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Gamelan at the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra

Gamelan is the comprehensive term for different music ensembles in Indonesia , especially in the traditional music of Java and Bali , which always contain individual bronze gongs and metallophones or, more rarely, xylophones and to which, depending on the size and purpose, drums , stringed instruments, flutes and voices are added.

Structure and distribution

Trogxylophone gambang, played by Javanese in Suriname . Belongs to a collection acquired by the missionary Karl Maas around 1925, which is now in the Herrnhut Ethnological Museum .

The ensembles essentially consist of metallophones, individual gongs, rows of gongs and drums ( kendang ). Depending on the style, there are also flutes ( suling ), strings ( rebab ), xylophones , shaking idiophones made of bamboo ( angklung ) and vocals . Only the instruments used as soloists improvise over the core melody played by the metallophones. The core melody consists of patterns that are played around. The coincidence of core melody and decoration is understood as an "inner melody".

The mood is different depending on the music genre and also varies from ensemble to ensemble. There are gamelans with 4, 5 and 7 notes per octave . The oscillation ratios of, for example, 1.7 f and 2.29 f to the keynote f, which are unusual for Western listeners, come from the round sound bars that have been manufactured in Indonesia for over 1600 years. In these, on the one hand, opposing panel insides swing against each other and, on the other hand, the edges and panel interior swing against each other.

Gamelan music is played on various occasions, such as religious celebrations, social occasions such as weddings or births, as an accompaniment to dances and wayang performances such as puppet theaters ( wayang golek, wayang klitik ), shadow plays ( wayang kulit ) and the rare role-playing drama ( wayang beber ).

Some ensembles, some of them very old, can still be found today at the royal courts ( kratons ) of Yogyakarta and Surakarta in Central Java.

Gamelan occur outside of their core area of ​​Central Java, East Java and Bali on the island of Lombok ; in West Java, the degen ensemble uses similar gong games. On the island of Madura off the north coast of Java, the saronen double reed instrument takes over the melody in the Gamelan Saronen .

Instruments and playing styles derived from gamelan are called Kulintang in the Minahasa region of North Sulawesi , in parts of Mindanao and on some islands in between . The humpback gongs typical of gamelan are also traditionally played in Sumatra ; the influence of gamelan shapes the classical music of Southeast Asia between Malaysia , Myanmar , Laos and Cambodia .

The first gamelan orchestras outside the region were established by emigrants in the Netherlands in the early 20th century . The Dutch ethnomusicologist and musician Jaap Kunst (1891–1960) and his American student Mantle Hood (1918–2005) made a great contribution to the understanding of music and the establishment of gamelan ensembles in the West. Several gamelan music groups give concerts in Germany. Courses are offered by some ethnographic museums and music schools.

Gamelan in Central Java

Gamelan ensemble at the Sekaten Festival on Java.

A gamelan consists of four groups of instruments:

  1. Instruments that play the core melody ( balungan ). These include metallophones with bronze plates over a wooden box ( saron ) in three different sizes, each one octave apart, and the slenthem , which sounds an octave lower and has thin sound plates with individual resonators made of bamboo or aluminum tubes.
  2. The punctuating or colotomic instruments. They mark certain sections of a piece and indicate the structure. The largest hanging gong ( gong ageng ) marks the beginning and end of a piece and longer sections. The kenong is a kettle gong with a wooden resonator. He plays shorter subdivisions. With some forms, another hanging and slightly smaller gong is played, the kempul . The smaller kethuk and kempyang kettle gongs fill in the basic beats of the others. In the case of two courtly gamelans, the hand-held, banana-shaped kemanak produce the shortest timing.
  3. Instruments that decorate the basic melody ( panerusan ). This includes
    • the bonang gong in two sizes
    • the metallophone gendèr in two sizes
    • the xylophone gambang similar to the various cambodian roneat
    • the bamboo flute suling
    • the spit-fiddle rebab . The name and form come from the Arabic rabāb
    • the boxes zither siter and celempung
The solo singers ( pesindhèn ) and a group of male voices ( gérong ) also decorate the melody.
Each instrument has its own pattern and rules according to which it adorns and interprets the core melody. The taste and skills of the players also determine the execution.
  1. The drum player kendang guides the group not optically but acoustically; he gives certain fixed signals to finish the piece and its parts and to vary the tempo.

Up to 40 players can be united in a full gamelan. There are no actual soloists. Every instrument is important for the overall sound, and the desired sound is only achieved when all instruments play together. In this respect, a gamelan represents a social ideal in which everyone listens to the other and contributes to the overall result without being in the foreground.

Two different moods are used in Central Java:

The pitch of the notes in the Slendro is almost the same. The steps in the pelog show clear differences. Neither of the two tunings contains pure intervals apart from the octave . Each gamelan has its own mood that is slightly different from the others. There is a separate set of instruments each for Slendro and Pelog. Each piece is composed for a mood. When playing, the same instruments are set up "around the corner" and the player turns to the instrument that is needed. There are also some special gamelan orchestras at the Sultan's courts that are only played there. They usually have a special repertoire.

The complex rules that are the basis of every Gamelan piece were transferred to a computer program in 2016 for study purposes, which should also be used as an auxiliary method for compositions.

Gamelan in Bali

In Bali , there are a larger number of different ensemble types . They sometimes use different instruments and moods and have different social or religious functions. In addition to gamelan orchestras with metallophones ( gangsa ), there are also occasional gamelan orchestras with wooden instruments, especially the bamboo -Gamelan Jegog , in which the deepest idiophones are over three meters long. There are only three Jegog instruments around the world outside of Bali - in San Francisco , Tokyo and in Mühldorf am Inn in Bavaria .

Probably the most popular contemporary classical music style is the Gamelan Gong Kebyar . He replaced the former court gong orchestra Gong Gede . The little gamelan gambuh with bamboo flutes and the string lute rebab accompanies dance dramas.

Gamelan on Lombok

On the neighboring island of Lombok to the east , the Balinese minority plays its own musical tradition in a somewhat reduced form. The majority of the Sasak population adopted and adapted gamelan traditions from Java and Bali in the music of Lombok . The Balinese Gamelan Gong Gede was reduced to the Gamelan Gong Kuna . The classical orchestra on Lombok is the Gamelan Gendang Beleq , in which the bronze metallophones are supplemented by the melody-leading bamboo flute suling and occasionally the double reed instrument preret . The third major orchestra is the Gamelan Wayang Sasak , with whose accompaniment the shadow play cycle Serat Menak Sasak is performed.

Influences on western music

At the world exhibition in Paris in 1889, Claude Debussy was deeply fascinated by the sound of a Javanese gamelan ensemble.

The composer Steve Reich dealt with the Balinese gamelan in the 1970s, which was reflected in the composition Music for 18 Musicians .

The British band 23 Skidoo released several albums in the 1980s that were influenced by gamelan music. Including the album Urban Gamelan , released in 1984 .

The post rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor lists gamelan music as one of their influences and has also released a song called Gamelan .

Web links

Commons : Gamelan  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Gamelan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Audio samples

Individual evidence

  1. Khafiizh Hastuti, Khabib Mustafa: A method for automatic gamelan music composition. In: International Journal of Advances in Intelligent Informatics, Vol. 2, No. 1, March 2016, pp. 26–37
  2. ^ Steve Reich in the text accompanying the LP Music for 18 Musicians . ECM 1976; Peter Gutmann: Reinventing American Classical Music.