Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis


or How to Have Another Listen to a Tendentially Boring Masterpiece


Bach's Art of Fugue on a 7-Tone Gamelan Scale


Track 1 2:58 Contrapunctus I
Track 2 3:06 Contrapunctus II
Track 3 2:23 Contrapunctus III
Track 4 4:37 Contrapunctus IV
Track 5 2:58 Contrapunctus V
Track 6 4:04 Contrapunctus VI
Track 7 3:11 Contrapunctus VII
Track 8 6:04 Contrapunctus VIII
Track 9 2:43 Contrapunctus IX
Track 10 2:56 Contrapunctus X
Track 11 7:40 Contrapunctus XI
Track 12 3:24 Contrapunctus XII
Track 13 2:17 Contrapunctus XII
Track 14 6:04 Canone I
Track 15 2:30 Canone II
Track 16 3:55 Canone III
Track 17 3:58 Canone IV
Track 18 10:12 Contrapunctus XIV

All tracks use a 7-tone scale of a specific gamelan, as illustrated below. Track 8, Contrapunctus VIII, uses Bach’s original 12-tone scale, which may also serve as reference for the listener. While playing the correct Western scale, track 8 uses exclusively sampled sounds of authentic Balinese instruments.

Concept, recording, mastering, and photos: John Noise Manis
The idea of using sound samples and the MIDI technique to ‘orchestrate’ the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is not new. And, in particular, that idea has been applied to his monumental late work, ‘The Art of Fugue’, perhaps because of the fact that Bach did not specify which instrument(s) should play the work.

In the present rendition, aside from using sound samples and MIDI, the main concept is to make a daring connection between Bach’s music and Indonesian gamelan music.
I had already explored an ‘undestructive’ type of connection by putting next one to another selected pieces from each of the two musical cultures. Such one-to-one juxtaposition, entirely based on subjective feeling of relatedness within some elements of a possible universal language of music, was carried out in the “Bach & Gamel” project, available in the internet.

Here the contamination is invasive and structural, in that Bach’s score is played using only seven notes of the 12-tone chromatic scale – ‘the’ seven notes of a particular Balinese gamelan. Had it been just any gamelan, the experiment would have been unworkable even for the most acquiescent ears (any gamelan in Java and Bali is tuned in its own specific way). The serendipitous occurrence was that very recently, in Bali, a gamelan was built with a scale that is practically equivalent to an A-Major Western diatonic scale, or specifically:

C#, D, E, F#, G#, A, B.

Thus, Bach’s score can be played rather correctly (with the micro-deviations inherent in the construction of Indonesian gamelan instruments) as far as the seven tones of that gamelan are concerned. The remaining five tones are not muted: they are ‘reallocated’ to the preceding or subsequent pitch in the gamelan scale. Which way to reallocate the five missing notes is a musical decision of the ‘manipulator’.

The results?
This album presents one version of what can come out of the process. One aspect may be easily noticed, in addition to variations of the original melodic lines: the general feel of the music changes from the original introspective mood to a brighter atmosphere; this is produced by the Major diatonic key imposed by the gamelan.

By the way, such gamelan exists in Bali since 2015 and will likely make outstanding achievements in the future. For one thing in 2016 ‘Gamelan Kembang Ceraki’ will perform and record a set of Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757).



Bach's Art of Fugue on a 7-Tone Gamelan Scale


YANTRA – Production and Digital Release