Category: Events

2017 Updates

And here I am again a year later… I hope it’s not too late to talk about the summer. I spent about seven weeks of it in my hometown of Cainta in the Philippines, finishing up the last bits of Feuertrunken, a timpani and bass drum-ridden concert opener for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and attempting to enjoy home after my three-year absence. During that time, Tiffany Liong-Gabuya of the local classical music radio station, 98.7 DZFE was kind enough to invite me to their beautiful studio at a high-rise in Ortigas Center for an interview on their “Maestro Filipino” program. Tiffany and I had a fun, lively conversation about how I fell into the musical life, and the minutiae of being a Filipino composer. The program, in two parts, aired sometime this week and the last. I did not catch them due to the time difference between Manila and the East Coast (not to mention, naturally, my aversion to the sound of my own voice), but the station does post their interviews to SoundCloud every Friday for those of you to whom such things are interesting.

Armed with my spanking new O-1 visa, which now finally puts me far and away from being a student, I returned to my beloved New York earlier in September and jumped back right into work with The Canales Project, with a full season ahead, and TCP Ventures, which is co-organizing the second CultureSummit in Abu Dhabi in April 2018. The first one earlier this year was a blast and left me energized and excited about the notion of culture as a solution to first-order world problems; it is a joy and privilege to be among the extremely bright and talented minds of the Summit, and if I’m the dumbest person in the room, I’ve always considered it a good thing.

October was quite a full month, and I found myself not only in the thick of composing and administrating but also at the piano seat; first at The Canales Project’s appearance at the National Gallery of Art’s long-running music series, where I had the brief but great pleasure of accompanying Kaoru Watanabe on his composition “Shinobu” for the shinobue flute. The other featured performers were pianist Lara Downes and the tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das, who easily brought the house down not only with their artistry but with their charm, passion, and humanity…

And then, for the second time, at the annual TEDxMidAtlantic conference in downtown Washington, D.C., where once again the honor was all mine to accompany Carla Dirlikov Canales on a couple of songs. Carla is a world-renowned opera singer, and I am a conservatory-trained composer, but neither of us is immune to the many joys of a simple, upbeat pop tune with only three chords. I am looking forward to seeing the video come out. For now, please enjoy the video below from last year’s conference of our performance of two lovely songs from Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, featuring Jessica Garand on viola.

As for the rest of November, I am putting the finishing touches on (i.e., writing the bulk of) a new piece for the Manila Symphony Orchestra, as well as looking forward to my world premiere with the DSO—both pieces will play on the two same dates, December 9 and 10, on opposite sides of the world. Details in my Calendar page, though I expect I will be posting again closer to December to express my excitement.

New Beginnings


Actually the beginnings to which I’m referring are not that new, since I’ve now been part of the team at The Canales Project for about three months, but there is much, much more journeying to do in this unfamiliar world. Last year, despite not having a clue what to do with myself, I decided to suspend my academic aspirations temporarily in favor of something a little more novel and real-world; I had every intention of going back for a DMA/PhD in 2017, but… I am enjoying the arts administration life too much—not to mention I’ve written more music in the last few months since graduating than in my entire second year at Juilliard, so I think I’m in a good place.

Earlier this month at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center we wrapped up the first in a series of shows called “Between Two Worlds,” the idea of which is to feature a motley group of artists who, in one way or another, work between different levels of cultural or professional identity. I’m not heavily involved in the next one on December 4 at New York Live Arts, since in the days leading up to it I’ll be in Houston for a performance (more details another time!), but it will feature my good friend and collaborator Drew Forde.

My work with TCP has pushed me to think more about cultural advocacy, the social impact of the arts, and what it means for us creative workers to engage the wider world around us. Do I really know about these things? No. But I think these are questions that are better acted upon than asked verbally, and now is a great time to be acting upon them indeed.

Future Classics with the Minnesota Orchestra


As it happens I’ve been in Minneapolis all week for the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which will culminate tonight in the orchestra’s annual Future Classics concert, of which I’m beyond thrilled to be part. Last night my fellow composers and I introduced ourselves to a small audience of administrators, staff, and friends of the Minnesota Orchestra, and as the only non-American in the group I made it clear that I was a very long way from home. Growing up in the Philippines, classical music was simply not a life option. And when I discovered the pleasures of orchestral music for the first time, I didn’t think that one day I’d be writing it, let alone be sitting in a hall to listen to one of America’s great orchestras perform something I’d written. But—here we are.

The rest of the program, made up of all-new orchestral music by some very talented people, is sure to be an experience too. Also, a live broadcast on Classical MPR…!

World Premieres with the Juilliard Orchestra

Mount Mayon erupting, 1928

Check out this article on the Juilliard Journal about the upcoming Juilliard Orchestra concert featuring new music by four Juilliard composers including myself. As with all things of this nature, there were a few inaccuracies in the first version of the article, not the most surprising of which was my real last name being misspelled—which is precisely why I’ve discontinued using it for publicity. That error has since been corrected, but there remains another, more complex one that I’m not quite sure how to deal with: a supposed connection between my piece and the “concept of home.” When you’re in a foreign land and trying to create an identity, any connection to a home tends to get amplified. Yet, while I took inspiration from a story from my birthplace, it’s been a long time since I sincerely thought of my birthplace as home, and I approached my source material more as a fascinated outsider—except I thought my sheer irreverence legitimized somehow by my heritage. Hence, for better or for worse, you will hear no Philippine tunes, no deliberate indication of anything Asian in my piece, unless you choose to hear it—there’s nothing to stop you; that’s the beauty of it all.

In any case: the concert will be on Tuesday, April 28th at Alice Tully Hall, with Jeffrey Milarsky conducting. I’m equally excited to hear the music of my wonderful colleagues here at Juilliard; you should be too!

Here’s the program note I submitted to the publicity folks:

Magayon means “beautiful” in the Bicol language of the Philippines, and it forms part of the name of Daragang Magayon—literally “beautiful maiden”—the central character in the origin myth of Mount Mayon, an active volcano that overlooks my birthplace: the Philippine province of Albay. According to the myth, Magayon, having previously rejected many powerful suitors from distant villages, was set to marry the chieftain Ulap. But as preparations began for a grand, feastly wedding, the jealous hunter Pagtuga intervened, holding Magayon’s father hostage and setting off a brief but deadly skirmish.

When all of the main characters died—most tragically Magayon herself, who was hit by a stray arrow—the entire village went from celebratory anticipation of the wedding to mourning. The maiden was laid to rest on a grave next to her husband-to-be, which the villagers were alarmed to find rising higher and higher each day, accompanied by earthquakes and muffled rumblings of the earth. At last a crater formed, spewing hot ash and rocks.

My piece is concerned less with depicting the myth in its entirety and more with the emotional journey that the story evokes. I kept in mind Mount Mayon’s near-perfect cone in shaping the piece: its three sections (fast–slow–fast) are of roughly equal length and form an almost symmetrical arc, flowing seamlessly from one to the next. I also place less emphasis on the tragedy of the myth, and more on my own sense of wonder toward the mythology of my home country; hence, the piece, though brutal at times, ultimately comes to a triumphant close.