Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Music of Mount Mayon - Filipino Heart Throb!

I first saw Mount Mayon in 1978 while I was on a working school vacation from the conservatory at the University of the Philippines. It is about 12 hours by bus from Manila, southwards – an overnight journey. Despite the darkness during the journey, I had an inkling that the Bicol region (the southern most part of Luzon island) where Mt. Mayon is situated, and all the towns that ring it’s base (Iriga, Naga, Daraga, Legaspi), were quite different from the cacophony of Metro-Manila. I was right – and I kept going back to Bicol these last 30 years, and I always checked on Mayon each time.
One of my other affinities with Bicol are, that they eat chilies in their food, and their language has many “Malay” words. I am used to making long trips, when I am away from Singapore, just to get hot food! You can easily impress the local folk if you eat the chilies off their trees, or tell them that kannan(right) angin(air) dua(two), lima(five) and much more, are also in a language I speak - Malay. If you eat their chilies, then be prepared for a full bowl, placed in front of you, when you dine with them! Bicol chilies are hot – very hot!
Food in Bicol is just different from that in the Tagalog regions. If you are there, make sure you try pinangat – a dish made of elephant-ear gabi leaves (from a tuber like plant), stuffed with chilies and spiced meat or fish, and stewed in coconut milk. Make sure you try this in authentic restaurants or a family home, as they are poisonous if not prepared well.
The first job I had to do when I arrived at Legaspi (which is a gateway to Mayon), was to get a picture of the most perfect cone that Mayon was touted to be. My college-mates back at the International Center, where I lived, would always ask for proof, before anyone rambles about their adventures – a fair deal for any international dialogue!! It took me a whole day, sourcing out, haggling (I spoke enough Tagalog to get around) and finally, making a trek to an adjacent hill - more than twice the height of our Bukit Timah hill - to take some photographs. I am not a professional photographer, but the picture I took of Mt Mayon in 1978 (see below) is a treasured possession now – because Mayon is no more a perfect cone!
If you are in Legaspi, you cannot get out of the looming and dominating shadow of this fabulous volcano. It is always spewing white steam, as a constant reminder to all, that life can change anytime. Although the bulk of the people in Bicol are Catholics, they still retain the ancient mysticism that Mayon comes with – and of which they are very proud inheritors. Musicians, poets, painters and writers have all languished about Mayon – some even without visiting the mountain!!
One of the reasons why I had to see Mayon was because I came across the colossal Mayon Piano Concerto written by the late Francisco Buencamino Sr. He is a grand uncle of the famous Filipino concert pianist, Cecile Licad. She has performed this work. It is a three-movement work that captures the barrio (village) life around this beautiful, yet threatening volcano. Coming from Singapore in the 1970s, where we were aspiring to write such works, this musical score made a marked impression on me.
Subsequently, Buencamino wrote a piano fantasy based on this concerto, and which is in the Filipino piano repertory today. If you would like to hear the work go to this site – the pianist is Ms Ingrid Sala Santamaria:
(If any pianist in Singapore wants to try this work, I will lend you the score – the fist page is shown below)
Mayon is steeped in legend – in fact, there are three such legends. However, all the legends are based on the central character, Daragon Magayon, in a brew of “romeo and juliet-ish”, ramayan-ish and even mahabarata-ish stories. Bicolanos are good story-tellers. In one of the Spanish-mestizo towns, Bacon, in Sorsogon, further south from Mayon, where I played in the church orchestra that Christmas in 1978, and since then many times again, there was an old farmer who told me a story that weaved parts of the story of Haiwatha into the Mayon legend.
This is the Mayon legend, I prefer telling, one that seems to be told most among the towns, many of which are named as rivals in the tragic story.
Since ancient times, Bicol was a peaceful and flat agricultural land, known for handsome men and beautiful women – and it still is. The maidens we called “daragas” and there were strict codes for courting and marriage. Daragang Magayon, the heroine in this story, was the daughter of Tiong Makusog, the king of Bicol, ruling from Daraga. Both, father and daughter brought peace and love to the region, and the king dotted on his beautiful daughter. Magayon was most sought after by many young men.
One powerful, but not so suitable contender was, Paratuga, the ruler of neighboring Iriga. He was bent on marrying Magayon. He made three attempts to please, and then threaten Makusog into handing his daughter over. Each time he also brought expensive gifts – pearls, gold, precious stones and carvings. Mukusog finally agreed to the proposal.
In the meantime, Magayon, unknown to her father, was in love with a Tagalog lad, Panganoran (many other names have been used for this character), who lived on the other side of the river – some stories state this was Naga. It was taboo for Tagalogs and Bicolanos to marry at that time.
This part of the story always puzzles me, because the Tagalog people actually live many hundreds of miles away to the north, in the Manila region – remember, it took me 12 hours by bus to get from there to Mayon!! Anyway, the Bicolanos and Tagalogs have been habitual rivals, and it does give some pungency to the tragedy.
Panagoran had apparently saved Magayon from drowning in the river some years before, and they kept up secret meetings ever since. Magayon confessed this to her father who accepted her folly but told her she must marry the king of Iriga, because he had agreed to the marriage. Otherwise there would be war. Magayon kept pestering her father saying that she loved Panaganoran, and that she would prefer to die than marry Paratuga. Her father’s heart melted. Paratuga was angered and furious. He kidnapped the father to force the marriage. Magayon had to agree to marry Paratuga to save her father.
The news of the coming marriage spread like wild wife – and believe me, this is real even today - in the form of gossip (which goes by the local term of “tis-mis” - pronounced “chis-miss”). When Panagoran heard this, he gathered his trusted friends, and a bloody battle occurred at the wedding site. He killed Paratuga.
The drama at this point is always vivid as each story-teller, instead of telling the expected happy ending, has to craft the explanation of the coming tragedy. Seeing the victorious Panagoran, Magayon ran to him, thinking all was forgiven and forgotten. As he took her in his arms with love and forgiveness, a stray arrow pierced Magayon’s heart from the back. And then, while she was dying in his arms, someone stabbed Panagoran in the back. This twist has been the crucial point for the legend becoming a moral lesson,
The saddened father buried the lovers together at the spot where they died. Soon, the grave mound began to grow, to the astonishment of all Bicolanos, and it became the perfect cone-shaped volcano that Mayon was.
Till today, when the people of Bicol see the omni-present smoke ring around the top of the mountain, they teasingly say that the lovers are kissing – this makes them happy. When storms come, and there are huge torrents of water flowing down the slopes of Mayon, the poeple say Magayon is crying – and there silence in the towns and barrios. Mothers narrate the Mayon legend at this time.
When Mayon erupts, as it is about to do any day now, they take refuge (although some stubbornly wait till the last minute). It is Paratuga and his army coming back to take revenge, and re-coop the gifts he gave to Magayon’s father. All the boulders, the lava and the ash that Mayon spews, is symbolically seen as the gifts which he gave Magayon, and which he is now re-collecting.
I was there earlier this year, and Mayon looked angry – I could not get to see the damaged peak as thick fog covered it. It is still a perfect cone, but only from one of it’s sides. I never got to see that because that side is difficult to access. I wonder if that will be blown off this time. I will let you know.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Heuristic Group Music Pedagogy for Singapore Rondalla

      HGMP Singapore Tremolo-Rondalla and The English Pantun Show                                                                                                                      

The Back ground to HGMP and Singapore Rondalla Instruments

The Heuristic Group Music Pedagogy (HGMP) is an integrated approach for teaching and learning tremolo music (the 3rd pillar in string music with bowed and plucked strings. Tremolo is obtained by using a plectrum in a rapid up-down movement on the strings). HGMP teaches how to train a Singapore Rondalla in a foco-unit (one to a part for five varieties of tremolo and a trio section of double bass, guitar and percussion). Performance is a fundamental objective right from the first lesson, and paced musical development for the individuals is a priority – achieved through creativity rather than prescription of training and performance materials.

HGMP draws from a milieu of musical experiences and pedagogical applications, beginning in the 1960s through individualized violin lessons with his first violin teacher, Mr. Lenardo Reyes at the Far Eastern Music School, and then with Maestro Alfonso Anthony as a private violin tutor. Violin training, based on the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Musuci (ABRASM) was essentially a conservatory-influenced pedagogy. It contrasted to a parallel activity, which was self-improvised with a small group of band-boys at St. Joseph’s Institution, led by Mr. Vincent Undasan, which led to the creation of the first school marching military band in Singapore. These boys used music pedagogy they innocently termed the buddy system (learning today and teaching tomorrow, peer to peer), which forced them to create the music exercises as well as the repertoire for the band. Most of the boys involved in this activity eventually became professional musicians. Dr. Peters had his first brunt with heurism with this school activity.

The next big “eye and ear opener” came in the 1970s while Dr. Peters was a graduate student at the University of the Philippines. Here he came across (totally by chance) the unique group pedagogy used by the late Professor Rodolfo De Leon to teach a class of rondalla students.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fiesta Rondalla 2015

Fiesta Rondalla is the annual concert series of the NUS Rondalla. The latest concert held on 23 January 2015 featured a number of new arrangements by tutors. NUS Rondalla is an extra-curricular activity managed by the NUS Centre for the Arts. 

The activity is managed by 3 Tutors and 1 Musical Director. A student executive committee runs the day to day activity. Each year new students have to be recruited and trained in one semester to perform Fiesta Rondalla. New students have to have music background. They are trained using a heuristic group music method and by the second semester a new rondalla is ready for work on the repertoire for the annual concert. 

 The Fiesta Programme this year featured John Silva as a special guest. John is a Singapore "blues music" singer who leads his own band The Blues Express. He is also a prolific song writer. Two of his compositions will be featured with rondalla accompaniment: KL Blues and Soldier.

You can watch all the items of this concert on video at the links that appear below. All the videos are annotated with information on the screen.
NUS Rondalla 2015

Fiesta Rondalla Video Clips

1. Opening: La Rondalla

2. Instruments of the Rondalla

3. Lakeside of Baikal

4. Blue Tango

5. In the Mood for Love

6. Voici Le Mois De Mai

7. El Choclo

8. Princess Mononoke

9. Forever Young sung by John Silva

10. KL Blues composed and sun by John Silva

11. Soldier composed and sung by John Silva

12. Souvenir De Porto Rico

13. Granada

14. Closing

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Freddie Aguilar in Singapore

Anak - The Untold Story: Illustrated Lecture at the Singapore Management University under the Lien Fung's Colloquim!

 Freddie Aguilar with his Taylor Guitar                                                                                                                                                                                        

Kirpal Singh and I met Freddie at his new club Ka Freddie at Quezon City to convince him to come to Singapore and talk about the many untold details of his illustrious music career.

Anak is still the single most successful Asian song that went viral in 1978 and maintained its place till now. You can hear the original version here:

Many versions came about since then. In Singapore, Ramli Sarip did a Malay version:

I met Freddie in 1978 while I was studying at the College of Music, University of the Philippines. My trio played in his club Bodega. 

Joe Peters and his East West Trio in Quezon City in 1978


 Freddie Aguilar, the extraordinary Filipino musician who created the song Anak, a timeless folk song that sustained as an international hit since 1978, gave his illustrated talk on Anak- The Untold Story. on 18 April 2015 at SMU. Freddie charmed the audience with his humour. With his Taylor guitar strapped to his body, as he told his story to an attentive and responsive audience. He ended his talk with a performance of Anak, accompanied by his son Jeriko and the Singapore Tremolo Rondalla. There are 15 segments (on UTube) that covers the entire talk and performance. Anak is still a good music business model for your professional musicians who are trying to make their way in the industry.
If you are in Manila and want to say hello to Freddie and his son Jeriko, you can visit Ka Freddie Restruant and Bar, where Freddie performs. He has other musicians there too - it like a re-creation of his old University Belt club BODEGA - some forty years ago. Ka Freddie is at 120 Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. 


1 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Early Life at Isabela LRe

2 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Growing Up in Manila

3 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Leaving Home

4 Freddie Aguilar Talk at SMU: Trying to Make It in Manila

5 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Olongapo City

6 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Olongapo City Making it Finally!

7 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Olongapo The Making of Anak

8 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Anak Brings Father and Son Together LRes

9 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: 1st Metro Manila Music Festival

10 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Loosing and Winning

11 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Performance Preamble

12 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Performance of Anak

13 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Truth about the English version of Anak

14 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: MABUHAY Performed by Singapore Tremolo Rondalla

15 Freddie Aguilar's Talk at SMU: Question and Answer Session

Sunday, September 14, 2014

LORD OF THE RINGS - Performance and Study of the Score

Johan De Meij
In the 1980s I met Johan De Meij (, then an up and coming symphonic band composer and conductor, on one of my visits to WASBE (World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles). He was riding high because of an exceptional music work for band: LORD of the RINGS! It won the top award in 1989 for the Sudler International Prize for Wind Bands and was published by Amstel.
The Amstel Publication of the Score

The First Movement "Gandalf" opening page of the score
I was then encouraging the NUS (National University of Singapore) Symphonic Band to play these types of works in the band literature in their Intempo concert series. They did  that in 1992 and the performance was audio recorded by the EML (Electronic Music Lab). This work was a challenge for the NUS Band because they never performed such a long work that covered the entire first half of the concert.
EML Recording Jacket

Programme Notes
NUS Symphonic Band conducted by Joe Peters

Johan is today a role model for band conductors, entrepreneurs and developers all rolled into one. If you follow his Facebook page, he is still active and central to the high quality in the performances and score publication of European band music. As a tribute to him, I like to present that performance of the work LORD of the RINGs according to the score that was published by Amstel (see above).

Go to this site to listen to the performance of Lord of the Rings By Johan De Meij by the NUS Symphonic Band:

Lord of the Rings and Timeline Music Commentary at SMU (Singapore Management University)

Between 2000 - 2007 I taught a music elective at the newly established SMU - Music East and West. I had a chance to test some of my music pedagogy ideas within a music laboratory that focused on students deconstructing music works like the Lord of the Rings and doing objective lay-persons commentary directly to the music timeline. Back then much technology had to be configured to enable this. A team of students took up the challenge to do their analysis and timeline music commentary on Johan Di Meij's Lord of the Rings.

Timeline Music Commentary is part of a pedagogy I pursued since the early 1980s because I thought that text, graphics and audio commentary had a role to play in conveying information (by experts or ordinary people) directly at the timeline of the sound. Much of this consolidated during the period I taught at SMU because I was able to build a laboratory to enable this. Today there is TMAL which is software based - refer to my blog article "Timeline Music Annotation Library: 

The SMU students who did this timeline music commentary put in tremendous effort in learning the concepts and techniques of data gathering using the study tracks technology, the sonic orders listening technique and understanding audio editing and studio operations. This is their work which served as their term paper:

Go to this site to listen to the SMU Student's Timeline Music Commentary on LORD of the RINGS:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Argentine Indigenous Orchestra (AIO) in Singapore

AIO is a name I gave to what is commonly known in Argentina and other parts of the world as Indigenous Music and New Technologies - a stirling creation of Maestro Alejandro Iglesias Rossi at the National University of Argentina. (The Full Blog Write Up is Coming)

AIO will be performing today in Argentina

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

List of Papers and Publications by Dr. Joe Peters

Dr. Joe PetersLIST of Publications and Papers11 February 2016


Peters, Joe. (2017). "Singapore: Music in History, Culture and Geography"
By Dr. Joe Peters. Section in The Sage Encyclopedia of Ethnomusicology

“Dr. Ivan Polunin: The Unknown Asian Ethnomusicologist from Singapore: Study of 410 field ethnomusicology tapes (1959–1979) in Singapore, Southeast Asia and other parts of the World”/ Monograph. To be published by Sonic Asia Music Consultants, Singapore.

Peters, Joe. (2016). “MESI (Music Emissions Sustainability Index): A Framework for the Sustainability of Traditional and Indigenous Musical Systems”. Paper to be delivered at Heritage 2016, 5th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development:12-15 July 2016, Lisbon, Portugal

Peters, Joe. (2016). “Waijiang Opera in Singapore: The Last Vestige for this Ancient Art Form”. Paper to be delivered at ICTM, PASEA, July, Penang, Malaysia, 2016.
Peters, Joe. (2016). “Rondalla in Singapore: An Intercultural Transfer”. Article to be published in SG50 Book under the Embassy of the Philippines, Singapore.

Peters, Joe. (2016). “The National Anthem of Singapore composed by Pak Zubir Said”. Article to be published in an SG50 Book by the Malay Community, Singapore.


Peters, Joe. (2015). “Tremolo-Rondalla and the Heuristic Music Education Pedagogy for the Asian Classroom”. Paper to be presented at the International Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences, 26-27 August, 2015, Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University, Thailand.

Peters, Joe (2014). “Music Emissions Sustainability Index (MESI): Accepting Globalization but Preventing Homogenization of Musical Cultures and Systems”. Paper presented at the Asia Pacific Society for Ethnomusicology (APSE), Mahasarakham, Thailand.

Peters, Joe (2014). “Graduate School of Performing Arts and Entertainment Management” Concept Paper presented to the International Institute of Education, Ubon Ratchathani Rajabaht University, Thailand.

Peters, Joe (2013). “Music Chain Studies - Understanding Business Models in the Music Industry within the Sustainability Issue and Integrated Timeline Music Education”. Paper presented at the conference Performing Arts Business Management: Educational And Practice in Asia. Prince Songkla University, 30 August 2013

Peters, Joe (2013). “A Timeline Music Education (TME) Study of Selected Repertoire from Teochew Music in Singapore”. Paper presented at the 42nd ICTM World Conference, Shanghai.

Peters, Joe (2013). “A Macro-Measure for Evaluating the Impact of Music Education on Society”. Paper delivered at the 4th ISAME Conference: Music Assessment and Global Diversity: Measurement and Policy, Taiwan

Peters, Joe. (2012). “Timeline Music Education: Database Technology for the Future”. Paper presented at IASA Conference, Delhi

Peters, Joe. (2012). “Zubir Said and his Music for Film”. In Majulah! The Film Music of Zubir Said. National Museum of Singapore, pp. 74-90.
Peters, Joseph (2011). “Reconnecting with pre-1511 Musical Culture of the Littoral States in the Straits of Malacca. Paper presented at the Conference “The Impact of Music in Shaping Southeast Asian Societies. Diliman: University of the Philippines.

Peters, Joe (2011). “MusicPlusOne: AVIT Systems Configuration Writing to Digital Memory to Facilitate Timeline Music Education for Listeners”. Paper presented at “Music and Memory” conference, KL: University Putra Malaysia.
Peters, J E E . (2011). “Plotting the Evolutionary Trajectory of Don Ca Tai Tu using the Sonic Orders Music Listening Mode Index (SOLMI) Prototype Listening Software”. In The Art of Don Ca Tai Tu Music, Ho Chi Minh City, Unpublished Paper.

Peters, Joe. (2010). The Arts of Xoan Singing: A Case for UNESCO Intangible Heritage Award. In The Art of Xoan Singing Seminar, Hanoi: Vietnamese Music Institute, pp. 166 -172.

Peters, Joe. (2010). “Plotting On-loading and In-loading Trajectories to Understand Hybridism in Music”. Paper presented at ICTM Regional (Southeast Asia) Conference, Singapore.

Peters, Joe. (2010) “Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Approach to General Music Education using the Sonic Environment Music Measuring Index (SEMMI)”. Paper presented at the International Society for Music Education (ISME), Beijing.

Peters, Joe. (2010). “Timeline Music Commentary Technique – A Guided Music Listening Approach to Musical Deconstruction”. Workshop presented at International Society for Music Education (ISME), Beijing.

Peters, Joe. (2010). “The Fluid PianoTM (Microtonal and Self-tunable) and SOME Implications for Applied Ethnomusicology”. Paper presented at ICTM Regional Conference, Hanoi.

Peters, Joe. (2009).  “Sonic Environment Modeling, Measuring and Monitoring (SEMMMI) and the Sustainability of Traditional Music’. Paper presented at ICTM 40th World Conference, Durban, South Africa.

Peters, Joe. (2009). “Sonic Orders Listening Mode Index (SOLMI) and the Listenology Laboratory”. Public Lecture at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Hong Kong.

Peters, Joe. (2009). “Fundamental Differences between Western and Asian Musics”. Public Lecture at Chung Ang University. Seoul, South Korea.

Peters, Joe. (2008).  “A Proposed Audio Visual Product Measure”. Paper presented at Audio Engineering Society (AES) 124th Convention, Amsterdam.

Peters, Joe. (2007). “E Learning and Audio-Visual-Information Technology Theory”.
Paper presented at Online Educa Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Peters, Joe. (2007) “Ethnomusicology in Singapore”.  Peter presented at Ethnomusicology Symposium. Center for Ethnomusicology, University of the Philippines

Peters, Joe. (2004). “ Re-Thinking Pedagogy in Music Education in a Globalized World” . Paper delivered at the Globalization Conference in Hanoi.

Peters, Joe. (2003). (Chief Ed.). Sonic Orders in ASEAN Musics, Vols. 1 & 2, 10 Cds. Singapore: ASEAN COCI.
Peters, J E E. (1999). Sonic Environment as a Macro Measure of Relevance in General Music Education. PhD Thesis, University of Western Australia.

Peters, Joseph. (1998). “ Asian Music: Understand it or Lose it! “ Soundworks, Vol. 5, Issue 10. pp. 13 - 16.

Peters, Joseph. (1997). Contemporary Developments in Indian Music in Singapore.
[ Country Paper, 3rd. ASEAN Composers Forum on Traditional Music ] Bangkok: ASEAN COCI.

Peters, Joseph. (1996). “ Problems of Achieving Relevance in General Music Education in
Singapore ”.
Commentary, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 19 - 32.

Peters, Joseph. (1995). “ Singapore ”. In Santos, R. ( ed. ). The Musics of ASEAN..
Manila: ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information, pp. 190 - 232.

Peters, Joseph. (1993). “ Evolving Traditions in Music ”. In Peters, J. ( ed. ). Forum Papers: Presentations at the Second ASEAN Composers Forum on Traditional Music. Singapore: National Arts Council, pp. 6 - 15.

Peters, Joseph. (1992). “ Professional Music Training in Singapore ”. The Graduate,
July, pp. 14 - 15.

Peters, Joseph. (1991b). “ Classical Music of the Malays ”. The Graduate, September, pp.12 -14.

Peters, Joseph. (1991a). “ Shared Values and the Value of Music: An Appraisal of our Sonic Environment “. The Graduate, June, pp. 12-13.

Peters, Joseph. (1990). “ The Music of Zubir Said ”. In Zubir Said: His Songs. Singapore: Singapore Cultural Foundation,  pp.18 - 22.

Peters, Joseph. (1981). “ A Conceptural Framework for a Creativity-based General Music Education Program for Singapore Schools ”. M.M. Thesis, University of the Philippines.

Peters, Joseph. (1979). “ Rationale and Curriculum Planning Principles in Music Education: Some Suggestions for Singapore ”. Commentary, Vol. 3, No. 4, June,
pp. 22 - 29.