Entry 049

Japan-Philippines Contemporary Music Festival 

I’ve recently heard a chamber music performance from Japanese and Filipino musicians. It was staged in celebration of the Japan-Philippines Friendship Month, observed every February.

I first came to know this commemoration while I was a college student in Baguio. I reckon it 2003 or 2004, and since then have been updating myself for any events I can go to. In the past years, there were Japanese film viewing in certain cinemas in some metro cities. But I never went there. Instead of going to the movie house, I’ll check on the featured films, download them, and screen them in the comforts of my home according to my schedule.

But this year, 2013, was different. They (the people organising the events) invited Japanese musicians to perform in the country. When I learned of a scheduled performance on a Friday evening, I gave it a go.

I was actually looking forward to hearing the Orchestra Nipponica – Tokyo but its Saturday show at the CCP didn’t fit my weekend routine. So I chose to see the chamber music performance on a Friday, 8 February, Philam Life Auditorium in UN Avenue.

It was dubbed Japan-Philippines Friendship Contemporary Music Festival.


I managed to sneak an audio recording of the second half performances, featuring string and woodwind quartets. The first half was devoted to piano, with Ayumi Hirahara playing.

Here are my recordings. (Don’t tell the CCP about this. : p)
Woodwind Boogie – Hal Goodman

Violentango – Astor Piazzola

Entre-Temps (“Between Times”) – Toru Takemitsu

Quoting the programme notes of Takemitsu: “This music resembles the structure of a dream, where the episodes, arising from the same depths but differing in contour, move on through the night toward the twilight. The unreality in its conyinuity despite the clarity of each detain redoubles the multivocality”. [From Toru Takemitsu: A Bio-Bibliography by James Siddons (2001)]

This composition was based on lines of a poem by Tristan Tzara, a Dadaist. Here is a translation (quoted from the souvenir programme):

on our heads a single bird
in our hands the flying hand
it is one, it is time

String Quartet “Elegy” – Tadashi Kubo

With this song, the composer created “a unque sound space both protean and East Asian” using gagaku, noh and gidayu styles. The music is undoubtedly East Asian. In the composer’s words, “You would appreciate hearing the ‘hope’, ‘prayer’ and ‘sorrow’ common to us”.

String Quartet (2013) – Manuel Maramba

This is composed by Fr. Manuel Maramba. He described this song as 2013 emerging out of 2012. He compared “the emergence of the new year as a cosmic event when at the winter solstice light slowly conquers darkness, and the invincible sun starts to assert itself against the darkness surrounding it, and the days start to grow grow longer…”


But my most favourite part was the encore, when the two quartets and the oboist played Nicanor Abelardo’s Nasaan Ka, Irog. The forms of the previous songs may be eclectic and broad, but this classic from Abelardo had form most dear to me. I was almost moved to tears hearing Japanese musicians play this.

Encore: Nasaan Ka, Irog? – Nicanor Abelardo

One note here: I remember the brilliant arranger and professor Eudenice Palaruan mentioned, on a voice masterclass that I attended last year, that in applauding a performance, as a protocol, one should tirelessly clap the hands until the last performer has left the stage. I found this civility true among the Japanese audience that night. Well, in my experience, the intensity of applause from Filipinos usually has diminished before the last performer, of an ensemble for example, manages to exit. I just thought about that; just a doodle I wrote in my mind.


All quoted information here are from the souvenir programme unless otherwise noted.


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