In a bid for peace, Ayutthaya's death roar joins a multimedia storm of global chaos
Italian musician and composer Andrea Molino has chosen the fall of Ayutthaya to throw down his second challenge to society's perception of cultural boundaries.
A veteran of controversial projects involving the way we see ethnic and other social conflicts, he's here with Winners, a wake-up campaign by clothier Benetton, recalling how the old Siamese capital was razed to the ground 250 years ago.
Molino is assembling a massive multimedia presentation from video footage shot in five countries, including interviews and local music. It will be accompanied live by Australian percussion group TaikOz and the Queensland Orchestra.
"I chose the destruction of Ayutthaya because it's a major human event that Westerners have no idea about - the whole city was destroyed and many lives were lost!" Molino says.
He's out to blur the difference between rich and poor, winners and losers. There is, he believes, no distinction.
The production will be shown at the Brisbane Festival in Australia on Saturday, but a DVD is planned, and Molino is hopeful that viewings will be arranged for Thailand and other countries.
His multimedia project features footage of muay thai combat played against a simultaneous performance of traditional music from several countries.
"The musicians answer each other. It will be a lively and energetic musical confrontation, although people from different parts of the world are playing the same piece together."
The aim, however, is to create confusion, the better to break through to clarity.
"There are lots of important leaders who stand up and say they want peace, they want reconciliation, but nothing ever happens. You cannot accomplish peace without having reasons for peace. You need to understand why things are like this in order to change them."
He and his crew have interviewed many individuals who've experienced catastrophic events, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Joining the Burmese destruction of Ayutthaya in his production are the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, the Dresden fire-bombing in World War II and the radiation poisoning of Aborigines that resulted from Australia's nuclear tests.
In Ayutthaya, Molino filmed at six temples and handpicked local musicians to contribute to the score.
He's passionate about instruments like the ranad and Thai flute.
"The flute is unlike any other instrument in the world. I've tried to include them in the composition so that there's that purity in the sound."
He sought out artists up to 25 years old who displayed a cultural sensitivity in their music.
"We were looking for young artists who were rooted in their own tradition yet were able develop new things."
Unintentionally, all five were selected from the Fine Arts Bandit Pattanasilapa Institute.
Percussionist Wichai Poopechra leads the group. Arnon Kanjanapo plays the kong-wong-yai, Krengkkrai Onsumarng the ranad, Sartra Laosoongnoen the flute and Wuttichai Limchoey the drum-like ti-pon.
"We play five traditional Thai songs," Wichai says. "Andrea just gave us the length of time, the rhythm and the pulse."
The quintet is unanimous in finding the international collaboration educational.
"We were able to learn new techniques from the musicians from other countries," Sartra says, adding that improvisation played a big part in the production.
"We learned about the concept of making music as part of a larger project," Arnon says.
"It's also more contemporary - a fusion of Eastern and Western music," adds Wuttichai.
"We have a different type of music in Thailand," Sartra notes. "It's quite disciplined, but other nationalities have no limitations, no boundaries. The Germans came up to praise us for our self-discipline."