Kulintang Major: My Own Side of Story

Hello, there. A couple years ago, I opened a space here in lieu of my Music Literature class. Now, I’m re-opening a space dedicated specially on my studies in Asian Music. This blog won’t solely feature Asian Music alone. There may be other reflections, too, about any music, performances, music instruments, culture and traditions, etc. from different continents that I might encounter along. But why start something like this? I’ve always been in the city, grew up from a church with an American pastor, and I’ve been trained to play the piano since 5 years old. All my life, the only music I know is that of the Westerners. I can identify oriental or Asian music, and I know that my country has its own music. I’ve heard bits of them from Philippine music, to Vietnam, to Thai, to Indonesian and so on. But I was never really educated enough about our own ‘system’ of music or the different ways on how Southeast Asian people play their music.

I finished an associated degree in Music Ministry in another college, I then studied to take further studies in Music in the Unibersidad de Filipinas. I tried to get into Music Education twice but to no prevail. On my second time to take the admission test to the university’s College of Music, my brother booked me also to audition for the Musicology Department, too. Their diploma program focuses on Asian Music, which prioritizes Kulintangan (Philippine music from the South), Kalingga (music from the Cordilleras), Banduria, Koto (a Japanese stringed instrument), Indonesian Gamelan, and Chinese instruments.

Basically, the Asian Music program focuses on music from around Asia which means lesser contact with the Western music. And as you can see, the East and West are totally different worlds. It’s not just difference in instruments, but also in the rhythm, form, music notation, how they create their music, what they create their music for, etc. When I entered the college, I didn’t know what to expect. I only got two things with me- my passion for travel and for learning new things, and love [& respect] for the arts. Moreover, I never thought of being naturally talented. Even if I can play some instruments and understand music just enough, I still don’t consider myself as a musician of whatever kind. It was miraculous that I got through with my first degree and I was even more amazed when people would compliment me after I play piano. But performing just for entertainment isn’t my thing at all. Okay, sorry that I lied to Sir Verne by telling him that I would want to be a performer. I know- the spotlight, the big applause, the fame- it was glamorous and attractive, but I think, I already had my fair share. It was a great feeling up there- performing and popularity- but to me, there’s more beyond that. Besides, I enjoy research and backstage, working in the production and technical system. My music is more of a ‘self-expression,’ even more a medium of communication.

To enter the Unibersidad de Filipinas is a whole new experience- the training is intense and the expectations are high. Every student has their own knack to make it big. Everyone’s talented like they just get those drum beats so quickly; they’re highly passionate and ‘competitive’. Students are more trained for the world. The college is like a big diverse world in one small space and it’s really a challenge in it. My program- Asian music- is a whole new sound and a whole new system. It took me a lot to get by. I didn’t get along fast with it. Rather, it seems to have been very difficult for me to get along with it. Definitely, a big personal challenge.

A lot of things were going in my head through my first years in the college. There are matters of religions, personal beliefs and standards… and as you know, there are many, many religions in Asia with which its music is highly associated. Asia has always been labeled as pagan for having too many gods and weird rituals. Personally, I wouldn’t want to do anything with paganism, so I’m really avoiding that in whatever forms. To have a secular profession that contrasts my personal beliefs is a no-no. It is non-sense to live with two different lives. Furthermore, there are also other issues going on around me like family responsibilities, not to mention ‘loved ones’ putting on pressure and being critical. Its been a whirlwind of issues, emotions, ideals and I’ve been quite exhausted that its one reason that made me leave school for a while. But now I’m back, and I’m back to finish what I’ve started more devotedly. Because now, I know what I want and what I’m doing. This blog will be dedicated to talk about my journey in my college program. It will contain personal researches and studies like any technique I may come up and develop to aid me as I learn and practice Asian music instruments, watnot, and probably, history and events that I have attended, immersion trips or just out-of-town trips that I may reflect with my program. It could also speak of my personal reflections as I spend time and work my way through this field. It has been a personal struggle for me, and there may be other else. I hope that through this, I may figure something out for others with the same ordeals. Who knows?.. Why just now? Well, its only that I felt the urge, and only now that I got a good internet connection. c;

Enjoy. Have a great day!

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