The existence of the Space..

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Four months' worth of updates

Posted on September 21, 2017 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

As there was a good amount of projects happening since the New Music on the Bayou festival, I haven't managed to post any updates at all. I'll try to make up for it and sum up everything in this post. Check 'em out (especially the one at the bottom of the list)!

(1) Toronto Creative Music Lab

Meeting around 40 composers and musicians in this year's edition of the Toronto Creative Music Lab was really fun. The community is just so lively and invigorating that people later on described the whole event as "magical." It was also magical to have premiered my work A Study on Exile, No. 1with Jean-Sébastien Blais (oboe), Sarah de Niverville (viola), Grace Scheele (harp) and Austin Lamarche (percussion) dealing with physical spatialization and the Tagalog language for the first time. Riley Palanca's haiku poetry just meshed with the tidtu a bagu (kulintang music) within the textural soundscape of the piece, and it was my first time composing with the kulintang in mind. I've tried to maintain some distance from using the kulintang due to the cultural baggage it carries, but now I saw this as a good opportunity to tie it up with notions of exile and detachment especially that the traditional instrument has its own history of migration to North America where a number of artists and enthusiasts from the Filipino communities have considered it as a symbol of identity. Special acknowledgement goes to Kat Estacio and Toronto-based Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble for lending me a sarunay and keeping the music alive in this part of the globe.

(2) Recording Ni ici, ni là-bas in Montreal

Following the premiere of Ni ici, ni là-bas (for alto flute) in Montreal last April, I and flutist Marilène Provencher-Leduc regrouped and got fellow composer Takuto Fukuda to set up a recording session of the work's complete version. The whole session was a blast! You can check out the studio recording here in my Soundcloud page.

(3) Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions

(credits to An-Laurence Higgins for bottom left photo and Elisabeth Blair for bottom right photo)

Ending the summer months was never as stressful but exciting as premiering a work featuring aleatoric procedures and improvisation, things I never imagined I would incorporate in my compositional practice. Meeting all the lovely people in this small town community of Waterloo (and Kitchener) for the Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions was also very heart-warming. Ni ici, ni là-bas got another stunning performance by flutist Jeff Stonehouse of Ensemble Paramirabo, and working with Priya Shah (soprano/improviser), Sara Constant (alto flute/piccolo) and Marek Orszulik (guitar) for the premiere of A Study on Exile, No. 2 was also extraordinary in that we have to learn how to shape the work within certain time restrictions (as the piece can end up running in 20 minutes if they get too excited and immersed). It was my first time conceiving a theatre work as well, cramming improvised choreography and Riley Palanca's Tagalog sestina poetry into one rather feeble, thin tapestry of sound. Getting a hold of managing physical spatialization is one thing, as the performers have to occupy the whole audience space just like the previous study at TCML; dealing with choreography and the restriction of a small instrumental force is another. It was a learning experience for me in imagining and creating my own interdisciplinary practice, and the resulting performance was unanimously successful. Expect more interdisciplinary theatre/dance+music shenanigans as a result of these studies!

(4) Opus: Testing - Tower and Helm project

It was a challenge for me to continuously write new music all year since September 2016. This carillon piece kailan pa ibabalik ang taginting ng batingaw? (...and when will they ever restore the bell's resonance?) will be my sixth premiere for 2017, written as part of the Opus: Testing - Tower and Helm project organized by Musica Reflecta and the Canadian Music Centre. Carilloneur Roy Lee will play a short excerpt of my work along with others in an outdoor concert this 22nd of September 2017, 5:45 PM @ the grounds of the Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East, Toronto. It will continue to be a work in progress given the hurdles in working out a fast piece for a loud instrument that requires physical strength, agility and focus. Friends in the area, please do come to the event and support us and our music. (I'll need a one-month break after all of this!)

Traversing the in-betweens...

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

(Originally posted last 10 June 2017 on Facebook)

I already had my fill of traveling through freeways connecting cities and towns just within the past two weeks. Last week was that 45-minute distance between Ruston and Monroe in Louisiana. This week got me hooked into the 6-hour distance between Toronto and Montreal (for the nth time!). Oh, I haven't counted inbound and outbound trips to airports in Monroe, Atlanta and Toronto as well. There are other people out there who traveled a great deal more than I did, but this is nothing new for me regardless.

So there's that tendency to ignore the landscapes occupying those spaces between points of origin and destination. People usually sleep or mind their own business or work throughout the whole journey. The thought reminds me of the railway switcher guy telling (Antoine) de Saint-Exupéry's little prince that only the children know what they want (read the book for context...that short snippet tells a lot!). Being little ol' me, I clutch on to my "rag doll" and "peek through train (or bus, or airplane) windows" to see which spaces I have to see, pass through, and leave behind. I still find it fascinating that putting this in perspective brings a lot of questions in mind.

An example: While on the bus ride to Montreal yesterday, I was so blessed to catch a glimpse of a mother bird teaching a baby bird how to fly. Seeing a mother bird drop her baby to teach her self-reliance in that snap of a moment is so priceless. I wonder how the pair is doing right now. What else did the mother bird do to be a good parent to her offspring? Which tree are they staying at? How many animals have that specific tree accommodated at this point and which animals are they? How much change had that specific tree witnessed throughout its entire life? Did it witness the building of Highway 401? The cutting down of its fellow brother and sister trees? How many vehicles did it see pass by throughout the years?

Another example: I see scattered houses throughout the Ontario and Quebec countryside along Highway 401/20. Who lives there? Do they speak English or French or a native language? Having the freeway in full view, how is it to live in a place that seduces people into the idea of transience and yet decides to stay put? When are those houses built? Which voices and feet have these soils heard and carried hundreds of years ago? Were they British voices? French? Iroqouis? If I would step on this patch of land, would it recognize me as one of its own or as a foreigner, as an immigrant settler?

Another example: The weather in northern Louisiana last week was really humid with a mix of rain and summer sunshine. During my first day there, I'm not sure if it rained a bit when Mel Mobley picked me up from my Monroe hotel on the way to Ruston. I'm pretty sure that the trees are somewhat different though from the ones in Highway 401 (Ontario)...the forests there remind me of tropical greenery. But what struck me is the absence of accessible means to traverse these freeways going from one town to another. How do people rely so much on owning cars there? How normal is it for people to just drive here and there, within town and out of town, and in what frequency? What's the worth of staying two hours away from some place and not think about, say, the convenience of public transport? In the long run, do the landscapes affect their way of seeing the road beyond the means to go from one place to another? Do people living in these intimate, quaint spaces even think about hitting the road and drive all the way without any destination in mind? Do I see myself living in a small town, resisting the seductive urges of roads and highways and living along the land I planted myself in?


I remember stopping over somewhere in a small rural town named Prescott in Ontario with friends on the way to Montreal. Upon first impression, besides having a white majority population, the town has a very rich history, being one of the witnesses of the French occupation and the Loyalist movement (given its proximity from the New York state border) along Canada's colonial history. As I was breathing in the fresh air, the scents of the St. Lawrence river, and enjoying the gentle breeze that locals seem to enjoy during sunny seasons, I asked myself that question on whether I can see myself living in a small town like this one or not. Maybe I could, I thought. Previously living in a suburb area near the Philippine capital for around a decade and a half, maybe it won't be any different. Maybe this constant restlessness can be contained by settling for something encapsulating a place that's neither here nor there...and maybe freeways and roads will no longer arouse my itching desires of horizons and distances. Who knows?

- jkf

From up north down to the south and back...

Posted on June 20, 2017 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

(Originally posted last 04 June 2017 on Facebook)

It's really great to be part of the New Music on the Bayou this year! I met new friends (and new browwwws to count 33 lines with...ummm I should stop this lol), heard lots of music and conversations, mess around with crawfish for the first time (good thing seafood is something my tummy can handle very well), tried speaking Southern and Cajun (hey there, y'all!), and dealt with the hot and humid climate that makes me (not) miss the homeland. Oops.

The bayou is something that I wanna experience more. It's not something fancy or grand like snow mountains and colourful foliage, but there will always be lurking things beneath what you see on the surface. There's mystery and the awe that comes with it, and I definitely find inspiration in it.

Now that I think about it, this reminds me of the Yogyakarta Contemporary Music Festivals in Indonesia many years ago (#shoutout). It didn't even matter how the performances turn was really just about building a community among ourselves at a time when access to such is out of reach or even non-existent. I've seen how Monroe and Ruston music communities converge together in one space when none existed as far as people have told me (of course, it should be more complex than what's readily seen but that shouldn't get in the way nonetheless). I think it was like that years ago in Southeast Asia when this new generation of composers and performers took part of something way bigger than themselves, and it resulted to an emergence of new music scenes, of new relationships, of new expressions of solidarity and community. It looks like that's where Monroe and Ruston are at right now: the NMB is a new music festival, but it's also community work and public engagement at the basic level, located in a setting far away from centres where it's just convenient to go and leave and not look certainly makes me want to take part in this project all the more. (Yes, Canada peeps...this serves as an invitation for y'all to take part too).

Thanks Mel Mobley and Gregory Lyons (festival directors) not only for literally performing my piece, but also starting something potentially enriching for the lives of people in your communities. Y'all are the best. Keep it up.

The New Music on the Bayou is drawing near...

Posted on May 15, 2017 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi friends and visitors!

We're counting two weeks more before the New Music on the Bayou festival starts in Monroe, Louisiana! As I finalize my travel arrangements, I can officially say now that my work Gandingan sa Kagiliran (for percussion duo) will have its 5th performance during the festival on 02 June 2017, 1:00PM @ the Northminster Church (2701 Lamy Lane, Monroe LA). I will be present throughout the whole event, and that wouldn't be possible if not for the financial support of many people around me as seen in the GoFundMe campaign I've set up for this purpose. To those who shared their generosity and encouragement, thank you so much!

On other news, the Continuum Contemporary Music recently posted a video of their rendition of my work Pangkur (for sextet), premiered last March 2017 at The Music Gallery. You'll also see a pre-performance talk with me and artistic director Ryan Scott. Please check out their Youtube channel and support their upcoming projects as well.

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Finally, I mentioned last time that I'm writing a piece for the Toronto Creative Music Lab in June 2017. Using the kulintang and relating that to the story of Esther and Mordecai (in the Bible) and "identity masking" for this work is something that I'm mulling over since the past weeks. Nonetheless, I'm excited to work and collaborate with lab participants Jean-Sébastien Blais (oboe), Grace Scheele (harp), Austin Lamarche (percussion) and Sarah DeNiverville (viola). I'll post more upcoming details in regards to the premiere date and venue in Toronto as they come by, so stay tuned!

Two more world premieres for the month of April 2017!

Posted on April 25, 2017 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The month of April isn't quite done yet, as I have more exciting news on my end.

Firstly, my "piano concerto" Pagkukumahog / [Sa] Paglilok ng Batong Hindi Nakikita (Urgency / [In] Sculpting an Invisible Rock) will receive its world premiere as a finalist entry in the 5-Minute Piano Concerto Competition of the 29th Music Biennale Zagreb. Pianist Filip Fak will take the limelight along with the Festival Ensemble under the direction of Aleksandar Kalajdžić, and all 10 finalist entries will be premiered on 26 April 2017 8:00PM @ the Croatian Music Institute, Zagreb, Croatia. Don't miss it as they will also announce the winner of the competition during the concert! The full program for the festival is listed here as well.

On the other side of the world, flutist Marilène Provencher-Leduc will premiere my solo alto flute piece Ni ici, ni là-bas (Neither Here Nor There) in the Concert Créations of the Société de concerts de Montréal. The concert will take place on 28 April 2017 7:30PM @ the Jeunesses Musicales Canada, Montréal, Quebec. I will be present at the concert so I hope to see you there.

It was very unfortunate for me last year to miss the inaugural edition of the New Music on the Bayou in Monroe, Louisiana, where my percussion duo work Gandingan sa Kagiliran was supposedly programmed in the festival. *The conditions stated that the composer is required to attend the festival in order for the work to be performed.* The good news though is that the festival decided to program my work again for this year's edition! Now I'm doing some necessary arrangements to make it happen this time. Further details will come as the month of May approaches, so stay tuned.

Lastly, I'm happy to receive news this month about being selected as a participant for this year's edition of the Toronto Creative Music Lab (a composition lab scheduled on 17-24 June 2017 in Toronto) and the Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (another workshop scheduled on 20-27 August 2017 in Waterloo, ON). Expect two more new works to be premiered during these dates!

Pivot afterthoughts...

Posted on April 24, 2017 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

My work Pangkur received its premiere performance on 25 March 2017 @ the Music Gallery, Toronto, performed by the Continuum Contemporary Music and conducted by Brian Current. This premiere is part of the PIVOT Mentorship Program, initiated by the Canadian League of Composers and the Canadian Music Centre in partnership with the Continuum Contemporary Music. Big thanks to Elisha Denburg of the CLC, to Matthew Fava of the CMC, to artistic director Ryan Scott of the Continuum ensemble, and to my mentor Linda Catlin Smith for this wonderful opportunity.

  1. Canada can be what you make of it, but it won't be solely what you want from it. Benedict Anderson redefined the concept of "nation" as imagined by the people who perceives themselves as part of this socially constructed community, and I remember my former teacher saying that given such an idea, we can even imagine the whole world as "Asia" (or Philippines, or Canada for that matter). Likewise, Canada can be either celebrated as this space where different imaginations (or re-imaginations?) construct a total artwork that everyone sees, or despised as a problematic form of liminality (achieving neither one stable state nor another). I'll probably choose one or the other, depending on the mood I'm in...errrr but would that choice denote the latter by default then.

  2. Oh yes, this liminality does one stop being Filipino/Southeast Asian and start being Canadian (or vice versa)? Aoileann Ní Mhurchú wrote (as far as I understand it) that citizenship becomes problematic when placed not only within a dualistic perspective of “inside (citizen) / outside (foreigner)” but also within a perspective of "becoming..." especially when mother and child-in-womb share the same physiological space but emerge as different entities (citizens) when the mother gives birth on foreign lands that channel citizenship as "jus soli." So how do immigrants become full-fledged citizens in essence? It's not even a question of where the conception is actually a question of where the whole process ends. Does one become Canadian when you say "eh" every time, or put maple syrup in everything, or speak bilingual Franglais, or *insert stupid stereotype here* or *insert realizing an epiphany about First Nations actually possessing the land*?

  3. Extending it further, the legal question of being a "Canadian composer" basically means knowing whether one has access to grants and federal funding for the arts offered by Canadian institutions or not. Having that leverage doesn't require people to disclose how long one has been residing in Canada, or whether one treats Canada as HQ or not. How ironic then that a non-Canadian citizen/permanent resident who currently stays for a certain number of years in Canada won't have access to these platforms compared to the Canadian citizen/permanent resident who has been residing outside Canada for the same number of years. (Caveat: Permanent resident status needs renewal every 5 years, in which the resident should fulfill a minimum of 2 years of residence in Canada out of 5. And I just heard today that new immigration policies allow new PR people to gain citizenship after 2 years of staying in Canada). Isn't it adventurous (or scary, depending on who’s saying it) to think that one day, some people would insistently advocate to abolish the notion of sovereignty and nationhood and citizenship throughout the entire globe? But then again, this case of inclusion-exclusion is probably one reason why people would think that.

  4. Choosing a specific spot in the audience to hear Pangkur could amplify that liminality problem as well. An observer sees two sources of sound: the piano and percussion on stage, and a quartet at the back offstage...but where within the whole space can you just solely hear one or the other? Sitting near the piano-percussion duo, I can still hear the quartet behind me. (It even sounded like it was "calling out for me..." I find that encounter so deeply symbolic! Did anyone here even experience such a time when someone unseen, unknown and distant would be out there, calling out your name?). Unfortunately, classical physics doesn't make it possible for me to just hear the piano+percussion or the quartet when placed within the same box (or maybe if I transform myself into some quantum state, perhaps?). Again, where do these piano+percussion and quartet territories collide? In which point in space is either of the two cancelled and phased out? Does human interaction and self-definition mimic such problems?

  5. Is it even possible to compose music that is both gamelan and Western music (or neither... nor...)? Or at least aim to reveal the instabilities of the two, in the spirit of Sara Salih? I was recently introduced to the music of Punch Brothers and the genius of mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, and calling their work as "progressive bluegrass" doesn't even give justice to the actual nature of their work. Even with bluegrass instrumentation, does it remain bluegrass when one does all sorts of stuff to it? Is it necessary to control borders or even build walls around musics? (Oops, I can't help it lol). Would an initiative like Chris Thile's musical production look like neo-colonization in other musical traditions? As far as history had progressed, we do know that the instabilities between "music" and "non-music" were already revealed and tampered with, so who knows?

  6. Witnessing other works by PIVOT composer colleagues (Rebecca Bruton, Bekah Ann Simms, Maxime Corbeil-Perron, Beavan Flanagan and Evelin Ramón) during the concert was very encouraging. Despite the dangers of encountering foreignness and succumbing to a state of "not-belonging," I can always remind myself about the distinct foreignness of each personal voice (i.e. stylistic preferences) and constantly slam these against each other just to see how one can also become another (again, Sara Salih?).

  7. While Linda Catlin Smith was really eager to impart wisdom on prioritizing artistry over career, I also have to learn how easy it is for one to succumb to slavery even when creating art. I'm referring to projects requiring deadlines, and one eventually comes to the point where one wouldn't have control over the mess of deadlines barraging everyone's everyday life. So even at this point, I still have to recall basic lessons not taught in school. Art creation IS and will remain an act of economic production, and economic factors determine one's productivity over accomplishing it. Having a MacBook Pro with a good battery demonstrates economic advantage over having a PC laptop without any functioning battery, and the disparity increases when one can't deal with improving the latter. Having Wifi at home similarly demonstrates that advantage over having no Wifi at home, or having a Zoom recorder and a smartphone matters over just having a smartphone. So is having Sibelius or Finale or Adobe Illustrator, etc. So what do these have to do with deadlines? There are numerous times when one just needs to work around certain limitations, and working around them also requires a certain price: the luxury of time. The spatial scores I usually do in Sibelius require lots of it! If having that is too costly or impossible (due to the need to solve one's own poverty and miseries in life), then deadlines will transform into masters demanding you to work when you can't. However, you get to create only when resources and luxuries allow you to do so! Eventually, one unwillingly participates in this consumerist culture of art production where constant production is the key to artistic visibility, and the rewards only come when people (even including musicians and colleagues themselves!) constantly consume your work (i.e. listen and be updated with your work online, post likes on your Facebook events, gives you their precious time to perform your work, pay you for your work). The practice of meeting deadlines is so much ingrained in institutions that meeting deadlines becomes your first step towards that place of security. Artistic production now becomes quantifiable, and you're better off sitting at the back of the bus if you haven't reached a certain amount of artistic output. So yes, more to slavery!! #sarcasm


Solo flute piece this Spring 2017!

Posted on November 14, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

It is my great pleasure to announce that I was chosen from a call of composers to write a solo flute piece for Montreal-based flutist Marilène Provencher-Leduc! Its premiere will be part of the 2016-2017 concert season of the Société de concerts de Montréal, and more details will follow as the dates approach soon. For now, I'm happy to work with Marilène and create a new work, so stay tuned.

Photo: Facebook post, la SCM.

Piano Concerto in the 29th Music Biennale Zagreb

Posted on November 12, 2016 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm thrilled that a new work of mine, Piano Concerto (Pagkukumahog // [Sa] Paglilok ng Batong Hindi Nakikita), was selected among 9 others for the final stage of the 5-Minute Piano Concerto Competition in the upcoming 29th Music Biennale Zagreb! Its premiere will happen on 26 April 2017 in Zagreb, Croatia, and more details will follow when the festival programme is finalized.

The announcement of the competition results is found here.

Photo: the 29th Music Biennale Zagreb.

Hear "Sa Kanyang Paglayag" in London!

Posted on October 23, 2016 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Big thanks to the Ensemble x.y as they program my string trio Sa Kanyang Paglayag (In His Voyage) on their upcoming October concert! Jill Valentine (viola), Joe Davies (cello) and Gwen Reed (contrabass) will be rendering its UK premiere. The event also features performances of other works by Luciano Leite Barbosa, James Black, Anna Korsun, Thierry Tidrow and Alessandro Perini. If you are in the area, feel free to trot, sail, scout the skies or navigate the underground tube (whatever means you want) this 27 October 2016 7:30 PM @ the St. Mary-at-Hill, London. Unfortunately, I won't make it to London, but I would appreciate it if you can support the concert and the musicians.

For more information, you can click on this link.

Photo: Ensemble x.y

Guest radio hosting at "World Skip The Beat!"

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

People may have heard that I volunteer as a radio programmer and that I produce and co-host Sigaw ng Bayan, broadcasting every Fridays at CKUT 90.3 FM, Montreal. Another opportunity pops up again as I'm set to host an episode of World Skip The Beat, a weekly world music program airing under the same radio station. Join me on this Thanksgiving weekend this 10 October 2016 (Monday) 12 PM to 2 PM Eastern Standard Time, as I play mainly gong fusion music from Southeast Asia, specifically from the Philippines and Indonesia. Selections encompass certain crossovers from pop, folk and jazz to hiphop and even electronic dance music! Featured artists include jazz guitarist Bob Aves, the gamelan Ensemble Kyai Fatahillah, guitar virtuoso Balawan along with the Batuan Ethnic Fusion, and California-based kulintang enthusiast+DJ Ron Quesada a.k.a. Kulintronica. A recorded interview with kulintang guru Aga Mayo Butocan (a recent Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi awardee) is also in line, courtesy of Harold Andre Santos.

Tune in your radio dials at 90.3 MHz if you live in Montreal! Otherwise, livestreaming is available at the CKUT website! Happy listening, folks!