Quarterly Musings of A Musicology Major

Early this year, I have already started my first semester (2nd Semester, AY 2016-2017) as a Musicology Major, although I have previously taken some subjects during my Choral Conducting recital preparations last semester (1st Semester, AY 2016-2017). In a span of three months or so, I have learned a lot of things within and outside the classroom. Here are some of them which will be grouped per month.

JANUARY

Happy New Year 2017! Brand new world, new life, new ideas. Fresh from an early morning flight from Phuket, I went to UP late in the morning to have myself enrolled officially as a Musicology major. Next thing I knew was that being a musicology major was not just about the study of folk and Western music. What I have seen in my syllabus was that popular music will be tackled during the latter part of the semester. I used to think that popular music would never be discussed in the academe in the critical aspect since university music studies in most majors often dealt with classical conservatory music (Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, and Haydn are a few examples.).

The month of January was capped with the celebration of the birth centenary of Dr. Jose Maceda, the pioneer of Philippine Ethnomusicology. The celebration was commenced with the performance of “Pagsamba”, a large work within a Holy Mass. Musically, it was absolutely different from the usual Mass music being performed since it was not only atonal (far from the usual melodic principle). It also focused on the use of indigenous musical instruments like the Gandingan (a set of four hanging bossed gongs) and Agung (a set of two big hanging bossed gongs) of Maguindanao, Bungkaka (a fork-shaped bamboo buzzer from the Cordillera region), Tongali (a nose flute from Kalinga), and many more. Most of the people who attended the Holy Mass were shocked since it seemed that the concept was new to them. Though I guess that the gongs were as good as the usual Church bells.

FEBRUARY

During my Music Criticism class, we discussed about the music and meaning in the commercials and we were given the freedom to choose and review a Filipino television commercial. While most of my classmates chose to review the more recent ones, I opted to review Sarsi’s “Angat Sa Iba” which was broadcast way back in 1989.

What appealed to me was not really the visuals. I found Mr. Ryan Cayabyab’s instrumentation not only nationalistic but also far from the usual commercial jingles. The principle of this television commercial was to prove that Sarsi (Philippines’ answer to American counterparts like Barq’s and MUG) can go at par with foreign counterparts.

TRIVIA: The voices behind this television commercial were members of Filipino vocal ensemble, The Company. (Yes, the group where Moy Ortiz is part of.)

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Performance-wise, I am slowly learning the art of playing the Chinese Guzheng (similar to the Japanese Koto) and the Maguindanaon Kulintang (a set of small gongs arranged similarly to a xylophone).

MARCH

Being a millennial, I have not been binge-watching television for around a decade anymore since most of the information can already be found on the cyberspace. Since my dad was the only one who stayed at home most of the time, he had time to watch television. Out of the blue, he asked me if I knew a certain Froilan Canlas. The name rang a bell to me since Sir Froi is the Koto (a Japanese musical instrument which meant to be plucked) instructor of my Asian Music colleagues in the department. It turned out that my dad started to rave about Sir Froi’s performance of Bread’s “If” which allowed him to have another chance to become one of the grand finalists of ABS-CBN’s “Tawag ng Tanghalan”, a singing competition in ABS-CBN’s noontime show, “Showtime”.

Out of curiosity, I opened YouTube in my smartphone and looked for the video. I was surprised that the elements that I always looked for in a vocal performance (dynamics, above-average tonality, text-painting, unpredictability) were present! Okay, fan mode on. Since Sir Froi’s version was still stuck in my head, I shared the video on Facebook. I waited until his next performance to vote for him. I consistently voted for him until the last day of the Grand Finals.

My fandom heightened during the week of the Grand Finals. He performed a multicultural take on “Anak”, a Freddie Aguilar classic on the Tuesday of the Grand Finals. I was quite surprised that certain musical instruments like the Shakuhachi (a Japanese flute), the Djembe (an African drum) and Bungkaka (as previously described) were added in the overall performance. I got to watch the performance on YouTube and I could say that this was his best performance so far. Not to mention, Sir Froi was able to narrate the story of a prodigal child through his dynamics and falsettos (which symbolized how the child who used to be good transformed into a rebellious one, as well as how the child wailed in the last line, “Mali.”).

I was able to run into Sir Froi a week after the grand finals since it was his Koto teaching day.  His rendition of Kuh Ledesma’s “Sino Ang Baliw” (which he likewise performed) , especially the last few lines, “Sino, sino, sino ang tunay na Baliw?”, were still stuck in my mind since I had a bit of a struggle learning the Agung part of a certain Kulintang piece so I asked for his permission if I may use the AH Museum (where he holds his Koto classes) to practice for a few minutes. He later obliged since his next student was not yet around. I likewise congratulated him for being one of the top three finalists and commended his use of the OPM genre throughout the competition.

Froilan Canlas TNT

TRIVIA: Mr. Froilan Canlas is also the founder of TUGMA (Tugtugang Musika Asyatika), the official Asian Music organization of the Musicology Department of the University of the Philippines College of Music. The organization was founded in the year 2007.

Going back to my conservatory roots, I once thought that it was the composers themselves who impose the markings on the music scores being purchased in the market. However, I had this habit of putting extra markings in the choral score that I thought would be detrimental to the original principles of the piece. My perception proved me wrong in my Special Topics in Musicology class.

I learned that pre-Beethoven compositions were not under the custody of the composers themselves, but of a major institution like a publishing house (G. Schirmer and Breitkopf & Härtel, for instance) a Church, or even a noble family. For the case of a publishing house, they are the ones who impose the additional markings in the score (i.e., dynamics, piano finger numbers, direction of bowing). However, performers of a pre-Beethoven composition are actually free to partially “edit” the score in their own way.

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Ok, that’s it for my quarterly musings. Till next quarter in June! 🙂

*fingers crossed*

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Quarterly Musings of A Musicology Major

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