Sunday, 11 March 2012

Gamelan - Bridging a cultural divide


The Autumn Vibes Festival in the Botanic Gardens was essentially 'cool' music in between the trees. There was a mix of Asian music and Western music. A conscious effort to bridge the gap between our appreciation and understanding of music that is tuned differently. There were two pianists, a couple of string quartets, a saxophone quartet, a shakuhacki orchestra, and a gamelan. I thought I would close my week long sojourn in the Botanic Gardens with a look at a Gamelan.

A Gamelan is a group of musicians of percussion type instruments, mainly variations upon xylophones, together with a variety of gongs. The gamelan originated on the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java.


The xylophones are tuned differently, and played differently from a western xylophone. Fingers are used as 'pegs' to alter, and stop the flow of sound. Played like this, out under a tree, on a brilliant summer's day, the sound is unbeatable. There are many variations of composition and style, especially along traditional and modern divides.

I went to U-tube to find something for you to hear. I was torn: the gamelan from Indonesia were struck with a metal fork, ours were wooden. The music I heard was from a 'modern' composer. I compromised in my head and choose another sample to further bridge the gap. The video clip shows a gamelan playing with an orchestra. Some traditionalists will be challenged by this. But persevere ...

This is my contribution to the Sunday Bridges community.

23 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Neat post, these instruments are new to me. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

My son once a played a gamelan with members of the Halle orchestra in Manchester. They were doing a project with schools. Lovely instrument but not well known.

Julie said...

I agree, Gerald. An instrument that produces a lovely sound. The reason I chose to focus on it was that I thought it to be relatively unknown.

Joan Elizabeth said...

It is the sound of Indonesia to me - wafts one off on an exotic holday. I like it and was a little wary of that video clip but enjoyed that too.

Jim said...

Julie, I didn't get a chance to get down to Circular Quay on Thursday because of all the chaos caused by the rains. I was hoping the Queen Mary was still there on Friday but it had been replaced by another.

VioletSky said...

Nice take on the theme of bridges....
it can be shocking to hear something familiar played in an unfamiliar way but since I was totally unfamiliar with the gamelan until now, I thoroughly enjoyed your clip plus the others I looked up on youtube.

Carole M. said...

really intruiging musical instruments there; the Botanical Gardens sure offer so much to those who visit there

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I visted Sydney last year and visited you lovely Botanic Gardens. Out hotel was right across the street and every evening we;d watch the bats fly out over our balcony. Wish I could have been there to attend this interesting concert.

Rae Walter said...

Lovely way to build bridges. What a great setting in which to have seen and heard the musicians and music. Luck you!

Genie said...

What a fabulous video. I loved seeing them being directed by that stiffly dress conductor and accompanied by the full orchestra. This is amazing. It was so interesting seeing the instruments. genie

Kay L. Davies said...

Fabulous-looking instruments in your photos, Julie. I love the beautiful wood. I'd have liked to hear them out in the open sans orchestra, especially sans conductor, but enjoyed what I could hear of them anyway.
Fascinating post. Sorry I'm so late commenting. We had an exterminator to the house today, so Lindy and I had to disappear for a while. Dick was out anyway, refereeing basketball.
Now to check out your family.
Luv, K

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» is delighted with your contribution to Sunday Bridges! He relishes unusual contributions like this. Bibi in Belgrade often comes up with unexpected "bridge" posts such as this. Cheers!

Joe said...

Fascinating Julie. The style of these instruments look like they haven't changed in centuries. I saw a documentary once about tracing the origins of words through nursery rhymes. The theory was that the language and words in nursery rhymes does not alter much from one generation to the next. Perhaps it's the same with musical sounds. Although the style and rhythm may change the basic sounds dont. Our ears become atuned to them and so the instruments that bring them to us remain essentially the same over decades and even centuries.

Julie said...

That is an interesting idea to consider, Joe. I agree with you about Nursery Rhymes to a point. My daughter is torn between the words we taught her as a child, and the words she has learnt from the PlaySchool CDs!! However, the sound and the tunings here, I warrant, have not altered for centuries.

Riet said...

That is so interesting, love this post. Gamelan is well known by me.

Julie said...

The Dutch people have a long and intimate involvement with the peoples of Indonesia, Riet. I am glad you liked the post.

Mark said...

Julie, a really interesting book from the 1920's by Colin McPhee 'A House in Bali' devotes a great deal of time in his quest to discover ancient Gamelan Orchestras and recording them for posterity.
I love to hear the Gamelan, it is truly magical.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Liked the Gamelan , looooooooved the conductor, brilliant energy.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Interesting and beautiful post.

Regards and best wishes

NixBlog said...

Wonderful post, Julie, and love the idea of cultural bridging. First heard the gamelan when I visited INdonesia for the first time. Quite an amazing sound.
Lovely photos!

Eki said...

This is a nice post about our gamelan, Julie. May I add something?

Not all of our traditional gamelan instruments are struck with metal fork (gavel?). I think only the Balinese do that. Javanese use both metal and wooden gavels. Sundanese (West Javanese people, language, and culture) mainly wooden gavels to play their gamelan.

Julie said...

Oh, Eki, thank you so much for that. I am glad I visited and that you were able to come in return. I had no idea who/wnen the gavels altered. To my ear a wooden gavel is the more melodious sound.

Ann said...

posted by mistake to facebook. Coming from the South East Asia background, I hear these music during malays weddings.

Thanks for a different interpretation