Myths & Traditions
30 August 2017
This first performance night of the Symposium focuses on musical traditions and music’s contribution to this hunt for “The Invisible Answer“. After all, music preceded language in helping us investigate the perennial questions of existence.
The Thai ensemble Korphai will perform two songs from the Piphat tradition that highlight the mutual teacher student relationship between Master Boonyong Kethkong and the American composer Bruce Gaston, Korphai’s spiritual mentor since the days of Fongnaam, a pioneering contemporary Thai music group.
Shwedagon’s innovative melody was composed in 1971 by the Thai composer Master Boonyong Kethkong as a personal appreciation of the story behind the great Buddhist Shwedagon in Myanmar. Bruce Gaston heard this piece performed while living in Chiangmai in 1975 and fell in love with Master Boonyong’s musical creativity. He then moved to Bangkok to become Master Boonyong’s student. Together, they spent their time exchanging and exploring new ideas to adapt and develop the traditional music of Thailand within the context of the modern world. The result was the ensemble project operating under the banner of “Fongnaam“, who are now revered as the pioneers of Thai contemporary music.
Jonathan Day’s “9th June 1924” considers the last day of pioneering climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, probably the first men to climb Everest. How was it to be in that most remote and unvisited place, the home of dreams and ancient fears? Jonathan’s other piece tonight entitled “An Onnagata Kami Infests my Forest” revolves around TS Eliot’s remark in Four Quartets: ’We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
The PGVIM singers, our local community choir, remind us that the voice was the original instrument through which men and women “sang out their feelings long before they were able to speak their thoughts.” (Otto Jespersen). Claus-Hinrich Stahmer creates the myth of an imaginary landscape, but in reality what we hear are only voices. Music, in its fascinating variety and diversity, is a perfect medium to express both the real and the imaginary “worlds“ humans evolve in. This improvised piece takes its participants, both performers and listeners onto a journey of collective mutual understanding, allowing the projection of our inner myths.
“Homrong Aiyares” (The Elephant Overture) was composed during the reign of King Chulalongkorn and has long been a favorite repertoire piece within the Piphat Sepha tradition. Master Boonyong Kethkong rearranged the song in 1990 especially for Fongnaam’s music accompaniment of the 1927 silent film “Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness”.
Dieter Mack’s “Saba” from 1978 was his fantasy-like reaction to his first visit to Bali where he stayed in the village of Saba. The piece therefore evokes a myth of that place through the mind of a young composer. At the same time, the sounds the pieces are made of are real.
The composer Charles Ives will conclude the evening with one of his 1906 contemplative pieces which contains elements symbolising ’The Silence of the Druids- who Know, See and Hear Nothing’. Ives believed that the human spirit like nature itself constantly strives for perfection. For Ives, each of our individual journeys are part of all of humankind’s journey of discovery. Despite humanity’s incredible ability for inventing and reimagining its own histories, the real meaning of our existence effectively remains “The Unanswered Question”.
Music Director and Founder: Anant Narkkong
Somnuek Sang-Aroon (Pinai/ Oboe)
Thaweesak Akarawong (Ranat Ek/ Leading Xylophone)
Thannaphat Mangkornsiri (Ranat Thoom/ Bass Xylophone)
Pokpong Khamprasert (Khongwong Yai/ Large Gong Circle)
Asdavuth Sagarik (Khong Wong Lek/ Small Gong Circle)
Tossaporn Tassana (Klong Yao/ Footed Drum)
Kriangkrai Raweewat (Klong Song Nah/ Double-Sided Drum)
Prasarn Wongwirotrak (Ching/ Small Hand Cymbals)
Anant Narkkong (Chab Lek/ Medium Hand Cymbals)
Akrapol Apicho (Krab/ Wood Clappers)
*Special thanks to Luangpradithphairoh (Sorn Silpabanleng) Music Foundation for generous support of musical instruments and rehearsal space.
Conductor: Kajornsak Kittimathaveenan
Voice Coach: Zion Daorattanahong
Chelsea Bless Nwangwu
Rear Admiral Sumpun Phuphaibul