Arts & Leisure

An exhibit of avant-garde music

Posted on July 03, 2013

THE SOUNDS of flutes, violins, oboes, horns, celli, contrabass, whistles, and a gong filled the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum for 38-minutes of masterfully structured dissonance, melodic surprises, and notes that spiraled down and entranced. This was the opening performance of the orchestra piece Dissemination by National Artist for Music Jose Maceda for Listen to My Music: The Jose Maceda Exhibit.

TAD ERMITANO’s performance
Done in celebration of the 16th foundation anniversary of the University of the Philippines Center for Ethnomusicology (UPCE), the exhibit was inspired by the Jose Maceda Collection, an extensive archive that was recommended for inclusion in UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Memory of the World Register in 2007.

At the opening on June 25, Dr. Ramon Santos, executive director of UPCE, explained to BusinessWorld how Dr. Maceda’s avant-garde music uses dissonance. "Dissonance is just an offshoot of the combination of instruments," Dr. Santos said. "Walang (no) harmony, but it’s still organized while noise is random. It (Mr. Maceda’s composition) still has musical intent."

Known for employing ethnic instruments and musical structures, but infusing it with a futuristic essence, Dr. Santos sees no conflict between Dr. Maceda’s ethnic and futuristic infusions. "He respects tradition. When you play Kalinga music, dapat Kalinga talaga (It should really be Kalinga)," Dr. Santos said. "But this is his music, so there is no conflict."

Part of the exhibit is an area called "Confluence," which features works by contemporary sound artists Erick Calilan, Tengal Drilon, Tad Ermitano, Jing Garcia, Paolo Garcia, Cris Garcimo, Malek Lopez, Armi Mallari and Arvin Nogueras (Caliph8), and Jon Romero, along with interactive works made by UP engineering students.

Curator Dayang Yraola said that all of the participating artists were required to read a compilation of 30 articles written by Dr. Maceda and listen to several recordings of the National Artist’s compositions before they could join the exhibit.

Working with engineering students was something that Dr. Maceda would approve off, said Ms. Yraola. "He (Dr. Maceda) was also a geek gizmo guy," she said. "In the ’80s, he already had a Macintosh."

The mixture of ethnic music and contemporary music, "makes it even more beautiful," said Ms. Yraola. "We think ethnic is old and passive," she said, "But here we allow them to play with it, touch it, and make art with it."

The other parts of the exhibit are "Creation," which features the recordings of Maceda compositions; "Connection," which compares Maceda’s compositions with works by those who collaborated with him like Ramon Santos, Jonas Baes, Verne dela Peña; "Context," which includes archive materials like photographs, research notes, and audio recordings.

The project is supported by the University of the Philippines Diliman Office of the Chancellor, UP Musical Arts and Research Foundation, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The exhibit runs until July 26 at the UP Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 928-1927, or 981-8500 local 4021, 4022, or 4024, e-mail, or visit -- Jasmine T. Cruz