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Sunday, September 6, 2009


A Gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia typically from the islands of Bali or Java featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones xylophones drums and gongs bamboo flutes bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included. The term refers more to the set of instruments than to the players of those instruments. A gamelan is a set of instruments as a distinct entity built and tuned to stay together — instruments from different gamelan are generally not interchangeable.

The word "gamelan" comes from the Javanese word "gamel" meaning to strike or hammer and the suffix "an" which makes the root a collective noun. Real hammers are not used to play these instruments as heavy iron hammers would break the delicate instruments. The gamelan predates the Hindu-Buddhist culture that dominated Indonesia in its earliest records and instead represents a native art form. The instruments developed into their current form during the Majapahit Empire. In contrast to the heavy Indian influence in other art forms the only obvious Indian influence in gamelan music is in the Javanese style of singing.

SMK Bukit Baru, Malacca Malaysia...Gamelan & Caklempong Competition 2009-Champions. Bravo!

In Javanese mythology the gamelan was created by Sang Hyang Guru in Saka era 167 (c. AD 230) the god who ruled as king of all Java from a palace on the Maendra mountains in Medangkamulan (now Mount Lawu). He needed a signal to summon the gods and thus invented the gong. For more complex messages he invented two other Gongs thus forming the original gamelan set.

'Misi Nggak Mungkin' by Djaduk Ferianto & Trie Utami, Groovy I'm lovin' it.. Syabas!

The varieties are generally grouped geographically with the principal division between the styles favored by the Balinese Javanese and Sundanese peoples. Sundanese gamelan is often associated with Gamelan Degunga Sundanese musical ensemble that utilises a subset of modified gamelan instruments with a particular mode of pelog scale. Balinese gamelan is often associated with the virtuosity and rapid changes of tempo and dynamics of Gamelan gong kebyarits best-known style. Other popular Balinese styles include Gamelan and kecak also known as the "monkey chant." Javanese gamelan was largely dominated by the courts of the 19th century central Javanese ruler seach with its own style but overall is known for a slower more meditative style than that of Bali.

Outside of the main core on Java and Bali gamelans have spread through migration and cultural interest new styles sometimes resulting as well. Malay gamelans are designed in ways that are similar to the Javanese gamelan except they lack most of the elaborating instruments and are tuned in a near-equidistant slendro often using a western Bb or C as a tuning basis. Javanese emigrants to Suriname play gamelan in a style close to that found in Central Javanese villages. Gamelan is also related to the Filipino kulintang ensemble. There is also a wide variety of gamelan in the West including both traditional and experimental ensembles.

The gamelan has been appreciated by several western composers of classical music most famously Claude Debussy who heard a Javanese gamelan play at the Paris Exposition of 1889 (World's Fair). (The gamelan Debussy heard was in the slendro scale and was played by Central Javanese musicians). Despite his enthusiasm direct citations of gamelan scales melodies rhythms or ensemble textures have not been located in any of Debussy's own compositions. However the equal-tempered whole tone scale appears in his music of this time and afterward and a Javanese gamelan-like heterophonic texture is emulated on occasion particularly in "Pagodes" from Estampes (solo piano 1903) in which the great gong's cyclic punctuation is symbolized by a prominent perfect fifth. [wikipedia]

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