Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis

GAMELAN JAVA EASY

 

Track 1 7:24 – ‘Kiprah Menakjinga’ a character/episode from Langendriyan, dance music of Istana Mangkunegaran, Surakarta. Recorded in 2007 at RRI Surakarta; gamelan Karawitan Istana.
Track 2 0:37 – The sound of kentongan, the wooden suspended slit-drum used for signalling in village communities. Recorded in 1994, at night, in the neighbourhood of Hotel Sahid Kusuma in Surakarta.
Track 3 7:35 – Ladr. ‘Kodhokan’ (gendhing bonang) pelog lima. A piece with surprises. Recorded in 2008 at Nyi Cendaniraras home. Performers: Wakijo, Suyadi, Sukamso, Suraji, Supardi, Kuwat, Sugimin, Hadi Budyono, Rusdiyantoro, Al Suwardi, Joko Purwanto.
Track 4 2:21 – Ciblon (water gamelan) and other sounds. Recorded in 2008 at the pool of Hotel Sahid Kusuma. Musicians in the water: Al Suwardi, Darno, Nurwanto, Prasadyanto, Sri Harta, Sukamso. Also: two frogs (Kodok Ngorek) and the suling of Supardi.
Track 5 3:54 – Lagu ‘Kupu-Kupu Puccini’ pelog (arrangement: Joko Purwanto) see note below
Track 6 9:07 – Ladr. ‘Gadhung Mlati’ for genders and gong slendro sanga. This sacred piece is played
 here in a rarefied ensemble of only gender-type instruments, the ranges of which are cast in several octaves (gender barung, gender panerus,
 gender panembung or slenthem), and gong. The performers are faculty members
 of the Surakarta Conservatory (STSI, now ISI): Sukamso, Suraji, Darsono, Supardi. Recorded in 2001.
Track 7 25:42 Gendhing bonang ‘Tukung’ pelog barang ‘multistyle’. This version of the classical well-known gendhing is performed incorporating the main different styles of Central Java gamelan playing. In particular, the following three styles are alternatively played in the succession of the gongan (gong cycles): Kraton Yogyakarta, Kraton Surakarta, Istana Mangkunegaran (Surakarta). Gamelan and players of STSI Surakarta. Recorded in 2004.

YANTRA – Production and Digital Release

Lagu KUPU-KUPU PUCCINI

When John Noise Manis asked me to write a gamelan rendition of the Humming Chorus from Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, I felt it would be quite a challenge, mainly because Javanese gamelan instruments are tuned to pentatonic and heptatonic scales. But it was an interesting challenge, as the tuning alone provided an opportunity for a new interpretation since certain notes could not be reproduced (although it was my desire to imitate the original melody as closely as possible), and other factors such as instrumentation, melody, rhythm, and tempo also played an important role in creating a new interpretation. So, I decided to accept the proposal and started to listen to a recording of the original work which JNM sent me.

I shall briefly describe the compositional process I followed.

After listening to the original version, I made a few notes about melody, instrumentation, rhythm and tempo. I began to imagine how it would sound when played with the tuning of the gamelan, and to decide which instruments I would use to perform the melody, rhythm, and bass line.
Writing out the main melody I decided that the gender panerus was well suited to perform this role, and would be the reference or focal point for all the other instruments in the gamelan ensemble.
After writing the main melody with as close a resemblance as possible to the original, I began to add different musical parts using other instruments, such as bonang barung, bonang panerus, demung, and saron, which I positioned as the rhythm instruments, and gong, kempul, and slenthem, which I used as bass instruments because of their deeper sound. To fill out the main melodic line, played on the gender panerus, I used the gender barung to provide elaborations. The kenong, demung, and saron were played using a tremolo technique at the end of certain phrases to provide emphasis, as well as playing rhythm patterns. I wrote down the main ideas in the form of a full musical score using karawitan notation.

After writing the main melody and arranging the instrumentation, I felt that it would not sound good if the composition started directly with the main melody. I thought it would be better if there was an introduction treated quite differently from the main melody. So I looked again at the important points and notes in the main melody as the basis for creating a new section that could be played in fast tempo, in the style of lancaran, as a kind of introduction to the composition. I did not compose a buka, or solo introduction to be played on one of the instruments, as is customary in Javanese karawitan; and in the end, one of the musicians gave a visual cue for the others to follow so that all players could start together.
It was quite difficult to manage the tempo for this piece since there is no conductor in a gamelan ensemble. To overcome this problem, I explained to the musicians that when they reached a particular point (which I had marked on the notation), the tempo should slow down, and at another the tempo should gradually speed up and return to the original tempo. In the karawitan tradition, the kendhang player has a role similar to a western conductor in controlling the tempo of the music. As I did not use a kendhang in this composition, therewas no ‘leader’ for the other musicians to follow.

After listening to the recording, I can honestly say that I feel satisfied with the result, although I must admit that, as an imitation, of course it is not as good as the original version. While the original version is performed by voices accompanied by strings, both of which have a broad pitch range, the instruments in a gamelan ensemble cannot reach all the notes of the original version. The fixed pitches of the gamelan instruments at times sounded strange, mainly because of the heptatonic scale. Also, the tempo of the gamelan version seems more dynamic, and the rhythms more distinct, perhaps due to the percussive nature of the instruments.
Since all the musicians who performed in this recording have a background in traditional Javanese gamelan music, their interpretation of this composition does not stray far from the traditional karawitan vocabulary of the present day.
Joko Purwanto

Note – The two-part melody uses the seven notes of the pelog scale:
3 5 6 // 7 1 // 7 6 7 // 6 5 6
3 // 4 2 3 // 4 2 1 // 7 6 7

Lagu ‘Kupu-Kupu Puccini’ was recorded at ISI Surakarta, 3 July, 2007.
Performers:
Gender Joko Purwanto
Gender Panerus Sukamso
Slenthem Prasadiyanto
Demung Joko Daryanto
Saron Hadi Boediono
Bonang Supardi
Bonang Panerus Suraji
Gong, Kempul Santosa