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Synesthesia for your coffee table

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 03, 2023 5:00 am

How can we approach a feeling of synesthesia? That’s the term for when we experience one of our senses through another—like hearing music, but seeing corresponding shapes; or hearing a name, and conjuring up a certain color in our minds. In order to combine or reroute our senses, people have tried many pathways (some chemical).

One book that tries to have it all ways, sensorially speaking, is Kuwento ng Alon (As Told by the Waves).

Published by ABS-CBN Books, ut’s a project bringing together the music of OPM pioneer Jonathan Manolo and artist Kristine Lim, and it’s presented as a beautifully crafted book (one that’s LP size, incidentally). Inside you’ll find it’s loaded with textual essays, images, songs, and even a Spotify playlist that can be scanned as a QR code.

The journey to book form actually comes from a shared vision for a traveling multimedia project, project curator Ricky Francisco says in his preface.

Francisco had in mind Manolo, an award-winning singer, vocal arranger, and early architect of OPM music; his sonic visions seemed to combine with Lim, whose public projects, rendered in signature metallic mixed-media painting-and-relief, pay tribute to nature, country and culture.

As Francisco notes in his opening essay, “For years, they’ve been wanting to create a project that would visualize music.” Their collaborations led to a series of exhibitions throughout the country, and in various cities worldwide: 36 artworks by Lim interpreting Manolo’s song Kuwento ng Alon in visual form. (Lim also contributed the stylized black and white portraits of the singers who interpreted Manolo’s song, including Rico Blanco, Gary Valenciano, Catriona Gray, Piolo Pascual, Toni Gonzaga, Regine Velasquez and Itchyworms.)

After the national tour wound up, the show went on the road in September 2022 and continues now through Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan, London, France, the US, Canada and Dubai. It will wrap up in September 2023.

Visualizing music can be arrived at through many incarnations—or incantations. The book’s essays praise the efforts of Manolo and Lim to express something beyond words—but also very Filipino.

Sen. Loren Legarda praised the coffeetable book as something that “holds the very essence of being a Filipino.” It’s a book that “‘makes music visually appealing, and providing movement to a painting through the flow of sound and music, all the while weaving our stories like waves in the ocean.”

Inside Kuwento ng Along with images by Kristine Lim. The songs inside link to a special Spotify playlist.

DOT Sec. Ma. Esperanza Christina Codilla Frasco says “more than ever, the Philippines needs a tourism environment that upholds our sense of culture and leaves a positive impact on communities.” She calls it “connection stimulation,” a kind of sparking of national pride.

And CCP President Margie Moran-Floirendo added: “It is the quintessential Filipino attempt to connect the world together through goodwill and inspiration.”

NCCA Commissioner Oscar Casaysay calls it a “two-way street where music can be seen and paintings can be heard.”

Leafing through the handsome volume, there’s a lot to admire. Lim’s artworks employ her signature style, mixing pastel tones and gold leaf, objects from nature with metallics and mesh, seeds, balanced with textural details—her images “fairly aching and quaking with the gravitas of feelings infused with grace and prayers,” says essayist Cid Reyes.

Lim, after shooting striking images for Pulp magazine and others and developing an art career, met up with Manolo in 2020 at Academy of Rock Philippines. Despite her own personal struggles, Lim has emerged stronger, driven by faith and vision, to become an internationally acclaimed artist with local accolades a mile long. It shows the persistence of art on these shores.

Visualizing music can be arrived at through many incarnations—or incantations. The book’s essays praise the efforts of Manolo and Lim to express something beyond words—but also very Filipino.

For his part, producer, singer and composer Manolo (whom Francisco calls “one of the key musicians of his generation,” and a chief architect of OPM from 2010-2020) celebrates 20 years in the music industry with this project.

To bring things to full synesthesia (or at least synthetic synesthesia), there’s a QR code inside to activate the Spotify playlist (or you can just search for “Kuwento ng alon”). Renditions by Kyla, Eric Santos, Moira Dela Torres, Vice Ganda, Jericho Rosales and others pay tribute to themes deeply ingrained in Filipino nature in collaborations with composer Manolo.

We’ll leave it to master composer Ryan Cayabyab to sum up the essential nature of music in Filipino culture. He praises Manolo’s contributions in his essay titled “Finding Filipinoness in Pop Music,” writing about how the path toward identity comes through the same materials as the pop form: “You start with a 6-syllable line about anything and then you build upon that first line with another and then another.” Sounds easy. But Manolo shapes these into something that “consistently sounds like Filipino-made music.”

There’s something essentially Filipino about this project, well worth a scan, whatever sensory pathway you choose to experience it.

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Kuwento ng Alon (As Told by the Waves) is published by ABS-CBN books and presented by Art Lounge Manila and AOR Global. Visit www.kuwentongalon for more information.