Gamelan Nyai Saraswati

Gamelan Nyai Saraswati is an ensemble of the Department of Music, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Group:  Gamelan Nyai Saraswati

Performance: 8 December 2001  (other performances:  7 June 2001,  18 January 2002 "Gamelan Gala",  20 March 2003,  23 November 2003 ("New Music Concert") ,  7 April 2004 "Molak-Malik" ,  21 November 2004 "World Music Concert" ,  22 April 2005 "World Music Concert" ,  13 November 2005 ,  2 April 2006 "Reinventing Black Mountain" ,  19 November 2006 ,  25 April 2007 "World Music Concert" ,  26 April 2009 "An Evening of Javanese Music and Dance" ,  21 November 2010 "Music in the Galleries" )

Gamelan Nyai Saraswati
December 8, 2001, 3:00 PM
Chapel Hill Museum

This concert, publicized only to family and friends of the group, was a "dry run" of our still-to-come inaugural January concert. The approach of the concert was heralded by the presence of Midiyanto S. Putra, from Lewis and Clark College, who spent the two days before our concert tuning the gamelan and generously giving members of the group private lessons on various instruments. Incidentally, Mas Midiyanto was the previous owner of this gamelan, making his presence here even more poignant. Thanks to him for playing with us and for sharing his time and his wisdom!

These recordings were captured through the wonders of mini-disc technology. Enjoy!

Available audio files (how do I listen to these recordings?):

Gending Bonang TUKUNG


Gendhing Bonang Tukung kethuk 4 kerep, minggah kethuk 8, Laras Pelog, Pathet Barang

This piece features the set of racked gongs called bonang, thus the term gendhing bonang or large-scale piece for bonang. This piece is composed in two sections (cycles or gongan), each with 128 beats between strokes of the large gong. In order to count the beats, one must listen to the metallophone players. This group plays the same basic melody in several different octaves; the melody played by them is called the balungan or skeleton. The relationship of this melody to those played by other instruments is much like that of the skeleton to the rest of the human body -- if the melody is the bones, the bonang, elaborating on the basic melody is like the skin and distinguishing features, while the drums and gong, punctuating arrivals in the cycle as time passes are like the heart and internal organs. In the first section, the drummer settles the ensemble into a slow tempo allowing a focus on the artistry of the bonang player; in the second section (minggah), the tempo and volume gradually increase to the point at which it seems the ensemble cannot play any faster or louder. The drummer then slows the ensemble as we head toward the final gong. Gendhing Bonang are played outside the inner palace walls of Central Java during the celebration of Mohammed's birthday, known as Sekaten. The ensembles used for this festival are much larger than Nyai Saraswati. The metallophone slabs can measure as much as four inches thick. A measure of the desired volume for these sekaten pieces, players may receive a reward from the sultan if they manage to crack one of the slabs with the force of their stroke while performing.



Ladrang Wilujeng, Laras Slendro, Pathet Manyura

Traditionally used as the first piece in a performance to ensure good luck and prosperity, gamelan groups outside of Java tend to teach it as the first piece one learns on any instrument.



Ladrang Asmaradana slendro manyura

This popular piece has two sections, the second an expansion of the first and featuring a chorus.



Gendhing Erang-erang Bagelan kethuk 2 kerep, minggah Ladrang Opak-Apem, Laras Pelog, Pathet Nem

This lively piece, whose title means to jokingly warn someone, starts off at a spritely tempo. In the second section the drummer switches to ciblonan drumming and the basic melody moves at twice the usual tempo. The name of the second section refers to two types of sweet cakes, the first a wafer cookie and the second a rice fritter.

Gending LOBONG


Gendhing Lobong kethuk 2 kerep, minggah Kinanti, kalajengaken Ladrang Kembang Pepe, Laras Slendro, Pathet Manyura

This piece has a first section composed of two different melodic cycles. The second and third sections of the piece feature a large mixed chorus.

Director: Daniel Guberman (email:
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