lunes, 21 de mayo de 2012

Ilham will always mean inspiration (RIP, Ilham Malayu)

Obituaries. Those are entries I wish I'd never gotta write. Just a few days ago I blogged about the death of my longtime idol Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who I never knew, and this time not only on another great inspirer of mine, but a great friend too. ----- The writer & poet Ilham Malayu passed away yesterday. He was the first person whose poems convinced me to write music based on my language. I have lived since 1987 abroad, and during those years I haven't had enough contact with Indonesian language, since Yahoo Messenger, Facebook and let alone Twitter haven't been invented yet. So naturally I felt more at home in other languages, English and later Spanish. That's why the vocal works pre-2005 of mine were all based on these languages..... until I met Ilham Malayu. His poem, KAMA, became my first song in Indonesian. You can read all about it in my entry at . --------------------------------- Ilham was a great example of a winner. A winner is not someone who never failed: he is, like all of us, one who failed but manages to get up and learn from his mistakes. And he's made the world a much better place too. As you can read in my article about him, he was a drug addict. Now, llham used narcotics, psychotropic and other addictive substances (drugs) for 12 years. Eight years of which he was wearing it every day with a lot of volume. "There have been many kinds of drugs I used. Start of morphine, marijuana, heroin, until metadone," he once said. In 1999, when he was released from prison, Ilham was determined to fight in the path of anti-drug. "I have principles, do not let someone else end up like me. Those who have not been exposed to it, please do not try. Those who have become addicts should stop immediately," he said. He was determined to stop being an addict a few years before he finished his sentence in jail. That was done because he saw pictures of his son (from a previous wife), Kama Kelana, which was sent to prison. In the photo Kama accidentally put a frown. "The photo was accompanied by the phrase: This is for my father. From there I realized this while I was having fun, my child was suffering," said Ilham who immediately asked the warden to be treated for an escape from drug addiction. After he was released he worked in a rehab center for drug addicts, and he became a councellor for many of young drug addicts. He also became an activist and public speaker against drug abuse. ---------------- He will be missed. He transmitted beauty in our life. Beauty in our lives against drugs, and beauty in poetry. -------------------------- A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. - John Keats. Requiescat in Pace, Muhammad Ilham Malayu.

viernes, 18 de mayo de 2012

A tribute to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Yesterday I lost, we lost, one of the greatest inspirational figure in classical music. The great baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died at 86 (he was born in 1925). He wasn't a great operatic figure, since his forte lies in the art of German lieder, but it was exactly that facet which inspired me a lot. His recording with Gerard Moore of Schubert's songcycle Winterreise must have been the best recording of that masterpiece, and he had recorded it with other pianists (including Alfred Brendel) several times. Ah, those good old times when we could make countless recordings and could be appreciated by music lovers. Now it's all the downloading culture in the internet. --------- The baritone voice used to be considered as "the tenor voice who couldn't hit high notes", and then Fischer-Dieskau came to rescue its reputation. I am not going to post his biography, since one can easily find it now by googling him. I just wanna write about his impact on me, mostly when I was still studying in my early 20s. The first recording of his I heard was Gustav Mahler's Lieder eine Fahrende Gesellen, with Leonard Bernstein, taking the three movements usually sung by a mezzo-soprano and making them very much his own. But after several other recordings of his I listened to, two of them made a special impact on me. The first one was Britten's War Requiem, whose baritone part was written inspired by and especially for him. It became one of the landmark pieces of my life, not only musically but also an eye-opener to the real meaning of war, and therefore life. Oh and of course Britten wrote his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake for Fischer-Dieskau, a beautiful songcycle for baritone and piano which I still dream of performing one day. -------------- The other one was Sir Michael Tippett's The Vision of St. Augustine, a work for baritone solo, choir & orchestra. Sir Michael in that work attempts the "reach to exceed humanity's grasp" with the baritone solo, the metaphor for the present that follows Augustine's account of the vision combined with the chorus, the symbol of the past and future with its commentary on Augustine's narrative. Out of these disparate and conflictive forces, transcendence erupts. Tippett shows us that with effort, humanity has the potential to reach transcendence through music, and Fischer-Dieskau realized his aspirations. Sir Michael avoided any reference to the tradition of the Music of the Spheres in the Vision of St. Augustine so as not espouse transcendence as attainable through manipulation of patterns and numerology. Instead he turned to the music of the angels, those messengers of God whose language discloses the music of transcendence, and consequently, the connection to the Divinity. Tippett's principal vocal technique is glossolalia, those vocalizations or excited repetitions of vowels to depict the character of angelic singing. Glossolalia, a term from the Greek, are the wordless sounds and shouts accompanying ecstasy. Glossolalia is most prevalent in the vision of eternity, particularly in extension of the final syllables of "alleluia." Unison singing beginning with the lowest male voices extending through the ranges of the highest female voices creating vast arches, using short note values and antiphonal singing complete the angelic vocalizations, and require virtuoso singing from the chorus. It was this piece hanging in the back of my mind when I wrote my own (much lesser in scale and artistic quality, unfortunately) second cantata LIBERTAS which has the same (again, less quantity of instruments) formation. You can download the whole cantata if you have an iPad, iPod touch or even in your iPhone by just searching my name on appStore. By the way, in that app called "Ananda Sukarlan - Premium" you can also listen to many of my songs for baritone, sung by Joseph Kristanto. Some of those songs owe their existence to Fischer-Dieskau's inspirational voice, I must say. And now heaven is so lucky to have Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He is singing now for the angels. Requiescat in Pace, Maestro. You deserve to leave this world by saying that you left it better than when you found it. At least a humble Indonesian boy who dreamt to be a musician & composer could realize it, thanks to you. And you've made him love music more, and made it a big part of his life.

jueves, 3 de mayo de 2012

Broken but busy

So, I've been busier than I thought I would during this one-leg period. Things did slow down though, I must say. It takes me almost twice the time for taking showers, moving around (especially going up and down the stairs) etc. And I haven't had time to visit Google Art Project since I last blogged! But I did stay to fulfill the invitation for teaching in Rotterdam Conservatory last week, and I even didn't change the program of my lecture-concert there (though I didn't use the left pedal for my First Etude, which made it more difficult). I met some very enthusiastic students there and would like to greet them from Jakarta where I am now. /------/ I arrived in Jakarta last Friday very late at night, Chendra picked me up at the airport and we both went by his car to Bandung directly. I flew with Emirates and had to transit for 3,5 hours in Dubai. Since there were difficulties with plugging my laptop at the airport, I spent my waiting time scribbling down some sketches for a section of ballet music which I will work with Chendra later this year. Emirates didn't have WiFi on board either so that explained my almost-24-hour absence in cyberspace. /------/ We had some busy time in Bandung, talking with BIMA (Bandung International Music Academy) preparing our international piano competition to be held next July. It will be a very big and important landmark in classical music in Indonesia, and unfortunately the city of Bandung doesn't have an adequate concert hall, so we use the Bandung International School who's been very kind in collaborating by providing their hall whose audience capacity is around 220. That's the best we can get, especially since we can use their other rooms for the jury meeting as well as for participants (we will put several pianos there). It is located very near to the entrance to the city if you arrive from Jakarta, right after the toll gate, and next to the big university Maranatha. We invited a young Belarusian pianist Alesia Arnatovich last weekend to perform there to a fully booked hall, and that concert served as a litmus test for its acoustics. She satisfied the audience well, and received good critics from the local newspapers too. /------/ Just before I left home in Spain, I had a nice visit and interview frrom the leading Global & Greatness coach, Michael Thallium at my house. He made several videos of it, and a few days ago he finished editing the whole thing. If you want to watch the complete one, you can click . Sorry for my stupidity after my 4 years blogging career I still cannot post a link properly here. Please just copy & paste it. You can read his introduction too at