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Gamelan Suprabanggo
Inaugural Yale University Concert

See the Original Article here

On 26 January 2008 Gamelan Suprabanggo, presented its inaugural Yale concert at 7:30 P.M. in Battell Chapel

The concert featured special guest Javanese performers Midiyanto, from the University of California - Berkeley and Sumarsam, from Wesleyan University. Expert performers from gamelan ensembles around the Northeast also joined the members of Gamelan Suprabanggo to round out the event. This well-attended evening was free and open to the public.

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Photo Gallery - Gamelan Concert at Yale



Gamelan Suprabanggo
Inaugural Yale University Concert
January 26, 2008

Special Guests
Ki Midiyanto - UC Berkeley
Ki Sumarsam - Wesleyan University

Tony Day
Sam Day-Weiss
Lia DeRoin-YSM
Joseph Getter*
Aaron Hodgson-YSM
Lauren Holmes-GSAS
Andy McGraw*
Chris Miller*
Paul Morse-YC
Yoshi Onishi-YSM
Julian Pellicano-YSM
Marzanna Poplawska*
Saqib Rabbani-YC
Nathaniel Rowe-YC
Leslie Rudden
Naftali Schindler-YSM
Anne Stebinger*
Corinne Sykes-YC
Genevieve Tauxe
Sarah Weiss, Director
Arif Yampolsky
Jessica Zike*
* Visiting Artist


Gamelan Suprabanggo wishes to thank: Council on Southeast Asia Studies, Department of Music, Yale School of Music, Yale Chaplain's Office, Robert Blocker, Diane Brown, Jon Butler, Tom Duffy, Joe Errington, Dan Harrison, Hendrati, Pat McCreless, Midiyanto, Kris Mooseker, Linette Norbeau, and Barbara Shailor


Ketawang Wedyasmara, Laras Pelog Pathet Lima
The word laras means scale and the word pathet is best translated as mode. This short piece is in the pelog scale and the mode - lima - is the one with the lowest range. Concerts usually begin in the lowest modes and progress through to the highest ones, alternating from one scale to the other. Ketawang Wedyasmara features a mixed chorus. It was written by Ki Tjokrowasito (alm) - a Javanese musician and teacher who taught for many years at California Institute for the Arts and who recently died at the age of more than 100 years. The name of this piece translates as 'the mentioning of love.'

Gendhing Kocak minggah Ladrang Diradameta, Laras Slendro Pathet Nem
This piece is often used for the accompaniment of scenes in wayang kulit or shadow puppet performance. The piece is in two sections of different lengths. The slow moving flow of the core metallophones in the first section speeds up transitioning into the second section or minggah which is characterized by some double time movement in the main melody and finishes with a Suwuk Gropak - a crashing finish. Kocak means something that is brimming over such as a bowl of liquid or when eyes seem to spill over with one's internal light. Diradameta means angry elephant. The end of this piece might invoke elephants rampaging through a forest.

Gendhing Randhukentir minggah Ladrang Ayun-Ayun Gobyogan, Langgam Yen Ing Tawang, Laras Pelog Pathet Nem
This piece is actually a suite comprised of a slower but playful first section which transitions to a seemingly faster dance piece using ciblonan or dance-drumming. Ayun-ayun means swaying and both the melody and the dancer's hips, should she be dancing, sway in this piece. Occasionally the melody speeds up and the gongs interrupt the melody. This is the Gobyogan. After Ayun-ayun has finished there will be a Bawa or male solo which serves to introduce the Langgam Yen Ing Tawang. Langgam are melodies that come out of the popular song tradition called kroncong that was developed in Jakarta over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and is strongly associated with Indonesian nationalism. Originally accompanied by a string band, the accompaniment and language have been Javanized.

Ketawang Sinom Parijatha, Ayak-ayakan, Srepegan Laras Slendro Pathet Sanga
This short piece begins with a buka celuk, or vocal introduction. The pasindhen or female singer intones the first line of a verse in the poetic meter called Sinom and the rest of the ensemble joins her after she has sung the first line. The male chorus sings the lines in steady tempo while the pasindhen ornaments and delays her arrivals at the goal pitches. This kind of delay is heard to varying degrees in the suling or flute and in the rebab or bowed lute as well. The ketawang transitions to a sequence of pieces in which the gongs play more frequently. These last two pieces in the suite are from the wayang repertoire.

Ladrang Wilujeng Laras Pelog Pathet Barang
This piece is used to welcome guests and assure success to a gathering of any kind. Wilujeng means prosperity and good fortune in Javanese.

Gendhing Lobong minggah Kinanti, Ladrang Kembang Pépé, Laras Slendro Pathet Manyura
Another suite, the first part of this piece has two sections, the second of which incorporates andegan or stoppings, during which the pasindhen sings a solo line and invites the rest of the ensemble to begin again. The second part of the suite features a large mixed chorus singing verses in the Kinanti poetic meter. In the last section the chorus continues using a different meter and filling in with nonsense syllables such as ba and bo.

How did Gamelan Suprabanggo Come to Yale?

With funds provided by the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies, and through the efforts of Yale Department of Music faculty and staff, this ensemble was purchased from Ki Midiyanto - Central Javanese dhalang and long time teacher at UC-Berkeley. The instruments were shipped from Wonogiri, Indonesia where they had been used regularly for wayang and klenengan performances over the course of several years. Shipped by sea, the instruments arrived on campus in November 2006 and were unpacked by student volunteers in December. Before it left Java, the ensemble was named Gamelan Suprabanggo, a word formed from the names of the sons of Ki Midiyanto (Supraba and Anggo). In spring semester 2007, Sarah Weiss began teaching Yale's first seminar on the history, theory, aesthetics, cultural contexts and performance of Javanese karawitan or gamelan music. In addition to their intellectual work, the students who take the seminar participate as members of the performance ensemble which also includes students from around the university and Yale staff, as well as New Haven community members and students. The ensemble currently meets weekly on Wednesday evenings at 7:00pm in the basement of Hendrie Hall (165 Elm Street). The Yale College seminar will be taught once every two years. If you are interested in performing with the ensemble contact Sarah Weiss <s.weiss@yale.edu>.

A Brief Introduction to Gamelan Music

Gamelan is a Javanese/Indonesian word for ensemble. The word 'gamel' means to hammer something in Javanese and indeed, 'hammering' or hitting is the way in which most of the different instruments in the ensemble are sounded with the exception of the two stringed instruments - the bowed fiddle (rebab) and the plucked zither (siter) - the flute (suling), male chorus (gerong) and female soloists (pasindhen). Most of the instruments are made from cast bronze and are in the shape of hanging gongs (gong, kempul) and racked gongs (bonang and kenong) which look like gongs lying on their backs with the boss facing up towards the ceiling. There are metallophones (saron which are like xylophones but made from metal, in this case, bronze polished to a gleaming luster) and drums (kendhang) played with the hands.

Gamelan Suprabanggo is a complete gamelan which means that it has instruments tuned in both the 5-tone Slendro and the 7-tone Pelog scales or laras. If you are trying to figure out which is which, laras pelog has some intervals that are nearly as small as half-steps while slendro has none. Additionally, when we are playing in laras slendro the majority of performers are facing out toward the audience. In addition to changing orientation, you will have noticed that the musicians often change instruments in between each piece. Learning as many instruments as possible is one way to accelerate the learning process for students who are new to gamelan. The drummer and the bowed instrument player are the leaders of the group, one determining melodic transitions and the other determining rhythmic transitions. No single person stands in front of the ensemble and conducts. The musicians must listen and rely on their understanding of what is 'usual' in a piece a particular form and 'special' or pamijen in a particular piece in order to play it properly. The music is cyclic, often composed of several different cycles, each of which is repeated a number of times determined by the rebab or kendhang player. Each cycle begins and ends with the stroke of the biggest gong (gong agung) which is usually given a name. The name of our gong is Kyai Suprabanggo. The length of individual cycles can be as short as 30 seconds or as long as 20 minutes. As most pieces are composed of several different cycles, each played several times, the duration of pieces can range from a few minutes to more than an hour, rivaling a Mahler or Beethoven Symphony in terms of complexity, movements, and duration.

The late 19th century composer Claude Debussy heard a kind of gamelan at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. He was transfixed and spent many days in the Dutch East Indies Pavilion listening to the Indonesian musicians perform. He worked hard to understand the structure and tuning. He later set about composing music inspired by the music he heard. Some of the other composers who have been inspired by Indonesian gamelan traditions include: Maurice Ravel; Oliver Messiaen; Benjamin Britten; Colin McPhee; Harry Partch; John Cage; Lou Harrison; Steve Reich, Peter Sculthorpe; Anne Boyd; Steve Everett; Michael Tenzer and many contemporary Indonesian composers such as I.M. Harjito; B. Subono; Tony Prabawa; Franki Raden; I Wayan Sadra; and Otok Bima Sidarta.

On hearing gamelan for the first time, some people are struck both by the complexity of the relationships between the melody lines of the different instruments and, if they are aware of the 'rules' of western harmony, by the almost 'impressionistic' tone clusters that can be heard if the listener hears the music vertically, or tries to interpret it 'harmonically.' Others focus on the mellifluousness of the sound and the soothing, meditative quality of some of the music. Still others are excited by the multileveled interlockingness of the texture, comparing it to the experience of listening to several, incredibly good jazz solo players improvising together.


January 28th, 2008 by Staff

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