Chapter 7:
Music of Indonesia
Terms & Ideas to know
 Gamelan
 Tuning and scales (Pélog and Sléndro)
 Gendhing
 Loud and Soft Playing styles
 Differences between Bali and Java
Southeast Asia/South Pacific
 Australia (didjeridu)
 Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.
 Indonesia
General Information on
 Old cultural traditions, but much cultural diversity
due to migration
 Boundaries formed during centuries of European
colonial domination; many islands
 A national language adopted in early twentieth
century, but more than two hundred separate
languages exist.
 Pan-Indonesian popular culture is developing, but
regional diversity continues.
Heavy Population Centers
 Jakarta in Java is the Indonesian
capital, about nine million people (New
York City is 7,500,000); extreme wealth
and poverty
 Central Java is one of the most densely
populated regions in the world
Two Major Ethnic Groups
 Javanese is the largest ethnic group on
the island (about 2/3); common
language and cultural traits
 Sudanese, Language and arts are
distinct from the Javanese
General Qualities of the
 Mostly a farming society, Wet-rice agriculture
 Religious practices: most profess to be
Muslim, but only a small percentage follow
orthodox practice. More adhere to an IslamHinduism-Buddhism blend. Layer of belief in
benevolent and mischievous spirits and in
ancestor veneration
Kraton in Yogyakarta
 One of Java’s two major royal courts; official home of the
tenth sultan
 A complex of small buildings and open pavilions
 Earthly symbol of the ordered universe; oriented to the
cardinal directions
 Ruler lives at the very center; imbued with divine powers
 Kraton still regarded as a cultural center
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Gamelon of the Kraton in
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Is a
 Gamelan refers to set of instruments unified
by their tuning, and by decorative carvings
and paintings
 Primarily consists of several kinds of metal
slab instruments and tuned knobbed gongs
 Also normally have at least one drum and
may have other kinds of instruments; vary in
size; some ancient gamelans have small
number of instrument
 Those in central Java usually large with
wide range of instruments
Gamelan ‘Ensembles’
 Gamelan ensembles are kept in many
of these court pavilions
 Some old and used for rare ritual
 Some newer and used more frequently
 Most believed to contain special
 Are shown respect and given offerings
Court Gamelans Were Often
Quite Formal
Four Sample
Rebab (fiddle)
Saron and
Gender are slab
Bonang uses
knobbed gongs
Gamelan video from Bali
(JVCv9-1 “Sekar jupun”)
 Begins with knobbed gong players
alternating with players of xylophone-type
 The main body of the piece begins with
double-headed drum
 Large gong marks dividing point; the small
cymbals are almost constant
 Notice suling (flute) and rebab (fiddle)
Gamelans Serve Various
Purposes Now
 Used in all-night performances of shadow
 Classical Javanese dance rehearsed regularly
and performed for special palace functions
 More activities outside of the court in
contemporary society; sponsored by private
individuals, national radio station, public
schools and colleges
Some Universities in the U.S.
now have Gamelans
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QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
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Pythagorean vs. Equal Tempered Tuning
Problem: The Pythagorean Comma
There are several ways to explain the
Pythagorean comma. In a nutshell
you cannot tune a circle of Pythagorean 5ths and
end up where you started.
Start from C and tune perfect 5ths all the way
around to B#. You will find that C and B# are not
in tune.
A Pythagorean perfect 5th is 702 cents.
+702+702= 8424 cents
A half step is divided into 100 cents. There are 12
half steps to an octave. Therefore, an octave is
1200 cents.
1200+1200+1200+1200+1200+1200+1200= 8400
8424 - 8400 = 24 cents = Pythagorean Comma
Result: From the 17th century to the present, the
music of the Western Hemisphere has used
Equal Temperament, created by lowering the
perfect 5th from 702 cents to 700 cents.
See more information at:
Present-day gamelans tuned
to one of two scale systems
 Sléndro = Five-tone system made up of nearly
equidistant intervals; normally notated 1-2-3-5-6
(no 4)
 Pélog = Seven-tone system made up of large and
small intervals; normally notated 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
 Gamelans may consist entirely of one or the other
or may have a full set of instruments for each
system (double ensemble)
 The scale systems are incompatible and rarely
played simultaneously
Arrangement of Instruments
 No standard arrangement of the
instruments in the performance space
 Almost without exception, they are
placed at right angles to one another
 Reflects Javanese concern with the
cardinal directions
 Larger instruments generally in the
back, smaller in the front
Two major groupings of
 “Loud-playing” are associated with
festivals, processions, and other noisy
outdoor events; strictly instrumental; drums
and louder metal instruments used
 “Soft-playing” are intended for more
intimate gatherings, often indoors; involved
singing; instruments are played softly
Example of Javanese
 More formal and sedate than Bali
 CD: A Javanese Ghendhing (Gamelan
composition) in performance
CD 2/Track 3: “Bubaran Kembang Pacar”
An example of loud-playing style
Uses the pélog scale system, with large
and small intervals
Gamelan construction
 Bronze is the preferred metal
 Brass and iron are also used, especially in
rural areas; cheaper
 Bronze gamelan instruments are forged in a
long and difficult process; metal worker held
in high esteem; forging requires great skill
 Forging also imbued with mystical
Construction (cont.)
 Process is believed to make one especially
vulnerable to dangerous forces in the spirit world;
smiths make ritual preparation
 Largest gongs require a full month of labor; a
truckload of coal
 A month of meditation, prayer, fasting, and
preparation by the smith
 Careful handling; a false hit can crack the gong
and ruin the work
Each Gamelan is Generally a
Unique Set
 Would look and sound out of place in
another ensemble
 Attempting to copy the tuning and design of
palace instruments used to be forbidden
 Reserved for the ruler and his power
 Great care is taken to arrive at a pleasing
tuning; one that is seen to fit the particular
physical condition of the instruments; fits
the taste of the individual owner
Javanese music is closely interrelated
with other performing arts
 “Concerts” of gamelan music rare; more
often as social event
 Might be played to commemorate birth,
circumcision, wedding; or sponsored by
family as background music for social event;
guests socialize and talk freely
 Most often performed as accompaniment for
dance or theater
Gamelan and Drama
 The ensemble might accompany a drama based
on Javanese legendary history
 Often used in shadow puppet theater—wayang
kulit; Performances normally last until dawn
 Master puppeteer, dhalang, operates all the
puppets; story typically puppeteer’s own rendition
of a well-known story, or episode from the
Ramayana or Mahabharata
 Musicians do not play constantly, but must be
ready to respond to a signal from the puppeteer; a
good musician knows many hundreds of pieces
The shadow puppet show
(wayang kulit)
 JVCv10-2.
 CD 2:4 – “Playon Lesum” (slendro
pathet nam)
First one begins in soft style; become
loud; ends after repeating the first
gongan, when puppet uses signal
Second loud-playing style; the saron
plays some variation phrases; tailored
Bali: A Small Island Just East
of Java
 Spectacular beauty; most people involved in
some kind of artistic work (sadly, recent
 Blend of Hindu and Buddhist practices; not
as much Islam influence
Balinese Gamelan
 Music similar to Java, but not the
same; more variety of ensembles;
music more dynamic and exciting
 Instruments tuned slightly off to create
“shimmering” sound
“Kosalia Arini”
 CD example (2:5) older piece but
notice more asymmetical, less “stiff”
quality than Javanese
 By Wayan Beratha
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Indonesian Popular Music
 Many popular styles
 Example: Krakatau
 CD 2:6 Shufflendang-Shufflending
Terms & Ideas to know
 Gamelan
 Tuning and scales (Pélog and Sléndro)
 Gendhing
 Loud and Soft Playing styles
 Differences between Bali and Java
due Wednesday, 4/12
Online Quiz
1. What is a gendhing, and what are the roles of each
gamelan instrument in a Javanese gendhing?
2. What features of the Balinese gamelan gong kebyar
music (“Kosalia Arini”) compare & contrast with the
two Javanese gamelan examples?

Lecture 10: Music of India (cont.)