19 Dec 2009

An Indonesian in KL - Insights into KLCMF 09


Our attention towards the city is only towards that which can be seen.
We forget that our ears quietly capture whatever we hear within it.


Last month a contemporary music festival in Kuala Lumpur approached the theme of the city from the angle that is not captured by the eye. The composer, lost in contemplation of the sounds that inhabit the city, manifested in the form of seminars as well as in the works that were presented.

During the three days from 27th to 29th November, the Kuala Lumpur Contemporary Music Festival 09 staged 43 works,  as well as workshops for young composers, five seminars and one panel discussion.

The event was packed with activity, efficiently executed, and at the same time warm and friendly. It was very much unlike big festivals for the elite, in which people feel proud to be included as part of the event for its namesake, but where they really are merely a part of an gigantic anonymous body devoid of intimacy.

Besides being efficient and friendly, KLCMF 09 has another oddity for me as an Indonesian: the interrelatedness of belief. I received an envelope containing my fee as promised, without signature!
A world without suspicion?

Where wariness has become a part of our nature, the constant and excessive suspicion of humans shows his capacity to create his own hell.

The festival did not arise from the outstretched hand of the government. Anywhere in Asia, the composer should be like an orphan, that is, should be able to stand independently, withstand beating with no need to complain.

Since the beginning of the year 2007, several Malaysian composers have had the idea to form a community. They worked hard to realise this dream, including the May of that year where they produced a CD anthology of the composers from their country. Through planning and realistic strategies which they pursued till the end of 2007, they started their website in February 2008.

With the help of HSBC Bank Malaysia, Krishen Jit Astro Fund and the arts community, they managed to produce 6000 CDs. Off The Edge, a magazine that is smart, clever and courageous, helped distribute the CDs freely with their magazine. And finally the Malaysian Composers Collective was formalised in March 2008 by the two founders CH Loh and Hardesh Singh. Not long after, MCC was accepted by the larger community of the Asian Composers League.

With conviction, sincerity to work that was tireless, and sincerity as their only resource, they earn the trust that is essential to support its existence. Their commitment was to work together, not to compete.

The Festival that inviting composers from all over Southeast Asia as well as from Malaysia would not be possible without the help of Goethe Institute in collaboration with SEGi University College and Annexe Gallery with the support for Off The Edge magazine and RTM.

Thirteen volunteers were mobilized and they deftly provided information and technical support for the festival participants. They were music students in their final year at SEGi. David Ngui, a freelance festival manager brought on board by Goethe, did not give the participants a chance to experience any problems - every slightest difficulty would be resolved quickly and intimately.

To perform all the 43 programmed compositions, the festival invited Ensemble Mosaik from Germany and the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble who performed in the evening concerts.

Besides this, Mosaik also acted as the backbone for the workshops for 9 selected young composers' works. It was a valuable experience for the young composer to be able to engage in direct dialogue with the judges and the professional musicians who played their work.

Even more special is that the workshop also presented works of three established composers - the three judges Johan Othman (Malaysia), Anothai Nitibhon (Thailand) and Moritz Eggert (Germany) - alongside those of the upcoming composers.

Moritz Eggert is also a crazy pianist of genius. He plays not only with his fingers, but also with his legs, buttocks, chin, nose . . . and in terms of his music? Superb!

So we return to the issue of sound. It does not matter whether it is from the buttocks or the feet. Music is everywhere. All of music. It is only whether we can perceive it.

The festival asked, if the city had a voice, what songs would sing it?

During the seminar, I said that Progress has made the city bright, nothing is left in the dark, there is no place for silence, all is constantly jostling: gigantic buildings, vehicles, food and human waste. We're getting greedy, we want to control the whole planet and swallow it.

- Slamet A Sjukur, Off The Edge December 2009

Slamet A Sjukur is one of Indonesia's foremost and senior composers.
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