jueves, 19 de abril de 2012

My 3rd day in home detention

So this is how it feels, staying completely at home, mostly lying down for 3 days. I even haven't gone out to my garden (these 2 last days were raining anyway). Honestly I feel rather .. ehm .. gloomy for not being able to do many things I want due to my broken left foot, but looking back to these 3 days I do feel that I have done many things which, in normal circumstances, I would be too indifferent to do.

I revised my emails & facebook messages of the last few months, answered many of them (I admit I am not a good responder of emails, sorry for many of the unanswered ones in the past!), and thrown away lots of rubbish in my inbox as well as archives in my laptop. Anyway, thank you SO much for those many nice messages of best wishes from you all, friends. It means a lot to me that you are there for me not only in health but also in sickness. I also listened to lots of music yet unknown to me; I found great music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Gustav Holst (both have been my favorites anyway) and even discovering the music of Victor Ullmann who died young in the Nazi concentration camp. But the one thing I am most grateful for is the Google Art Project; thanks to this accident I have the luxury of hours & hours of visiting so many galleries in my bed without having any guilty feeling! Isn't it ironic now that I can't walk, I can explore more museums than ever? There are just so much great music created on this planet that I haven't got to know, even only through listening once, and so many paintings I haven't seen even only through their photos on Google Art Project.

Nevertheless, the most important thing is that I looked through many of my old musical works, most of them small pieces, and finished and revised some of them. And this morning I talked with Chendra my manager to publish the 3rd volume of my vocal works. Without this accident, this wouldn't happen soon, since many (at least 7) of those songs were abandoned & unfinished. I also find some short chamber works, such as a string trio, a trio for flute, viola & harp which I originally wanted to write for a friend who had a trio and performed Debussy's Trio and others with this formation. I was stuck that time and decided to abandon it.
This was also triggered by the intention of Patrisna Widuri, the initiator and founder of the National Voice Competition "Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan" who wants to organize the competition's second edition next year. After compiling all my vocal works, I found 33 of them ready to be published. These include 4 songs on poems of Hasan Aspahani, 7 on Nanang Suryadi, 2 more of Sitor Situmorang and individual songs on those of Sapardi Djoko Damono, Sitok Srengenge, Abang Edwin, Sirikit Syah and the English ones by Browning, Whitman, Longfellow and even a Spanish one: retweeting @jlmejia , on short poems (and tweets) by Peruvian poet Jose Luis Mejia, etc. No duets will be in this book, and it will also highlight my preference to lower voices: baritone, bass and alto.

I have sent the file of those 33 songs to Chendra, and since he is a very fast-worker, I am sure that he will process its publishing soon, so I guess "Ananda Sukarlan's Vocal Works, Volume 3" will be released sometime in about 1 month time.

martes, 17 de abril de 2012

Break a leg! (on Friday the 13th)

Yup, that's what one usually say to a performing artist about to go on stage. In Spanish it's even worse, they say "mucha mierda!" which means "loads of shit!". If it were told to a politician who's about to give his campaign talk it would be more appropriate. I don't know the origins of those sayings (am pretty sure lots of google entries can explain it to you), but in any case those well-wishes phrases stem from the superstition that giving good wishes is considered bad luck. And yes, we artists ARE highly superstitious due to our insecurity towards the high level of unpredictability of our end products.

But I did get my bad luck a few days ago, and it wasn't on stage. It was an act as simple as going down the livingroom steps at my house, just those 2 steps that I've known for 13 years that I lived here. Maybe that's the bad luck key: I fell on Friday the 13th, after 13 years living here. And it wasn't as bad as breaking a leg, I just broke a bone in my left foot (if I had fallen at 13.00 p.m it might be worse). The most outer bone, that most vulnerable one. After I fell down, I didn't go immediately to the hospital but tried to live a "normal" life for a few days instead, until yesterday my wife insisted that we go visit the hospital since the pain didn't go away. And so we went, and they X-rayed my feet. And my fate for the next month is sealed: I will need 2 walking sticks to help me walk.

Needless to say, I will have lots of time this week, since I mainly lie down in bed with my laptop. Even today, I've read all those mailing lists which I normally don't read, checked all messages on facebook ... and tweeted of course. But I also have talked to my managers and we have decided that my next public appearances will not be cancelled. I have only a broken foot, which is so light compared to a broken heart or broken spirit! Even only 1 day has passed, I could already understand how life is for disabled people, and I'm sure it will inspire me for something. As you might know, I have written music for disabled people, and now by experiencing first hand how it is, I am more keen to do it. As I would be too lazy to bend one of my legs to live and feel how life is with 1 leg if I hadn't got this accident, so I feel lucky to have experienced this. So, next week I will still teach at Rotterdam as a guest professor and even keep my small concert & talk there on Tuesday evening for the students (mostly piano and composition), and the week after I will go to Jakarta where I will perform Tschaikovsky's Piano Concerto and that famous variation of Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody with a new arrangement: accompanied by an ensemble of angklung! The concert will take place on May 5th at Teater Jakarta (TIM). This will be a very special experience for me. Other guest stars will be one of the winners of the National Vocal Competition "Tembang Puitik Ananda Sukarlan" Adi "Didut" Nugroho (yup, he's the tenor who asked for wealth to the shaman in my opera "Mendadak Kaya") and famous Indonesian pop singer Kikan Namara. Hopefully things will go well, since it's more difficult to travel with one leg. Wish me luck, friends, but this time I dunno how, since I have fulfilled your good wish by breaking a leg. Literally.

miércoles, 4 de abril de 2012

Half empty or half full, I just drink it!

A few days ago I got a message from India's leading inspirer / motivational speaker / personal brand expert Dr. Amit Nagpal expressing his interest in interviewing me for his highly popular blog "The Joys of Teaching" and it's been published here: http://www.dramitnagpal.co.in/2012/04/ananda-sukarlan-interview-with-piano.html . Now I am sure he expected a positive attitude from me and all other things that would encourage the readers to achieve success with hard work.

I am of course deeply honoured to be interviewed by him, but interviewing an artist or musician for positive motivational purposes is a bit against our nature of being since artists are more (hyper-)sensitive and therefore usually are pessimistic beings. Just remember Gustav Mahler who was obsessed with death (that includes the death of beauty, death of music as we know it, and of course his own physical death). Therefore when a dictator is rising in a country, the first people he gets rid of are scientists and artists: scientists because they know too much, and artists because we sense too much. But anyway, we did the interview and I did quite well (hopefully Dr. Nagpal agrees.. ?) as my first ever interview for this purpose. I expressed my honest opinions about life and music. I might not be the most optimistic person he interviewed, but I didn't predict the end of the world either :)

A big chunk of a work of art is a product of our subconscious mind. It has tremendous treasure in it, of course, but it is also there where phobias, paranoias, pain and other scary things (why do they always start with the letter p?) are hidden. Composing means letting ourselves delve deep into it, which means bringing all our darkest elements to the surface too. As any artist can tell you, when we are stuck with a huge block in our brain at some point while working on a piece, the best solution is try to forget it for a few days, and one day the block disappears by itself. I dunno why, I dunno how, and honestly I don't wanna know. The only problem is the approaching deadline of course, but that's why I try to work on pieces long before their deadlines are due (and I do finish many of them far before the deadline too, although there are some others which were finished, ehm, much after the deadlines were over) so we allow our subconscious minds to solve our mental blocks.

But it is due to our pessimism that we artists continue working. It is a catharsis to our negative feelings inside, even a cure, so that we become more human outside. By putting those dark thoughts on paper we reduce their existence in our subconscious mind. Yup, lots of darkness between those notes, guys! Gustav Mahler was so obsessed with his irregular heartbeat that he could only feel relieved after he wrote it down in his 9th symphony. Of course composing for him was also the cure to the great pain caused by the death of his daughter in 1907 (Mahler himself died in 1911). Mahler's music could sound like that thanks to all the pain he's suffered in his life. In other words, we now enjoy great works of art thanks to the sufferings of the artist. Thanks to Mozart's dad who abused him to overworking, we now have all those great masterpieces!

Talking about being a pessimist or optimist, what is clear to me is that I am not (anymore) a person who wants to change the world. I now realize only politicians can change the world -- to worse. It's due to their similarity to baby diapers: they're always full of sh*t and therefore they should be changed more frequently. If you want to make things better, the first thing is to make yourself better. That's why I never vote during elections, although they always say "vote me to make things better" ; no, no, we vote only to determine who are gonna take our money away. For unknown reasons. During campaign of course there are many promises in the air, but there's much air in the promises too.

I don't even know the secret of success. I am an artist, and an artist is very different than an entertainer. The difference is that an entertainer's job is trying to make everybody happy, while an artist should give his audience his honest expression and the highest possible quality of artistic product, which many times is not what is considered "nice". Just listen to Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" based on that very explicitly politically incorrect poem by Wilfred Owen, and tell me that's it's nice and entertaining! To make listeners happy one should make a piece of music which is easy listening (which means singable and repeated melody and not too many changes of chords), simple text of words (usually about love) and of course a short duration, while an "artistic" piece of music can be anything from a short piece for a piercing piccolo solo to a (more than) hour long symphony for big orchestra and even choir.

When we are feeling low, listening to great music can help us heal the pain. Imagine life without music, and nowadays without your CD players, radio or iPod. So, don't underestimate composers & musicians, eh? One can't realize what one has until one loses it. In this matter, composers have a great advantage: we listen to music all the time in our head. Of course the disadvantage is that we can't turn it on and off whenever we want to. Now you understand why we musicians hate those shopping malls with music blaring from every shop, right?