Ensemble Modern showcases the best new composers from Indonesia

Ruang Suara

Ensemble Modern, Senyawa,
Taufik A. Adam, Dewa Ketut Alit,
Stevie Jonathan Sutanto, Gema Swaratyagita, Gatot Danar Sulistiyanto

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Ruang Suara (‘soundscapes’) showcases a new generation of Indonesian composers. The most striking feature of these pieces is the innovative sound palettes they create, their use of theatrical and visual elements, and how they place traditional vocals and instruments in a new musical context. The compositions are the result of an intensive exchange process that Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt set up to provide the composers with a platform. There will be a world premiere at the concert: the acoustic noise duo Senyawa (Wukir Suryadi & Rully Shabara) and the ensemble will play a new work commissioned by the Holland Festival. The concert shows the sound of modern Indonesia. 



Taufik A. Adam (1975)
Balayia (2015)

Rully Shabara (1982), Wukir Suryadi (1977)
N.N. (2017)
world premiere

Dewa Ketut Alit (1973)
Open My Door (2015)


Gema Swaratyagita (1984)
Da-Dha-Dah (2015)

Stevie Jonathan Sutanto (1992)
Mata and Senar (2015)

Gatot Danar Sulistiyanto (1980)
Mihrab (2015)


Background information

The project Ruang Suara began on the initiative and in collaboration with KfW Stiftung and Goethe-Institut Indonesien in Jakarta in October 2014 with Indonesian composers exchanging ideas with the German composers Johannes Schöllhorn and Manfred Stahne, along with members of the Ensemble Modern. Eight Indonesian composers 

subsequently travelled to Frankfurt, in January 2015. Each of them developed a composition on the basis of this visit. Those eight pieces were later performed as part of concerts in Frankfurt, Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung. The Ensemble Modern will once more showcase a selection of these pieces at the Holland Festival. The collaboration process was also recorded for posterity by British-Ethiopian video artist Theo Eshetu, in a film that will be shown at the beginning of the concert programme.

The project brings together two entirely different approaches to music: on the one side the Western one, in which the composer writes down as much as possible in the score, and on the other the Indonesian, in which notation mainly serves as a prompt to memory, numbers are often used in place of staves and the composition only really takes shape during the rehearsals and as a result of interaction between the musicians. The latter method actually does fit in some ways with the new Western practice of music, in which scores often give only minimal instructions and leave a great deal of freedom to the musician.

The eight composers come from different areas of Indonesia. Most of them were not educated in the Western tradition of composing. A number of them are mainly involved in electronic music and film in their home country. The concert they offer together will be filled with enthusiastic experimentation, but it is experimentation that comes from a deep-rooted awareness of the Indonesian tradition.

Every composer will give his or her own perspective on the encounter between Western and Indonesian music. Dewa Ketut Alit (Ubud) translates the harmonies and rhythms of the Balinese gamelan onto the Western range of instruments. M. Arham Aryadi and Stevie Jonathan Sutanto (both from Jakarta) combine Western and Indonesian instruments in their compositions and incorporate electronic and audiovisual elements. Joko Winarko (Surabaya) combines acted scenes with rhythms from the gamelan tradition and is fascinated with the Indonesian tradition of total art, in which theatre, dance, instrumental music and song blend into one. Ris Banbos (Jakarta) also combines the playing of Ensemble Modern with song, dance and the instrumental melodies of other participating composers. Rounding off the group are Taufik A. Adam (Jakarta), Gatot Danar Sulistiyanto (Yogyakarta) and Gema Swaratyagita (Surabaya), whose contributions explore new sounds and experiment with the body language of the performing musicians. The Ensemble Modern will also give the world premiere of a new work, together with the duo Senyawa (Yogyakarta). Senyawa is a duo made up of Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi. Senyawa combines elements from the traditional music of Java and Sulawesi with punk and metal influences, with Suryadi playing homemade instruments and Shabara using extreme singing techniques.



Since its establishment in 1980 Ensemble Modern has been regarded as one of the leading new music ensembles. The ensemble is based in Frankfurt and is made up of twenty performers of ten different nationalities. Its ways of working and organising are unusual: all 

decisions regarding projects, co-productions and finances are made collectively. The ensemble performs opera, chamber music and orchestral concerts as well as dance and video pieces. Every year the ensemble plays world-renowned festivals such as the Salzburg Festival, Vienna Festival, Klangspuren Schwaz, Musikfest Berlin, MusikTriennale Cologne, Lincoln Center Festival in New York, The Paris Autumn Festival, Lucerne Festival and the Holland Festival. The ensemble adds around seventy pieces to its repertoire annually. The ensemble has developed collaborative relationships of my many years standing with composers such as John Adams, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvös, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Benedict Mason, Steve Reich and Frank Zappa. In 2003 the Ensemble Modern was praised by the German Federal Cultural Foundation as a ‘beacon’ of German contemporary culture. That year also saw the establishment of the International Ensemble Modern Akademie (IEMA) which trains the next generation of musicians through its Master’s programme, master classes, composition workshops and educational projects.


Taufik A. Adam (1975) was born in Minangkabau in West-Sumatra and studied Cello at the Indonesian Advanced School for the Arts in Padang Panjang. Although his formal education was mainly focused on modern music, Adam also strives to integrate traditional Indonesian styles and techniques into his compositions. Adam currently lives in Jakarta. He regularly gives concerts as a multi-instrumentalist on both the national and the international stage. He often works with musicians from other cultures. Adam uses electronica in many of his compositions. He takes inspiration from New Age and instrumental and symphonic rock. In 2011 Adam set up the Taufik Adam Minstrel project. In it Adam explores the boundaries between tradition and present-day, centre and periphery, East and West and other oppositions. At present Taufik Adam is working on the New Age album Mysterium Cosmographicum.


Dewa Ketut Alit (1973) is regarded as one of the most important Balinese composers of his generation. He is the scion of a family of musicians and played ugal in the gamelan ensemble of his village Pengosekan from the age of thirteen. Between 1988 and 1995 he was part of the internationally renowned gamelan ensemble Gamelan Semara Ratih from Ubud. Alit graduated from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Denpasar in 1998 and set up the ensemble Cudamani with his brothers around the same time. In 2007 Alit established the group Gamelan Salukat, for which he designed new instruments with an unusual tuning. Aside from composing for gamelan ensembles, Alit also writes for string quartet, saxophone and a digital gamelan orchestra. Alit regularly works with music ensembles outside Indonesia and composes and teaches at institutions such as the University of British Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Helena College in Perth.


Gema Swaratyagita (1984) is a composer, pianist, music teacher and radio journalist. She was born in Jakarta but currently lives on Surabaya. In 2008 Swaratyagita completed a degree in Indonesian Literature at the University of Surabaya. She also took lessons in composition and piano. In 2012 she worked with sonologist Piet Hein van de Poel as part of the project City Soundscapes. That year she also won the Empowering Woman Artist Award (EWA) of Yayasan Kelola. With her song Raih Mimpiku Swaratyagita took first place in a song contest for music teachers set up by the Ministry of Education of Surabaya. In 2014 she won a prize during the Festival Musik Tradisi Baru Tembi in Yogyakarta. Swaratyagita leads the project Laring (larynx). The name typifies Swaratyagita’s fascination with the human voice. In her compositions she combines traditional vocal styles from Surabaya with avant-garde techniques.


Stevie Johnathan Sutanto (1992) mixes together traditional Javanese music and avant-garde sounds in his music. He often uses electronica to do this. He likes using video in his compositions. He was educated in Karawaci, a suburb of Jakarta, under Otto Siddharta and at the Conservatory for Music at the Universitas Pelita Harapan, from which he graduated in 2014. He currently lives in Jakarta. His compositions have been performed at various national and international festivals, such as the Manila Composers Lab (2011), Pentas Musik UHP Jakarta (2013), With Marks of Honour Jakarta (2014), the Yogyakarta Festival for Contemporary Music (2014) and the Asian Composers League Manila (2015).


Gatot Danar Sulistiyanto (1980) is not only a composer but also a conductor and performing musician. Sulistiyanto was born in Magelang in Central Java. From 2000 to 2008 he studied at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta, where he completed a degree in music and classical guitar. In 2001 Sulistiyanto joined the collective Musica Theatrica Nova, led by Vincent McDermott. Sulistiyanto takes inspiration from the post-war avant-garde. In 2009 he was given funding by the Prins Claus Fund. Since 2011 Sulistiyanto has received several commissions from the Eduard van Beinum Foundation. In 2012 Kitab Batu, a piece for soprano and seven instruments, was performed by the Dutch Chamber Music Company from Eindhoven. In 2015 came a second commission from the foundation, with the composition Illalang (Imperata cylindrical) for cello and piano, performed by Doris Hochscheid and Frans van Ruth. Sulistiyanto is currently working on the opera Gadis Pantai (Girl from the Beach). In 2017 this piece will be premiered in ‘s Hertogenbosch, played by members of the South Netherlands Philharmonic under the leadership of Bas Wiegers.


Senyawa, a duo from Yogyakarta, is made up of Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi. Singer Shabara grew up in Sulawesi. In his singing, he incorporates extraordinary techniques from the island's vocal traditions as well as growling and grunting sounds from metal. Suryadi plays home-made instruments with names such as 'Garu', 'Bambu Wukir' and 'Akar Mahoni'. The Bambu Wukir is inspired by the tube zithers of the East Indonesian islands: cylinders of bamboo with strings stretched along them. The Bambu Wukir can produce strong percussive sounds as well as delicate, jingling sounds. The Akar Mahoni, which can be played by several musicians at the same time, is made from a single mahogany tree root and combines the neck and strings of an electric guitar with strips of leather that produce bass tones, two theremins and a synthesiser. Suryadi designed the instrument with several builders, including Lintang Radittya from The Instrument Builders Project. During concerts, the duo use DIY electronics to modify the sounds of the vocals and instruments live. Although Indonesian traditions form the basis of their music, they use playing techniques from experimental genres to create their own special sound. They have been playing together since 2010, when Shabara was invited to share the stage with Suryadi, who was in the middle of a performance at the time, at a festival in Yogyakarta. Four days later, they had already recorded the songs that would feature on their first album. They have played with big names from an international scene of improvisational musicians such as Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, Trevor Dunn, Oren Ambarchi and David Shea.


The Dutch conductor Bas Wiegers (1974) is driven by a broad musical interest and an undogmatic outlook. Wiegers studied violin and orchestra direction at the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. Wiegers began his career as a violinist, but is currently mainly active as a conductor, specifically of modern repertoire. As well as collaborations with symphony orchestras like the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Wiegers often works with new music ensembles. He works with Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern and Asko|Schönberg among others. Wiegers is also a regular guest at international festivals such as the Holland Festival, Wien Modern, Aldeburgh Music Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, London Almeida Festival and the Achtbrücken (Eight Bridges) Festival in Cologne. He conducts many works by living composers such as Harrison Birtwistle, Louis Andriessen, George Benjamin, Oliver Knussen, Georg Friedrich Haas and Helmut Lachenmann. In 2009 he received a grant from the Kersjes Fund and a Momentum Scholarship from the Netherlands Fund for the Performing Arts to enrich the modern concert experience.


Festival focus: music from Indonesia

Following the focus on Turkey and its neighbouring countries (2015) and on the Edges of Europe (2016), this year’s special focus is on music from Indonesia. In the islands, many styles and genres exist next to each other in a fascinating way. We present a selection of contemporary work: noise from the streets of Yogyakarta and

folk from strictly Islamic Aceh, to modern  Indonesian composers. 

We show collaborations which transcend boundaries from artists from different corners of the archipelago. Rahayu Suppangah wrote the music for Setan Jawa, a new silent dance film by Garin Nugroho. Indonesian composers and musicians work with Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt in Ruang Suara. We are presenting A Night in Indonesia in Paradiso, with the latest music from the Indonesian underground, including the EDM duo Filastine & Nova Ruth and Senyawa’s acoustic metal. At the Holland Festival Proms the visual artist Jompet Kuswidananto is presenting an opera installation about censorship in art. The audience can also enter the Temple of Time by the Indonesian-Dutch composer Sinta Wullur. The context programming explores topics such as Javanese mysticism and joint Dutch and Indonesian historiography. 

Discover the sound of modern Indonesia.



Taufik A. Adam, Rully Shabara & Wukir Suryadi (Senyawa), Dewa Ketut Alit, Stevie Jonathan Sutanto, Gema Swaratyagita, Gatot Danar Sulistiyanto
Bas Wiegers
music performed by
Ensemble Modern, Senyawa, Taufik A. Adam, Joko Winarko
Ensemble Modern
supported by
KfW Stiftung (Germany)

This performance was made possible with support by