frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

Venerable Puddle of Gold

We trotted out the gamelan for a performance last night. The University was having an arts festival, and the School of Music's contribution was a concert called Sounds Phenomenal! featuring a woodwind quintet, opera singers, and the gamelan. Each group was supposed to do a 20-minute set. For the gamelan, that's incredibly short -- an average gamelan concert piece can run between eight and fifteen minutes -- so we decided it wasn't worth it to schlep the whole two-mode gamelan out onto the stage. We did three pieces, all in the slendro mode, so we only had to carry half the gamelan down the hall.

Each gamelan is an entirely unique ensemble, from the tuning to the decoration, and most of them have individual names. The University gamelan is called by a Javanese name that translates as Venerable Lake of Gold. But, since we were only using half the gamelan (not even, since we didn't even bother with some of the fancier instruments), two of the other players and I decided to shorten its name. The version we liked best was Venerable Puddle of Gold.

We didn't get a chance to do a sound check before the performance, and we were slightly on edge from that, so Venerable Puddle of Gold had a few mildly ragged moments. But generally, we did just fine, even if we were playing faster than usual and the pesindhen (female solo singer) couldn't hear the rest of the group. The audience seemed to enjoy it, too. The classical music people can hear the gamelan when we have class, but they can't see it (we keep the door closed so as not to bother them too much), so I think they enjoyed seeing exactly what it was that makes the strange bing-bong sounds every Monday and Wednesday afternoon.

And, immediately after the concert, I had a brilliantly typical conversation with the I.N.P.O.D., who plays bonang with a vengeance. I mean immediately -- she didn't even wait until we had gotten off the stage:

I.N.P.O.D.: Pony, on our last bubaran, you were playing some strange notes there on the kempul.

Pony: Huh? What do you mean? I only had two notes.

I.N.P.O.D.: They were the wrong ones.

Pony: What, did we hang the gongs wrong? We checked. Number Five and Number Six kempul.

I.N.P.O.D.: No, they were hung correctly. But pitch five should have been pitch one.

Pony: What do you mean?

I.N.P.O.D.: There aren't any pitch fives in the gong in that whole piece. All your fives should have been ones. That's why it sounded funny.

Pony: (as the light begins to dawn) I've been playing pitches five and six all along. That's how the gamelan director decided he wanted the kempul part to go. I have been playing pitches five and six for an entire month now, ever since we learned this piece.

I.N.P.O.D.: Really? And the director told you to do this?

Pony: Yes. And, in the month we've been playing it, he hasn't had a problem with it.

I.N.P.O.D.: . . . oh.

Sometimes I think that the I.N.P.O.D. is a little frustrated that she isn't the director of the gamelan. But whatever. We sounded great, and I saw at least two of my friends in the audience, so that was cool.
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