What I Want To Write This Year

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan
Posted undermusicmusikRandom ThoughtWriting
Music. (Pic: Vector Stock)

Disclaimer: This is a ‘curhat’ writing.

After publishing my first book PIAS: Kumpulan Tulisan Seni dan Budaya in 2017, I was keen to write and publish at least two book titles this year. My first book PIAS studied extensively art and culture (music, fine arts, film, literature, etc.). So, the two titles I will write this year will focus on studying music as a logos or knowledge.

My reason is: Indonesia lacks a book that studies music from the perspective of knowledge, that music is a form of science. Data from information institutions and music studies, Art Music Today, said that from 1960 to 2015, there were only about 200 Indonesian-language book titles that studied music in a scientific perspective. Of course this is lame, unbalanced by the course of music in practical praxis. Performing music, concerts, releases of works (albums), musical events in the 60s until now, of course, have been very much probably difficult to calculate. But why can the number of books that study various musical events be counted on the fingers?

In my opinion, writing a book that studies music as logos is urgency. If we look at the big bookstore shelves, books in the music rack are often filled with books on the theme of “how to” or “self help” such as “how to playing guitar quickly”, or “the right way to become a great singer”. Music is a manifestation of humanity, it exists and is held as a long-running dialectical process. Odd if there is a book that promises a process that is fast at playing music. That is, these books only teach technical shortcuts, completely eliminate the spirit or soul of music, and the essence of music as science.

Furthermore, more music study books were written by foreign researchers. Looking at the KITLV archives in Leiden, many books will be found which are the results of research on musical events in Indonesia. One of them, Max Richter, wrote very well on anthropological and sociological reviews of the phenomenon of street buskers in Yogyakarta. A continuous and complete study of one of the favorite music of Indonesian society, namely dangdut, was written by Andrew Weintraub, a professor of Ethnomusicology from the United States. Meanwhile a complete ethnographic study of Indonesian popular music was even written by US researcher Jeremy Wallach. The list will be long if we write it all down. The point is, based on this example, I believe it is true that writing a book that studying music as a logos is an urgency at this time.

Specifically, I would like to examine the strong correlation between Indonesia and the Netherlands in this discussion of music. It cannot be denied, there is a long history between the Netherlands and Indonesia, even in the relations of colonialism. This relationship certainly contributes greatly to how Indonesia becomes a nation that is as it is today. Included in art cases, or more specifically music. One of them, the field of ethnomusicology was born at the instigation of colonialism: when in the past Dutch musicologists discovered archipelago music that was far different from classical European music. I must be able to trace the long history of relations between the two countries, to find out what red thread is there, so that it can explain how the Indonesian nation’s musical life is now, and what will happen in the future.

Later I was interested in and focus on studying the post-colonial studies. I have currently read Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital by Vivek Chibber. In the past Indonesia was a country that had been occupied by the Dutch. With a post-colonial perspective, I want Nusantara music in the present to be able to become an instrument to elevate the dignity of the nation. That our Indonesian identity must throw away mentally insecure (read: inlander) because it was once colonized by the Dutch. Music, I believe are capable of being the right post-colonial instrument. For example, India as a former British colony uses art and culture as post-colonial instruments.

I want to browse the archives in Leiden, read as much as possible the Indonesian musical history literature (which we often don’t have), I want to meet as many experts as possible in the fields of musicology and ethnomusicology to help me write this prospective book on music knowledge. For example, majoring in Musicology, University of Amsterdam. I want to be able to attend as many seminars, discussions, forums on musicology or ethnomusicology as possible, to perceive as much as possible the discourse on these two disciplines. This will certainly be an amazing stock for my writing behavior.

I also want to build a wider network, get to know more people, musicians, writers, or researchers in these two fields. In fact, I have targeted that after completing the project for writing this book, I would like to continue my master’s study in musicology, University of Amsterdam (hopefully. Haha). So, the Netherlands is my first choice to be the chosen country of research.

Why the Netherlands? Because, talking technically about the prospective book, I kind of found an interesting case to be written in a book. This can even be one of the interesting examples of how Nusantara music is influenced, and influences world music: Tielman Brothers. The Dutch music group whose members are actually Indonesian people. Tielman Brothers echoed the formula of rock and roll with all its musical and show complexity, long before Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles were present. It is easy, then we can conclude that this band with Indonesian human personnel sets the cornerstone of world rock and roll music.

So, I want to meet the remaining Tielman Brothers members, look for references about them, then specifically write them in the book. Or, besides specifically writing about Tielman Brothers, this book can also more broadly examine how Nusantara music is influenced and influences world music, with Tielman Brothers as one of its case studies. In fact, based on the literature I’ve read, I conclude there must be many Indonesian musical events that occurred in the Netherlands. I must observe, analyze, and noted it.

The question is emerging: will I have the energy and ability to write this new books? Sometimes, my holy intentions are not worth the effort I made. I am well aware of that. Writing books is a difficult birth process. If the first PIAS book which was just an anthology drained so much energy, let alone writing one — uh two — new book from scratch.

But, I have made up my mind, I have to do it. Let’s just say this ‘curhat’ writing as a reminder and encouragement. If I forget and looks slow down, please remind me to start again by showing this article.

Bismillah, may the universe support my holy intentions.


More Stories

Cover Image for Dismantling Hyper-Masculinity in the Indonesian Music Scene

Dismantling Hyper-Masculinity in the Indonesian Music Scene

It’s time for us to dismantling hyper-masculinity and sexism, which is toxic in the Indonesian music scene.

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan
Cover Image for The End of Protest Music in Indonesia?

The End of Protest Music in Indonesia?

When Slank release a song called “Polisi yang Baik Hati”, is it the sign that protest music in Indonesia has been ended?

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan