Mr. C’s tunes: from sheet music to an exhibition

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VISUALIZING music is quite a challenge. But it was a challenge that was accepted by the The Center for Campus Art of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, the result of which is Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika: An Exhibit on the Life and Work of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, its third exhibit featuring National Artists and the its first focusing on music.

“[Ryan] Cayabyab is a very busy man. We were only able to talk to him once,” exhibit co-curator and Center for Campus Art (CCA) director Gerry Torres told BusinessWorld. Aside from meeting with the composer, research was done, including interviews with the artist’s colleagues.

Co-curated with former music production chair and current faculty member Aji Manalo, together with faculty members Alwyn Cruz and Ces Disini-Pitogo, the exhibit presents milestones of Mr. Cayabyab’s life and career as a composer and musical director, as well as his works in theater, movies, and television.

Raymundo Cipriano Pujante Cayabyab earned a degree in music from the UP College of Music, where he also became a full-time professor at the Department of Composition and Music Theory. In 1978, Mr. Cayabyab won the grand prize at the Metro Manila Popular Music Festival with the song “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika.” Today he is the executive director of the Philippine Popular Music Festival (Philpop), an annual songwriting competition.

“Mr. C — as he is fondly called by friends and colleagues — explored and developed the Pinoy sound, along the way elevating our musical taste and convincing us that Filipino music is at par with the world,” Mr. Torres said in a speech at the exhibit launch on Jan. 16.

“When Mr. C was bestowed the National Artist award, I thought it was essential for an exhibit on the genius of Reymundo Cipriano Pujante Cayabyab — composer, arranger, pianist, conductor, singer and educator — be produced for Benilde. I knew that his music, testaments to outstanding Filpino talent, and his work ethic will serve as inspiration to our young designers, artists, and musicians,” he added.

The school’s SDA Gallery features a timeline Mr. Cayabyab’s life and work presented through text, images and videos; tapestries and lounge chairs by architecture and interior design students which are interpretations of the maestro’s songs; printed song lyrics with QR codes leading to music or lyric videos on YouTube; and a karaoke room with a playlist including Cayabyab’s songs including “Paraisong Parisukat” (1977), “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” (1978), “Sino ang Baliw” (1981), and “Araw Gabi” (1985).

The black and white motif of the exhibit, Mr. Torres noted, is inspired by the color of piano keys.

“Music is an extension of [Mr. Cayabyab]’s being. He has mastered the art to the point that he is able to mirror his own persona along with it,” exhibit co-curator and music production faculty member Aji Manalo said.

That evening, students of the music production program and Mr. Cayabyab’s colleagues performed his songs.

By the end of the program, Mr. Cayabyab spoke, noting that music is like writing. “Walang tigil ’yan (It does not stop) until you distill the right things — the right sound, balance, texture, [and the right] dynamic,” he said.

Mr. Cayabyab was named the National Artist for Music in 2018, and received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in September 2019. For the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian Games, he composed the theme song, “We Win as One,” with lyrics by playwright Floy Quintos, and performed by Lea Salonga.

For the maestro, the awards and recognition is a reason to continue the work. “That’s why, I have to write more compositions,” Mr. Cayabyab told BusinessWorld at the end of the program.

The CCA has previously held exhibits on National Artists Ramon Valera, Lino Brocka, and Ishmael Bernal; and hosted exhibits featuring the work of National Artists Manuel Conde, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and Salvador Bernal.

Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika: An exhibit on the Life and Work of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab runs until April 14 at the 12/F Gallery of Benilde’s School of Design and Arts. It is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman