Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ton van't Hof comments on Ron Silliman's review of Bay Poetics.

I have added another book to my wishlist. We really need another bookshelf. We need to clear up more space so I can have enough space for all these books. Each time we have visitors, I say, forgive the books all over the place, this is a writer's house...and writers are bookworms too.


I took Eileen's book with me last night to the concert. Cecil Licad was playing, and all of culturally interested Filipinolandia was going to be there. It seemed fitting to bring this book along and have it close while paying close attention to a world class pianist. We were seated in what I think must have been the best place in the house, on the top balcony, looking down on the piano. From where we were seated we could see the pianist's hands on the keys.

This must be the fourth time I've seen/heard Cecil Licad play. The first time, I was still a freshman at the UST Conservatory of music. It was an afternoon concert and my sister and I purchased SRO tickets at the door for the joy of sitting on the padded steps of CCP's great hall, and watching this artist from a distance. Then, there was the time we watched her play with her now ex-husband, Antonio Menesses. The last time I heard her play was in the Philippines. She had already divorced Menesses and we: My Mom, My Dad, my sister and I, all went together to the CCP for an evening. I remember my parents insisting that me and my sister should sit downstairs, in an ideal spot, while they sat upstairs in the balcony. ( we had two free tickets for the downstairs hall and we had to buy two affordable tickets which were upstairs balcony II).

I wonder now if my mother dreamt of me becoming like Cecil someday. I wonder now why it was so difficult for them to hear me saying: I wasn't born to be a pianist. I did learn to love music and still play the piano, but not up to standards in that way. I remember saying to my piano teacher that all I really wanted to do was write and my teacher threw up her hands in the air and said...well, you just have to study hard because this is what your mother wants. So typical Pinoy culture.

I don't blame them because - how would I otherwise have been able to appreciate art and music and poetry as I do today?

Yesterday, as Cecil launched into her repertoire of Mozart, Chopin, Robarts and Rachmaninoff, I couldn't help thinking of how music is poetry too. There is this communication transmitted by notes carefully placed, harmonies and juxtapositions, counterpoint and play, and the skill of the translator (the pianist or musician)in bringing out these notes. I thought of how a poet carefully considers each word/letter/image/punctuation used before placing it into the poem. So, there is focus there and intent and a skill which comes from practice.

Perhaps this insight came from such close observance of the movement of the pianist's fingers on the keys. How the fingers and the hands move deliberately, no accidental slipping, but all deliberate and thought out which again expresses how music is an extension of the pianist.

After the concert, we fell into discussion with a dutch musician who expressed his delight over the performance of Miss Licad. And we agreed that her translation of Mozart was indeed more romantic than classical, but then, we also agreed that the execution was done so flawlessly and with careful thought. We marvelled too at her rendition of Rachmaninoff, Sonata no. 2, which is not an easy piece to play as under the hands of a lesser musician, the attention of the public tends to wander. But here, we witnessed ourselves drawn into the music, rushing along with her into the stormy that it was as if our breath were being drawn out of our bodies only to be returned to us again.

And I thought that is wizardry and sheer poetry on the keyboard for you.

Considering Cecil's programme that evening, I was at first dismayed not to see any Filipino composers on the list. I mean, where was Kasilag? And what happened to Buencamino? And I am sure many more new compositions have come out since I left the Philippines. I pondered the programme and its implications and wondered if this meant we had departed from our own music to embrace only western/european music. How pleased I was when for her encore, Cecil decided to play a Filipino piece.

It is a condition of being in the diaspora, my aunt told me. This desire to remember and be connected, it is part of being in the diaspora.

Coming home with Ate Dyanne, Kuya Wim, and Jan, we ended up discussing Cecil's performance and how art, music, poetry, visual arts are all related to each other. I read to Ate Dyanne from Eileen's book and she closed her eyes and listened to these vibrant images...which she said are so tangible. And we discussed how poetry is life and a living art.

And ended up speculating on how art forms are also related to math. Which led me to think of Eileen's reference to Jukka Pekka Kervinen's poetry and art. Now, there's an artist whose work I think I have to delve into.

My husband marvels how this return to poetry has transformed me back from a passive woman into this sassy opinionated self he'd always known me for. There, you see, poetry, art, music, writing, these all liberate the soul...


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