Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mining the world's musical riches

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 03/31/2009 3:23 PM | Features

On the move: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta in 2008. Eighteen people from various musical backgrounds, both traditional and modern, gathered for a few days to find new possibilities for musical practice. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationOn the move: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta in 2008. Eighteen people from various musical backgrounds, both traditional and modern, gathered for a few days to find new possibilities for musical practice. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

In a world stuck in a musical rut, the rich traditions of Asia - especially Indonesia - could provide fresh ideas, with one group of musical experts setting out to make that happen.

Ethnomusicologist Franki Raden, who has spent more than 16 years studying and teaching world music both in Indonesia and abroad, says the world is waiting for a feed from Asia, especially from Indonesia, as artists in North America and Europe stagnate, regurgitating similar ideas in their work.

"Indonesia should make a larger contribution to world art and cultural heritage," Franki said.

He points out that Indonesian artists and musicians rarely come up with new work based on the country's tradition heritage, and that any such work rarely attracts international attention.

Only a few artists now in Europe or North America have been able to produce relatively new, interesting and original ideas and work, he said, adding that critics who have recognized and spoken out about this stagnation tend to be alienated by the larger community, "especially in Europe, with its old establishment, *where* new ideas are not easily accepted."

Indonesia, he said, should stand up and be heard on this point. "We should come up with something original but which has a global impact."

But this issue, he added, is too complicated and too big in scope to be managed by a few concerned parties.

"It is impossible to let it become the concern of a few countries or people only. We need collaboration between people who realize the importance of reformation in the musical world."

The concern about the lack of innovation in music, said Franki, began sporadically in the 1970s, but getting people together to come up with a solution was not easy.

But neither is it impossible.

Involving children: Children learn Saman, a traditional Acehnese dance, during an event for the cultural and psychological healing of tsunami survivors at an art center in Gampong Pande in Kuta Raja, Banda Aceh. The program, called “Rising Above the Tsunami”, was held by the Sacred Bridge Foundation in 2006. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationInvolving children: Children learn Saman, a traditional Acehnese dance, during an event for the cultural and psychological healing of tsunami survivors at an art center in Gampong Pande in Kuta Raja, Banda Aceh. The program, called “Rising Above the Tsunami”, was held by the Sacred Bridge Foundation in 2006. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

The Sacred Bridge Foundation, which Franki established in 1998, is setting out to address the issue by holding a workshop and musical clinic with the aim of providing directives for musicians of the 21st century.

"Gaung: 21st Century Global Music Education", to be held at the Bali Classic Center in Ubud from April 23 to May 2, will bring together internationally renowned experts in music and music-related sciences and technologies.

During the 10-day program, the experts will share and discuss their work, visions and experiences, ranging across topics such as musical and spiritual practice, acoustic science and technology, and creative musical thinking.

Among the facilitators and gurus involved in the workshop are percussionist/composer Stomu Yamash'ta, French composer Jean Claude Eloy, acoustician and scientist Yoshio Yamasaki, jazz-rock pioneer Larry Coryell, Zen Buddhist monk Yamada Sosho, Sufi maestro Marzuki Hasan and Kejawen spiritual guru Sumarah.

Franki Raden said the workshop and the clinic would focus on music, but approach it from the perspective of multiple disciplines, such as "the science of music, performance of music, the business side or cultural economics of music and even the ritualistic side of music."

"We are trying to combine the very advanced side, which is science, and the spiritual side of music," he said. "As far as I know, this is something very new."

Training ground: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the   National Gallery Jakarta last year. Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge FoundationTraining ground: Musicians practice during a rehearsal session of the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic held at the National Gallery Jakarta last year. (Courtesy of The Sacred Bridge Foundation)

As well as classroom sessions, field work and self-exploration, the musicians will rehearse for concerts to be held. The concerts will be performed by different groups of participants as a means of exploring new combinations, based on technical capability, musical orientation and interest.

The performances will be presented as works in progress, with live audiences invited to provide direct feedback.

Ubud in Gianyar was chosen as the venue because of Bali's long contribution to the development of modern music, starting with performances at Europe's 1931 World Exhibition - most of the musicians who participated in the exhibition came from Ubud.

Franki said that many foreign artists who drew on Indonesia's musical heritage or collaborated with local artists produced phenomenal work although "some did not even mention Indonesia as the source of their work", he added.

One such internationally acclaimed work is Robert Wilson's visionary piece I La Galigo, a dramatic work inspired by an epic poem of the Bugis people of South Sulawesi.

I La Galigo has been performed in famous theaters around the world, from its world premiere at Theatres on the Bay in Singapore in March 2004 to its last production at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan, Italy, in February 2008.

It was also performed at Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, Teatro Espa*ol in Madrid, Les Nuits de Fourviere Rhone France in Lyon, the Teatro Alighieri in Ravenna, Italy, NY State Theater in New York, Teater Tanah Airku in Jakarta and Melbourne's State Theatre.

I La Galigo features a cast of 50 Indonesian performers, with the music researched and composed by Indonesian Rahayu Supanggah. The project was by a team of scholars, from Sulawesi and abroad, who advised on the development of the epic for the theater.

"So far, the people who have drawn on Indonesian heritage have not been Indonesian," said Franki. "This is because we don't see ourselves from the outside so we never know what our position is."

No one can predict the final output of the workshop and clinic, said Franki, but it is expected to alter participants' perspectives and deliver new ways of performing music, or even a new instrument.

"It doesn't have to be a mainstream at all. What is considered mainstream now might have been alternative once," he said. "We are initiating a new thing so we do not expect it to be popular straightaway."

AMONG THOSE AT THE WORKSHOP

Stomu Yamash'ta will speak on musical synthesis, including about the spiritual, scientific and technological foundations of music.

During his career, Stomu has experimented with various musical genres including rock, jazz, avant-garde experimental and world music. In the 1970s, he founded a super group called "Go" in Europe; the other members were Al Di Meola, Klaus Schultz, Michel Reeve and Steve Winwood. In the 1980s, he developed a stone-chime orchestra called Sanukit. Since then, he has devoted his life to practicing Zen Buddhism.

Composer Jean Claude Eloy will speak on possible directions for music in the 21st century in the context of East-West cultural encounters. In the 1970s, Eloy co-founded an electronic music studio called Xemamu. Much of his work has been inspired by Asian philosophy and culture, and his orchestral pieces have been performed extensively in Europe and beyond.

Yoshio Yamasaki will be speaking on the development of music and technology, as well as new and future directions in music

Yamasaki is known as the inventor of the 16 and 1 bit digital portable recorder. A professor in physics at the Global Information and Technology Institute at Waseda University in Japan, he has been active in research in the field of music and acoustics.

No comments:

Today in History