Monthly Archives: February 2012

My Threnody IV talk

Today I spoke in a Composition Colloquium Series about my piece, Threnody IV, which made me win the festival prize of the Young Composers Competition of Southeast Asia.

Today I am going to have this wonderful chance to talk to you about my piece, Threnody IV for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello, bass, 2 gender, and 3 saron. Threnody IV is the last of the series of threnodies that I started March of 2011.

The premiere of this piece was in Bandung, Indonesia on the 8th of October, 2011, performed by the renowned Ensemble Mosaic and the ultra-talented Ensemble Kyai Fatahillah. This piece was amazingly chosen by 10 internationally-famed jury comprising of composers from different parts of Southeast Asia and Germany, as one of the three festival winners of the Young Composers in Southeast Asia Competition and Festival 2011 which was sponsored by the Goethe Institut.

This piece, Threnody IV, is the last of a series that I started last March, all of which were unintentionally meant to be performed or to be heard outside the Philippines, except for the second one. Threnody I is a violin, cello, piano trio that I also entered in a competition in Austria, but did not get into anything. The second one, Threnody II, which I so graciously thank Ara for writing the text, is a piano and trombone duet, performed by a Swiss Duo who came here last July for the Manila Composers Lab. Threnody III is a clarinet and cello duet which I also entered in a competition in Thailand, but didn’t make it again. And the last, Threnody IV, was performed in Indonesia. This series depicted the state of situations surrounding me and my family. This is a series that I wrote, in “reaction”, in “confusion”, in “anger”, in “anxiety”, in “shock”, in “injustice”, in “loss”, of the events that emerged up to the point of shaking relational foundations of my family March of 2011.

My Grandfather died March of last year, due to a massive heart attack. He’s been surviving on spared tires for the last 13 or 14 years after he was triple-bypassed a decade before that. It was a time of insecurity, a time of questions, a time of revealing past, lost secrets. I would never forget the day he died and the feeling of entering his room for the first time. It was a feeling of finding long lost treasures that we never get to see because of my great fear of him.

I greatly feared him. He stood a little over 5 feet, his voice is as frail as any old dying man, but when he thinks, he thinks beyond what any person could ever think, when he speaks, he speaks as if arrows are being shot out towards you.

I feared him. For almost 20 years he literally disowned my mother, her daughter, pushing as aside to the point that I almost believed that I had no other grandparents after my paternal grandmother died. He believed on something that was not true, accusing my parents of something that was entirely fabricated, deceived by another family member who made my grandparents turn their backs on their beloved daughter who they actually called, “the apple of their eyes.”

But tides soon turned, coins flipped, winds changed. Soon after my grandmother died, March 2006, my grandfather discovered that everything he believed was all made up. Everything he believed about my parents was not true. Redemption. Never in my life have I seen such forgiving human beings like my parents were, especially my mom knowing that it is most painful to her that her family disowned her for many many years.

Eventually my grandfather asked us to move with him. And for 4 years since 2007, we all took care of him, my parents making the most of my grandfather’s “borrowed life”. So every birthday of his, we thought, that it would be his last birthday, every Christmas, we thought would be his last, so we just made the most out of it. And 2011 was indeed his last.

He died in a time in our family when it seemed like so many things were left hanging, so many things were left undiscovered. And with his death also died answers to our questions, which gave birth to more questions, more confusion, and more anxiety. This piece is a memoriam of a father’s death that opened eyes for more people to see beyond his love, to hear in his silence, to feel more in his absence.

And so the title it is: Threnody. A song in lamentation, a dirge, an elegy.

These are my reflections. These are my reactions, my struggles, my inner battles. For I could have just covered myself under a sheet of utter silence, away from the ramblings of what is reality, but in that silence, there is more conflict, as we are constantly distracted by the hallucination of our memories, our pasts.

And this is how my piece is crafted. Different ideas, through different composers, different influences, made me find myself in this arena. It all started when I was 1st year or 2nd year, enjoying illegally downloaded copies by one of the senior students, or myself, of composers which I now call my forefathers. I would always listen to Ravel especially his Miroir piano suite, especially La vallée des cloches, or the Valley of the bells, and how so reflexive a work can be, and how clean and “transparent” his use of his very simple materials; Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps or Quartet for the end of time, especially the V. Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus, which is for cello and piano and the last movement, VIII. Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus, for violin and piano, how the lines from the cello and violin is fantastically colored by the piano and how the piano “moves” seamlessly through time as it almost paints a picture of the radiance of Jesus; the brevity, but fullness of Webern’s works which is the best example of how distraction should be—for his case, plainly to complexly colourful, just like the 3rd movement of the 5 Pieces for Orchestra;  the BACH motif of J.S. Bach, used in the last Contrapunctus of his Art of the Fugue, where the germ idea of B, A, C and Bb became the basis for a very beautiful, but incomplete fugue; Lachenmann, as he also used the same concept of the BACH in his 1st string quartet, Gran Torso, where, then, I learned to play around with a simple structure that is based on a very simple idea, and where he also used the concepts of “distraction”, simply contrasting between long notes that mutate over the duration of the piece, and short, “distracting” notes that also mutate over the duration of the piece.

 

 

Daluhong: a composition recital

Alexander John Villanueva’s Graduation Recital
Feb. 3, 2012, Abelardo Hall Auditorium, UP College of Music

Daluhong
text by Ara Janelle Foronda

I. Daluhong ng Alaala
Alaala
Alaalang inaalala
Inaalalang alaala

Bakit inaalala ang mga mangyayari palang?
Hindi ba’t ang pagaalala ay para lamang sa mga alaala?

Pinagtatakpan ang mga kadungisan
Ng alikabok na nakakapuwing
Di maglalaon, pinangliligo na
Ang dungis ng ibang tao
Isa ka nang higanteng kahihiyang
Naglalakad sa gitna ng daan
Tila kapita-pitagan ang sangsang
Na ikaw lang ang hindi nakakapuna

Nagpapasalamat ang mga kinuhanan
Ng pagkukunwaring kahihiyan

Kakayahan!

Nagbubunyi ang sinamsam
Tila nabuhusan ng tubig na maligamgam
Mga alaalang dapat sinusunog sa mga pahina
Ay nakakarating pa sa tainga ng iba
Mga dayaming inakalang may silbi
Itinanim sa harapan ng iyong hardin
Sa pagmamasid
Pumapalakpak ang tainga sa kumpas
Ng pulso ng karangyaan

Nagpupuri sa mga bagay na ikinakahiya
Ipinagbubunyi ang mga itinatatwa

Dahil, ano ba talaga ang madaling paniwalaan
Ang di gumagalaw o ang di nakikita?

Mas maigi nang pagbuntungan
Ng angas
Ng galit
Ng pag-yurak
Ang mga bagay na sumisimbolo
Sa mga hindi natatanaw

Nais ko lamang ipaalala
Na isa na lamang alaala
Ang nakalipas na segundo
Ng iyong pilit na pag-alala

Isa na lamang alaala
Ang kaganina’y inaalala

II. Hunyango
Sa kasukdulan na pananaimtim
Kinumpol na mga letra
Itinago sa loob ng mga palad

Inilapat sa mga matang
Pinamumugaran ng kabalintunaan

Pinapalabas na kasawian
Kapus-kapalaran
Ang mga duming nakasiksik
Sa mga kuko
Ng pusang iyong inihahalintulad
Sa isang mapangutyang
Ganid sa isda

Isinaboy sa nanunuyong labi
Ang mga letrang pinakatatago

Biglang bumuhos ang
Halakhak
Dahil sa rehas
Na pumapagitna
Sa inyong dalawa
Mga kinikimkim na pag-akala
Para sa mga kaluluwang
Walang ginawa
Kundi maging tao
Iniukit ang palad

Nilukot ang bawat linya
Sa mga kinamumuhiang
Hindi naman tinataglay

Sa kasukdulan mo nakita
Ang kaguluhan at
Paninimdim
Isa ka lamang sa marami
Na nagkukunwaring
Kaluluwa

III. Paghihikahos
Iwaglit ang bawat pagdaluhong
Hanapin ang mga kahulugan
Sa mga bituing nananahimik
Sa kanilang kinalalagyan
Kung maaari lang turuan
Ang salamin na magsinungaling
Upang ang buwan ay gawing
Kasing-laki ng mga patak ng ulan
Inaasam na pagkasyahin
Mga awiting naisasambit
Sa isang inaalikabok na parisukat
At sa kabila ng planadong
Kaguluhan
Nais nalang manatiling
Alaala ang mga katanungang
Inaalala
Upang mayroon pang alalahanin
Ang naghihikahos kong katauhan

The JPL blog series: The Sausage Project

There’s a new player in the street! About just a week old, The Sausage Project is catching up to the JP Laurel community as one of the most sought after food booths.

Hearing from people’s conversations, The Sausage Project is one of the popular food booths in UP during the annual Lantern Parade last December. And now, it has a regular food booth in JP Laurel.

They serve gourmet sausages in a bun for 69php and on a stick for 65php. If you’re a sausage lover, you might have eaten in Hero Sausages. And yes, The Sausage Project is the cheaper counterpart of that.

They have a selection of a number of yummy sausage. Their popular ones are Hungarian w/cheese, and beer sausage. Yes, BEER SAUSAGE! All of the sausages are jumbo in size.

Like the usual, the sausages are grilled and served in plain white bread. They leave it up to you to put the mayo, mustard and ketchup by yourself. Which I think is good. No reservations on any sauce you love.

For a cheap price, The Sausage Project is putting up much competition to the other booths around it. How I love JP Laurel’s dynamic transformation! The other streets in the area are also starting to put up a fight.

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J.P. Laurel is one of the most underrated food joints in UP Diliman. It is located near the Shopping Center along the road where the post office is on one end, and where the oval field is on the other end.

The JPL blog series: Yaki!!! Takoyaki

I would like to say that I have found the best takoyaki I have ever tasted. It is located in the middle of JP Laurel in UP Diliman: Yaki! Takoyaki

It shares an adjacent stall with the popular UniversiTea.

The prices are fair. 25php for 3 pieces and 40php for 5 pieces. And I have to say, their menu looks cute.

Their operation is very small, as also with the other stalls in JP Laurel. People would usually get a freshly cooked, warm takoyaki, which is good as compared to some takoyaki booths in the malls where I usually get the once-upon-a-time-it-was-well-cooked takoyaki. They don’t cook in large quantities but  in small ones as you can see in the picture.

Their takoyakis are colorful. Very appetizing to eat. The takoyakis are filled with veggies some shrimp and some spices. And they are drizzled beautifully with oyster sauce, mayonnaise and nori bits (we think). The flavor bursts right away. And as I compare it to the other more popular takoyaki places, this one has to be at the top. It’s full of flavor, well-cooked, and generously drizzled with sauces and more. The only thing I don’t like is that they don’t have special utensils for me to eat it with. They have ice cream spoons and toothpicks. But hey, if they’re worth eating, that won’t matter.

I say again, the best takoyaki I have ever eaten!

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J.P. Laurel is one of the most underrated food joints in UP Diliman. It is located near the Shopping Center along the road where the post office is on one end, and where the oval field is on the other end.