Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis

Music of Remembrance ?


It wasn’t – isn’t – easy to find out what the Javanese equivalent of the Western idea of ‘music of remembrance’ could be. In the Western culture – leaving aside the ‘funeral music’ that historically has accompanied official ceremonies in certain national and regional areas – the notion of remembrance music generally calls on pieces of the classical repertoire that are somber in character.

In Java, I have asked several persons, especially musicians, what pieces of the traditional repertoire or what type of gamelan music would mostly suit and be used for remembering the dead, particularly in a private context, when feelings of affections tied and tie the living to the deceased. Answers have been inconclusive and ambivalent. Objective observation does not help much, as it can happen that, for example, for a function of slametan (or mulyarars), where musicians commemorate another musician who has passed away, a piece named ‘Wilujeng’ is often played (possibly by candlelight). But, this well-known title is also played as welcome music, or as an opening to a klenengan (concert). It is thought that Ladrang Wilujeng was commissioned by a certain prime minister for the wedding of his daughter. The meaning of ‘wilujeng’ is varied, according to the context. It’s a well-wishing expression carrying such meanings as salvation, prosperity, good news, etc. Thus, we have to infer and make explicit something that is a likely component of the Javanese cultural context: contrary to the Western feeling and practice, for some people in Java memorial music should not be sad and mournful – in a remembrance function such music would attract malevolent spirits and might bring further deaths and ills. The music should rather be untroubled and serene, so as to attract benevolent spirits who will accompany the journey of the deceased and protect the living.

But then the Wilujeng piece can be played in different laras (pelog or slendro), in different pathets, and with different treatments. Which means that that music can be ‘changed’ and adapted to create various types of feelings, including the somber, reflective ones which in the West are standard for the circumstance. Thus, the situation remains fluid and undetermined, as is often the case with the rich and complex Javanese culture. Bapak Sumarsam, whom I had asked for guidance, aknowledges that some research is needed on the subject, but also states that, clearly, there is no uniform practice and that the music community occasionally tends to create new expressions for remembrance functions.

The present CD does not claim to be representative of Javanese remembrance music – nor I think that such objective be attainable. Most of the pieces were indicated by the excellent and competent musicians of ISI Surakarta. Whether they prevalently had in mind their interpretation of the Western notion of remembrance, or their own authentic notion, I cannot really tell.

In any case, the final piece in the present programme, Laler Menggeng, does fulfill the character and intent that I subjectively meant for this CD. This is a recording of the music that was actually played by a small ensemble of four performers – three young Yogyanese musicians and Daniel Wolf – on the lawn of the Montebello residence for a special remembrance.

John Noise Manis


Texts and Translations

Ayak-Ayakan Mijil  Layu Layu  slendro manyura
Sekar Macapat Mijil – text by Ki Nartosabdo


Layu layu
humiring sang kingkin
mring Candhi Patunon
sung sesanti sang dyah kamuksane
nedya anut mring sang guru laki
kang sirna madyaning
palagan wor lebu.

Leng ing driya
kadya duk ing nguni
samya sapatemon
datan nganggo rangu rangu ning tyas
hagni murub mbulat sundhul langit
saksana den byuri
swaranya jumlegur.

Pesindhen (wangsalan)

Widadaa kalis sakeh ing rubeda
Jarweng janma janma kang koncatan jiwa
wong prawira mati alabuh Nagara.



Let us hasten
following those who are sad
on the way to Patunon temple
to pray for the loss of our princess [sang dyah]
she wanted to follow her husband
who lost his life in the battlefield
becoming one with the dust

The motives of the heart
are same as ever
mutually attuned
without any doubt
the fire flares up, its flames reach up to the sky
as if lashed by a whip
making a thunderous roar


I pray for your safety, that you may be free of all obstacles
the meaning of man, a man who has lost his life
a brave man, dying to defend his country


Ketawang Sinom Logondhang  slendro sanga
Sekar Macapat Sinom – extract from serat Kalatidha (Keraton Surakarta)

Ya Allah ya Rosulullah
kang sifat murah lan asih
mugi mugi aparinga
pitulung ingkang nartani
ing alam awal akhir
dumununging gesang ulun
mangkya sampun awredha
ing wekasan kadi pundi
mila mugi antuka pitulung Tuhan.

Sageda sabar santosa
mati sajroning ngaurip
kalis ing reh aru ara
murka angkara sumingkir
tarlen meleng malatsih
sanityasa tyas memasuh
badharing sapu dhendha
antuk mayar sawetawis
borong angga sawarga mesi mataya.

Note: the last line includes the letters of the name of the Author:
rong ga war si ta Rongga Warsita

Oh God, oh Messenger of God
so generous and loving
I pray You will bestow on me
the help that accompanies
in the world from beginning to end
where I am living
now being old
I do not know what will happen next
so I pray for Your help, oh God

I pray for patience and peace
dead to this life
avoiding all kinds of disturbances
so that greed will leave me
only focusing my mind
keeping a pure heart
to wipe away all punishment
to gain a moment of ease
submitting to my fate, heaven is filled with patient people


Ketawang Gendhing Tlutur  slendro sanga
Wangsalan  (not tranlated)

continues with
Ladrang Panjangilang

Serat Jurudemung (Bedhaya Pangkur)
Cirine serat iberan
kebo bang sungunya tanggung
saben kepi mirah ingsun
katon pupur lelamatan
kunir pita kasud kayu
wulu cumbu Madukara
paran margane ketemu.

Text by Ki Nartosabdo
Rontang ranting busanane
yeku ingkang nandhang kataman dhuh kiteng kalbu
satriya linuhung lumampah kesandhung sandhung
saisining wana bebela sungkawa
peksi peksi andhekur keh samya amemuji
mugi gusti sanggya Dewata Di
tansah angayomi muri yuwana basuki.


The mark of the message
a red buffalo with medium sized horns
every time I dream I see the jewel of my heart
like a sprinkling of face powder
yellow turmeric, a wooden slipper
the clown-servant of Madukara [Semar]
how can we meet

His clothes are all in shreds
he is in love, his heart is filled with sorrow
the noble knight walks hesitantly
all the inhabitants of the forest share his sadness
many of the twittering birds are praying
that their master be looked after by Dewata Di
always protected, keeping him safe and sound


continues with
Ketawang Dhandhanggula Tlutur

Sekar Macapat Dhandhanggula – text by Martopangrawit
Note: only the second stanza is sung in this recording

Bedhug tiga datan arsa guling
padhang bulan kekencar ing latar
thenguk thenguk lungguh dhewe
angin midit mangidul
saya nggreges rasaning ati
rumangsa yen wus lola
babo raganingsun
dudu sanak dudu kadang
neng pondhokan sayekti nandhang prihatin
dhuh nyawa gondhelana.

Yekti sangkan paraning dumadi
Surya Candra kalawan Kartika
Tri Murti iku wastane
cahya katri wus kumpul
iku mangka daya rochani
Bumi miwah dahana
maruta lan banyu
dadi wadhaging manungsa
lahir batin wus kacakup dadi sawiji
gantha gatraning gesang.


Three strikes of the drum and still no desire to sleep
the moonlight shines on the courtyard
sitting all alone, lost in thought
the wind blows to the south
making my heart feel even colder
I feel like an orphan
how is it possible that I have
no relatives
in this place away from home, it causes such sorrow
oh God, give me strength

The origin and purpose of life is clear
Sun, Moon, and Stars
Tri Murti is their name
the three lights have come together
at last becoming a spiritual power
earth and fire
wind and water
become human flesh and blood
the flesh and spirit have become one
manifesting the notion of life


continues with
Ayak-Ayakan Tlutur


Ujung jari balung ron dhoning kalapa
winengkuwa sayekti dadya usada.
Trahing Nata garwa risang Dananjaya
den prayitna sabarang haywa sembrana.

The nail at the end of the finger, the rib of a palm leaf
control it well so that it can become medicine
the descendants of the king, the wife of Sang Dananjaya
all must be remembered, never forgotten


A Western composer’s view of gamelan
by Nicola Campogrande

I heard about gamelan music long before actually hearing it. That’s because I studied in a Conservatory, and there the gamelan is mentioned in the textbooks, where one is told that the music of Debussy was influenced by of a gamelan orchestra which the composer had listened to at the Paris World Exposition in 1889 (and possibly also of another gamelan which the Dutch government had brought to the Conservatoire two years earlier). Thus, for me, and for the friends which I was going to concerts with, the gamelan was the totem of a different way to think of music, an alternative modality to organize sounds – no longer according to our seven-note scales but using five-note groupings. The totem of a different technique for managing the tempo of music, which no longer would run toward a target, as in a Beethoven’s symphony or a Mozart’s sonata, but would present itself suspended, or frozen, or elusive, as in much of Debussy’s music.

Then globalization arrived, ‘world music’ became popular, internet was invented, and now the gamelan (but also the music of the Bibayak pigmies, or the throat-singing of the Asian steppes, or…) are accessible and have become part of our world of sounds. For the gamelan, in particular, a special enthusiasm has grown in Europe and the United States, where people attend courses and workshops to learn to play in a gamelan orchestra, thus enjoying the music from within. Many American universities have a gamelan and gamelan courses.

Meantime, concert programmes the world over have definitely included a specific type of contemporary music that is a debtor to Asian traditions. Today, some of the composers that are influenced by that different way of conceiving the tempo and the harmonic relationships are big stars – am thinking of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams, Terry Riley, all champions of minimalism. Their music is not directly related to gamelan, does not specifically refer to the complex rhythms and to the ‘harmonies’ of Java and Bali, but it inhabits a territory – suggestive, hypnotic, and exotic – that today exerts so much attraction.

Continuing the tradition initiated by Debussy, other composers have chosen to use the suggestions provided by Indonesian music. Among the most interesting compositions of these last years I should like to mention the symphony ‘Nusantara’ by David Del Puerto and ‘It’s Snowing in Bali!’ by Polo Vallejo. These are not minimalist compositions, but they show that within the tradition of the Western classic repertoire the gamelan has made some interesting inroads.

If we focus the attention to the aspect of rhythm and tempo of gamelan – which is at the same time vibrant and immobile – we find one particular sound world where the Indonesian music has entered almost imperiously, that is the ‘techno music’. Here we are not dealing with human musicians, nor concert halls, and often not even with intoned sounds. This music, produced electronically by a dj using his array of percussive mechanisms, probably follows (even unconsciously) a Javanese beacon. I find that the most refined of electronic music, beyond its character at times obsessively pounding, provides a representation of a gamelan that is both profane and austere. A gamelan where we miss the fascination of the tuned percussions or of the stringed rebab (which we particularly appreciate in this CD in ‘Laler Menggeng’), but where we may explore, often with obstinacy, the possibility to give ourselves up to musics that are timeless, with no beginning and no end.

And after all, even without our knowing the techniques, the forms, the structures, gamelan music continues to seduce us especially for its capacity to push the clock in a corner, to make us pulsate with an alternative rhythm, to offer us a representation of existence devoid of tensions, targets, thus relaxed, harmonious, enviable. If music is there to tell us stories which are otherwise non tellable, the music of gamelan is for our ears one of the smoothest and most suggestive.


Track 1 – Ayak-Ayakan Mijil LAYU LAYU  slendro manyura – 5:55
Track 2 – Ketawang Sinom LOGONDHANG  slendro sanga – 7:57
Track 3 – Ladrang WILUJENG Alus  slendro manyura – 10:13
Track 4 – Ketawang Gendhing TLUTUR, Ladrang PANJANGILANG,
Ketawang Dhandhangula TLUTUR, Ayak-Ayakan TLUTUR  slendro sanga – 21:32
Track 5 – Gendhing LALER MENGGENG  slendro sanga  (Montebello version) – 13:23


Musicians (Tracks 1-4)
Rebab:  Suraji
Kendhang:  Wakijo
Gender:  Sukamso
Gender Panerus:  Slamet Riyadi
Bonang Barung:  Suyadi
Bonang Panerus:  Sarno
Slenthem:  Sugimin
Demung:  Hadi Boediono
Saron:  Rusdiyantoro
Saron Panerus:  Singgih Sri Cundomanik
Gambang:  Darno
Suling:  Supardi
Siter:  Joko Purwanto
Kenong, Kethuk:  Sigit Setyawah
Gong:  Prasadiyanto
Sindhen :  Sri Suparsih, Rini Rahayu, Yayuk Sri Rahayu
Wiraswara (Gerong):  Darsono, Suyoto, Waluyo


Musicians (Track 5)
Rebab: Nugroho Suhardi
Gender: Ngatiman
Slenthem: Hartono Suhardi
Gong: Daniel Wolf

Tracks 1 to 4 recorded at ISI Surakarta on July 3, 2007
Track 5 recorded at Montebello, Italy, on September 26, 1999


Translations: Adi Deswijaya, Janet Purwanto, Rosella Balossino

Musical Design, Mastering, and Photos:  John Noise Manis