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Group: Gamelan Nyai Saraswati
Performance: 18 January 2002 "Gamelan Gala"
(other performances: 7 June 2001,
8 December 2001,
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
An Evening of Central Javanese Music
January 18, 2002, 8:00 PM
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The publicity machine for Nyai Saraswati's inaugural concert
(after two previous unpublicized "private" concerts)
apparently worked too well.
This concert was part of the William S. Newman series,
with the unassuming title of "Gamelan Gala".
By concert time (8:00PM) on this chilly night,
a very large line of hardy souls stretched around Hill Hall,
all trying to get into what was, by now, a sold out concert.
Luckily, for some of them,
seating/standing room was made available in the rotunda.
Thirty minutes (and a brief introduction by music director Sarah Weiss)
Nyai Saraswati and 7 distinguished guests did their best to
live up to the fuss the throng was expecting.
For this concert, we were honored to be joined by
Sumarsam, Wesleyan University
I.M. Harjito, Wesleyan University
Midiyanto S. Putra, Lewis and Clark College
Srihadeni Harjito, Wesleyan University
Barry Drummond, Tufts University
Martin Hatch, Cornell University
Anne Stebinger, New York City and Woodstock, NY
Thanks to them for helping to make this concert such a resounding and
Available audio files (how do I listen to these recordings?):
Gendhing 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
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.
Gendhing GAMBIRSAWIT kal. Ladrang GONJANG-GANJING Ketawang SUBASKATAWA
Gendhing Gambirsawit kethuk 2 kerep, minggah kethuk 4, kalajengaken
Ladrang Gonjang-Ganjing, Ketawang Subakastawa, Laras Slendro, Pathet Sanga
This piece will begin with a pathetan or ametric mood piece,
used to set the correct feeling or rasa for the upcoming gendhing.
The pathetan is played by the soft-style elaborating instruments
which will be featured in the gendhing itself. The introduction
to the piece will be a solo male vocal piece called a bawa. The
particular melody and words for the bawa are determined by the singer
just before he sings. This gendhing is a favorite of Central Javanese
musicians and often is played during gatherings (klenengan) in which
musicians play music simply for their own and the enjoyment of others.
The bowed-fiddle, the gender (14-keyed metallophone), and the male
and female singers are featured in this piece. In the second section the
drummer will change drums and begin an intricate style of playing called
an onomatopoeic term in Javanese describing the sound of hands playing
on the top of water. Whenever the drum is playing in this style, the bonang
players use an interlocking pattern with intermittent melodic flourishes
called flowerings or kembangan. The suite of pieces moves from longer
to shorter cycles, the ladrang has only 32 beats per cycle and the
ketawang only 16. After the end of the
ketawang another pathetan
is used to ease the transition from sound to silence and then everyday
Gendhing ERANG-ERANG BAGELAN mg. Ladrang OPAK-APEM
Gendhing Erang-erang Bagelan kethuk 2 kerep,
minggah Ladrang Opak-Apem, Laras Pelog, Pathet Nem
After a mood setting pathetan, this lively piece, whose title means
to jokingly warn someone, sets 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.
Langgam Wuyung Laras Pelog, Pathet Nem
The history of langgam is closely linked to that of kroncong, an Indonesian
song style with Portuguese influence and a history dating back to the 17th
century. Kroncong was made popular and national in the 1930's and has experienced
periods of renewed interest to the present day. Kroncong orchestras are
string-based, using ukuleles, mandolins, slide guitar, guitars, cellos,
violins, with the occasional flute or clarinet. The ensemble accompanies
a singer, who croons his or her way through a familiar AABA song structure
based in western harmony. A "modern" music associated with Indonesian nationalism
in the 1940's and 50's, kroncong was subsequently Javanized, reorganized
so that the same melodies could be played on a gamelan orchestra, and renamed
langgam. The word wuyung refers to both sadness and infatuation or longing.
Gendhing LOBONG mg. KINANTI kal. Ladrang KEMBANG PEPE
Gendhing Lobong kethuk 2 kerep, minggah Kinanti,
kalajengaken Ladrang Kembang Pepe, Laras Slendro, Pathet Manyura
We will use a pathetan to begin this suite to help the musicians change
scale and mode. This piece has a first section composed of two different
melodic cycles. In the second of these cycles, the drummer instructs the
ensemble to stop twice for brief musical comments by a female vocalist.
The second and third sections of the piece feature a large mixed chorus.