Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis

Gamelan Semara Ratih of Bali: Returning Minimalism
by Ken Worthy, March 2013, Berkeley

 

Returning Minimalism to Bali

As I flew into Bali on the afternoon of July 4, 2012, the holy mountain Gunung Agung rose majestically above a thick blanket of clouds, greeting visitors as it often does, like a beacon announcing that something extraordinary lies below—the visual equivalent of a gong stroke.

Indeed, the rich culture of the island of Bali has shone far more brightly across the world than one might expect for a society of just a few million people living in a space barely half again as big as tiny Rhode Island, U.S.A. Tourists arrive by the millions, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists travel en masse to study the island’s culture, Balinese handicrafts decorate living rooms around the planet (and are sold as local handicrafts in other tourist destinations), celebrities plan their Bali weddings, Balinese artists and performers tour the world, and groups of non-Balinese assemble in numerous countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States to study and perform the intricate music and dance of the island.

As one of those foreign players of Balinese music, I had been charged with bringing a special music project to the island. With its exceptionally vibrant music and dance tradition, and the mostly outward flow of influence from that tradition into the world, I felt in a sense like I was swimming upstream, bringing coals to Newcastle. But there was a beautiful logic and aesthetic to the project that transcended such issues, for it involved completing a cycle of influence that originated in gamelan music, landed in Western art music fifty years ago, and was now returning to Indonesia (the nation of which Bali is a province) as a reverberation of its former incarnation.

As my plane loaded with visitors descended to land, I reflected as I often do on the pressures placed on Bali—its environment, its culture, its people—by modernization and by the intensive tourism that the island hosts. Bali sees a constant swirl of beachgoers, traffic jams, SUVs, foreign pop music, tourists from virtually every corner of the globe, and dollar signs in people’s eyes. But amid the hubbub are performances, art, customs, ceremonies, and prayer that anchor Balinese people in their social and natural networks of sustenance. Although I was bringing another element into the mix, I remained confident that the Balinese would integrate it into their musical world in a way that would only strengthen their musical tradition.

The results, I can say, are astonishingly, refreshingly new. I have heard nothing like these pieces in my twenty years of studying and playing Balinese music, and it was a pleasure to watch the genuine surprise and delight of the Balinese musicians as they listened to their own new creations. Yet as original as they are, they retain an identifiably Balinese character.

I urge you to listen deeply and intently to these works, to pay attention to the spontaneously arising combinations and permutations of motifs and the momentary fragments that emerge—like the cone of Gunung Agung punctuating the texture of the clouds above Bali.

 

The Project

In the 1960s and 1970s, a small revolution took place in the development of Western “art” or “concert” music (roughly, contemporary “classical” music). At a time of increasing experimentation, American composer Terry Riley invented a piece of music titled “In C” that consists of a set of short motifs to be played with some freedom by any number of musicians on any instruments. Each player individually creates his or her own progression through the motifs by choosing how many times to repeat each one before pausing or moving on to the next. The music was made in a process using a minimal set of repeated motifs. The title comes from the overall tonal impression created by the music, modes of the key of C. The minimalism movement in music was born, to be championed by composers such as Riley, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. These composers, many people can tell upon close listening to their music, appear to have been influenced by Asian musics including Indonesian gamelan.

John Noise Manis, who has produced many recordings of Indonesian gamelan music, conceived the Returning Minimalism project as a means of recognizing the influence, perhaps unconscious to the composers, of Indonesian gamelan music on Western art music. He wanted to hear what it would be like to have Indonesian musicians create new music using Riley’s iconic “In C” as a model. The project would not only complete a satisfying cycle of inspiration (recalling the cyclical gong patterns making up much gamelan music). It would also open up rich possibilities in its own right as Indonesian musicians could enjoy and re-interpret an innovative musical form that has inspired so much music elsewhere in the world and that likely contained a seed of inspiration originating in gamelan.

Gamelan simply means “musical ensemble” in the music traditions in much of Southeast Asia. Most gamelans in Indonesia are made up primarily of percussion instruments (usually tuned to pitches in scales not normally heard in Western music). The term “gamel” means to hold or wield and thus evokes the image of the percussionist holding the mallet, poised to play. The percussion instruments are made from bronze, iron, wood, or bamboo and usually include hanging tuned gongs. Strings, flutes, and voice are also important parts of many gamelans.

Western audiences have witnessed gamelan performances at least since the 19th century. Gamelan groups from Java (probably from Sunda, West Java) played at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Balinese gamelan groups have been touring Europe, the United States, and other places at least since the 1930s. The gamelan traditions of the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia are the best known throughout the world. Read more about gamelan here: http://semararatih.org/aboutgamelan.html.

This album is the third production of the Returning Minimalism project. Manis first took the project to Java, where he worked with musicians of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Surakarta. The results can be heard on the CD “Gamelan of Central Java, XV. Returning Minimalism: In Nem.” In 2011 Manis took the project to Bali for the first time, where he worked with musicians selected from two groups, one from Tunjuk, the other from Pengosekan. The resulting pieces can be heard on the CD “Returning Minimalism: New works for Balinese gamelan gong kebyar.”

For this third manifestation of the project, Manis chose to work with the musicians of Gamelan Semara Ratih, based in Ubud, Bali, the artistic nerve center of an island pulsating with artistic production. Manis tasked the group with producing two new pieces based loosely on “In C” that would contrast with each other and with previous Returning Minimalism pieces. Because of my long, close association with Semara Ratih (I’ve performed a couple hundred times with the group since 1991), Manis asked me to act as artistic coordinator and liaison for the project. Together with Semara Ratih’s director, Anak Agung Gede Anom Putra, we decided that the group’s music director, I Ketut Cater (pronounced charter), would compose the motifs for one piece, and the performers would collaborate in composing the motifs for the other.

 

The Artists

Gamelan Semara Ratih formed in 1989 as a collective of dedicated musicians, composers, dancers, and choreographers from southern Bali, including faculty and students of the national academy of the arts in the capital, Denpasar. In Bali the performing arts are such an essential part of public life, required at ceremonies and social occasions of nearly every type, that perhaps tens of thousands of performance troupes exist throughout the island. Since its inception, Semara Ratih has become renowned for the power, dynamism, innovation, and dramatic and musical breadth of its performances. The group is among the most influential and most recorded on the island, with more audio and video recordings available in shops than nearly any other group, and its performances are aired frequently on Bali’s broadcast television stations. Semara Ratih won first place in the major island-wide festivals it has competed in, including the 1998 Nusa Dua Festival and the 2002 Gong Kebyar Festival. The group and its members have toured in many countries. In 2010 Semara Ratih performed at the International Gamelan Festival in Amsterdam and in Belgium and Turkey.

Semara Ratih is one of the longest-running private clubs (sanggar) for musicians and dancers in Bali. The group is founded on the principle of the creative force arising from the joining of the male principle personified in the god Semara with the female principle personified in the goddess Ratih. This ideal combination is also embodied in the type of gamelan that Semara Ratih plays: the gamelan gong semaradana. Semaradana is the name of the epic in which the demigods Semara and Ratih, the husband and wife from whom come the archetype of romantic love, descend to Earth to become the first humans. The famed composer and gamelan maker I Wayan Beratha created the gamelan gong semaradana by merging existing types of gamelan—the flashy and dynamic gamelan gong kebyar and the more delicate and refined gamelan semar pegulingan—to create a new type of seven-tone gamelan on which groups can play the repertoire of several existing genres and modulate between tonal modes. Semara Ratih was an early adopter of the versatile gamelan gong semaradana and helped to popularize it. There are dozens of such gamelan around the world now. Semara Ratih’s was the second created, and it is a particularly beautiful-sounding set of instruments, as you can hear in these recordings, the first time that the instruments can be heard individually by the public.

Most gamelan musicians in Bali seldom listen to Western art music. Their musical worlds are made up mostly of gamelan and other traditional music from Bali and Java, Indonesian pop music, and world pop music. But Balinese composers and musicians at the arts academies often have greater exposure to music from around the world, including Indian classical music, jazz, and Western art music, and they sometimes experiment in contemporary music (“kontemporer”). Semara Ratih’s musicians have had various musical experiences beyond traditional Balinese idioms. They’ve collaborated with Pierre Dørge and The New Jungle Orchestra from Denmark and have in their current repertoire two pieces by the American composer Evan Ziporyn. One of them, along with pieces for Semara Ratih by I Made Arnawa, I Ketut Cater, and the American composer Christine Southworth, are homage to minimalist composer Steve Reich. So Semara Ratih had prior experience with Western art music and the minimalist idiom. But the Returning Minimalism project would prove distinctly different.

 

The Process

It was fascinating to watch Semara Ratih’s musicians respond to the challenge of creating two new pieces modeled on In C. Despite any influences from gamelan music that In C may exhibit, its basic structure as a piece of semi-improvised process music, with various combinations of instruments all playing the same parts at different times and a great deal of freedom for all of the musicians, differs greatly from the music that gamelan musicians play and even from the previous contemporary pieces that Semara Ratih has played. After a few days of watching the process of creating the pieces unfold, I realized that in many ways these pieces would be even more radical in Bali than In C was when it was premiered in the 1960s in San Francisco.

The day I arrived in Bali, Semara Ratih had just begun experimenting for the first piece. The group’s music director, I Ketut Cater, was responding to the sample recordings and notes that I had sent by composing some extraordinarily complex motifs that captured the spirit of the original using a mostly compositional process. In In C, complex patterns and rhythmic relationships emerge from the spontaneous combination of different motifs, or the same motifs played out of phase (starting at different times). In Cater’s initial approach an astounding amount of that complexity was pre-composed. The first challenge, then, was similar to that for In C a half century earlier—to shift the relationship between the composer and the performers to allow most of the complexity in the piece to emerge from spontaneous combinations of motifs as they are performed.

As rehearsals progressed, it became clear that several other relationships embedded in Balinese gamelans, both the instruments and the musicians, must be either completely severed or drastically re-arranged for the new pieces. Most Balinese gamelan music is heterophonic—it is structured around a basic melodic line called the pokok, around which different groups of instruments play either denser, filled in variations of the pokok or sparser derivations such as every other or every fourth note. Generally, the lower in pitch an instrument, the more sparsely it plays. The gong usually plays the most sparsely, and the major gong cycles articulate the fundamental structure of an entire composition. Drums and cymbals add percussive ornamentation and cue speed and loudness changes, and bamboo flutes and a small fiddle add melodic ornamentation. So all the parts are heavily interdependent or even derived from one another.

Another crucially embedded relationship in the Balinese gamelan is that most of the xylophone-like melodic instruments, high ones and low ones, come in pairs. The two instruments of each pair are slightly detuned from each other to create a shimmering or vibrating sound when the instruments are struck simultaneously. This vibration goes to the very soul of the gamelan and the Balinese aesthetic, in which perfectly steady sounds, like empty spaces, are considered unattractive, dead, and lifeless. Treating all of the instruments separately would break the vibrating bonds among these pairs. For this project Semara Ratih musicians chose to sometimes preserve and sometimes break these pairings, according to the wishes of the musicians as they perform. Generally, the lowest instruments retained their pairings more than the higher-pitches ones.

As a corollary of these embedded relationships, when Balinese gamelan musicians learn a new piece, a teacher usually plays one or a few of the parts, and the other musicians can figure out most of the other parts themselves. The entire process is done by ear and by imitation, though the teacher may use notation. The strong internal relations among the parts make the aural transmission process easier.

By comparison, the Western classical instruments initially used for In C (more recently, non-Western ensembles have played the piece) have much freer relationships among them. They “come to the party” on almost equal footing, able to play the same parts, including fast and melodic passages, with comparable ease—though with different sounds of course. In the Balinese gamelan gong semaradana, by contrast, the lowest pitched melodic instruments, the jegogan, the jublag, and the penyecah, play much more slowly than the higher pitched gangsa and reong, which can play melodic lines much faster, several notes per second, in fact. The jegogan have the largest, heaviest mallets, so they never play so fast. This difference in the playing techniques among the instruments created the second major challenging in realizing pieces modeled on In C: we could not expect all instruments to play the exact same set of motifs.

Cater and the group used two solutions, one from the original instructions for In C. Riley had suggested the possibility of augmentation—stretching out motifs to slow them down at half speed or slower. In one sense this approach mimics the relationships among the gamelan instruments: the jublag plays half or a quarter as fast as the penyecah and so on. But when they do so, they don’t elongate each note. They omit intervening notes so that they remain in sync with the basic melody. Cater also chose to let the lower-instrument musicians sometimes use the lighter mallets of the faster instruments, producing a sonority not usually present in the gamelan. Finally, as Riley instructs, players could simply skip motifs that didn’t fit well with their instrument.

A third set of gamelan relationships undone by the model of In C are those among the musicians as they play. Normally, two musical leaders direct a gamelan: the “first” drummer, usually the musical leader of the group, who acts like the conductor of an orchestra, using both body movements and drums strokes to signal dynamic and tempo changes, and the ugal player, like a particularly strong concertmaster, who cues phrase entrances and endings and other changes. The rest of the players focus intently on playing very tightly together, as a single unit.

Because of the feeling of unity among the musicians, it was not difficult to be missing a central musical leader. In fact Cater and the ugal player, Dewa Ketut Widiarsa, did give some signals during the recording session, but they did so mostly to add shape and to compensate for the lack of notation (only they used notation, so they could help other musicians remember the motifs).

The greater challenge was to get the rest of the performers to not play together. It is so deeply in the blood of the gamelan musicians to lock precisely into the pokok, that they initially found it difficult not to follow one another. As one musician switched to a new motif, often several others would soon do likewise. To truly develop a sense of independence and difference required work over several rehearsals, but the effort was rewarded in the end. The gamelan feeling for togetherness was a boon, though, in producing one of Riley’s recommended effects: for the group to spontaneously get louder and softer together. Also, the musicians playing the lower paired instruments worked very easily together, choosing spontaneously between themselves who would lead, who would follow, and when they would diverge.

Besides his initial tendency to through-compose complex motifs, Cater found that he had to work against the impulse to compose attractive, engaging melodies and patterns. We discovered something that Riley must have thought about when he composed the original motifs. If they’re too interesting and able to stand on their own musically, they quickly turn into musical muddiness when combined. We further studied In C and realized that the best results arise from motifs that sound fragmentary and incomplete on their own and ones that contrast with each another. Riley clearly thought through the relationships among his motifs so that they would have the best chance of sounding attractive when combined. For instance, by thinking through the harmonic relationships among neighboring motifs and across the piece as a whole, he created a subtle harmonic shifting effect throughout the piece.

In our experiments, which were many, we found that denser, note-rich motifs quickly create unpleasant, impenetrable sonorities on the gamelan when many are combined, possibly because of the inharmonic relationships among the pitches in the gamelan’s pelog scale. The greater number of pitches available on most Western instruments allow for more harmonic combinations. Breakthroughs came when we realized that sparser motifs produced more agreeable and interesting combinations. That’s when the musicians really began to see the potential of the piece and when sonorities arose that none of us had ever before heard.

Another fascinating revelation came early in the project. In their first rehearsals and performances, Riley and his musicians quickly discovered that a group playing independently and without a conductor at a fast tempo needed some kind of beat-keeping device to keep them playing in sync. Following the suggestion of Steve Reich, one of the performers, Riley decided to have a piano beat out eighth notes on two octaves of C in the upper register throughout the piece (which takes great endurance). That kind of persistent, audible pulse is unusual in Western art music, but in Balinese gamelan it’s common, almost ubiquitous. Unless a section is highly unmetered, a beat can usually be heard. But unlike the case of In C, Balinese beat-keeping instruments, called kemplis or kajars, are usually not tonal—they don’t have a clear and identifiable pitch. Semara Ratih musicians had fun by giving up the usual un-pitched kempli part and adopting a pitched beat-keeping pattern in both pieces. The pattern used in In Deung (the first piece, pronounced day-oong) instantly recalls In C, a sort of homage and beacon that references the piece that inspired the project.

As rehearsals progressed, we experienced the wondrous feeling of never knowing what to expect next. I sent recordings of the early experiments over the Internet to John Noise Manis in Europe, and together we offered insights into the process based on our experience with Western art music and gamelan music, and our understanding of In C. Manis offered that it would be interesting to encourage the musicians to invent variations on the motifs as the piece unwinds in performance, to stop playing momentarily to thin the texture even more, to augment or diminish the silences within motifs, and to accept “mistakes” and other accidents to give the result a roughness reflecting the improvisatory spontaneity of the process. The metallophones (xylophone-like instruments with bronze keys and bamboo resonators) that make up most of the gamelan gong semaradana have similar timbres, so we suggested adding instruments for diversity. In the first piece, the musicians continued to use metallophones, but they played them sometimes with the “wrong” mallets. They reserved the greatest sonic variety for the second piece, which adds violin bows to sound the metallophones (also used in Evan Ziporyn’s Steve Reich–inspired piece, Lapanbelas), drums of different sizes, gongs, a kajar beat keeper, suling (bamboo flutes), and gender wayang (instruments for shadow play). The latter adds not only timbral but also tonal variety as they’re tuned to a completely different scale, five-tone selendro, which overlaps on only three pitches with the seven-tone pelog scale of the gamelan gong semaradana.

As the first piece began to take shape, with sparser motifs and the musicians embracing their independent, improvisational roles, a whole new soundscape began to take shape within the gamelan. Suddenly, the individual instruments could be heard even though the full gamelan was playing. In the usual heterophonic texture and structure of Balinese music, most instruments are struck simultaneously, producing an aggregate sound. Since we had, in a sense, released the instruments from these confines, we could now hear their individual voices. It occurred to me that what we had produced was a deconstruction of the Balinese gamelan. Deconstruction has influenced developments in fields from semiotics to literary criticism to history to culinary arts, but as far as I know, the approach hadn’t been applied in gamelan.

The idea of using deconstruction as a method of developing the materials for the second piece suggested itself. Why not select an existing classic of Balinese music and take apart its elements for use as the motifs for the second piece? Cater and the other musicians chose the intensely dynamic 20th-century classic Teruna Jaya, performed dozens of times every week across Bali, from which to harvest materials. For the second piece, Manis suggested detouring more broadly from the In C model, and the musicians obliged in several ways, including by allowing parts of the original Teruna Jaya to emerge in full form momentarily and by using a composed beat-pattern that circulates among the instruments.

 

The Recording Session

Living is done mostly outdoors in Bali. People spend much of their day outside or on open verandas—walls are mostly for offices and bedrooms, though more enclosed building are being built recently. Gamelan is an inherently outdoor art form. With many loud percussion instruments and complex, interlocking rhythms, gamelan sounds best played without walls, which tend to mix up the sound into a jumble.

Ubud is a noisy place, with cars all around, revving motorbikes, dogs barking, roosters crowing, rivers roaring, and ducks quacking, a huge symphony of sounds filling the air. Amid the cacophony, we were fortunate to have access to the inner courtyard of a beautiful and quiet temple, far from busy streets, where we could record: Pura Dalem Gede, the temple of the dead in the hamlet of Nagi in the village of Petulu, on the northeast edge of Ubud. Semara Ratih members convened there on July 30, 2012, to begin recording in the late afternoon, when the chainsaws and construction sounds cease.

To succeed, important events in Bali must be preceded by ceremonial preparations. Many days prior to the recording, Semara Ratih musicians prayed at Pura Gunung Sari, a temple in Peliatan, for divine guidance in the project and success. As we entered Pura Dalem Gede of Nagi on July 30 to set up for the recording, an elaborate series of offerings had been made: for the temple; for the gamelan instruments; for the large river nearby, Tukad Petanu; for the closest rice-field temple; for the stage where gamelan performances take place; to request taksu, magical spirit to perform; and to protect our outdoor recording session from rain. As we set up the instruments in a novel arrangement to allow pairs of players to see each other while all the players could see the full group, dark clouds gathered overhead—an ominous sign. Rain would mean we’d have to move under roofs, and it could make too much noise for recording.

As John Noise Manis and Rosella Balossino finished setting up the recording equipment, the temple priest sat on a small pavilion chanting mantras to bless the place, the occasion, and the people. The time to record neared. The musicians arranged themselves on the courtyard floor, sitting cross-legged, facing north toward the temple’s shrines and Gunung Agung to pray. The clouds grew darker. I felt a few drops—and rising anxiety—but then realized that the priest was tossing holy water our way. We prayed. As holy water was sprinkled on us each individually, the sky opened and a perfect light sprinkling came down for a few minutes, a blessing from the heavens. By the time prayers stopped, so had the drops. Not another one fell for the rest of the day, nor at any other time around the recording, as if to underscore that the rain was a blessing. Perfect conditions for recording descended on the temple.

After a brief rehearsal we planned to record two takes of each piece. Semara Ratih’s performers never fail to impress me by rising to meet the demands of any occasion, with great focus and without apprehension. Even with all of the chance elements in these mostly improvisational pieces, in which no two performances are the same, all four takes came off smoothly, and we were able to wrap up with plenty of time to go home and enjoy the rest of the night, listening to rough recordings from the session.

 

In Deung: Vibration of the Spirit (Getaran Jiwa)

I Ketut Cater created the material for In Deung by progressively thinning down the original set of motifs developed for the piece. As he did so, his overall purpose became clear: to create an introspective, even spiritual experience. The ethereal texture of the music is unlike almost anything heard in Balinese music and seems particularly surprising coming from Semara Ratih, who love to play out on their instruments, relishing the rapid, dense, and boisterous style of gamelan gong kebyar music.

Like In C, In Deung begins with the beat keeping function, but in this case all the musicians play it. The beat starts slowly and accelerates, eventually to be taken over by a pair of kantilan in the upper register, which play it quietly through the first third or so of the piece. Unlike In C, In Deung soon descends into a slower tempo but later goes through various changes reflecting different moods. To accommodate the quieter sections, the beat keeper function migrates to a lower pair of instruments, the penyecah, with larger and softer mallets. The musicians of course all improvise their way through the sequence of motifs, but they take other freedoms as well. Rather than repeating the motifs precisely every time, they often play them at irregular intervals to best match what they hear from other players.

Cater selected as the tonal focus of the piece the central pitch of the seven-tone gamelan gong semaradana: deung. His inspiration was the idea that God, or the spirit, resides in the center of the self. Thus, deung, at the center of the gamelan, represents the spirit.

Perhaps the pièce de résistance of In Deung is a single gong stroke, cued by Cater. Balinese music is normally suffused with gong strokes, which mark every large phrase and sometimes small ones. Asked why not more gong strokes, or why not none, Cater responded with certainty: “it must be one.” First, the gong represents the spirit centered in the self. Second, the character of the music, a kind of deconstructed Balinese gamelan, gives one a feeling of perpetually longing for the gong to be played. To play more gongs would ruin this effect. Even though the length of the piece could not be controlled exactly because of the improvisatory process, the gong sounds at 12:47, very close to the midpoint.

As the recording date approached, the character of the piece became clear, though somewhat difficult to articulate, partly because it changes every time it’s played. As Cater suggests, the feeling of a living spirit emerges from the music, vibrating or perhaps trembling, shimmering with spirit, much as the tones of the gamelan, when struck together, produce a shimmering sound. The music seems also to sing with an intense longing, like a quivering spirit. One day, Anak Agung Gede Dipta Mahaputra, a son of the director, suggested the subtitle: Getaran Jiwa, the vibration of the spirit. Cater immediately agreed.

 

In Dang: Teruna’s Dream (Mimpi Teruna)

For the second piece the musicians chose to create a stark contrast to the tranquil and reflective mood of In Deung. As the source for their deconstruction, they chose the best-known work from the classic keybyar (“bursting”) genre from north Bali: Teruna Jaya (“victorious youth”), music for dance in which a single adolescent male (usually danced by a woman), emerges full of vigor, exuding confidence, energy, and style. Melodic and ornamental fragments from Teruna Jaya, mixed with a few others, form the motifs from which the musicians improvise.

In Dang uses a more complex time-keeping device than In Deung: perhaps the most energetic rhythm in Balinese music, a classic repeating three-beat pattern of eighth and sixteenth notes taken from the beleganjur music played in funerary processions. This rhythm causes great excitement bordering on chaos in Bali when it is played: the goal is to frighten and disorient any malevolent spirits that may seek to accompany the departed into the next life. After starting with the entire ensemble, the beat motif moves to two of the highest metallophones, kantilan, using hard wooden mallets. The electric rhythm drives the energy of the piece as various players spontaneously pick it up, making it travel among different instruments.

Dang is the seventh and highest pitch of the seven-tone pelog scale and appears as a tonal center at key points in the piece. The work has a tripartite form. In a sense it begins three times. Each time, it slowly becomes denser and more complex, leading up to a climax when suddenly the original fully formed music for Teruna Jaya appears and just as quickly disappears as the beat motif takes over again, played by all the musicians in unison. The piece then becomes softer and takes on a new feel as the musicians improvise from a new set of motifs.

Although In Dang emanates greater energy, as in In Deung the fragmentary nature of the combined motifs evokes a kind of dreamscape in which bits of experience drift around and become reassembled in unexpected and unpredictable fashion. It’s not just any dream, though. The music from which these fragments come is irrevocably associated with the Teruna Jaya character, like a leitmotif. So as the piece developed, we realized that we were hearing the dream of the youth himself, as if the images and thoughts that drive his own life are circulating in his head as he sleeps—thus, the subtitle, “Teruna’s Dream.” But something in the dream excites him. You can hear his pulse quickening, and he awakens, or very nearly does, three times. The lucidity of consciousness brings together all of the elements into an ordered whole that emerges for a moment, only to be replaced by the twilight of slumber.

Text © 2013 Ken Worthy

 

Gamelan Semara Ratih
Anak Agung Gede Anom Putra—director
I Ketut Cater—music director
Gusti Ayu Sukmawati—dance director
Sanggar Semara Ratih, 25 Jalan Kajeng, Ubud, Bali, 80571, Indonesia
http://semararatih.org

Performers
I Ketut Cater—kendang
Dewa Ketut Widiarsa—pemade, ugal
I Wayan Gede Liyang Tiarsa—pemade, gender, kendang angklung
I Wayan Eris Stiawan—pemade, gender, kendang angklung
I Made Gati Wirama—jublag, reong
Anak Agung Gede Dipta Mahaputra—jublag
Anak Agung Bagus Arimbawa—jublag
I Made Sutena—gong
I Wayan Tista—ceng-ceng
I Made Mardika—kantil
I Wayan Nama—pemade
I Wayan Mandia—jegogan
I Wayan Gede Ambara—reong
I Wayan Sumarsa—pemade
I Wayan Sumarasa—reong
I Ketut Sujiarta—kajar
Kadek Adi Sudiksa Pawana—jegogan
I Made Suardika—penyecah
Wayan Agus Sunika—kantil
Kadek Nanda Prawira—reong
I Putu Eka Wijana—penyecah
Ken Worthy—suling

Anak Agung Ratih Rismaputri & I Wayan Sukarma—rehearsal assistants

Special thanks to Mangku Wayan Jana, priest of Pura Dalem, Nagi, and the people of Nagi, where the recordings were made.
Ken Worthy—artistic coordination, liner notes, photos
John Noise Manis—concept, production, recording, mastering, photos
Rosella Balossino—production assistant
Recording date: July 30, 2012

 

YANTRA  PRODUCTIONS