05 October 2012

For Lack of a Better “Positive” Term

Facebook. Twitter. Gmail. Yahoo. Youtube. These names are very much popular in our Age of Information. These nouns are even used as verbs. I am currently “facebooking” while typing my reaction paper. I often wonder why our age was that of information, when in reality the past age was more concerned with true and hard-earned information. Yes, technology makes us easily informed, therefore making research and information dissemination easier. On the other hand, too much use of technology makes us unaware of time. Finally, I found an apt, yet not positive, term for such a way of life, “temporal disorders”.

Last October 3, I was able to attend Dr. Jonas Baes’ colloquium entitled “Music and Temporal Disorder: The Dissolution of Form and Tonal Structure in the Piano Piece A Priori (and myths about composing the other self)”. I am not unfamiliar with the pieces of Dr. Baes, since I have composition major friends and, in some instances, we discussed about his music and the music of his composition students. This colloquium has led me to see Dr. Baes and his works in a new perspective.

He told us the philosophical background of his works. He leans toward Emmanuel Kant’s epistemological views (a priori and a posteriori). His music usually defies the a priori in music. He makes music without form and without distinct melody. He defies the norms of today's music, he deconstructs the constructed idea regarding music. He introduced to us the term temporal disorder, a term used by Elissa Marder in her book Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity. Temporal disorder is defined as a disorder of being unable to live in time. In our present age, time is usually commodified. Dr. Baes mentioned happy hour and prime time. He also gave examples of temporal disorders in the Philippine context, such as addiction to video games and watching Telenovelas. I was really struck by the Filipino’s fetishism for the camera. I usually hate people who will tell me that they will just wait for the performance videos to be uploaded on Youtube, even if the place is just one jeepney away or the concert is free. I will always tell them that the live experience is very much different from watching it on a computer screen. I am very thankful for my parents because they watch recitals and performances whenever they are free. I remember my father attending the Viva España concert at the Abelardo Hall despite his very busy schedule because he told me that, “mas kakaiba ang pakiramdam kapag nakikita mo mismo yung kumakanta, tumutugtog at sumasayaw (the feeling is different when you experience the singing, playing, and dancing in person)”. My mother would always ask me if there will be recitals in the college because she would usually bring some of her friends and relatives to watch. My churchmates also supported our church choir when we performed last September 23 at the PhilAm Life Auditorium for the Coro Et Al concert. We might be the most amateur choir that night, but our churchmates told us that the worship experience was very different when you see it live rather than watching it on Youtube. It’s as if they were part of the singing, they feel the experience of simply being there. I usually equate this to church worship as opposed to television worship services. The experience of worshiping with your fellow worshipers is more precious than watching sermons on TV. Yes, we can learn something from TV sermons, but the feeling of being with other people, of singing a heartfelt song during singing time, of hearing people’s testimonies, and of praying earnestly for those who need it is more fulfilling and engaging. TV worship can feel so artificial sometimes.

Temporal disorders affect a person’s yearning to experience music making in the flesh. Because of technology, people are satisfied to see performances on video and see how beautiful the stage design is or the costume of the performers are through photos posted on Facebook. These people would be comfortable in their own homes, in their own comfort zones. Some would say that, in watching a performance, they felt as if they were there. One of my church-mates told me that she saw the performance of AJ Villanueva’s Prayer of Stillness and that the soprano was very good. I told her that her hair would stand on its end and her ears will be filled with her voice and the sounds of the piano only if she was in that exact time and space of the performance. The piece was composed for a small hall, not for earphones. What many people do not understand is that, in our kind of music, the aural aspect is as important, if not more, as the visual aspect.

The reason that I appreciate watching performances, be it classical, contemporary, or avant-garde, is because I understand the importance of time and space in music. Being with new music and contemporary composers cause me to dialogue with them regarding their music, their motives, and their considerations in making their pieces. It was also applicable to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and even to the priests in the Middle Ages. It is also applicable to the nose flute, tongatong, and kulintang. I would never forget the day when I heard a nose flute being played as I travel in the mountains of Kalinga. It was more beautiful and more serene when it was played in the echoing mountains as compared to playing it in Abelardo Hall.

The problem with so many people today is that they let technology dictate their way of living, instead of using technology to improve their way of living. Temporal disorders may be the reason that schools do not value music education and music making because they can simply download songs they can dance to during Linggo ng Wika. They can just watch Youtube videos to learn how to sing and play the guitar. They never valued the fulfillment they can gain when they learn a skill that can not only improve their physical dexterity, but also their emotional, cognitive, and even moral aspects of their being. They never saw music education as a tool to help a person develop holistically. Since I am a pragmatist type of educator, I believe that you should learn music by doing, not merely watching.

This generation seriously needs some reflecting to do. Did we improve along with our technology? Or did we regress because we let technology progress, making it a substitute for everything that humans can do? When we are stripped of our gadgets, can we still function normally? These are the questions that my generation should ponder.

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