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PROGRAM NOTES

Javanese Gamelan from Yogyakarta


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Program

Javanese Gamelan from Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta Gamelan Ensemble, Yogyakarta Special Region
Guest artists from:
        Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) at Yogyakarta
        Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) at Surakarta
        Yogyakarta Palace
        Wesleyan University
        California Institute of the Arts

Sulaksmono Yudhaningrat, head of delegation and head of the Cultural Office, Yogyakarta


Song Track
Ladrang Sri Widada
laras pelog pathet barang
0:00‒10:12

Golek Menak Kakung

10:17‒20:52
Ladrang Sri Karongron
Ketawang Cakrawala (by Wasitodiningrat)
laras slendro pathet sanga
21:08‒37:45
Lawung Jajar                          
Gangsaran, ladrang Roning Tawang, gangsaran, laras pelog pathet nem
38:04‒51:28

This performance was recorded on November 1, 2013, in the International Gallery of the S. Dillon Ripley Center, Smithsonian, as part of Performing Indonesia: A Conference and Festival of Music, Dance, and Drama, a joint presentation of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian, and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia

The podcast is made possible through support from the Thaw Charitable Trust. Audio preservation and editing of this recording were supported by funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

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Notes

Javanese Gamelan and Its Music

A gamelan (orchestra) traditionally accompanies puppet shows, dances, feasts, and ceremonies in Java. Most of the instruments are made of bronze. Tuned gongs are suspended vertically or horizontally (kenong, kempul, gong ageng), and instruments with tuned keys are suspended over tubular resonators or a resonant cavity in the base of the instrument (saron, gender). Other instruments include the two-stringed fiddle (rebab), wooden xylophone (gambang), flute (suling), and drum (kendang). A full Javanese gamelan comprises two sets of instruments, one in each of two tuning systems, or pathetan: sléndro, with five tones per octave, and pélog, with seven. The three pathet used in the course of a shadow-puppet play (wayang) all have their distinct manifestations in both tuning systems.

No instrument predominates in the overall sound of the gamelan. Each one has an important function that relates to the whole. As for the music, rather than harmony and development in the Western sense, the primary organizing feature is a vocally inspired modal polyphony of a highly melodic character. Compositions (gendhing) are quite formal, for all their quality of ethereal improvisation. Every gamelan piece is cast in one of a small number of forms defined by the mutually subdividing cycles of certain gongs, most prominently, the gong ageng (great gong). The cyclic organization allows great flexibility in creating pieces of differing character; even within a piece, subtle (or dramatic) shifts in feeling occur as cycles slow down or speed up.

- Sumarsam and his students at Wesleyan University

 

  1. Ladrang Sri Widada

laras pelog pathet barang       

Javanese gamelan music is structured on the basis of repeating cycles. The largest cycles are divided by the sounding of the great gong (gong ageng), and each major cycle is called a gongan. Various subdivisions of the gongan are punctuated by smaller gongs, such as the kenong and kempul. The term ladrang in the title of this piece refers to a composition with a relatively short cycle of thirty-two beats in each gongan, compared to long-form cycles up to 128 beats.

Javanese music is also classified according to the scale (laras) and melodic mode (pathet) of each piece. This piece is in the scale called pelog, which ostensibly consists of seven notes to the octave. In practice, however, only five of the available notes are typically used with any frequency. Contrary to the slendro scale of the third piece on this podcast, the notes of the pelog scale are not equally spaced, leading some scholars to call them “gapped scales.” The melodic mode (pathet) for this piece is barang, in which pitches two and six are emphasized, three and five less so, and pitch one avoided. The form ladrang is one of the shorter cycle compositions of thirty-two beats per gong cycle.

 

  1. Golek Menak Kakung

Ladrang Jagung-Jagung, continuing to ladrang Kembang Kates, and concluding with srepegan laras pelog pathet nem

The second item in this podcast is music for a dance based on the Menak stories from the court of Yogyakarta. Adapted from Islamic culture, these tales recount the adventures of Amir Hamzah, an uncle of the Prophet Mohammad, who spread Islam throughout South Asia. This scene depicts a fight between Umarmaya and Umarmadi. Ultimately, both of them follow Amir Hamzah on his Islamic mission. The Golek Menak dance was created by Sultan Hamengku Buwana IX in 1941. The dancers for this performance were Icuk Ismunanda and Widaru Krefianto Darmawan.

For the first two sections of this music, the structure is ladrang. There are thirty-two beats to the rhythmic cycle, each one ending when the great gong (gong ageng) is sounded. The finale utilizes a form called srepegan, which is typically heard in the fight scenes of shadow plays and dance-dramas. It can be picked out by its loud volume, fast tempo, and short, four-beat cycle. The scale (laras) is pelog, as in the first piece of the podcast, with the notes unequally spaced within the octave. The melodic mode (pathet) for this piece is nem, in which pitches five and six are emphasized and pitch seven is avoided.

 

  1. Ladrang Sri Karongron

Ketawang Cakrawala (Wasitodiningrat, ca. 1909‒2007)
laras slendro pathet sanga      

These two pieces are in different musical forms based on the length of their repeating cycles. The terms ketawan and ladrang in the titles refer to compositions with relatively short cycles of sixteen and thirty-two beats in each repeating cycle (gongan). They both use the Javanese scale called laras slendro, a pentatonic scale (five notes to the octave) in which the pitches are more or less equidistant from each other. The melodic mode for these two pieces is pathet sanga, which emphasizes the first and fifth tones, the second tone less so, and avoids the third tone.
           
The composer of the second piece, Wasitodiningrat,is known to many American gamelan musicians as Pak Cokro because of his twenty-year teaching career at the California Institute of the Arts and his guest artist role at universities around the United States. He grew up in the Pakualaman court, where his father was a gamelan musical director. Outside the court, he performed with several other gamelan groups, including Daya Pradangga, and in 1934 he became the gamelan musical director at the radio station MAVRO. He assumed the same position during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia (1942–45) at Radio Hosokyoku gamelan and, after independence, at Radio Republik Indonesia.

In 1962 Wasitodiningrat succeeded his father as gamelan musical director at the Pakualaman, and in 1964 and 1965 he led a Javanese music delegation at the New York World’s Fair. During the 1960s, Wasitodiningrat composed music for a new genre, the sendratari dance-drama, including the first performances held at the Lara Jonggrang temple complex in Prambanan. He taught at Konservatori Tari Indonesia and Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia and founded his own school for the study of vocal music. He collaborated with choreographer Bagong Kussudiardjo and composed numerous light gamelan pieces and experimental works, many of which have become staples of the gamelan repertory. In 1971 he moved to the United States to teach at the California Institute of the Arts. He remained until 1992 and frequently taught at other American universities as guest artist.

 

  1. Lawung Jajar

Gangsaran, ladrang Roning Tawang, gangsaran, laras pelog pathet nem

The podcast concludes with exciting music for a dance choreographed by Sultan Hamengku Buwana I (reigned 1755−92) of the Yogyakarta Palace. This dance is based on the military traditions of the court, specifically the lance maneuvers called lawung. The use of loud dialogue reflects the high spirit and dynamic character of the royal troops. The Lawung Jajar calls for eight male dancers, each with different roles and characters. Traditionally, Lawung Jajar is presented at royal wedding ceremonies for the sons and daughters of the king of Yogyakarta Palace. The dancers for this performance were Yata, Pramutomo, Icuk Ismunandar, Widaru Krefianto Darmawan, and Anon Suneko.

The structure of the music is called ladrang, meaning there are thirty-two beats to the rhythmic cycle, each one ending when the great gong (gong ageng) is sounded. The scale (laras) is pelog, as in the first piece of the podcast, with the notes unequally spaced within the octave. The melodic mode (pathet) for this piece is nem, in which pitches five and six are emphasized and pitch seven is avoided.

 

- Adapted from notes provided by the Embassy of Indonesia, personal communication with Christopher Miller (director of gamelan ensemble and lecturer in music at Cornell University), and from articles by R. Anderson Sutton in Oxford Music Online and in T. Miller and S. Williams, eds., Southeast Asia, vol. 4 of Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (Routledge, 1998).

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Performer

Yogyakarta Gamelan Ensemble, Yogyakarta Special Region

Guest artists from:
            Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) at Yogyakarta
            Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) at Surakarta
            Yogyakarta Palace

Sulaksmono Yudhaningrat, head of delegation and head of the Cultural Office, Yogyakarta

Musicians: Sulaksmono Yudaningrat, Tavip Agus Rayanto, Kasidi, Sumaryono, Sagiyo, Anon Suneko, Bayu Purnama, Sugeng Triyono, Sri Wahyuningsih, Pramutomo, Widaru Krefianto, Darmawan, Yata, Icuk Ismunandar, Setiyawan Sahli

Guest artists: Sumarsam (Wesleyan University), Harjito (Wesleyan University), and Djoko Walujo (California Institute of the Arts)

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The Credits

This podcast is coordinated by Michael Wilpers, public programs manager, Freer and Sackler Galleries.

The performance took place as part of Performing Indonesia: A Conference and Festival of Music, Dance, and Drama, held October 31 to November 3, 2013, at the Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and S. Dillon Ripley Center, Smithsonian Institution. The festival was a joint presentation of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Washington, D.C., and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Audio-Visual Department for audio recording, Suraya Mohamad for audio editing, Torie Castiello Ketcham for web design, Hutomo Wicaksono for photography, Christopher Miller of Cornell University of musical information, Nancy Eickel for text editing, and especially the musicians for granting permission to podcast their performance at the Smithsonian.

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