Composing or Arranging is Like Running a Marathon

I’m in the final stages of working on my composition for Kulintang Ensemble and Symphonic Band, commissioned by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. I was reminded of how composing and arranging can sometimes be like running a marathon. At the start, there is much elation and motivation. As the hours days or months wear on (depending on the scale of the project), the difficult middle miles sometimes make way for thoughts such as “Why did I do this?” It deteriorates further during the later middle miles. I know I’ve hit a wall sometime in September where I’ve stopped writing, completely. Good thing I got back up after a week of rest during the beginning of October.

Eight Stages of Running a Marathon

Where am I now? I think I’m in stage seven. In the video linked above, it’s called “affirmation”. Nearing the finish, and feeling something near defeat but trying to dig deep. I know I should be devoting all my time now to just finishing, but in a dark moment of the soul (admit it, composers/arrangers, you go through this too!), I took some time to view some of the sketches I’ve made since May 2013. Remembered the revisions/rewriting that this piece has gone through, and told myself that giving up now is not an option.


Took time to revisit some of my research notes (aided by Tusa Montes) and the raw documentation clips of musicians playing at Aga Mayo Butocan’s house made by Lester Valle and Carla Pulido Ocampo..
It was an all-star kulintang ensemble.

During the fieldwork, I brought along Kakoy Legaspi, my bandmate and friend in Bamboo’s band. In the photo: Danny Kalanduyan on Gandingan, Tusa Montes on Dabakan.
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Aga Mayo Butocan on Kulintang, and Abraham Abdullah on Agong. Dex and my dad came along as well...We learned so much that afternoon, both from their playing and their answering our questions on the music.
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Here is the Kulintang they have helped me acquire. I learned a few simple pieces by heart so that my writing would develop organically. Also, playing the Kulintang can be a great stress reliever.

I think my doggie loves what I’m doing.


August to September Updates

These days, one of the best ways to tell that an arranger/composer/keyboardist is too happily swamped with projects is that she fails to update her blog.

Seriously, August and September has been somewhat whirlwind months for me.

BY Request - Bamboo and Yeng concert

As a musical director/arranger, taking care of two headliners in a show is a difficult but deeply satisfying task. Collaborating with guitar whiz Jack Rufo for the show, we were able to come up with arrangements that showcased both artists’ strengths.

The video mapping was such a musical/visual feast.

Click here to watch the opening number


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While deep in the preparations for BY Request, I got a call to be the collaborating musical director for Aiza and Charice’s Power of Two, together with Charice’s musical director from LA, Mr. Troy Laureta.


Indeed, it turned out to be a powerful and moving show.


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In the midst of these, I was also fortunate to have been handpicked by Mr. Martin Nievera and Louie Ocampo to do some orchestra arrangements for Martin Nievera’s 3D concert.. his 30th anniversary concert. Did two new arrangements for the show - the opening number (a new version of Feeling Good), Robin Nievera’s Stay Strong (one of the songs that really moved me), a version of Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin which I did in 2008 for Martin’s 25th anniversary concert, and Maging Sino Ka Man, an arrangement I did for the Juan de La Cruz Superhero TV series.


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These months were also sprinkled with my assignments for The Voice of the Philippines. Among those songs which I had a hand in were Myk Perez’s Give Me Love, Baby I Love Your Way, and Paolo Onesa’s Elesi. You can purchase these songs in iTunes.

Myk Perez iTunes
Paolo Onesa iTunes

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