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Das Rheingold

Returning in the afternoon, I stretched myself, dead tired, on a hard couch, awaiting the long-desired hour of sleep.

It did not come; but I fell into a kind of somnolent state, in which I suddenly felt as though I were sinking in swiftly flowing water. The rushing sound formed itself in my brain into a musical sound, the chord of E flat major, which continually re-echoed in broken forms; these broken chords seemed to be melodic passages of increasing motion, yet the pure triad of E flat major never changed, but seemed by its continuance to impart infinite significance to the element in which I was sinking.

I awoke in sudden terror from my doze, feeling as though the waves were rushing high above my head. I at once recognised that the orchestral overture to the Rheingold, which must long have lain latent within me, though it had been unable to find definite form, had at last been revealed to me.

I then quickly realised my own nature: the stream of life was not to flow to me from without, but from within.

– Richard Wagner:  22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883

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Elegance

When we talk about elegance, usually we refer to designs: product, web, programme, etc. But, while we’re in it, we can discuss about elegance in life: how to set the maximal simplicity to our way of life, while maintaining the highest performance possible in it.

Life is beautiful, right?

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Gamelan

Gamelan is a suite of musical instruments from Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. While some neighboring countries are currently using gamelan as one of the icons to attract prospective tourists to visit the regions in Southeast Asia, and there is no doubt that any reginal cultures result from mutual influence of the neighbouring ethnics, it has been admitted by international communities that the musical orchestra suite called gamelan is indeed a culture of Indonesia.

Javanese gamelan was once performed in the U.S. in the 19th century. Also to European countries at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, the composer Claude Debussy was so enthralled. “Compared to this Javanese music, the European music is really decadent,” he implied. Then we could see many works of Debussy referring to the style of gamelan. Previously, the young Debussy was heard complained, “All the beautiful tones have been written by Wagner. What could be left for our generation?” But then who would have thought that, in addition to atonal music style, he also fled to the gamelan?

In Indonesia, we could see the Javanese gamelan that is gentle and philosophical, Balinese gamelan that is very dynamic, Sundanese calung, and other variations.

I spent my childhood in Malang city in Java. As in many other places, local cultures were included to the formal education. At school we were taught how to play the gamelan, how to sing Javanese tembang, how to write old Java script (aksara Jawa), etc. Our teacher was an expert who has a great passion in traditional art. He recognized that I plays gamelan quite well, technically. But he also said that I do not have the artistic soul. Particularly, I know he hated it when I tried to play rock and roll with the kendang when the the auditorium was still quiet. But, when conducting a performance in front of students parents, he appointed me in the position of kendang, which according to him was not equivalent to the drums or timpani, but more like a conductor: to lead the rhythm.

I must recognize that in fact I’m not a real fans of Javanese culture. I love universal culture. What’s the point of having Ronggowarsito in Java, when we also had Marx or Nietzsche in the same era. But gamelan is different. It remains as my interest. A few years later, after graduating from Coventry, I got a feeling that I missed gamelan. So I volunteered to join the traditional art ensemble in Bandung to play gamelan. That was not simple: I had to spend 2 nights per week to improve my play, with people who were as tired as I was, after office hour.

At that time we managed to perform The Legend of Ande Ande Lumut in the form of Wayang Orang, with full gamelan orchestration. I held an instrument called Bonang Penerus. This position was quite stressful, visually. At the other instrument players could look at the stage, my position required me to look at the audience. I could not play while viewing what’s on stage, but continued to see the expression of the audience.There were some other small events when we casually play the gamelan, including accompanying a wedding ceremony of the son of our R&D Division’s boss. It was surprising. The brides parents actually invited us, and wondered why many of our team did not appear to come. After finishing playing, we greeted the family. The boss stunned as he realised that some of the guests he expected were really playing the gamelan orchestra for the ceremony.

OK, the last picture here is not a real performance. Last week I had to provide a presentation about Mobile Blogging at the Telkom Building in South Jakarta. In the hall, I saw a quite complete set of a gamelan instruments. After my presentation, just before the lunch, I spent a couple minutes to play the Bonang Barung instrument, very-very softly. And the prominent blogger Priyadi took my picture.

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Nielsen's Fifth Symphony

A couple years ago (it looks like just yesterday), I attended a performance of Nielsen Symphony #5 by Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Warwick Art Centre. Only a couple months ago I found the CD of symphony, and only a couple hours ago I had the time to fully listen to it with no distraction, on a short flight from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. I cannot not exactly describe what I felt, but I guess it was a sensation even Nielsen had not imagined.

Last night I worked in the front of a mirror. Facing my own face, I realised that I was carrying the me I was not really familiar with: another me with awkward ways to express his ideas and feelings. Funny that I could see it, yet without having idea whether it should be overcome, on only to be laughed at. I chose the second. But when entering the plane, I figured that since this is not the real me (you know what I mean), why don’t I create simply create another me. It should be as simple as instantiating a class into an object :D. So I chose not to listen to Wagner or Beethoven; and there came Nielsen ;).

You could read my Indonesian blog or the wiki page discussing the symphony. But I must tell you: it is sensational to listen to it while viewing the sky-wide white clouds among the scarce blue sky. The annoying percussion, the cloud, the misplaced consistent motif of the clarinet, the bluish violet sky, the rich variety of dancing strings, the scarce green land below, the annoying pain inside my head, and I see the soul, of human, of the universe, its history, its law, its mathematic formulas, its perceived causality. Then I realised: I could not create another me. I found the old me that I have so far no time to see and to talk to.

For some obvious reasons, Nielsen would not be as famous as Beethoven or Wagner, or even Debussy or Stravinsky. And I know tomorrow I will listen to Wagner or Stravinsky like a maniac, and I will work like crazy so I will be blind again :). But today I want to (like a grammy awardee) express my deep gratitude 🙂 to Nielsen. Even only for a couple minutes, the symphony had filtered the thick clouds inside my mind, so I could see myself.

Here’s an excerpt of the first movement. Play it only if you have enough time and patience. And, sorry, an excerpt surely cannot replace the complete symphony 😉

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Siegfried

It would not be my blog, had it not a discussion on Wagner :). DVD and CD of Wagner’s music & opera are hard to find in Indonesia (it was easier to find 10 years ago). So I need to be very lucky or have to literally escape from the country to find a good Wagner’s performance records. So far I have only 4 DVDs of Wagner’s visual performance: Die Götterdämmerung, Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Die Walküre I bought last month, and newly bought Siegfried.

Siegfried might be the least mentioned part of Der Ring Des Nibelungen tetralogy. But it is not the least important. Got stuck with the beauty of Die Walküre for months (many versions of music, excerpts, on stage performances, and complete operas), then the sound of hammer of Siegfried forging his sword fill in my ears, with acute violin & viola screams as the background, for weeks. It is Siegfried. The monologues, dialogues, and music are obviously written by a philosopher. Wagner was a comrade of Bakunin, a devout follower of Schopenhauer, and then a friend and mentor of Nietzsche.

Act 1 started with a gloomy dwarf who complained a lifetime oppression (reminds me to the opening of any Srimulat operas). He took care of thankless strong boy Siegfried, whom he gave food and taught wisdom. Came then Siegfried with a bear, fearless and careless. The dialogue opens our eyes what really happened. Mime taught with word, but his deeds were indeed ugly, just like Indonesian contemporary politicians. The cunning plan of Mime’s dialogue now reminds us of any Indonesian all low quality sinetrons. The fearless Siegfried was once copied in one episode of Astérix. OK, now you know that I watch sinetron, Srimulat, Astérix, and those ugly Indonesian political stages. Sorry to let you know :).

IMG_0707

Back to Siegfried. Since Wagner’s year, Bayreuth is the center, and the standard, of Wagnerian culture. It sets new standard of the opera: in classical style, in contemporary style, in Star Wars mode, etc. In this 1980s records (of 1976 performance), the stage was shifted to display a huge smithing installation. A huge and quasi-functional :). That’s where in the fantastic visualisation Siegfried reforged his father’s Notung sword. As the strong sword was finished, the Act 1 ended.

Act 2 started with a gloomy music I have discussed a few years ago on Isnet mail group (discussing music as a way to communicate ideas). Then … then who cares. It is only a century old story :). Hahah :). I just impressed on how Siegmund (Siegfried’s father, performed in Die Walküre) is a total contrast to his son. The compassionate yet unlucky Siegmund carried the world upon his shoulder, loved his betraying god & father. Siegfried was totally free, fearless, careless, and took anything in his way in almost no expression on his face. Many criticized Manfred Jung because of his poor expression as Siegfried, but I think that’s the correct expression of a Siegfried. He could make the strongest sword (a stronger version of Notung), he could kill the dragon and cunning Mime without second thought. In Act 3 he could easily defeat his grandfather (who previously easily defeat his father, and frightened all powerful valkyries) and called him ‘coward!’ — plus he could find a lovely companion. That’s what Wagner’s concept of a hero. Let’s laugh at Wagner :). Let’s laugh at whoever wants to win the world, or the universe. Let’s laugh at ourselves.

No, Wagner knew that. He would then easily killed Siegfried in Götterdämmerung, in a stupid way :). The world needs no hero. And the god’s palace must be burnt. And that’s not the end. Life goes on. Gloomily or cheerfully as you may choose freely. You are the only one to choose the universe, to choose the way you are. Among Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Wagner is possibly an existentialist. But let’s throw all labels. Let’s just live the life.

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Azerty

TNIThen he proudly displayed his first email address on his business card. Always curious with technology. I still remember his article series, discussing the aspects of electronic war. And the nights we spent to discuss philosophical cases. And his old typewriter (AZERTY, not QWERTY), that he at last left for the wordprocessor in his computers. He loves playing with typefaces. But over all: the quality of the text itself.

His letters, his diaries (where are those?), has disabled me to stop writing. These blogs are his fault :).

Eh, happy birthday, Dad. Five years you had left us; just about a week after the card with the email address. Hahah, it’s not like five years. You still come to my dreams, and we still discuss those paradoxes. Hahah. You used to be proud of your student — the current president of the republic. Five years ago you came in hurry from Pekanbaru only to vote for him. Sigh, I still cannot find a reason to share the proudness  :(.

Btw, I love you. And proud of you.

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Coventry Inspires

As you might know, this is not my first blog, nor my first english blog. But on recent days, when you search «coventry» in images.google.com, you will find the first picture refers to my first english blog: koen.telkom.us. Here’s the picture:

coventry_lighting

The first time I read about Coventry was when I read «The Secret Seven» by Enid Blyton. The idiom «being sent to Coventry» according to the book means being excommunicated. There is a real history about that, actually. But interestingly, then I lived in Coventry to study communications :D. I lived one year in that historical town to pursue my postgrad in telecommunications technology in Coventry University.

Both Coventry and Coventry University have a phoenix as their logo. Also there is a history about that. In World War II, The Luftwaffe has bombed almost all essential part of the city. The city was totally destroyed into dust and debris. But from the ashes, a new Coventry was born. Like a phoenix, it was born from its ashes, created itself with greater spirit. It tied itself with Stalingrad as sister city for solidarity, but then also with Dresden for reconciliation. The spirit of Coventry makes the world believes that even from a great catastrophe we can rise and shine the world. Coventry inspires.

Sometimes I use or wear the picture of the Coventry’s phoenix. It inspires to see the phoenix in me. I am not an all-time winner. But I surely know that each time I fall: I will rise, and I will shine.

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