used Tokecang (from West Java) and Cublak Cublak Suweng (from Central Java) : just because I had the idea of making a double fugue and needed 2 themes with a common intervalic motif. Coincidentally those 2 songs are both children folktunes (but Rapsodia 2 turns out to be one of the most difficult technically, nothing to do with children to play it!)

(You can watch Edith Widayani perform my Rapsodia Nusantara no.4 here : )

jueves, 6 de enero de 2011

Is it really the food of love?

It is quite superfluous to talk about my very tiny (1-minute) piece for trumpet solo, written down in perhaps even less than 1 minute. But "E-A Theme Song" is now used for the opening of our (with my friend, the terrific trumpetist Eric Awuy) radio show and many of you have showed much interest in it. I am, of course, honoured & appreciate your kind words.

First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to my friends Ella & Tika from Delta FM Radio who have trusted me to have my own radio show. Since I was feeling pretty insecure about doing it alone, plus having the problem of distance (Spain to Indonesia is not what you call next door, eh?) I have asked Eric Awuy, who has had some experience on being a radio anchor to be my partner. Our show then is called Eric & Ananda Classical Eve, and after our first show last Sunday suddenly an acute curiosity entered in me on how the first Oprah or Larry King show had been. I mean, both Eric & me (well, I did more, I think) made so many silly mistakes! Eric & Ananda Classical Eve will be aired LIVE every Sunday evening at 8-10 p.m, West Indonesia Time. Me from Spain, and Eric from the Delta FM studio in Jakarta. It's all about classical music : symphonies, vocal & instrumental works, opera etc. Real opera, not Opera Winfrey!

Back to the E-A theme, it was written during one of our meetings at the radio. You have asked me why it sounds so sad. Well, the circumstances weren't so much so. We had some nice laughs in that meeting, the atmosphere was quite relaxed at that time. And we thought that the theme song should be built on the motif E and A, and should involve the trumpet -- Eric Awuy, naturally. Suddenly this theme took shape in my head, and you know how music could do that to you: it's like a dream, where you can hear everything in one split second (they say that Mozart could hear an entire SYMPHONY in one split second!). So I asked for a paper and wrote it down quickly.... which made me quite surprised myself, since it has nothing to do with how we were at that time : happy, relaxed and cheerful. I remember three people wearing purple shirts at that time: Ella from the radio, Chendra and myself. That colour did have an effect on my music, I think. But it is also from music that we know ourselves better, and know what is really inside us or our heart. Music doesn't deceive oneself. It's too honest. And it's too scary. Too scary, since sometimes it brings out things which one would like to hide deep down inside unfrequented spots in us .....

If you want to hear the theme, and know more about our radio show, you can hear it at