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: 19 November 2006  (other performances:  7 June 2001,  8 December 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" ,  25 April 2007 "World Music Concert" ,  26 April 2009 "An Evening of Javanese Music and Dance" ,  21 November 2010 "Music in the Galleries" )

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

gendhing bonang glendheng pelog lima


The word gendhing in Javanese gamelan is a generic term that can refer to any piece in the repertoire. However, the pieces explicitly named gendhing tend to be larger forms, or are otherwise central to the art. Though most of these pieces are thought of implicitly as gendhing rebab, featuring the rebab (two-stringed fiddle) as the leading melodic instrument, the first piece in tonight's program, Gendhing bonang Glendheng, dispenses with all the soft-style instruments and allows the bonang (with its two arrays of horizontally racked gongs) to lead the sparse ensemble. The subtle and not-so-subtle melodic and rhythmic twists and turns you hear in this piece (especially the second section, which accelerates on every repetition) are unusual, even perhaps for gendhing bonang. This piece focuses on notes 1-2-4-5-6 of the seven-note pelog scale, with the notes 3 and 7 used here to occasional, surprising effect.

ladrang wilujeng slendro manyura


Traditionally used as the first piece in a performance to ensure good luck and prosperity, gamelan groups outside of Java tend to teach Ladrang Wilujeng as the first piece one learns on any instrument. Indeed, most performers this evening on this piece will be performing on their instruments for the first time. Ladrang Wilujeng will be preceded by a short pathetan, or mood-piece, played by the soft-style instruments, meant to transition to a new scale and mode (slendro manyura).

ladrang loroloro topeng slendro manyura


Ladrang Lara-Lara Topeng will start tonight with kebar, a style of playing that features intricate drumming on the ciblon and interlocking (imbal) and flowering (kembangan) patterns on the bonang, which will appear again later in the piece with the chorus.

gendhing kodhok ngorek ketawang laras maya pelog barang


There are several pieces in the gamelan repertoire which are associated with ancient ceremonial gamelans. One of these is Gendhing Kodhok Ngorek, which means "croaking frog" and shares its name with the gamelan that inspired it. This piece (whose basic balungan melody features only two notes of the pelog scale) is commonly performed for wedding ceremonies by modern ensembles. This evening you will hear and see interesting ways to mimic unusual instruments associated with this piece, such as laying a key horizontally over others to produce a loud rattle, and playing the (slendro!) gender without felt on the mallets, to mimic the ancient (and now obscure) gambang gangsa. We use this piece to wrap the relatively conventional Ketawang Laras Maya.

ayakayakan kaloran slendro manyura


The ayak-ayakan is a short form traditionally associated with wayang, or puppet theatre, and is distinguished by irregular structure and prominent use of the large tuned gongs. Ayak-ayakan Kaloran is a derivation of the basic ayak-ayakan and, with its tuneful chorus, is a popular piece to end concerts.

Director: Daniel Guberman (email:
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