Foreword from Listen to the World
Our intimacy with digital media has become increasingly significant ever since the pandemic. All sectors and various aspects of life have been forced to turn their steering wheel radically towards a “boundless era”. This course, without a doubt, will impact the future both for better and worse. As with any pivotal era, the impact can already be felt in the art world. One of the implications posed in many instances is reflected through how many of us started to question the relevance of the Arts within today’s society (especially fine art), consequently distancing themselves and using memes to crudely validate points.
When we talk about the relevancy of art, we first need to observe the two concurrent subcultures that dominate the artworld; namely, Popular and Serious. By being aware of this, it makes us realise that the true function of art is not to make us understand it, but rather how to comprehend how truthfully it corresponds to the surrounding context it arises from. This context in itself, is something composed of multiple layers, which makes it indescribable and unquantifiable in itself, although it is something we can sense at any given moment if we allow ourselves to experience it.
In our virtual space, a “dividing” line between Pop and Serious art has become increasingly blurred, which can largely be attributed to the existence of social media. This isn’t helped by the fact that the very nature of the media itself is rudderless, and consequently, the context behind an artwork (especially in the case of Serious art) can often become distorted, which eventually renders it irrelevant in the eyes of many. Even supporting information cannot overcome such situations, due to the influence the media will have to fulfil various agendas. On the contrary, physical spaces such as museums and art galleries provide us both enough explanation about the presentation (context), and also provide discussion sessions and Q&As with the artists if they are present.
One prominent example that discusses the advantages of the educational and cultural benefits of presenting, written by the late founder of our organisation Serrano “Rano” Sianturi, that was initially intended as an introductory text in a programme of a music clinic event “Electronic Music in the 21st century with Amy Knoles” at the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta. Furthermore, the article addresses the role of Pop and Serious art in greater depth than provided here, as well as providing explanation as to why we often feel so distanced from Serious art.
Music, Museum, and Culture
By Serrano G. Sianturi
[Music] Pop vs Serious
Music (pop) in Indonesia has been expanding rapidly along with a better economy compared with 50, 30, or 20 years ago. As time goes by, more young people have been taking an interest in studying music and chosen Pop as the main course. Serious Music, on the other hand, are diminishing and people doesn’t seem to take it seriously anymore. It is possible that if this kind of music is finally perished, only very few would be heart-broken.
Indeed, Serious Music’s fate has been sealed, that it will never be popular and gain numerous fans because of its characteristics and approach that is academic, conceptual, explorative, and spiritual. However, its role is very instrumental as a reference and a source of inspiration. Western Pop Music has been developing dramatically in the 60s and 70s thanks to its closeness to Serious Music. The key players in Serious Music, from Classical to Jazz, such as Edgard Varesse, Olivier Messiaen, Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Lionel Hampton, John Coltrane dan Art Ensemble of Chicago have inspired most Pop musicians. As the result, many quality Pop music were born and, in turn, gave positive influence to the Serious Musicians. Unfortunately, this mutual relationship began to fade away since the end of the 70s, and since then, Western Pop Music has stagnant.
In Indonesia, Pop Music and Serious Music has never had a real relationship. Serious Music, which is within the realm of traditional music, has never served as the foundation in creating or interpreting Western music. The ‘Indonesianess’ of their music is only limited to the actors and language instead of the music structure, rendering Indonesian Music Pop a mere reproduction of other countries’ works. In short, the development of Indonesian Music Pop is more about the number of actors and the profit generated.
Pop and Serious Music is not about hierarchy, a debate of which one is more superior than the other; neither is it about which one is better. In culture, both Pop and Serious music (and other art works) have their own functions and roles. Therefore, this fulfilling, mutual relationship should be preserved and nourished. Even in the Western world, Serious Music has been stagnant in the last 20 years. But that doesn’t mean the musicians have given up. They have been exploring far and wide, outside their geographical origin for the possibility to expand. Their tenacity is not running thin because they fully understand of the roles and functions of Serious Music, apart from their love for music.
We hope that Amy Knoles presence, who has been living and breathing Serious Music for three decades, can pump up the spirit of Indonesia’s Serious Musicians.
Why Museum? Why Electronic?
Why in a museum? This question may pop up in our mind because it is uncommon to have a musical performance in a museum. Most of us tend to see museum as a place to exhibit tangible historical objects, but music, on the other hand, is intangible. Moreover, the kind of music performed is not a historical one.
One of the main missions of LTTW’s parent organization, Sacred Bridge Foundation, is to promote integration, be it an integration between the past and present, local-global, or traditional-modern. Development, in our opinion, is not a transformation, but is a part of those integration because that’s the place where we learn and aware of what we are made of, which in turn becomes our ‘assets’ to take action today and plan for tomorrow.
Electronic music is resulted from the integration. It departs from (and still stand on) Classical Music that has found its way to progress and created its own path by utilising the technological advances. Started with the invention of telharmonium in the end of 19th century, electronic music continues to develop along with other inventions such as theremin, onder martenot, tape recorder, analog synthesizer, digital synthesizer, and sampler. Since the mid 60s, electronic music had been very influential to Pop Music, and even Jazz. Its presence can still be sensed today through the electronic dance music that has captured the heart of the young generations.
Performing electronic music in a museum, therefore, is our effort to promote not only the importance of integration but also the role of museum in this instance.
Lastly, we would like to thank the audience and all parties involved in this concert. To the National Museum we would like to extend our deep appreciation for its support of this event.
Enjoy the show
A preview of the event and performances | Check out our youtube playlist “Electronic Music in the 21st Century with Amy Knoles” for a full version and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel!
English Translation by Riri Rafiani
Author: Serrano Sianturi
(1960-2019) One of the Founders and former chairman of Sacred Bridge Foundation.