Indonesian/Gamelan Music


The gamelan orchestras of Indonesia feature unique instruments, each uniquely tuned, which mainly are metallaphonic (gong-like marimbas) with gongs. They can be large or small, courtly or rural, ancient or modern (made with hupcaps and other found metal). Balinese gamelans generally are more lively, uptempo, and exciting, while on Java a more sustained, intense, meditative variety endures.

Most gamelan music is religious and, at least until the mid-twentieth century, was performed in a strictly traditional way apart from particular local variations. Although sacred, the music accompanies all sorts of activities, rites, theatrical productions, and festivals with varying degrees of religious import. Additional secular music includes songs (sung, not played) of "Djanger" origin, which pertain to village reunions. The fascinating gengong, a form of mouth harp, is made from a strip of bamboo and can surpass the gamelan in exoticism.

One of the major tourist attractions of Bali is the monthly performance of the Retjak, or Ramayana Monkey Chant. Imagine "Bolero" as chanted by warlords of the Planet of the Apes. Dancers use fire and other theatrics, while the entire crowd builds the chant "ta-ka-ta ta-ka-ta" with layers of intensity. While not gamelan, it does make an interesting counterpart to the usually non-vocal instrumentation of the traditional orchestra.

Buying: There are many gamelan recordings spread out over nearly as many labels as there are records. Having the Retjak is essential.



Indonesian/Gamelan LPs

Rating
8Joachim E. Berendt (arr.)/Various: Music from Bali; United Artists International UNS-15535/UN-14535; 1968 (has 1 genggong/mouth-harp piece; Gong GEDe of Bedulu, Orch. Pelegongan of Abian-Kapas, Geng Gong of Iseh, Gong GeDe of Midjil)
8Louis Berthe (rec.): Barong--Drame muscal balinais (Collection musee de l'homme; Disques Vogue LD-763; 1971/1962-3 (has 1 genggong/mouth-harp piece)
8Robert E. Brown (rec.): Javanese Court Gamelan Volume I (Pura Paku Alaman, Jogyakarta); Nonesuch Explorer H-72044; 1971 (w/voices)
6Robert E. Brown (rec.): Javanese Court Gamelan Volume II (Istana Mangkunegaran, Surakarta); Nonesuch Explorer H-72074; 1977
8Robert E. Brown (rec.): Javanese Court Gamelan Volume III (Kraton Yogyakarta); Nonesuch Explorer H-72074; 1979/1976-8
9Jacques Brunet (rec.): Musical Atlas--Bali (Bali--Folk Music); EMI Odeon C064-17858; 1972 (1 Genggong--mouth harp piece; also Tjak--vocal)
9Gamelan Gong Kebjar: Golden Rain--Balinese Gamelan Music/Ketjak--the Ramayana Monkey Chant; Nonesuch Explorer H-72028
8Gamelan Gong Kebyar of Sebatu: Bali--Gamelan Music from Sebatu; Archiv 2533.130; 1972 (Gamelan Music from Bali; Deutsche Grammaphon 2535.461; compiles tunes from 3-LP set, Archiv 2723.014; 1972)
8Gamelan Gong Sekar Anjar & Gender Wajang Quartet: The Exotic Sounds of Bali; Columbia Masterworks MS-6445; 1963 (dir. Dr. Mantle Hood; CBS/Odyssey 32-16-0366)
8Gamelan Orchestra from Pliatan: Music from Bali; Argo RG-1 (U.K.; has an earlier performance of the Ketjak; dir. Anak Agung Gde Mandera;; Music of Bali; Westminster Hi-Fi WAF-201--w/book;; Musical Memories of Bali; London International TW-91308)
8Gamelan Orchestra from Pliatan: Music from Bali; Argo RG-2 (volume 2)
8Gamelan Orchestra from Pliatan: Dancers of Bali; Columbia Masterworks ML-4618 (dir. Anak Agung Gde Mandera; 1st press blue/deep groove; 2nd press grey/6-eye; seems to combine/reissue Argo RG-1 and RG-2 in partly abridged form)
8Gamelan Semar Pegulingan--Gamelan of the Love God; Nonesuch Explorer H-72046; 1972 (rec. Robert E. Brown)
8Gamelan Son of Lion: Gamelan in the New World; Folkways FTS-31313; 1979
7Lou Harrison: Main Bersama-Sama (Three Pieces for Gamelan with Soloists)/String Quartet Set; Composers Recordings Inc. CRI-SD-455; 1981/1978-79 (w/Kronos Quartet, Gamelan Sekar Kembar, Susan Bates)
9Pierre Ivanoff Expedition (rec.): Music of Bali; Period SPL-1613; rec. 1953 (French recording w/1 gengong cut; reissued as Folk Ensemble of Bali: TABU-tabuhan Bali; Request RLP-10101)
7The Jasmine Isle--Javanese Gamelan Music; Nonesuch Explorer H-72031
8Gerard Kremer (rec.): Bali--The Celebrated Gamelans; Musical Heritage Society MHS-3505 (licensed from ARION-Paris)
7Prof. Jarda Susilo (rec.): Street Music of Central Java; Lyrichord LLST-7310; 1975
8Phil & Florence Walker (rec.): Music of Indonesia; Folkways/Ethnic Folkways Library FE-4537 A/B; 1968/1961/1960 (has a recording of "Ketjak")
8Phil & Florence Walker (rec.): Music of Indonesia Vol. 2; Folkways/Ethnic Folkways Library FE-4537 C/D; 1968/1961/1960 (has "Cremation Music")
8Gender Wayang: Music for the Balinese Shadow Play; Nonesuch Explorer 72037; ?/1969 (rec. Robert E. Brown in Teges Kanyinan, Pliatan, Bali)
8Various: Bali--Gamelan & Kecak; Nonesuch Explorer 79204-1; 1989/1987 (w/another Ketjak & mouth harp)
8Various: The Balinese Gamelan--Music from the Morning of the World; Nonesuch Explorer 72015 (compilation; incl. abridged Ketjak)
7Various: Balinese Theatre & Dance Music; UNESCO Collection Musical Sources; Philips 6586.013; 1970
7Various: Gamelan Music of Bali; Lyrichord LLST-7179
7Various: Scintillating Sounds of Bali; Lyrichord LLST-7305; 1976/1974 (rec. Doreen Powers; w/Ketjak)


Partly Indonesian/Gamelan LPs

Rating
6Wout Steenhuis & the KonTikis: Pacific Paradise; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-357; 1971 ("Fragrant Night")
7Various: The Nonesuch Explorer: Music from Distant Corners of the World; Nonesuch H7-11; 1971 (2-LP; abridged version of Ketjak)
8Various: Songs & Sounds of Faraway Places; Philips PCC-201 (1 gamelan cut)


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