Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dutch-Indonesian Musical Encounters

I am writing from Leiden, at the end of the first day of a symposium on Dutch-Indonesian Musical Encounters sponsored by the KITLV and the Professor Teeuw Foundation. The Teeuw Foundation is planning to award a prize to a musician or scholar of music who has contributed to the mutual cultural understanding of the 2 nations, and is holding this event to generate a context for the award. It is planned that a volume of conference papers will be launched at the prize ceremony - and there might be another conference on the same theme in Indonesia in the future.

Today, I gave a paper (actually less a paper than a display of audiovisual examples as papers were distributed in advance of the symposium) titled 'Indonesian Performing Arts in the Netherlands, 1913-1944'.

I presented a clip from the only film made of an Indische drama, The Sugar Lady (first staged in 1917 and filmed in 1935), some kroncong by a Dutch student group recorded in London, a short slice of Jodjana's film God Shiva, a short clip of a 1949 Dutch-Indonesian conference on West Papua featuring Javanese dance.

The paper was well received - participants seemed most interested in Jodjana particularly.

Henk Mak van Dijk spoke on Constant van de Wall, showing some images that did not make it into his book, as well as a clip from a DVD of the 2008 production of Attima and some tracks from his recording of van de Wall's music.

He was concerned in particular with van de Wall finding a place in Indonesian music history and for Attima to achieve its place in the cannon of exotica. He thought about van de Wall's compositions as a way to make history come closer to Indonesians- they could appreciate them as they are familiar.

Renadi Santoso, a Cologne-born composer and dancer of Indonesian descent who lives in Holland, and Dutch composer and sound technician Jos Jansen spoke about their relation to gamelan. Renadi spoke about art as a way to discover aspects of his self. Gamelan provides him with a way to understand his roots. He is also interested in the kendang's relation to dance and puppetry - providing him with a model for how to have an extra layer in his music, a friction that is not resolved. Jos Jansen described his intimate familiarity with gamelan - a music that is not strange to him as he has been playing it for decade3s. He spoke about his use of chance compositional procedures (modelled after John Cage) and his experience of working with Miroto - seeing his dancers repeat a movement for the duration of a 52 minute pre-composed score until they found a moment when it was cocok with the music. They built up the dance score in this way.

The afternoon was a public session in the Tropen Museum. We heard three talks. The first was by Liesbeth Ouwehand (photo curator at the KITLV) on performance photographs in the KITLV archive (with a concentration on photos from the court of Yogya in Groneman's book on dance and ceremony, and photos of the large 1906 exhibition in Surabaya). Madelon Djajadiningrat and Clara Brinkgreve did a double-act presenting on the correspondence of Jaap Kunst and Mangkunegara VII. Wim Manuhutu spoke on songs from Maluku and concluded his presentation with a charming trio presentation of an Ambonese song. The talks were punctuated with compositions by Sinta Wullur for piano, flute and voice. Many in the audinece were elderly ex-Indies hands, and there was a great sense of nostalgia for the colonial period that permeated the whole afternoon.

In addition to the talks, like at many conferences, I've been hanging out and catching up with old friends - Ben Arps, Sumarsam, Pim Westerkamp, Freek Columbijn, Rob van Albada and others. I've also had the opportunity to spend some time with Franki Raden - who is staying in the same suite of room at the Ethnological Museum. This is a rare treat as this famous Indonesian composer has only just returned to Indonesia after a decade living abroad and has recently founded a self-proclaimed national orchestra composed entirely of indigenous instruments. Franki divides his time now between Jakarta and Ubud and I hope to see him in one place or the other when I visit Indonesia in December-January.

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