Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My music adventure from Java

We've been playing with the University of Wisconsin Javanese Gamelan for quite some time. Gamelan is the name of the entire orchestra of instruments, in this case for the court tradition of central Java.
This summer we played with a group of students attending intensive language classes at the SEASSI program. We had a mixed group: complete beginners and very experienced musicians—and just 7 weeks to put together a concert. I think our leader this summer, Steve Laronga, did an amazing job getting us ready. The concert was outside and featured 3 dance pieces. Since two of the pieces were danced to recorded music, it gave me a rare chance to really watch the dance, albeit from the back.
Gamelan has added so much to our lives: we've become friends with many Indonesians and benefited from having a circle of very musical friends, including many ethnomusicologists. Playing with the UW gamelan has been a great way to have young friends; recently we've been playing with students who weren't even born when we first started playing. A trip to Indonesia was made more interesting because we were able to visit many former teachers and attend lots of performances. And last but not least, Indonesian food is really delicious. Before every concert we have a special meal, called a selamatan, to insure that the concert goes well. It usually seems to help; it certainly did this weekend.
   Here's a one minute YouTube video of one of our pieces.

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