I previously wrote Part 1 to make space for subdued reflections about “social distancing.” (I also recently wrote a more honest, passionate, and rather too personal post in my Facebook page…but I’ll simply leave it there in that semi-private space). In this process, I find that repeatedly articulating an idea provides more refinement and clarity, but also passes a threshold of wanting to talk about everything. As a result, the boundaries which provided that clarity can also potentially disappear or become unstable.
In any case, I promised last time that updates on my life as a composer will be up for today’s entry. In spite of the ongoing pandemic crisis where many people found their productivity crippled or were anxious about “the new normal,” I would be among those whose productivity sharply jumped to the roof! There was the struggle to be highly functional before the pandemic, but my anxieties surprisingly allowed me to be sharp and more functional than ever. I do feel emphatic towards fellow artists who lost jobs and income, and I have my own losses too.
Let’s start with all of the updates now:
- “Neither Here Nor There: Musical Identity in the Global Flow”
Musicworks Magazine finally published my first debut magazine article! It was fulfilling to get a glimpse of the worlds within the stories of sound artist April Aliermo and composer-vocalist Lieke van der Voort.
A little more insight behind the scenes now. The decision to feature them aligned with my ongoing Nomadic Sound Worlds series, where I delve into the worlds of immigrant composers to explore some emerging discourse out of their invented affinities with Canada. It is vital then to draw trajectories that highlight the political nature of (im)migration to see a bigger picture of creative “praxis” within the increasing significance of mobility in global society. Thinking about liminal states (being neither here nor there), April and Lieke’s work initially came to mind–I saw April’s premiere of her work “Artemis of Colour” in The Music Gallery last year (2019), while I have known Lieke since taking part of the Toronto Creative Music Lab in 2017.
Everything is so much different between them: April is a second-generation Filipino-Canadian, while Lieke is a first-generation Canadian permanent resident from the Netherlands. But it is in pursuing their stories that this hypothetical “in-betweenness” would be revealed even in their lived experiences, something which easily ties their stories together.
Get a copy of the Spring 2020 issue and check out the article! Thank you, Jennie Punter (editor), for giving me a chance to write for Musicworks.
- A Study in Exile, No. 4: Paagos in Cluster XI Digital Edition
The contingency plan for Cluster Festival to go online materialized due to the government’s implementation of social distancing measures. As they issued a new call for digital projects, I submitted my work and eventually got selected for this year’s edition.
If you would remember, this 24-minute audio essay/acousmatic work was a commission from choreographer Sarah Samaniego. It received its premiere last year as part of the Tangente Danse’s concert season in Montreal. For this festival however, I feel that it is very necessary to think of a different form of presentation to reflect the fragmented nature of our local and global social distancing. Instead of a simple stereo version of a 6.1 surround work, all channels assigned to a satellite speaker are rendered and laid out one by one so that you can never play them simultaneously and have the chance to hear the work coherently. As a result, the embedded stories of Sandeep Bhagwati and Bänoo Zan in the audio essay become further distorted, as new barriers emerge in accessing them. I believe that’s how the world negotiates with the “new normal” nowadays: everything is all fragmented, distant, and topographically uneven, despite technology’s supposed utopian, encompassing reach.
Additionally, I got a mention in an Akimbo review by Mariana Muñoz Gomez, with my work as one of “the most exciting projects of the festival.” I provided the mention below (and feel free to click on the link to read the rest of the review):
Many of the artists who were added onto the program offer timely visual, audio, and performative works, and what I think are some of the most exciting projects of the festival…
Meanwhile, Juro Kim Feliz’s A Study in Exile, No. 4: Paagos is a complex and layered audio work that engages with themes of home, migration, displacement, surveillance, national militarization, and the imposition of borders. Abstract soundscapes meld together with interviews and poetry as the listener controls their overlapping by pushing “play” and “pause” on the individual audio tracks.Mariana Muñoz Gomez, “Cluster XI Digital Edition – Online Festival,” Akimbo, https://akimbo.ca/akimblog/cluster-xi-digital-edition-online-festival/.
Cluster XI Digital Edition will be up in the virtual world until 31 May 2020, after which the website will be taken down. (In hindsight, how sobering its ephemeral presence gives–“here today, gone tomorrow”).
- “MCL Talks” — hosted by the Manila Composers Lab
There was a sudden call to help produce a YouTube video series. In responding to the impact of COVID-19 in Southeast Asian artistic communities, the Manila Composers Lab decided to produce “MCL Talks,” a series of recorded Zoom discussions about composition as creative process. With members of the Lab (Jonas Baes, Dominic Quejada, Feliz Macahis, AJ Villanueva, Marie-Luise Calvero, Pauline Arejola, and I), our current season of episodes consists of each individual composer presenting a work and forming potential discussions surrounding it. I currently serve as its moderator (and sometimes video editor).
And of course, I got the opportunity to present my work Sa Kanyang Paglayag (In His Voyage; for viola, cello, contrabass) and unpack the discourse emerging from its composition all the way back in 2010. You can watch the whole Episode 4 here. This then also leads me to point number three…
- New YouTube channel!
It was kind of an impulsive decision to create one, but creating score videos of my work (Sa Kanyang Paglayag included) helped me prepare for my MCL Talks episode. So yeah, I finally have an official YouTube channel as a contemporary music composer!
There’s another story to it, though. Creating score videos of my own work were also born out of extreme frustration and even anger. For whatever reason, opportunities for an emerging composer such as myself felt very distant and inaccessible for a long time. (Again, the plight of composers who are people of colour is the real deal!). Feeling invisible and unseen brought me to a point where I solemnly swore to grant myself the right to enjoy the perks of having the badge and validation of being a composer as much as any other colleague would, instead of perpetually waiting for a gracious hand that will probably never come. Being featured in score video channels is one of those badges of honour–I decided there and then to completely forget about them and grant myself my own space.
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel! I hope anyone will find these videos useful and would bring more interest in the work I do.
- Harpsichord commission from Wesley Shen
This next set of updates will come in the form of quick notes…
…and so yes, I’m quite excited to start a work for harpsichord! Pianist and harpsichordist Wesley Shen commissioned me to write a 10-minute piece, and I’m still in the middle of the pre-composition phase (drawing mind maps, like always). The initial plan is to present a premiere in November 2020, but we have to keep our eyes and ears open for drastic rescheduling due to the impact of COVID-19. I expect this to be an engaging and fruitful time, nonetheless.
- Rescheduled premiere of Kinamulátan for bass clarinet and accordion
Clarinetist Martin Carpentier and accordionist Joseph Petric were supposed to premiere my new work Kinamulátan (Awakening) for bass clarinet and accordion this Spring 2020. Concerts and musical activities were since cancelled to adhere to social distancing measures, but new premiere dates are hypothetically set later this year: November 2020 in Montreal, and December 2020 in Toronto. I’ll post another update with details once everything becomes more concrete in the future.
- Darmstadt “2021”
I’m supposedly scheduled to take part in workshops at the Darmstadt Summer Courses this July-August 2020. These workshops are lined up throughout my two-week stay there: “Scoring the City” with Theatrum Mundi; and “Talking About Music” with music journalists Kate Molleson (The Guardian, The Herald, BBC Radio 3) and Peter Meanwell (Borealis Festival, Reduced Listening, BBC).
At least it’s a relief to know that the whole summer course will be postponed to next year instead of being cancelled outright. I guess I’ll see Europe again at the proper time.
The real “social distancing” manifests when people become unabashedly apathetic, ignorant, and unwilling to establish a connection. Circling back to the notion of the “new exile” now–this sense of connection with friends and colleagues had been so elusive to me for the longest time. However, this isolation also empowered me to strengthen my own standing ground in the middle of all the noise.
I hope that this heavy, thick fog dissipates and clears out in due time.