sábado, 17 de marzo de 2012

On revising music ... and life

What are the most painful moments of a composer? I would answer: every time we hear a performance of our music for the first time. A few days ago I woke up receiving a link to youtube from a young clarinettist who performed an old piece of mine, Lust's Passion, for clarinet & piano. That piece I "discovered" among my files in Sibelius last year, and after a few revisions I sent it to Paco Gil Ortiz, the clarinettist who then gave a poignant performance with pianist Elias Romero. This is the video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxOTd_sgRcM

As it is a piece from about 5 years ago there were some things in it which I wasn't satisfied with. But I decided I'd release it and let it have "its own life" anyway as I believe that every musical piece is a piece of the composer at a determined date or period of his life. But then, listening to the performance I realized that the last section is unproportionally too short. I really don't know why I made it that way, perhaps I had to write a "real" piece afterwards (what I mean "real" is a commissioned piece, you know, my real work, not a piece like this which I do "for fun").

I do have lots of short pieces like this, usually I do it when I am stuck in writing big pieces. Those pieces just appeared out of the blue in my head, and I write them down anyway, having the faith that they won't be in vain (and until now some of them even became the most performed pieces of mine, perhaps due to their practicalities, small instrumental formations and short durations).

But with Lust's Passion both Paco and me have decided that it really needs a revision in its last section. So I've been spending this weekend doing it, and I must say I don't really fancy doing it too often. It's like watching a video recording of myself 5 years ago and see how silly I was and trying to correct it. I never revise those small pieces until now. They were born spontaneously and they should remain as it is: spontaneous, as a record my state of mind, temporal madness and even stupidity at that particular moment. It's like suddenly I had access to that mysterious spot in my brain, and I let it go beserk for a few minutes or hours needed to let me write the music down, but then it should be tamed down and brought back to its hidden place. Big pieces, yes I do although they are more "corrections" than revisions, like my opera "The Mother whose son was kidnapped", but I limit it to the piano part since I play it myself. We are performing it again next May and each performance since the premiere in 2009 enjoyed (or suffered?) a revision, however small in the piano part. I can say it with my other opera "Laki-Laki Sejati" too, and I have revised some things in "Mendadak Kaya" which will be performed in Bandung next July as the opening of ASA-BIMA International Piano Competition. In fact, we have corrected and improved some things (mainly some impossible falsetti!) with the singers Adi "Didut" Nugroho and Pharel Silaban during its premiere last January, and those are the things which I wrote down in the score. Those 3 operas have their definite scores which can be performed by other people now.

The last few months I also wrote some occasional pieces for piano solo, such as "Unexpected Turns" for my childhood friend and now a prominent Indonesian writer Laksmi Pamuntjak for her (second) wedding gift, and "A Little Light Music" for the (belated) birthday of Edith Widayani, winner of Ananda Sukarlan Award 2010. Both will be included in Alicia's Third Piano Book which God knows when it will be published. In fact I've got several pieces for it although now Alicia officially declares that she's not going to pursue her studies in music. She still plays once in a while though. Oh, and the overture to the opera MENDADAK KAYA has now become my 6th Etude, I didn't extend it as I thought I would. I promised to write it for Japanese pianist Kazuha Nakahara who has performed several of my other etudes, and I was aware when I wrote that overture that it would be an independent (and very virtuosic) short piano piece. It lasts for a bit more than 1,5 minutes, and it bears the title "Ritual Dance" as an etude. The title reminds me of Sir Michael Tippett's Ritual Dances from his opera "The Midsummer Marriage"; in his case it's quite a big and impressive orchestral piece.

Just for my personal diary: I just finished my piece for flute & orchestra for the great flutist Andrea Griminelli. It's a noisy 8-minute piece called "The Wrath of Pan" (hehe .. yup, I stole the title from the Star Trek movie "The Wrath of Khan"). Andrea would like more movements, so the whole thing in the future would be a symphony about the Gods of flute. He's going to examine the music next week once he gets back from the US. When I said "just finished" it wasn't really true: I have 3 alternative endings for it, and haven't decided which one to pick! I hope the conversation with Andrea next week would help me make my mind. In any case, the piece will end "with a bang" as we always say.

Aaaand ... I already have the libretto for my next chamber opera ....

P.S : Wanna say hello to the cute baby of Nico & Meri, whose name "Emilio" was given by me. I wrote a short lullaby for him (also will be included in Alicia's 3rd piano book) during our coffee chat at the Surabaya Airport. I gave the manuscript to his happy parents which then was sent to me back scanned in an email, and when I copied it neatly in my appartment in Jakarta last December, ehm .. I made some revisions, so the final work is rather different than the manuscript which they possess now. What a fuss for a 1-minute piece, eh? Oh well, as Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."