Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I highly recommend this documentary film (click "Video abspielen") by the Swiss ethnographer Urs Ramseyer on the Gamelan Selonding of Tenganan village in East Java. Tenganan is understood to be a "Bali Aga" community, retaining many aspects of culture predating East Javanese immigration to Bali, and the Selonding is an "archaic" or "ritual" ensemble, treasured as a sacred heirloom, composed of metallophones assembled from large iron slabs, in a unique 7-tone tuning that accomodates a wide variety of pentatonic modes, with both pelog and slendro types included. The ensemble is modular in composition, and can be combined and recombined in numerous ways, usually with complex but efficient interlocking parts. The instruments are played two-handed with hard wooden mallets, the largest of which resemble long bones, and the players must also dampen the keys with their palms. The documentary begins with a pair of musicians rehearsing, and their simultaneous vocalizations provide underlying melodies and composite figurations. Amazing ensemble music.
(Also very interesting is this film of Iseh villagers rhythmically stamping rice -- it's probably a chicken and egg question of whether the rice-stamping patterns derive from musical patterns or vice versa, but virtuosity is virtuosity, no matter what the medium.)