Monday, March 30, 2009

Recital Plug!

April 2 '09
8:00 p.m.
Location:     School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) Auditorium,
UP Diliman

We're presenting the Philippine premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's one-act opera Von Heute auf Morgen (From Today Until Tomorrow)!!!!! Free Admission!!!
It's got Kimberly Kwok and Sir Eudy Palaruan in it!!!

SOLAIR Auditorium
Bonifacio Hall
Emilio Jacinto St., UP Diliman

! ! ! ! ! ! ! Nood na ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Speech Given during the 15th Commencement Exercises of Regina Maria Montessori

      Six years ago, my twin sister and I graduated from high school. I can still remember how I felt upon bidding my classmates and teachers farewell. There was sadness, yes... sadness that I wouldn’t train with my swimming and taekwondo teammates again, that I wouldn't sing in any of the Chorale's concerts again... regret upon not graduating with higher grades... remorse for the friendships I didn’t cultivate due to my busy schedule. There was also a good deal of fear... fear of the unknown, fear of entering a place where everybody was a stranger.

            The strongest feeling, however, was that of excitement. A whole new world! A brand new opportunity to start afresh! For we all start college on a level playing field. All freshmen are created equal. This gives one the opportunity to make a new man of himself, regardless of the past.

            I’ll be the first one to admit that I was a far from outstanding student during my elementary and high school days. I was in the honor section in high school, yes, but I studied only as much as was necessary to maintain a certain average, so that I would not be separated from my more conscientious twin sister.

            I entered college not setting out to graduate with top honors. I just wanted to give my best. I knew I’d been given a precious opportunity to take up a course I loved in a school where many try to enter but only a few are admitted... the University of the Philippines. I didn’t want to waste this golden opportunity.

            The years went by very quickly, a big blur of exams, terror professors, early morning classes and coffee breaks outside the library. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to freedom at an unprecedented scale.

            No teachers watching my every move! No dress code, no hair cut rule. No one commenting on absences or tardiness. No one following up projects or book reports. And my parents were so far away.

            There was freedom to go wild, there were several opportunities to cut class, join rallies, boycott lectures, watch rock concerts, go on late night beer drinking sessions... and all on campus!

            But I also realized that with this enormous freedom came great responsibility... that I was no longer a kid in high school, that my choices now would influence my future forever. 

            My world was no longer just the classroom. The university is a microcosm of society, and my schoolmates came from different economic strata, with different religions and different multiple intelligences. I learned to adapt and be more creative instead of being spoon fed. I had to improve my critical thinking skills and distinguish fact from propaganda.

            And so, I studied instead of partying. I had my first drinking session in college, yes, but I did it with my family instead of friends. I attended every single class and never cut a single one, bearing in mind that it was the least I could do for my parents who sacrificed to see me through school, and for the Filipino taxpayers who subsidized the cost of my tuition fees.

            For someone who struggled with grades in grade school, and continued to struggle throughout high school to make the grade so she could be in the same class with her twin sister, I did rather well in college. And if someone like me could graduate with honors and give the valedictory address during the UP Centennial graduation, then SO CAN YOU!

            Let not your past define your future. You may think you know who you are now, but your identity isn’t set in stone. The choices you make in college will make or break you. You can either sink or swim. This is as close to real life, to adulthood, as you’ll get.

            There was a Jesuit priest who became the Chaplain of the UP Chapel back in the 1950’s, who was very much loved for his wisdom and kindness. His name was Father John P. Delaney, and he was a student counsellor who came up with a set of rules to incoming college students. I will share a few of them with you.

1.      Select your courses wisely.

2.      Attend your classes diligently. Always do your homework, and don't forget to review. You'll never know when that terror professor will give a pop quiz.

3.      Study conscientiously and systematically, and HONESTLY. Dishonesty in the business, political and professional world can be traced from dishonesty in classes.

4.      Develop an enthusiastic interest in all your subjects and not just your majors, so you’ll be studying to learn and not just to get a grade.

5.      Elevate your tastes in Art, Music, and Reading. There are a lot of campus events like art shows and concerts, and there is a great wealth of wisdom to be found in the libraries. Take advantage of all that your school has to offer. Besides, they’re usually free of charge.

6.      Choose your companions with great care. Be tactful but get rid of people whose company makes study impossible.

7.      Recreate simply, inexpensively, wholesomely. Instead of playing DOTA or  computer games, why don't you take up a sport, or join an org? You'll benefit more.

8.      Lay off the hard liquor.

9.  Don’t go steady, fall in love or get engaged too early. Save yourself a lot of heartaches. Remember, having a boyfriend or a girlfriend is equivalent to an additional 21 units.

10. Always remember that grades do not reflect everything there is about success or failure. What matters is that you learn to work hard despite discouragement; learn to work honestly despite temptation; learn to put order in your life; learn to live and work with people (even the ones that you dislike); and lastly, learn to stick to your principles while on your own, and in the process, learn to be true to your own self.

            Congratulations, graduates! The rest of your life awaits. Thank you and good day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tony Ward Education - Critical Education Theory, Pedadogogy and Practice
A goldmine of information for teachers and students ... provides penetrating insights into important questions such as: "Why do we study? Who decides what subjects to study? Does Education truly free us and enable us to think critically or does it instill in us passivity and indifference to the injustices around us?"

In the words of a wise friend, "We educate to liberate."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thoughts on Adorno and Schoenberg

      I've had a lot less free time to blog as a result of committing to two jobs and my M.A. But I'm learning so much from interacting with my students, as well as my graduate classes that force me to read books and journals that I otherwise would have left alone. And I felt that I had to share my newest philosophical "find"... the Frankfurt School/ Critical Theory philosophers that include Theodor Adorno.
     I've always believed that Art is good in itself, but that it is so much better if it is "useful" in some way. Now I've finally found a  philosopher who formed some of my disconnected fragmentary ideas into an entire philosophy of art.

(Incidentally, Meewa/Mika, he also advised Thomas Mann
as the latter wrote Doktor Faustus)

This is a short summary:

Theodor Adorno's Concept of Art as Lighthearted and Liberatory
by Emanuel L. Paparella

As is well known, Theodore Adorno (1903-1969) was a member of the famous Frankfurt School, a group of Marxist philosophers which included Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse. All three were concerned with the concept of liberation from oppressive social forces. Echoing Marx, they believed that capitalism is not a mere economic system largely based on the exploitation of the workers, but also a social and cultural system that usurps human freedom. Nowhere did Adorno elaborate this view more vehemently than in his wide ranging and subtle philosophy of art.

This philosophy of art proclaims that art is one of the few domains where the human being is able to attain “something like freedom in the midst of unfreedom.”  In other words, art can bring to consciousness the aspiration for freedom even in those societies which systematically deny it. It takes place in the midst of totalitarian regimes, of both the right and the left, governed by an inflexible political ideology, in its very jails and chambers of torture. What Adorno emphasizes is art’s presentation of the contradiction between the possibility of reconciliation, that is to say, transcendence of conflict, and the society in which such reconciliation is not only absent but unattainable. He gives as an example (in section three of his brilliant essay “Is Art Lighthearted?”) the music of Mozart. When we listen to Mozart’s music we are not simply aware of its sublime harmonies or, as Adorno would put it, of its presentation of reconciliation, but we also compare this awareness with the social cacophonous blasphemous world in which we live, a world in which the bully rules by rhetorical or even physical intimidation and arrogance, wherein there isn’t even an attempt at the common good and the meeting of the needs of all. What art does is to let us see both what is possible and how far that possibility is at present.

For the whole article, click here.

While reading up on Adorno and his colleagues for a paper, I couldn't help but think of some people who accuse artists/musicians of being "impractical" and "useless" in today's world. The irony is, most of these people are associated with the left, and here is "justification" for Music in the works of Marxist philosophers. :p

From what I've understood of Adorno's analysis of society, we are living in an increasingly dehumanized world where people are reduced to objects, where social relationships are commodified and where success is the only measure of right and wrong. Our social institutions implant us with false needs, and rob us of our ability to think critically, and therefore kill our individuality. We are born free but are everywhere in chains, thinking the same thoughts, possessing identical consumerist mindsets, and losing everything that sets us apart as human beings.

In such a world, Adorno saw Art as a beacon of hope. Art, by its "impracticality," is revolutionary by its mere existence. In his philosophy, Art = critical thinking, and can therefore provide a stimulus for change.

I wish I could wax poetic but I am pressed for time. Just felt that something this interesting was too good to keep to myself. :)

~ ~ ~

At present, the "little things I'm busy with" include rehearsing for a Schoenberg opera, Von heute auf Morgen, which will be premiered in the UP College of Music on April 2. It was quite difficult to learn, but I'm not complaining. It's a beautiful learning experience. You see, my ears have been conditioned to find beauty in Bach and Beethoven, as well as The Corrs and Westlife. I must confess, when I was first introduced to atonality as an undergrad, I was repulsed by all the dissonances. But now I've realize that it's just a matter of conditioning and lack of exposure.

While I do not claim to have a deep appreciation of Schoenberg in the same level as the composition majors, I can now understand his music better. I hope that, in the near future, I find the beauty that is inherent in every "true" art form, in every work of art that was produced with sweat and blood, with philosophical thought and the utmost care to produce a work that is as "beautiful" as its author could make it. Schoenberg's music, though not as "easy to swallow" to ears used to tonal music, definitely fits the "truth" criteria.

P.S. Adorno had a footnote on Schoenberg. He pointed out that Schoenberg's message lost some of its effectiveness due to the difficulty of comprehending the atonal medium of composition. Compo majors, what are your thoughts on the matter? :)
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