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Cultural Elements

o South East Asia
o Volcanoes are important in religion and thus in music.
o Pre-modernization, it was hecking hard to get around, so diverse music traditions
o Direction/space imp. in Gamelan.
o Parallels between music and the jungle sound scape of their surroundings.
Ethnicities/ Identities
o Ensemble tradition reflects value placed on group identity.
o Indonesia is like a mashup of a bajillion little island cultures who decided they should
all team up and make a country one time.
o Influences from India
o Gamelan is a source of pride in their identity of their small group.
o Java is borrowed often, local Balinese languages
However, music preserves some other languages that are no longer used there,
such as Sanskrit and Kawi
Religions: most religious activities need music
o Agama Hindu Bali (Balinese Hindu Religion) and Agama Tithra (Holy Water
Religion) are a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist religions
o Indonesia is 90% Muslim
Socio-economic / Political factors
o Ceremony and music are inextricable.
o Music is important social activity + stress reliever
o Heard at celebrations, theater (shadow puppets), poetry, drama.
o Beginners allowed to participate by playing lowest gongs.
o Casting gongs + other metallophones is still done by people who are specially and
religiously trained - they're in charge of tuning the Gamelan to itself.
o Love of sharing music, stories, etc. - music roles in ensemble often correlate to social

Time Period
o 3 big periods:
Old = indigenous pre-Hindu bali, Music sacred and for the gods
Middle = Hindu-Java influence, ceremonial, for gods and people
New = developing Middle into 20th century forms, secular
o Regular performance preserves types of Gamelan from all times

Musical Elements

o Gamelan: literally translates to "musical ensemble", but implies from this area, also
collective term for a set of instruments made by one maker tuned to its own group.
2-60 players (helpful right?)
Lots of different types with different timbres (yaaayy...)
Passed down thru oral tradition.
Represents empowerment
Very 'tight' sound, where all the layers lock together to produce this big fabric

of sound, nobody stands out more or less.

Instruments: typically made of bronze, bamboo, or both occasionally (with sometimes iron
thrown in there for funzies). Mainly tuned percussion. They all have fancy names, but to try
to learn them all would be suicide, so just listen for the timbre of metalophones and gongs
and bamboo stuff.
o Bronze gongs <-- these guys are most important in terms of the region as a whole.
Gongs of different sizes are used to mark cycles of music known as the
Trace origins of gongs to ancient kettle drums of the Dongson culture.
Gong chimes
o Metallophones (instruments with rows of tuned metal bars struck with mallets) Get

the central melodies, virtuosic.

Ugal (two octave metallophone).
o Drums - there are also traditional, skins on bodies drums too.
Wooden Slit Drums
Kendang (two-headed drum)
o Bamboo Flutes (suling) sometimes
o Bowed strings (rebab) sometimes
o Vocalists somtimes
Scales + Melodies
o As pitch goes from low-> high, note values go from long->short
o slendro = 5 note scale, pelog = 7 note scale. Can also use portions of these.
o There is no standard pitch.
o Low instruments play the fundamental melodies, and the others are based off that.

for example, some instruments play every other note on the fundamental, or

might play ornamentation on every other note.

o Melody phrases towards the last note, which is emphasized instead of the first note of

the phrase (often indicated with a gong hit on the last note).
Chords + Harmony
o Each Gamelan is tuned to itself - the intervals between notes can vary between
o paired tuning, in which each instrument is tuned slightly apart from its partner
instrument, produces a shimmering effect in the music. The lower one is the exhaler
and the higher one is the inhaler. If there's a section (so like 10 of the same
metallophone or whatever) all the inhalers are tuned alike, and all the exhalers are
tuned alike.
o "Accompanying" (not the fundamental) melodies often work in partners to have
interlocking melodies. Can vary from simple on-beat off-beat to difficult and complex
interlocking syncopations.
Possibly origins in interlocking frog sounds, or interlocking pounding of

grains in work.
Rhythm + Meter
o As pitch goes from low-> high, note values go from long->short
o Music is divided into 4 beat groups called keteg
o Gongs are used to mark out a repeating melodic and rhythmic pattern - the lower, the
more important the beats are. Drums are tied in with this.
o Sudden tempo fluxes totally common and chill.
Music Structure
o Interlocking layers, each played by a different instrument.
Layers based on a core melodic line, a bulungan
o Heterophonic (a main melody played at the same time as variants of it) or stratified
polyphony (melody being played at different rates by different families of
o Three-part pieces aren't uncommon: short n fast, long and slow and developed, and
then fast n short again. Sometimes a metrically free prelude is thrown in before.

3's are imp. in Balinese ideology.