The Javanese Gamelan

This is a web-page about Javanese Gamelan. I've put this web-page on my site because a lot of people ask "Java ? Gamelan ? Ohhh dear I haven't got this new Java Applet !". So Warning !!! This is not a web-page about Java Applets. This is a web page about "Javanese Gamelan incredible music".

The Gamelan is the name of the orchestra based on metallic percussion of the islands of Java, Bali and Sunda in the South of Indonesia. The Gamelan I will speak here about, is the one from Solo (Surakarta) and Jogja (Jogjakarta) of Java and most precisely the "Sekar Wangi".


Map of South-Indonesia

About instruments
The gamelan is composed of a series of melodic-percussive instruments. Each of them have a specific functions inside the orchestra. Those instruments are :

All those instruments follow the Kendhang or Ciblon (hand-drums) which direct the whole ensemble. The Gamelan is often accompanied by soloists such as singer, suling(a wooden flute), gambang (a xylophone), rebab(a bowed string instrument) player.

Sekar Wangi

Sekar Wangi's Gamelan played in concert in june 1998
(Click on the map to see and hear a specific instrument !)

About concerts
The music of the Gamelan is played for various occasions :

About tuning

About notations
The notation is based on numbers :

Consider the fact that those numbers don't designate the same pitch in both scale. This notation is mainly used for the Balungan, and for singings. The other instruments have more implicit notation like "^", ".", "()", "b", "P", "|", ... Here is an example :

Gamelan notation (courtesy of Bali Beyond)

About musical structures
Musical forms are defined by their rhythmic cycle. They consist of major cycles subdivided by smaller cycles called "gotro", each marked by the striking of successively smaller gongs, and ended by an important note called "Seleh". This note determines the inside of the cycle.

The way the different instruments of the Gamelan superimpose each other is designated by the "Irama" :

There are also distinct melodic modes called "Pathet" within the division of scale :

To finish there are also different kind of compositions : the "Lancaran", the "Ladrang", the "Srepegan", ... which differ from the overall construction.

All that put together make thing a bit complicated isn't it ?

Some Links about Gamelan

Some Books about Gamelan

created by Geoffroy Peeters
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