What we have lost and gained in the pandemic in poems and music

Published April 9, 2022, 5:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Poet Pablo Tariman launches Love, Life, and Loss during the Pandemic in a concert 

MUSIC AND LYRICS Classical guitarist Aaron Aguila with poet Pablo Tariman

Classical music goes live once more in the coming launching of Pablo A. Tariman’s Love, Life and Loss – Poems during the Pandemic at the Catanduanes State University Auditorium on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 3 p.m. and on May 4, 3 p.m., at the University of the Philippines Visayas performing arts auditorium.

The event marks the return of classical guitarist Aaron Aguila, prize-winner of the Jakarta ASEAN International Guitar Competition and the National Music Competition for Young Artists. He will do a mini-concert right after the launching proper.

The classical guitarist answered a few questions before his Virac return engagement. Here are some excerpts.

How was your musical life during the pandemic and how did you cope?

Like everyone else, it took me by surprise. I didn’t have a job for a couple of months. But thank God, I had a few savings that sustained me. I view it as a forced or mandatory rest from work (teaching guitar) and daily routine. At the start of the pandemic, I kept myself busy with recordings, online fundraiser concerts, talks, collaborations, tinkering with cars, gadgets anything DIY, and a ton of reflection. I also connected with the people I haven’t talked to in a long time. In the second year of the pandemic, I got burnt out. I was not practicing well, I stopped recording. The effect of the pandemic started to kick in mentally. So much so that I am now questioning my career direction, uninspired.

But now I am picking up the pieces, so to speak, with a new pace. I did not want to force it back then. I wanted to be honest with my guitar and hard work. It is more of a heart issue.

What did you learn while doing online teaching?

More than the guitar, I got connected with my students more on a personal level, their daily struggles with the pandemic, school, family, relationships, everything. Online teaching taught me how to look beyond the skill of the person, look beyond the student’s attitude, and look at the person itself. Guitar teaching is a relationship.

What is basically challenging playing Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which will highlight your concert in Catanduanes and Iloilo?

The tremolo, the balance, and control of the tremolo. I haven’t played it for a long time. It’s like muscle that you need to build with more exercises.

HEALTH CRISIS IN LITERATURE Pablo Tariman’s Love, Life and Loss – Poems during the Pandemic

‘We shouldn’t be the same person that we were before the pandemic.’

What is challenging about this piece from the point of view of a musician?

The challenging thing about it is that most people know about this piece. More so now because it was used in a Korean drama, Memories of the Alhambra. It is a standard repertoire for classical guitarists and one of the challenging things is how you will play it without sounding just like other guitarists. Now I am more concerned with my personal touch and how artistry can come out from this piece. When I was younger, I stayed away from listening to it because everyone was playing it! And I thought I already knew how to play it. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a random video of David Russell playing Recuerdos. I said okay let’s give it a try. I was mind-blown by his left-hand fingering. It made the balance of the voices better and solved technical issues that I hadn’t seen from anyone. I got excited again to learn this piece. Now I had a different and fresh view about this piece. And that’s the beauty of it. It sounds a cliché but it is a case of learning music over and over again.

Why do you think people love it?

The kind of atmosphere that it gives you. Peaceful, hopeful. Easy to listen to. Like a clear whisper in your ear.

What kind of musician and artist will you emerge after the pandemic?

Definitely not the Aaron that I knew. I play not for the number of views. It seems everyone wants it now—a share of the spotlight and thousands of YouTube followers. That is not bad. If that is your driving force more than the honesty with your music, then you need to reflect. We shouldn’t be the same person that we were before the pandemic. This pandemic exposed a lot of things and one of them is your heart when you play. Do you play just to impress people? Serve yourself? For popularity? For money? Or maybe you had a lot of concerts before and you took it for granted and it became a routine, a job. Again, it’s not bad to have those things. But if those things are at the center of your heart, then you have to think about it. In my case, I just want to be honest with my music, my guitar, and my audience.

Your thoughts as you perform live after more than two years in Catanduanes and Iloilo?

I have been playing guitar on-site but not classical guitar. I am sure this will be a great experience for me to connect with people in my musical milieu. I’m excited with the atmosphere generated by music. I can even hear the sound of the guitar moving around the hall. Can’t wait to meet new friends, plane ride, and food! I’m grateful to have this opportunity.

Tell us about the guitar you are using?

I am using a 2004 Karl Heinz Römmich, the same guitar I used in Catanduanes concert in 2017. I got this guitar after I sold my old guitar. After I won the Jakarta competition, the jury told me to change my guitar right away. Got it with the help of my friend Vincent Tan, who is a guitarist/collector.

Here’s Aguila’s program at the book launching.

1. L’hymne a l’amour by Edith Piaf as arranged by Roland Dyens

2. . Invierno Porteno – Piazzolla

3. Danza del Molinero – De Falla

4. Bayan Ko – Constancio de Guzman

5. Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Tarrega

Limited copies of Love, Life and Loss – Poems during the Pandemic100 Pink Poems Para Kay Leni, and The Best Asian Poetry will be available during the book launching.

To reserve books and seats, text 09065104270. In observance of health protocol, limited seats will be available during the concert.

The April 27 and May 4 concerts are made possible with the help National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Dr. Patrick Azanza, president, Catanduanes State University; Prof. Martin Genodepa, director of the Office of Cultural Initiatives, UPV; Nedy Tantoco and Rustan’s Makati, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo, E-Crown Hotel, Virac, Catanduanes and Virac Tourism Office LGU Virac.

Photo captions:

 1. Classical guitarist Aaron Aguila with poet Pablo Tariman.

 2. Pablo Tariman’s Love, Life and Loss – Poems during the Pandemic