Ontario Arts Council grants funding for New Music Concerts commission

I am very privileged to write about two things among the latest updates in my work.

First things first. It has been official—New Music Concerts launched its inaugural composer-in-residence program, and I feel very honoured to be their first composer resident for 2022. I am commissioned to write two works: one for a flute octet and electronic fixed media, and one for trumpet and electronics (to be announced officially at a later date). The first work, bearing the title Kinalugarán, will have its premiere on 30 April 2022 at The Music Gallery (918 Bathurst) alongside composer Sandeep Bhagwati’s collaborative music-making initiative with the Swara Sutra Ensemble. I have given the second work a working title—Kina-i-ngátan—one which I will explain at a later time.

I have attended the NMC artistic advisory council meeting a month ago, and I can say that things look promising for future work and upcoming concert seasons! No wonder Hope Lee, a composer who I wrote about for Nomadic Sound Worlds, later emailed to tell me that she has been a long-time supporter of the organization.

NMC has its own announcement of the composer residency HERE.

Next best thing to talk about. In August 2021, the Ontario Arts Council awarded me a music creation grant for Kinalugarán, one of my commissioned works for New Music Concerts. As mentioned earlier, the 19-minute work for flute octet and electronic fixed media (in quad 4.0) will receive its premiere on 30 April 2022 at The Music Gallery (918 Bathurst). I can also disclose that this was the first arts grant I ever got not only in my entire years of composing but also as a fairly new Permanent Resident of Canada. I express gratitude to the Ontario Arts Council for recognizing the merit of my work and for awarding financial support to ensure the success of the project.

Kinalugarán is an adventurous endeavour for me. Since involving myself in community radio in late 2014, I have flirted with how journalism and its storytelling trajectories can influence the way I can create music. The documentary form has been an intriguing entry point for me since “audio essays” (I first heard about the term in one of Carolyn Chen’s performances in Nief-Norf 2018) have the potential of resembling one, especially for broadcast purposes. I toyed with the idea of interviewing Filipino artists and stitching their stories for the project, which eventually happened with very curious results. “Invisibility” for me has been a very personal topic, having dealt with it both as a composer of colour in Canada and also as an invisible wanderer in Canadian society, waiting for immigration to either finally recognize my existence or expunge me out as an unwanted foreigner without proper documentation. Tie that in with the phenomenon of Filipinos pursuing lives in richer, first-world countries to escape the reins of poverty, and we capture an angle to pursue leads for stories among young Filipino artists abroad. I interviewed violinist Ramon Alfonso “Chino” Soberano (Phoenix, AZ, United States), film composer Marie-Luise Calvero (Freiburg, Germany), and playwright/spoken word artist Riley Palanca (Montreal, Canada) to record their stories and perspectives about invisibility. Kinalugarán will be the culmination of it all—a fabric of three stories from young Filipino artists, all being told at the same time and intertwined to create a narrative about being invisible, fighting to belong, asserting one’s claim for a place (lugar) in their respective “places.”

Bumulong ng orasyon—
Tandaan ang kinalugarán:
Dapithapon sa párang.

(jkf, 2022)

Adding more dimensions to the work, I will superimpose live flute octet (doubling percussion) music on top of the audio essay. This dives into the forays of attempting to create a modular work—a totality that allows components to break apart and stand alone as themselves. You can observe modularity in Javanese gamelan, where renditions of songs can be pieced together in various ways and performed either with a full gamelan ensemble, with just the panerusan, with subsets of panerusan and other available instruments (depending on who’s available), or just in karawitan-style (instrumental). However, the manner of playing among instruments never changes, as opposed to music with open instrumentation where anyone can play whatever part. In this case, the flutes serve as one component, and the audio essay serves as another component. The linearity of the work is still unnegotiable, but both components can stand alone by themselves (i.e. can be performed/presented separately without the need for the other). They can also converge, superimposing one on the other, to create a greater whole. Spatiality is created with modularity, but the totality of the work remains the same.

Talking more about spatiality, I also intend the flutists to be spatially dispersed across the performance space (just like the quad 4.0 sound I envision in lieu of boring ol’ stereo). However, further restrictions on public performances due to the pandemic will determine all of that in April. We will see how everything will unfold nearing the premiere date.

Watch out for further updates soon! I have more of them in a queue of sorts…the first half of 2022 is really looking jam-packed to me. I have lots to tell.