National Artist for Music Dr. Ramon P. Santos: Cultural Lecture and Musical Instrument Demonstration
The Nayong Pilipino Foundation through the Museo ng Nayong Pilipino Project launched its third virtual exhibition entitled, ULINIGIN, with a cultural lecture and musical instrument demonstration by the National Artist for Music, Dr. Ramon P. Santos. This was made possible through partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Order of National Artist. The event also coincided with the celebration of the Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino and was conducted last 31 July 2021, Saturday.
The Nayong Pilipino Foundation through the Museo ng Nayong Pilipino Project launched its third virtual exhibition entitled, ULINIGIN, with a cultural lecture and musical instrument demonstration by the National Artist for Music, Dr. Ramon P. Santos. This was made possible through the partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Order of National Artist. The event also coincided with the celebration of the Linggo ng Musikang Pilipino and was conducted last 31 July 2021, Saturday.
In attendance to this momentous lecture are Nayong Pilipino employees who, in part of their continuous enrichment, attend cultural lectures and training, other cultural workers, educators, and other members of the public. The lecture was moderated by Museo ng Nayong Pilipino’s Senior Collections Researcher, Anna Pineda.
Heritage Space Program Head, Dr. Laya Boquiren welcomed the attendees with an opening statement highlighting the significance of the formulation of these events and the need for cultural training as required by the Governance Commission for Government-owned or Controlled Corporations. In the professional development and cultural knowledge enrichment of various members of the government sector, she said “Ang okasyon na ito ay hindi lamang upang ipagdiwang ang Musikang Pilipino. Tumutugon rin ito sa pangangailangan ng Nayong Pilipino Foundation na ang lahat ng kawani ng pamahalaan ay magkaroon, hindi lamang nang pagmamahal sa kultura, kundi ng tuwirang pag angkin sa mga programang pangkultura ng ahensiya. Ano pa man ang ating tungkulin, ang pagmamahal sa kultura at ang karampatang suporta sa mga programa ng ahensiya ay pananagutan natin, hindi sa mga opisyal ng ahensiya, kundi sa bayan.”
To begin the discussion, Ms. Pineda asked National Artist Ramon Santos to expound on how ethnomusicology influenced his compositions. Dr. Santos began by mentioning how he explored various instruments and influences from electronic/computer music to the kulintang of the Maguindanao. This has been crucial and enlightening to his inquest and is where he started composing rituals and the creation of innovative compositions. He proceeded to present performances of his compositions the Klintang and S’geypo which are, as he said, a kind of commentary to the kulintang and saggeypo respectively.
This was also further explored as an NPF cultural performer, John Alfred David, asked if Dr. Santos found inspiration in different tuning or playing styles of other indigenous instruments. Dr. Santos mentions another particular example, his composition for a western orchestra entitled L’Bad. The form for the L’Bad wherein an improvised composition is built from small musical elements came from the lebad of the Yakan. He summarized that in this recreation he attempts to expand the creation of music and culture.
As the discussion progresses, Dr. Santos wanted to reiterate the difference in the approaches of western musicology from ethnomusicology. He said, “…iba’t ibang mga style…yung mga baroque, yung classical, yung romantic yon. Yun ang mga pinagaaralan sa musicology. Ang ethnomusicology naman ay ang pag-aaral ng musika sa kultura…kung ano yung impluwensya ng culture doon sa musika”
When asked about differences and similarities in musical traditions across the various ethnolinguistic groups Dr. Santos centered on the indigenous gongs and flutes. Traditional Philippine gongs do not adhere to the western scale of music. He said that gongs for most indigenous groups give more value to the resonance rather than the tone. The reason for this, he found out through his research with the Bagobo, was because gongs when played are used to communicate with god/s. There is an importance for it to be heard by heavenly or unearthly bodies. However, for Philippine flutes such as the bamboo ones, the scale and tone is important for this is used to communicate with other people.
The discussion then began to shift towards the ensemble players and gender roles in playing traditional instruments. An example mentioned here by Dr. Santos when Ms. Pineda asked about parameters or standards for kulintang ensemble players, is the Maranao kulintang ensemble. The Maranaos are known to be very meticulous. Kulintang players are usually women who are not wed while the dabakan is played by men. Dr. Santos noted that sometimes the kulintang and dabakan are played in such a way that there is a back and forth between the instruments, a conversation. He added that this will sometimes lead to a union or marriage between the kulintang and dabakan players.
This communication or exchange between ensemble players is further emphasized by Dr. Santos as he explains the importance of it in the creation of music. He said, “Yung ibang mga (player in an ensemble) ay nakikisama, tumutulong (in the creation or building of the music). Ganon ang ensemble playing natin. ”
This creation also goes beyond the ensemble itself but also to the other participating community members. Dr. Santos explains that the term music and it being a single concept came from the west. Traditions in the Philippines are complex and cannot be labeled under a singular concept. Traditional music is often accompanied by poetry, dance, ritual, and these are all-encompassing. Every facet in the performance is essential to the other.
In learning and understanding the contexts of these performances and traditions, Dr. Santos stressed the importance and process of learning. He mentions the best way to learn is from the cultural masters themselves who belong to these cultural groups. Institutionalizing a system for a better educational practice wherein these masters are permitted to teach actual curriculum-based subjects would be a big step towards better learning and will also give actual value to the knowledge bearers.
Dr. Boquiren emphasized the importance of the insights being imparted by Dr. Santos, especially for Nayong Pilipino Foundation. The information is crucial to the self-reflexive understanding of the institutional experience of NPF when it used to have a cultural theme park in the 1970s. Within the frame of cultural tourism, Nayong Pilipino displayed Filipino culture in a spectacular way. “Magandang nabibigyan tayong lahat ng ganitong pagbabahagi mula kay Dr. Ramon Santos para maintindihan natin ang kasaysayan ng Nayong Pilipino Foundation. Ano ang kaniyang naging role sa cultural tourism? Magandang balikan ito upang magkaroon ng criticality ang lahat ng kawani ng pamahalaan at lahat ng nakikinig ngayon…”