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.