Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gamelon lessons

By Anita:

It’s our first week in Bali and we’re headed out for music lessons.  Balinese gamelon is a traditional musical ensemble that features gongs, xylophone-like instruments, and drums.   Each instrument is tuned to a specific ensemble and are not interchangable with other gamelons.  All the instruments are tuned in pairs, but with just a slightly different tuning on each so that when the same note is struck on both instruments, you can hear the vibration of the note almost shimmering in the air. 

The notes of the scale are ding, dong, deng, dung and dang. It seems easy - just strike the right tone and mute the last one- but there is no written music.  You watch the notes the leader is playing and the signals that he gives to  know what note you should play next.  You also memorize the patterns the leader is playing so you know what to expect. 

Playing gamelon means paying complete attention to the leader and listening in a whole new way.   I think it would be much easier with a sheet of music in front of me.  But playing this kind of music is a practice in listening to a different sound in music  and watching carefully - especially when the leader is speaking in Indonesian!  

Who knew Don was a musician?

Our friends, Daniel and Mary, follow the leader on the higher notes.


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