When many of us think of multi-cultural musical experiences, the first thing that comes to mind is strange older ladies with guitars and Spanish outfits who sing and play Americanized songs with thick foreign accents. Monday night’s Gamelan concert will be a little bit different.
This concert will be one of five Kilbourn World Music series concerts that have been presented by various performing groups throughout the school year. Gamelan Lila Muni, a popular Balinese music ensemble comprised of Eastman and River Campus students, will perform in Kilbourn Hall tomorrow at 8 p.m.
This upcoming concert promises to be a taste of authentic Balinese culture. Gamelan ensembles are often mistakenly compared to American orchestras, because they are the most prevalent Balinese performing groups. However, the ensembles differ from orchestras in their functions and performing capacities.
Any member of the village can play in the gamelan groups, and ensemble spirit and commitment to the groups are valued more highly than musicality or expert technique. There are competitions in which gamelan ensembles of neighboring villages compete with one another for prizes in areas such as team spirit and group unity. The music is built on the eastern idea of “Laya” ? a belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
When every member of the ensemble is performing cohesively with the rest of the group, the music takes on a greater value and transcends everyday experience. Eastman’s Gamelan Lila Muni is one of only a small number of ensembles of its kind within the United States.
Professor of Musicology Ellen Koskoff procured the instruments to be used Monday from another university which originally received them from Bali ? various pitched percussive instruments, gongs and non-pitched percussive instruments. The gong is the central instrument of the ensemble and serves to hold all the other instruments together by keeping the beat.
The number of people in the ensemble can range from at least five to upwards of twenty people. The volume of sound created by such a group exceeds the expectations of most western ears. Because of the volume, gamelan ensembles in Bali often perform outdoors.
The music of tomorrow’s program embraces both eastern and western ideas. The concert will consist of both traditional and more modern Balinese pieces.
Also on the program are works written by composer Robert Morris and senior composition major Daniel Iannantuono.
Many of the pieces written for gamelan ensembles are through-composed. This means that there are no parts of the piece that occur more than once, unlike many American songs, which often contain repeating verses separated by the same chorus. The through-composed form keeps the audience members on their toes and creates an ever-changing aesthetic.
Adding to the authenticity of this musical aesthetic are dancers who will be performing in the authentic Balinese dance style with colorful costumes and ornate jewelry. The entire performance will be an exciting way of witnessing the culture of a perhaps unfamiliar place for an evening.
The performance is yet another example of how the arts can bring the sounds and sights of another culture right into our own backyards.
Kohrs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.