Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Contemporary music concerts keep on playing

By Y. Bintang Prakarsa

JAKARTA (JP): A wave of contemporary music has been flooding into Jakarta in recent weeks. Last month it was concerts by West Sumatra-born Epi Martison, and a rising star from Germany, Detlev Glanert. But it isn't over yet.

This month other exciting events will follow, beginning this Saturday with a performance by two extraordinary women in Gedung Kesenian Jakarta. What brings the Jakarta-based composer Trisutji Kamal and Theresa Bogard (professor at the University of Wyoming, United States) together?

Two things at least. First, Trisutji is one the most productive composers in Indonesia. She composes in many different genres, from symphonic works to piano pieces, and for the last 10 years has traveled extensively with her Trisutji Kamal Ensemble performing her works in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Her next concert will be in India this month. There, she will participate with her ensemble in the World Festival of Sacred Music in Bangalore. Bogard, on the other hand, is a promoter of new music and an advocate of music by women composers. She has given recitals and lectures both in the United States and overseas. She has also recorded, on CD, the piano works of the distinguished composer Louise Talma (1906-96).

Second, both Trisutji and Bogard are lovers of Balinese music. During her teens Trisutji developed an interest in Balinese culture, and when she began composing she was naturally inclined to include Balinese elements into her music. Far from Indonesia there is a Balinese gamelan orchestra owned by the university where Bogard teaches. She plays in the orchestra and her love for it brought her to Bali (starting two years ago) for further study of the gamelan.

With members of the ensemble -- pianist Trisutji and Balinese percussionists I Gusti Kompyang Raka and I Ketut Budiyasa -- Bogard will perform Trisutji's Gunung Agung, a choice that perhaps symbolizes this common interest.

This composition can be traced back to 1963, when the news about the explosion of Mt. Agung in Bali reached Trisutji in Rome where she was studying and stirred her imagination. She finished it much later, however, after returning to Indonesia and studying Balinese culture.

The work -- set for two voices, two pianos, and percussion -- is divided into three "acts" based on a narrative about a newly married couple that were killed in the catastrophe. Each act can be performed independently in its own right, and in this concert the musicians will play only the first piece, The Joy of Life, that depicts a peaceful Balinese village in which the future couple meet. Here, the versatile I Gusti Kompyang Raka and I Ketut Budiyasa will improvise or play according to the composer's prescribed instructions, as well as sing the Balinese songs that are included in the first piece.

Another work by Trisutji, Halting at Arafah, will also be performed by Bogard. It is a ten minute piece inspired by the Wukuf, the most important ritual of Hajj pilgrimage, in which millions of Muslims gather at the Arafah plain outside Mecca to pray, meditate, and listen to sermons.

The composer, overwhelmed by the tranquility of the pilgrims, imagined that they were a tremendous choir chanting the praises of God. This work -- constructed of tone clusters variously treated to achieve colorful effects -- is typical of her interest in giving expression to the Islamic faith in her compositions.

The concert will feature, of course, American composers as well. Bogard will play Sonata no. 1 by Louise Talma, Suite for Piano Op. 13, by Robert Muczynski (b. 1929), Toccata for Piano by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927), and Four by Barbara Bennett (b. 1952).

The pieces reflect the variety of approaches and techniques taken by the composers. Diemer's Toccata, for instance, is an agitated piece that uses, besides conventional piano techniques, direct manipulation of the piano strings by the pianist's bare hands. The newest composition to be performed, Four (composed in 1999), has a fascinating origin. Its four movements, representing the composer and her three sisters, are based on their favorite numbers, musical compositions, composers, and dates of birth.

Interested readers can call Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (3808283 or 3441892) for ticket reservation.