Nov 13th reading

Nov 13th reading - 1. Pre-1940s. Although ensembles of...

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1. Pre-1940s. Although ensembles of instruments appear not to have been imported from the East Indies until the 19th century, it seems that individual gamelan instruments, unallied to cultural or performance context, were circulating in Europe before this time, probably as a result of trading in the East Indies. One intriguing example is suggested by Klotz (1984), regarding the bell-making Hemony brothers (François and Pieter) , who were active in the 17th century. Known for the refinements they introduced to the bell-tuning process, it is reported that they ‘compared the pitches obtained with those of a metallophone (perhaps from Indonesia) made up of a series of metal rods’ (Klotz, 1984). The composer Rameau owned in his private instrument collection a ‘gambang’, ( see Xylophone , fig.1) which has been the subject of some scholarly detective work. It was believed by early commentators (including musicologist Charles Burney) to be of Chinese origin, although Schaeffner (1955) and later, Burns (1983) present strong arguments that the instrument was of Javanese rather than Chinese origin. The first gamelan ensembles outside South-east Asia were brought to England by Stamford Raffles at the end of his governorship of Java in 1816. Raffles brought over two sets, one currently housed in the British Museum’s Department of Ethnology, and the other which for several generations has been in the possession of the Verney family, and is on display at Claydon House, their home in Buckinghamshire. These sets have been the subject of much speculation as a result of their unusual (and in some cases, seemingly unique) carving, instrumentation and tuning. Quigley (1996) has concluded that these sets were built on or around the northeastern coast of Java and, rather than representing older, now-defunct Javanese ensembles, were probably commissioned by Raffles specifically for his return to England. As a result of conforming to his aesthetic preferences they omit certain instruments, are carved unusually and approximate diatonic tuning. The first mention of European gamelan performance (in an extremely limited sense) also dates from Raffles’ return to England; he was accompanied by the Javanese nobleman Rana Radèn Dipura who took part in musical demonstrations and whom (as noted in Raffles, 1817, p.470) ‘played upon this instrument [the xylophone gambang kayu ] several of his national melodies before an eminent composer [William Crotch]’. Instruments from the Raffles gamelans featured in the 19th-century acoustical experiments of Charles Wheatstone (acoustician and inventor of instruments, including the English concertina) and, more significantly, Alexander Ellis, who also drew on a wide range of European gamelan sources (instruments based in Europe, scholars’ measurements of Europe-based gamelan sets, a performance in Europe by a visiting Javanese group, other scholars’ written observations of such performances) for his work ‘On the Various Scales of Musical Nations’ (1885), which is considered by many to be
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Nov 13th reading - 1. Pre-1940s. Although ensembles of...

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