This February, it was announced that Florante Aguilar ’96, along with the presenting organization KulArts, was chosen as a grant recipient by the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation to compose his new work, Utom. The Gerbode foundation annually distributes six $50,000 grants to support the creation and production of new culturally and aesthetically diverse music by California composers.
Describing his music, Aguilar says, “My compositional works in the past few years have been influenced and informed by traditional and/or indigenous music from my country, the Philippines. I think the Gerbode saw it fit for me to continue with this direction by commissioning a work along the same trajectory. The new work, Utom (pronounced oo-tawm), is a contemporary work inspired by the music of the T’boli, the indigenous people of south Mindanao.” Aguilar has had a lot of success creating music influenced by his home country, and his desire to create art inspired by the Philippines is not limited to music. In 2012, he wrote and produced the documentary film Harana (2012), which is currently aired on PBS across the United States. The film is about Aguilar’s search for the last surviving practitioners of the Filipino tradition of serenading and has won several awards in the film festival circuit.
When asked about his upcoming composition, Aguilar says, “Utom refers to a T'boli form of composition in which the sounds of the natural world are invoked through the music, and is inspired by a mythical story of the deity Boi Henwu. I’ll be playing the T’boli lute hegelung—being a guitar major helps here—along with an ensemble of six to eight instrumentalists playing bamboo zither, flute, fiddle, gongs, mouth harp, percussion, and voice. Utom will premiere in May 2019 at the San Francisco International Arts Festival.”