Dr. Helen Samson-Lauterwald Speaks at the College

The Philippines have but a few number of noted music scholars. One of our very own music scholar who published “Contemporary Filipino Composers” in 1976, is Dr. Helen Samson-Lauterwald, an alumna of the English and Music programs at UP Diliman, and also a graduate of the University of Cologne, Germany. Dr. Lauterwald have published a book on the Las Pinas bamboo organ and a new and forthcoming one is a book on sarsuelas of Severino Reyes in the early 20th century.

Last November 17, 2014, the UP College of Music welcomed her in a colloquium. Dr. Lauterwald, in her lecture, started with an update on the history of the restoration of the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ. Now a national treasure, its cultural significance is important to the residents of the town of Las Pinas and the national government. Showing a map of Spain, she pointed out the cultural region where the Recollect priest Diego Cera, the organ builder, originated. In the township of Graus alone, are about thirty similarly constructed organs. However, the bamboo organ of the Philippines stands alone in its category in the world. She said that the Jesuits in Shanghai also built bamboo organs around 1850. However, none have survived in its original place except a portative that is now in a museum in Paris. A further reference to this can be found in David Francis Urrows “The Bamboo Organs of Nineteenth Century Shanghai.” (Nineteenth Century Music Review Vol. 11 no. 1 (June 2014) pp. 113 - 134.)

The horizontal reeds of the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ which is made of metal and located above the organist’s head, is a furnishing found in Spanish organs only. Its practice originated from Mexico and not Spain, she conjectures. In the mid-1970's, the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ was restored and rebuilt in Germany. After the restoration, while still in Bonn, famous organist Wolfgang Ohms, played on it, with original arrangements using Filipino folksongs. Dr. Lauterwald also mentioned the training of two former Las Pinas Boys Choir members Cealwin Tagle and Edgar Montano in organ building in Austria. Today, Philippine organ builders help organ restorations in Korea and Hongkong, and even as far as Russia.

Part II of her lecture dwelt on her experiences as a musicologist in Europe, which involves theoretic competencies. She narrated that she had to deal with the old German handwriting translation called the Suetterlin. In another exercise, she needed to read archaic Spanish aloud and realized how its aural value facilitated translation. She also dealt with music transcription and analysis which are basic methodologies in music source inspection.

In the lecture, she also presented a survey of studies in musicology and ethnomusicology in Germany featuring authors Carl Dahlhaus, Karl Gustav Fellerer, and Dietrich Kaemper. For harmonic analysis, she reiterated Walter Piston’s undying hegemony and de la Motte.

Asked about why she chose a dissertation topic on the tensions between Filipino nationalism and internationalism in composition, she replied that it was a subject close to the Filipino heart and soul. The title of her work, translated in English, roughly means, “How the Filipino “spirit” translates into a work of music written in the idiom of Western music." This dissertation is already due for translation and will be added to a number of works to be published in the UP Press, now under negotiations.