Response Paper on Gamelan

Response Paper on Gamelan - Angela Cheng Intricacies of the...

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Angela Cheng Intricacies of the Javanese Gamelan and Its Music On hearing the first notes of gamelan music one would jump to the assumption of it being some rural, primitive concoction of dinky musical instruments made only with what resources are available. Put simply, it sounded like some sort of creepy music you would hear in a movie where a group of urban travelers landed themselves in the middle of a jungle only to encounter mysterious natives that performed very unique dances to music of a very different sort. But contrary to first impressions, the music of the gamelan is a very intricately woven tapestry of different instruments that all play their own unique role in gamelan music. While one would expect that the gong, being that which plays the least, would be less important than those playing the melody, or the balungan, those playing constantly throughout. But it turns out not to be so. Surprisingly enough, almost like the opposite of Western music, the melody is not the core to the music, Gamelan music is less about any specific line in the music, but rather about the interactions between all the instruments. Gamelan music can be differentiated one part from another because of another core aspect of gamelan music, the irama levels. Unlike most other types of music, gamelan music is separated into irama levels, of which there are 5, which in a sense describe the density of the music. Technically speaking, the irama level changes the subdivisions of the balungan through the number or times another instrument plays during and between the notes of the balungan. Oftentimes, one hears about the way tempo, speed, rhythm, separation, rests differentiate a piece, but none of those terms are proper for use in the case of gamelan music. Perhaps what would be more fitting is to
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This note was uploaded on 04/30/2008 for the course MUS 190 taught by Professor Lee during the Fall '07 term at Emory.

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Response Paper on Gamelan - Angela Cheng Intricacies of the...

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