Stockhausen – In Light of our Time

By Jason Noghani

The music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) occupies a certain (sacred) space in our time. Stockhausen was unique in the postwar avant-garde, in that there is no simple way to categorise him, given that he was a truly single-minded figure who unceasingly reinvented his practices to continuously discover new possibilities in music. His contributions to electronic music have been unparalleled, given that not only did he pioneer several techniques that required new technological demands (were it not for him, surround sound and the synthesiser would not have come into fruition), but that he also searched for new ways of experiencing music thanks to the possibilities that technology opened up, and used this as a medium for connecting to the divine. His music has inspired countless numbers of revered artists, including The Beatles, Miles Davis, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Bjork, Sonic Youth, Aphex Twin, and pretty much the whole of the electronic dance music scene (most particularly psytrance when the psychedelic and spiritual elements of Stockhausen are acknowledged!), which has blessed him with the title of “Papa Techno!”

Nowadays however, Stockhausen is relatively unknown in relation to the impact he bore, and amongst many who know of his name largely just remember him for the contributions he made to electronic music. However, the true testament to Stockhausen’s greatness lies in what he was able to do with sound, as his rigorous explorations with electronic music drove him to devise new possibilities for harmony, rhythm, time and structure, all of which are in congruence with the organic properties inherent within synthesised sound. The end result is a music that directly corresponds to the charismatically fractal patterns of nature within the cosmos. A music that feels so astonishingly far ahead of its time yet also feels as if it always existed. A music that one would either admit was utterly incredible, or that it would fly over their heads given that its alien complexities were beyond comprehension by conventional standards. Indeed, it is by conventional standards that Stockhausen’s music is misunderstood, given that we are heavily conditioned by our upbringing, our environments, our musical education, our experiences, our beliefs, our understanding of music etc., which would mean that only a modest number of people would genuinely cherish it. Those who wholeheartedly do however, act as gatekeepers of holy secrets, given the revelatory nature of what they had just experienced.

By no means easy listening, Stockhausen’s music challenges the listener to open themselves up to new possibilities within and outside of themselves, and the result is rewarding beyond comprehension. The alchemical transfusion of art and science of the highest standard create transcendental and divine experiences, that open up states of consciousness that reflect those described and experienced through the major religions. Indeed, Stockhausen was a visionary as an artist, scientist and spiritualist, and the harmonious amalgamation of this triangulation was deeply rooted in all of his musical creations.

Stockhausen in Kyoto in 1977. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Stephens

The spiritual aspect of Stockhausen is what critics scrutinised him most for, what the media misinterpret most, and what the majority of people misunderstand him most for. He was always open about his beliefs and experiences, and consequently this was taken out of context, given the misunderstandings many had through their lack of knowledge of the practices behind Stockhausen’s efforts. Initially a Roman Catholic, Stockhausen’s fascination with gnostic philosophies of Christianity lead him to explore other cultures, religions and spiritual practices, of which he subsequently expressed in his music. Examples of this include the philosophies of Sri Aurobindo inspiring Aus Den Sieben Tagen, Native American traditions inspiring the song-cycle Am Himmel Wandre Ich, works inspired by Japanese culture (e.g. Japan, Der Jahreslauf, Inori), a homage to world religions and deities conceived through a Mesoamerican perspective in Stimmung, the zodiac inspiring Tierkreis and the alien music drama Sirius, several works inspired by the Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan, and the New Age Judeo-Christian doctrine The Urantia Book which inspired the Licht and Klang cycles. These inspirations were not mere reflections either, as Stockhausen entirely devoted himself to practices and tenets of each culture, in order to pay homage to these lineages in the sincerest manner. This not only consolidates the breadth of his spiritual devotion, it also reiterates the notion that he was truly a universalist in all senses. It is through this acknowledgement of the higher implications of his work, that Stockhausen was able to provide concrete possibilities for the future. When one takes the time to explore his music, one sees within it the future evolution of music, which in turn catalyses the evolution of consciousness, and subsequently us as a species to become a divine humankind. The implications really are that overwhelming! Licht serves as the celestial blueprint of this actuality.

For those unfamiliar with the Licht cycle, it is a monolithic work consisting of seven “operas” (I put operas in inverted commas because by calling them that limits the possibilities of what they really offer) totalling about 29 hours of music. Thematically, the work is based on the seven days of the week, drawing upon the creation myth and the esoteric connotations of the seven-day week, and this is symbolised through the three protagonists of the cycle (who are described from a Jungian perspective): Michael (the divine masculine), Eve (the divine feminine), and Lucifer (the shadow), of whom are represented as singers, instruments and dancers, in adherence to the ritualistically symbolic nature of the performance. Each of the “operas” either focuses on one, two or all of the characters, making up all possibilities within these permutations: Donnerstag (Thursday) specifically focuses on Michael. The concert took place at The Royal Festival Hall in London on May 21st and 22nd 2019.

At the time Stockhausen begun the Licht cycle in 1977, music critics and the media had only just about ingested and comprehended everything he had done up until that point (which was already more than a lifetime’s achievement!), so it was unsurprising that the premiere of Donnerstag was met with disdain and scepticism from many of its critics. In the eyes of many, Stockhausen’s pandering to the mystical was absurd, the music was bland and meandering, and the overall experience was considered underwhelming given that Licht was expected to be the successor to Wagner’s Ring cycle (in Stockhausen’s defence, much of Licht is “light” as otherwise it would be pretty pointless namely the cycle after it! The alien nature of the music would also be too exhausting and would make the Ring cycle seem like a feather if it had the same density to it! The expectations from others also implies a lack of open mindedness on their part!). Luckily today however (May 22nd 2019), this myopic perspective seems to have withered away, as the wide-ranging audience who encompassed several generations and demographics seemed to thoroughly enjoy this brilliant occasion. Not only did they seem to enjoy it, but the jaded outlook seems to have been long forgotten, with a collective sense that Donnerstag is yet another classic Stockhausen masterpiece!

The four-hour “opera” consists of a Greeting, 3 acts and a Farewell. The Greeting was performed in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, and was a delightful ten-minute fanfare in three sections, mirroring the three acts that follow. Musically, it set the scene of what was yet to come, providing an atmosphere that on one level sounded readily familiar, and yet on another sounded strange and novel. The noise in the foyer was not even a problem, as the hustle and bustle added a cloud of mystique to the performance, making it already seem like a memory before anything had occurred on a grander scale (musical time travel if you will!). After the greeting, we gradually made our way to our seats for the first act, Michael’s Jugend (Michael’s Youth).

Michael’s Youth is a semi-autobiographical work in three scenes (Childhood, Mondeva and Examination), although the narrative is far from linear, with events sometimes occurring simultaneously. Despite in many ways being the “lightest” of the three acts, Michael’s Youth also contains moments of jarring darkness (e.g. Michael’s mother dying in a hospital bed, eerily reminiscent of Stockhausen’s own mother’s death) and bizarre otherworldliness (Michael becoming acquainted with a basset horn playing creature with seven-fingered hands called Mondeva), although the experience in its totality is of a beatific nature. One of the common misconceptions of Licht is the lack of linear narrative, and seemingly tacky staging; again, another expectation of Stockhausen to recreate the Ring cycle. However, everything was created exactly as intended. The visual element occurs in a ritualistic fashion (not dissimilar to Japanese Noh theatre, of which hugely inspired Stockhausen), and its functions undertake a symbolic rather than a descriptive function, which underlie the esoteric impulses prevalent throughout the work. Particularly through his supreme musical mastery, Stockhausen’s exploration of esoteric realms is not only convincing, but it transports the listener into dimensions of consciousness not unfamiliar to those conveyed in the major religions. It should also be noted here that despite all the main visual elements remaining intact in this realisation of Donnerstag, the end result was more stripped down than previous performances to compromise with the limitations of the Festival Hall’s dimensions, although this actually served the music justice as too much visual emphasis could have been distracting. The iridescently divine architecture of the music becomes the story, and the visuals become the music so to speak, and Michael’s Youth convincingly affirms this, setting the precedent for the following two acts.

The second act, Michaels Reise um die Erde (Michael’s Journey around the World) functions as a concerto for trumpet soloist and orchestra, although calling it a concerto would be an oversimplification. Michael is represented by the trumpet, and a musical journey around the world occurs, with musical idioms and elements reflecting those of places Michael visits (such as New York, Japan and Bali). Other instrumentalists also demonstrate their flair, creating musical dialogues with Michael when they do, sometimes even appearing in a comical fashion, and these actions confirmed the brilliance of the performers taking part. The overall result was a surreal yet humorous voyage that traversed the terrestrial plane through extra-terrestrial eyes at light speed! Once the performance had finished, I could not believe that over 45 minutes had passed – it felt much shorter, Stockhausen musically defied quantum mechanics!

The final act is Michaels Heimkehr (Michael’s Homecoming) which I feel for many was the highlight of the evening. The first scene depicts Michael returning to his cosmic dwellings and celebrating in a typically ritualistic fashion, resplendent with orchestra, choir, and deliciously menacing synthesiser providing a brooding and subterranean backdrop that the soloists perform over. It was here much of the magic occurred: exotic textures subtly drawn from the vast array of resources, a captivating use of lights within the performance, the murmuring antics of the choir providing an apocalyptic undertone, and unforgettable performances from the soloists, whose contributions I feel would have made Stockhausen proud were he still with us today. To describe what was experienced would not serve the music justice, nor would it in the preceding acts, but this was particularly felt in this act due to the myriad forms and dimensions unveiled through the substantial resources used here. In direct contrast to the first scene, the second scene is stripped down to the Michael soloists reflecting on all that had occurred, including projections of earlier events in the performance – something of which was done to great effect. The comparative starkness to the preceding scene actually made this “lighter” experience more intense than one would assume from three performers, as it drew the listeners closer into the essence of the work, in direct contrast to preceding events effortlessly flourishing over the listeners in all their grandeur. After the performance ended, it was safe to assume that we had all felt rejuvenated and purified from this remarkable experience! The Farewell took place on the stairwell outside of the concert hall, which functioned as an echo of what was experienced, and a seed to be implanted in the listener so they could retain its essence.

It must be noted that the performance was absolutely outstanding from all involved: Le Balcon, the London Sinfonietta, the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble, and the New London Chamber Choir! The soloists were phenomenal, but even those who were individually less noticed such as members of the choir each performed with an equal calibre, and what seemed even more remarkable was that everybody genuinely seemed to enjoy performing the music, which shows how much of a long way audiences have progressed since Donnerstag’s premiere in 1981 (one of the worst aspects of creating contemporary art music is working with performers who evidently do not enjoy playing ones music – something Stockhausen even had to regularly contend with in his lifetime!). The praiseworthy dedication of the performers resulted in a stunning realisation of Donnerstag, and I can only hope that they do the entire cycle at some point in the not too distant future – it would be a divine week!

Once the concert had ended, everything felt more supernatural. The sounds of public transport, crowds of people and the fridge in my kitchen (where I write this article) all came alive, and the intergalactic ambiance of the performance transfigured the environment outside, evocating its divine qualities. I could hear and feel the essence of the performance throughout the rest of the evening (particularly from the 3rd Act), which far from being an earworm, merely unveiled the miraculous omnipotent hyper-reality surrounding us at all times but that which we barely take notice of – an experience I only wish more could people could witness if they were open to it!

We are in a day and age where not only are our ecosystems threatened, but also the ecology of listening. Technological advancement has correlated with worsening attention spans, the malaise of the pop culture machine has debased the true culture of fine art which has resulted in cultural decline, inevitably resulting in a lesser quality music, which can be seen in the overproduced music our digital age has churned out, and a lack of a universal high quality of music education has resulted in collective stagnation for the progress of further musical innovations. Technologically speaking, advancements are continually made within music, although the various development of the contributions made through the lineage of Western Classical music (and other indigenous music cultures of an equal tenacity) run the risk of being forgotten about due to negligence and ignorance from a cultural perspective (in particular the development of form instead of repetition: most music nowadays relies on repetition due to its lack of development! When one considers the possible implications, this could have on a neurobiological level as shown in various psychology studies; namely that the structural properties of Classical Music enhance memory, cognition and intelligence, it could make one wonder if today’s repetitive regurgitations are having a negative impact on us as a species!). It would also seem as if this day and age of technological immediacy and over-inundation of information have seemingly killed off magic and mystery, although the music of Stockhausen serves as a reminder that not only are there more possibilities out there, but coming to think of it, we have barely started scratching the surface!

The official website for Stockhausen for further information, scores and recordings: Karlheinzstockhausen.org

Personal Recommendations of Stockhausen pieces:

For those unaccustomed to radically unfamiliar music, a good starting point for Stockhausen’s music would be Stimmung, Am Himmel Wandre Ich, the Tierkreis (Zodiac) cycle, and Freude and Natural Durations from the Klang cycle, as they’re probably the easiest pieces to listen to. If one enjoys these, I would then recommend Gesang der Junglinger (one of his most renowned and famous works) and Mantra, and thereafter probably Gruppen. If you like these, you’ll probably like most other Stockhausen pieces!

My personal favourite Stockhausen pieces are Kontakte, Hymnen and Cosmic Pulses, which I feel are three of the greatest works of art ever created, and demonstrate Stockhausen’s true genius.

 

(JN)

Analogue Alchemy

Into the Music and Mind of Shiva Feshareki

by Jason Noghani

The music of Shiva Feshareki addresses some of the most pressing questions concerning music and culture in our time. She is a highly versatile and diverse composer whose musical output encompasses a wide spectrum of resources and influences ranging from classical music, mid-20th Century experimental electronic music, and electronic dance music genres such as drum n bass and jungle. Her oeuvre includes orchestral music, chamber music, solo instrumental music, conventionally notated music with memorable and sublime harmonies, and cutting-edge electronic music which pushes conventional boundaries to unchartered dimensions.

However, it is unarguable that she is perhaps most in her element and most clearly defined as an artist when working with her trademark turntables, which alone have formidably established her as one of the foremost musical innovators of her generation. The turntables themselves, and the performance practices of which she utilises throughout her performances, are what most accurately describe her both as a musician and as a human being, and the implications underlying this are both mesmerising and profound; something of which is evident when engaged in conversation with Shiva, whose rigorous dedication to her art transcends far beyond the conventions of an archetypal DJ.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Shiva’s turntabling practices is her ability to make something seemingly outdated remain fresh and relevant in light of the rise of digital technology. Throughout history, musical evolution has been in congruence with material evolution, so the evolution of sound has similarly correlated with technological evolution, hence why digital technology most clearly represents our time, and analogue technology is now perceived in a more specialised and niche manner, despite having been the musical tour de force up until very recently. Shiva’s predilection for analogue technology largely has to do with the quality of the sound produced by vinyl, but also due to the human touch it offers, which largely explains her love of mid 20th Century electro-acoustic music such as Daphne Oram, Eliane Radigue and James Tenney.

These underlying motives seek to address the dehumanising aspect mindlessly produced digital music can create nowadays, and also invite new possibilities for a seemingly outdated musical practice. Shiva’s single-minded and unceasingly innovative approach to her chosen medium is largely inspired by the electronic pioneers of the mid 20th Century, and the techniques she incorporates and even invents for the turntables always produce new and exhilarating outcomes, which sound both relevant today and for times to come. Through this radical approach, she has both reasserted the importance and relevance of early electronic musicians, and emphasised their necessity in musical progress in today’s world. Furthermore, she has also increased the sonic possibilities of the medium whose cultural stereotypes would have posed limitations on less imaginative artists who perform on turntables, and therefore she has helped transform the perception of something once seen as being merely functional to becoming an instrument of colourful and diverse cosmological proportions.

The experimentation does not just end with the turntables however, even though they are integral to Shiva’s musical decisions and underlying musical philosophy. This is evident in her approach to spatialisation, where the acoustic space is treated in a similar manner to the turntables. No two acoustic spaces or two turntabling sets are ever entirely alike, which means new outcomes are inevitable each time a work is performed, as can be seen in her works GABA-Analogue and O; both for turntables and orchestra, and both being made of exactly the same materials, yet programmed and experienced differently due to each being tailored appropriately to the acoustic space of a performance.

Shiva is also one of the few composers to have emerged out of the contemporary classical music establishment, who has addressed issues of a cultural relevance to our time, without pandering to pastiche or kitsch impulses. Having been particularly inspired by electronic dance music and culture (most notably drum n bass and jungle), she has always been involved in dissolving the cultural boundaries between conventional and experimental artistic practices, and subsequently inaugurating the audience of both extremes without a compromise of integrity. Her influences stretch far beyond sole musical inspiration, and fields such as psychoacoustics and cognitive psychology have a considerable impact on the musical decisions she makes. With such consideration of detail, she has been able to subtly invite audiences into situations they may have once been unfamiliar with, and through imaginative means, she is able to create music that stretches the minds and imaginations of listeners. This evolutionary approach to music-making is of seminal importance in our time, in our day and age of sharing information at a previously unforeseen scope, whereby her substantial musical knowledge and innovative practices have exposed larger audience numbers to new musical possibilities at a time where cultural stagnation has made the evolution of music a potential ecological crisis.

One thing that Shiva has managed to achieve beyond most other experimental artists of her generation, has been the emergence of a growing and dedicated fan base surrounding her and her work. Most particularly, she has been a considerable role model for young up and coming female artists, who may not have had the confidence to pursue their art had it not been for the positive influence of artists such as Shiva. Although we live in a time when gender equality is almost rectified in the developed world, there are nonetheless still obstacles to overcome the conditionings and perspectives of a male-dominated past, and it is through the integrity of the work of someone like Shiva that this outdated perception can gradually be laid to rest, as we grow to realise that great art is beyond gender, race and cultural boundaries; something of which is of paramount importance as we emerge in the dawning days of the Aquarian Age.

(Click here to read Shiva’s Interview)


New Forms, which came out on February 22nd 2019, is the first official release of Shiva Feshareki’s music. The album consists of original material composed specifically for the album, material derived from and remixed from a variety of sources including her own instrumental works, and highlights from a performance that took place in Moscow in the summer of 2018. The underlying principle which defines the record poses several questions regarding particular issues and queries relevant to our time.

 

(JN/BB)

Are There Too Many Music Festivals?

by Jonathan Wynn, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Coachella unofficially kicked off the 2017 U.S. festival season in April, and while this year’s event in Indio, California included expanded space and more tickets available, there are concerning trends in the live music industry.

Tennessee’s massive Bonnaroo attracted 38 percent fewer attendees in 2016 than the year prior. While the 2017 event rebounded, the total attendance was the third worst since 2006. And last year’s turnout at the popular Sasquatch! festival in George, Washington dropped by half.

Have we reached what Paste Magazine called “peak music festival”?

Festivals are certainly big business. Over 32 million people are attending U.S. festivals every year – more than the entire population of Texas. In my book “Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport,” I detail the reasons for the rise of music festivals, which include declining record sales and the willingness of younger audiences to seek out new experiences.

But the growing uncertainty has left some promoters, musicians and fans nervous. Are attendance declines irregularities, rather than trends? Looking ahead, what factors might cause a significant slump in the U.S. festival market?

A growing corporate presence

One plausible reason for flagging crowds is overcommercialization.

As I walked around festival sites during my research, logos and brands were omnipresent, whether it was a massive Doritos vending machine-themed stage at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival or the Bud Light stage at Nashville’s Country Music Association CMA Fest.

In a way, a growing corporate presence indicates how festivals have thrived. Corporations are targeting popular festivals because they’re excellent sites for what’s called “brand activation” – a way to directly engage potential consumers with corporate logos and products. In that effort, North American corporations spent US$1.3 billion sponsoring music venues, festivals and tours in 2014. Anheuser-Busch led the charge, sponsoring almost one-third of music-based properties. Toyota marketed at Stagecoach, Sasquatch!, Life Is Beautiful and at least a half dozen other events. (Forbes notes that the big winner at this year’s SXSW wasn’t a hot up-and-coming act, but Mazda, for successfully hosting a series of top-name performances.)

Despite such heavy commercialization, musicians and audiences expressed minimal concern in my interviews.

“I don’t mind,” said one festival-goer, “since I know it helps keep ticket prices reasonably low.” The on-stage talent felt similarly ambivalent. One headlining musician told me he appreciates that it’s the festival producers who have to cultivate brand relationships, not him. When he’s on stage, he says, “I’m not representing Heineken, I’m just playing my songs.”

Still, other artists grumbled. Several worried that festival branding might eventually go too far.

Creeping conformity

Their unease is justified. Behind the banners and logos, success in the festival industry has brought about another issue: consolidation.

Since 2000, larger entertainment firms have purchased some of the biggest events and venues, mirroring what happened in the recorded music industry in the 1960s and 1990s, when smaller labels were gobbled up by a handful of larger, international companies.

In 2001, the world’s second largest music promoter, AEG, purchased Goldenvoice, which produces 11 festivals, including Coachella. AEG is an international sports and entertainment conglomerate with ownership stakes in dozens of sports teams and arenas. AEG is still, however, second to Live Nation, which produces over 60 festivals and has controlling stakes in major festivals like Bonnaroo, Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. With their size and buying power, these agencies can book bands for multiple events and offer gigs at venues ranging from large stadiums to smaller clubs.

Such consolidation brings about a related concern: uniformity. Firms within a larger institution tend to operate similarly, particularly in times of economic crisis – something sociologists call “institutional isomorphism.” In many cases, competing companies will conform to the models of their more successful counterparts in the hopes of replicating their success.

Sure enough, with only a couple of promoters organizing the biggest festivals, the same artists seem to be performing at the same ones. Twenty of the 103 performers at AEG’s Coachella this year are among the 166 acts playing at Live Nation’s Bonnaroo. That means that one-tenth of Bonnaroo’s lineup and one-fifth of Coachella’s lineup are exactly the same. Consolidation and uncertainty beget monotony.

Though they are not necessarily problems individually, the combination of commercialization, consolidation and uniformity just might be bringing about what Seattle’s alt-weekly, The Stranger, called “festival fatigue.”

The future of festivals?

If fatigue does arrive in 2017, we can look to the last crisis for some solutions. The 2008 recession dampened ticket sales and sponsorships. Festivals like Denver’s Mile High festival, Las Vegas’ Vegoose and New Jersey’s Bamboozle shuttered. But my research found the Newport Folk Festival to be an encouraging case study.

In 2008, Newport couldn’t attract a marquee corporate sponsorship as it had in the past. To save the event, producers restructured the organization into a nonprofit. Ever since then, their lineups have eschewed acts that headline larger festivals. Instead, they’ve set their sights on balancing a diversity of acts with regional performers.

Bonnaroo and Coachella dwarf Newport in size, as Newport’s venue, Fort Adams State Park, can hold only around 10,000 attendees per day. But Newport’s limited brand sponsorships and attendance cap are opportunities, not challenges. The festival’s producer, Jay Sweet, knows he can’t afford the bigger acts that hit the larger festivals.

Nonetheless, Newport has carved out its own niche: Moving away from an overly corporate and commercialized model of the contemporary festival, it now offers an eclectic, more locally sourced and modestly branded music experience.

In a way, it’s what festivals looked like in their earliest iterations – before the sponsors descended, and before the fatigue settled in.

The ConversationEditor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the location of the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

Jonathan Wynn, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Commemorating International Day of the Tropics

[Jakarta, LTTW] The world recognizes the beauty and important role of tropical land, but we often shut our eyes toward the challenges it’s facing. Mono-culture malpractices which wiped out natural ecosystems and also “profit-oriented” tourism that exploit local cultures and environment instead of cultivating friendships and cross-enrichment between nations, are only a couple of examples of the challenges we have ignored. Therefore, as representatives of the tropics from Indonesia, together with campus community Friday Art Design Session, Listen to the World present visual works to invite and re-question the importance of nature as a place that allows us to live and have cultures.

 

“Wild for Love” by Adikara R. | 79 cm x 97 cm | Mix Media on paper | 2018

 

“Sajen dari Pasar” by Adikara R. | 60 cm x 60 cm | Mix Media on paper | 2016
“Ka-Lod” by Adikara R. | 97 cm x 79 cm | Mix Media on canvas | 2017

 

“Tropical Ruinforest” by Bintang Perkasa | 42 cm x 29.7 cm (two panels) | Mix Media on paper | 2018

 

“No Space for Nature” by Gesa Febrian | 29.7 cm x 21 cm | Digital Drawing | 2018

 

“RIMBA” by Ivan Kurniawan Halim | 109 cm x 79 cm | Mix Media on paper | 2017
“Tribute to Mother” by Reydo Respati | 79 cm x 48.5 cm | Mix Media on canvas | 2018

 

“CUT” by Reydo Respati | 97 cm x 79 cm | Mix Media on paper | 2018

 

“Tumpuk” by Ruslan Gani |70 cm x 40 cm | Acrylic on canvas | 2018

 

(BP/EU/PS/AR)

Persistence in Diversity

Why Dance (Arts) Must Be Supported At All Cost

[Jakarta, LTTW] On April 22, 2018, Namarina Youth Dance (NYD), Indonesia’s semi-professional dance company held a dance performance with the theme Dancing for the Future at Goethe Haus, a German cultural center located in Menteng, Jakarta. A week later, the world celebrated the International Dance’s Day. This series of event shows that arts (in this case dance) play a significant role in humans’ life. On top of that, the world also celebrated the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development that falls on May 21, 2018, just a few weeks ago. With those celebrations in mind, we are going to discuss further why NYD’s performance becomes important, and the roles of arts in society.

Dancing for the Future is a part of NYD’s program DanceScape Series that combines three generations of dancers; NYD, NYD’s apprentice, and youngest students from Namarina Dance Academy. Through this program, NYD encourages audiences to support the role and function of arts in society as a departing point towards a better future. To achieve that, they first must prove to the society that they have persistence to encounter many differences, possibilities, and challenges that may come in the future. Hence, Persistence in Diversity becomes the central theme of event.

The routines created for this program incorporates Western Classical ballet and Indonesian traditional dance, accompanied with a recorded and live music played by Gado-gado Ensambal and Rhythm Salad League respectively in such order, which also derived from the same central theme.

The first routine showcased a pure Classical ballet that performed by the youngest students of Namarina Dance Academy. To stand and prosper, root is a necessary foundation in which the dance academy aware of, thus choose ballet as its base – making a bold statement that can also represent symbols of how the Classical ballet struggles to survive and remain exist in the changing world.

The opening dance, choreographed by Nickend Ayuthia| Photo: Suprapto
“The Future”, choreographed by Sussi Anddri | Photo: Suprapto

Although Namarina’s root and implementation are “imported” from the west, they never forget the importance of Indonesia traditional dance that also – similar to the ballet – shown to put up the fight to keep itself from vanishing, being replaced and, eventually, cease to exist. A fusion of both traditions create a real diversity, opening up and complementing each other, which transform into a bond and finally, an attempt of a new form of dance is born.

“Tradikal” choreographed by Dinar Karina | Photo: Suprapto
“Aku dan Waktu” (Me and the Time) choreographed by Sussi Anddri | Photo: Suprapto

The journey in finding a new form through fusion has been done by NYD to this day. For twelve years, Persistence in Diversity proves that this program is not merely a symbol for NYD – it’s a living cultural attempt.

Dance as a Tool to Materialize the Ideal

Ideally, diversity is an inevitable part of human nature. We genetically differs – from the place we live, our roles in society, perspective, and way of thinking. Even an identical twin are different, be it physically or personality. Yet, in reality, we can’t seem to grasp the notion; we still see diversity as something that stands outside ourselves. We have been avoiding, fighting, and destroying those differences. This is the reason why we need persistence so that we can achieve the supposed-to-be default ideal.

Through its form, dance (like any other form of art) has the ability to “materialize the ideal”. In visual art, for example, one can materialize his wildest, most idealistic imagination. Furthermore, dance (and music) has the ability to promote diversity in social life – strengthening social bond, and the same thing with break dance [click here to read a brief history of Breaking culture]. Besides giving an opportunity to “fight” and “kill” without victims, break dance also promotes respect and enriches the individuals and community. Dance also contains elements that can be treated as a powerful educational tool because, according to Sacred Bridge Foundation’s view, art is the only thing in the world that can ‘un-compartmentalized’ every field of study.

El Sistema, when music is a social solution to the street children in Venezuela | Youtube

With such immense ability, it is only logical to think that dance must be supported regardless the condition for the sake of the nations and a better world. The fact is, support for dance (and other arts) is huge in Western countries. In Europe, arts are fully supported by the governments of respective countries, while in the US philanthropists are very keen to become a patron. Take a look at Broadway; this institution was born because many young investors known as angel investors invest their money in performing arts.

Europe and US strongly support arts because they understand the significance of art in their society. But such immense support does not stop the artists to quit fighting. On the contrary, they keep on moving and not giving up in their endeavor to materialize their ideal – with or without support. This is what makes arts in Western countries keep evolving, because both the artists and supporters are aware of their roles.

The closing dance, choreographed by Andhini Rosawiranti | Photo Courtesy of Namarina Dance Academy

To applaud the hard work of Namarina and NYD to materialize their ideal, it is only right if we close this article with the quote from the Dancing for the Future documentary: “Persistence is beyond physical endurance. It’s a mental state.”

 

English Translation by Riri Rafiani

(BP/BI/RR/PP)