Gamelan frenzy

So this week my group from my gamelan course finally got together to begin work on our final project: a collective composition.  I’ve decided to put my own gamelan piece aside for now and get back to it when I have a bit more time.  We met Weds evening for the first session.

We first had to decide what instrument we each wanted to play and then what kind of piece we would like to make – basically, by determining how close to the gamelan tradition we want our piece to be.  We decided that we’d establish a piece based on some of the core structural principles we’ve learned and then stretch out from there.  Our first step was to come up with our “balungan” – the core melodic line.  We thought a piece based on a five digit security code, which we all know, would be a good place to start (each digit would translate into a pitch in a particular tuning system).  We extrapolated the five pitches into sets of four-beat groupings (standard gamelan structure called “gatra”) and then created a contrasting line to combine with it, which is also used as an intro.  Our next step was to create a second section in which this melodic line would be expanded and developed, again in a typical way that we’ve learned and practiced in one of our class pieces.  Beyond this planning, we each had to come up with patterns on our respective instruments that would compliment this main melody.  My goal was to use a mixture of standard techniques of embellishing the melody with more personal ones (e.g. I’ve been obsessed with “paradiddles” for months now and so I’m incorporating some patterns based on those).

Our second session on Friday was basically devoted to practicing what we’ve established already, finalizing the number of repetitions and working on transitions, as well as creating a contrasting section where we could experiment with rhythm a little more and be less conventionally “gamelan.”  This took basically our whole session since we also took the time to notate what we’ve done.  I expect we’ll continue with this approach next time, expanding the piece a little and then planning a way to transition back to our primary material and ending off the piece.

Also, last Monday night improv group spent a portion of our jam time working on Chris Blaber’s gamelan piece, which he has expanded and plans to present as his final project.  It’s quite challenging for us but I think it’s going to turn out well.  The rest of rehearsal was taken up with a recording project for a film score.

So, as the semester draws to a close, it’s basically all about gamelan.


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