jueves, 26 de abril de 2018

My article for the Autistic Spectrum Digest apps, Sept. 2014

Opening the AS Digest apps on my smartphone, am surprised that my article from 4 years ago was still there. It used to achieve the "article of the month" in September 2014. Anyway, I submitted this article to them. If you wanna download their apps, just go to Apps Store and search "Autistic Spectrum Digest". .......................................................................................................................................... Last year I was taping an interview for one of the most popular talkshows on Indonesian TV, "Tea Time with Desi Anwar". Desi is one of the top reporters in this country, and meeting her in that session convinced me that she deserves her reputation. During the breaks I quickly decided that I will talk about a subject which I never talked publicly before (although everyone who looks at me knows that I suffer from it) which is the Tourette Syndrome (TS), and how I suffered from it. In all the hundreds of interviews with reporters I've done throughout my life, I haven't opened up this matter to any one of them, and they were all nice enough not to touch this matter. At Desi's program, it was me who decided to talk, not her. And then I posted about Hans Asperger a few months ago in my facebook, at the International Asperger's Day on Feb. 18th that coincided with Asperger's birthday in 1906, in which I confirmed and admitted that indeed I am convinced that besides Tourette's Syndrome, I also am an "Aspie" -- the popular term for us who have Asperger's Syndrome. (please read my blog http://andystarblogger.blogspot.com.es/2013_05_01_archive.html for my entry about Tourette Syndrome). It is quite common for a person to have both Tourette AND Asperger, since they both fall under the same autistic spectrum. .......................................................................................................................................... My name is Ananda Sukarlan, and I am a composer and pianist. With this profession, it is not easy to have both Tourette and Asperger's Syndrome. It all began when I was diagnosed in 1996 with a clear Tourette Syndrome and a "high probability" of Asperger's Syndrome. I even don't understand why they put Asperger with an apostrophe "s", which they don't put with Tourette! Oh well, psychologists, they are all full of mysteries. From now on, I'll refer to them with AS and TS only. .......................................................................................................................................... AS remains a controversial diagnosis due to its unclear relationship to the autism spectrum since Mr. Asperger's paper published in 1944. Only in the 1980s that people took interest in it. I have indeed given a clue of my AS in an interview at the Jakarta Post with writer Bruce Emond, back in 2008 during the celebration of my 40th birthday : http://andystarblogger.blogspot.com.es/2010/09/horribly-lonely-in-jakarta-post.html . I quote myself answering Mr. Emond's question: What would people be surprised to know about you?. I answered: I have this strange hormone in me which provokes the feeling of extreme loneliness (even if I am in a crowd). It’s been working inside me since I was a teenager. And that loneliness cannot be cured by just being with someone. When it happens, it usually indicates that I should write music. My best music is written when I am feeling horribly lonely. .......................................................................................................................................... Being lonely, or alone, is a common trait for Aspies. AS, as with the other syndromes in the autistic spectrum, has more to do with social and psychological aspects than a physical one. I won't try to explain everything about AS, since I am not an expert in that, and also since AS is still a mysterious syndrome. The problem is that there are so many speculations about people in the past who allegedly suffered from AS which I find rather disconcerting, such as Steve Jobs, Sir Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein. Even Mozart! With Mozart, his Tourette Syndrome was pretty convincing, but how would one know that he had AS too? Anyway, there are similar traits of people with TS or AS. What I would like to say is just that we, people with AS and TS could, and even should, behave and socialize quite "normally". I certainly --and am sure I represent other people with AS and TS-- do not want to be treated differently. Yeah, during the Nazi era, people like us were put into concentration camps, but that was the case of everyone "different", such as homosexuals etc. In fact, it is proven that people with AS usually excel in one or even several fields, since a particular part of our brain is highly activated. Therefore, we get people with AS like Bill Gates, Lionel Messi or the founder & designer of Pokemon game, Satoshi Tajiri. .......................................................................................................................................... Another thing I would like to rectify is the common belief that people with AS can't be "empathic". That's very wrong. In fact, after talking with fellow Aspies, I can tell you that we are just the opposite: we are hypersensitive people. We just don't know, most of the times, how to express it physically. And I think this is where my music comes from : it can express things which I am unable to express through gestures, words or actions. So, that convinced me again of what I always said about music : We write, perform and play music to express, not to impress.

jueves, 12 de abril de 2018

Back to blogging on Barcelona

It's been more than 3 months! Yeah, am back now with my recent coverage for The Jakarta Post on this important pianistic event. Again, it was edited more than I would like to, and they even changed my title (maybe because mine is not real English, but it's shorter, catchier and .... well, I'd use the word "should learn" instead of "must learn") so here's my original writing. Barcelona Pianistica .......................................................................................................................................... by Ananda Sukarlan, composer, founder of Ananda Sukarlan Award Piano Competition .......................................................................................................................................... The real issue of a young pianist's career is not to win competitions, but what happens after they win (or not). And that's not only their issue, it is also a big issue for the competition organizers: how to promote them and present them to "the real world" through promotors and organizers. A piano competition is not musical career; musical career starts immediately after one wins it. The problem is, winning a competition is diving to it, and most pianists learned how to dive so well but haven't learned how to swim. .......................................................................................................................................... That was one of the major issues discussed in the first ever Conference of International Piano Competitions (IPC), held at Palau de la Musica in Barcelona on March 19-21. It was attended by 154 representatives of piano competitions of all continents, even Africa (the IPC in Rabat, Marocco). It goes without saying that Italy has the biggest number of representatives, since it is the country with the most piano competitions on this planet to date. The brain behind all this is Gustav Alink, a guy who has a very rare interest and passion since his young age: piano competitions. Not that he is a musician ; oh yes, he studied music in his young age, but by playing violin, not piano. He studied mathematics at the university and worked in that field between 1981 and 1995, but then fully returned to the music world by conducting a lot of research in piano competitions that resulted in a series of books which he authored about the IPCs worldwide, and eventually created the Alink-Argerich Foundation (AAF) in 1999. As the name of the foundation implies, he founded it together with the prominent Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich. Argerich remains as the patron of this foundation to date, due to her constant support and interest in young talents. .......................................................................................................................................... Usually pianists win competitions before they are 25 (although most competitions put the limit 27 or 28 years of age for participants), and it is no secret that many promoters & concert organizers are reluctant to include "young, unknown pianists" in their concert series or festivals, even though they have proven their artistic excellence in competitions. In Indonesia, it is not a secret anymore that orchestras only hire soloists who are connected to them as friends, students of friends etc., and the weight of this "good connection" is heavier than the musical quality of the soloist(s) most of the time. This is one reason that I organize the biennal Ananda Sukarlan Award IPC (whose next edition will be July this year) since 2008: to provide pianists with artistic merits that the promotors, orchestra managers and organizers could just pick. .......................................................................................................................................... But what is "artistic excellence"? Many pianists define it as simply "knowing how to play Bach, Beethoven, Chopin & Liszt in a competition". Does the real world out there still need more pianists who play those classics? Carles Lama, Catalan pianist and manager of the CD company KNS Classical , put it wisely in his speech: "Music is about being unique". Too many young pianists have (great) talents and skill, but having a strong identity of oneself is rare. .......................................................................................................................................... Another classical but still always "hot" problem is the inevitable subjectivity of the jury members in the way they judge the participants, which goes down to one word, "respect". The judges should not have power over the participants; the participants deserve their places and awards according to their own artistic merit. Respect means from everybody to everybody: judge to participants and vice versa, and them to the audience and vice versa. The jury may judge the participants, but the audience will judge the jury. When there is respect, there is honesty and transparency. One solution offered was that "transparency equals secrecy". It is quite a radical solution, but worth trying: the judges should just give a mark to each participant and keep it secret from the other judges. Those numbers are then computed, and everyone should agree with the total which is the end result without further discussions. .......................................................................................................................................... It is a trend now to have prominent pianists, not pedagogues or "famous competition judges" as artistic directors of several competitions. This way, they automatically become the icon, or ambassador of the competition. Some of them who attended include Piers Lane for the Sydney IPC and Noriko Ogawa for the Hamamatsu IPC. Piers Lane is one of Australia's prominent artist, and his recording of the complete Piano Concertos of Malcolm Williamson has made the music of this Australian composer with a distinctive voice known to the world, and a big boost for Australian music worldwide. As with Noriko Ogawa, her most celebrated recording was the complete piano music of Toru Takemitsu. Ogawa also serves as the Cultural Ambassador for the National Autistic Society of Japan. .......................................................................................................................................... This conference served as a great meeting point for competition organizers, and hopefully if there is a next one, competitors would be encouraged to join as well. In any case, it is a great beginning to address many shortcomings of competitions ; some of these problems were still not solved, but at least they are addressed or being admitted that competitions may not be the best way to start a musical career, but it is, for now, the only feasible one.