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?