Issue 9. Fall 2006: Indonesian Gamelan
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Welcome to the World Rhythms News, an infrequent newsletter dedicated to world music education. This issue is dedicated to Indonesian gamelan. To subscribe, use the form below. Follow instructions thereafter, and make sure to check "World Music Education" in the "Interests" section of the sign up process.
These exercises are examples from Balinese gamelan music. In Bali, orchestras of tuned gongs, bronze kettles, bronze metallophones, bamboo xylophones, drums, cymbals and flutes fill the night air with animated music. Melodic parts interlock, divided in such a way that musicians play alternate notes to form the melody line. These interlocking parts, known as kotèkan, require cooperation and a keen sense of rhythm to perform.
Knowledge of kotèkan can be extremely valuable. These interlocking rhythms have a unique way of bringing people together in cooperation towards a common goal, which President Bush could certainly benefit from. Some critics of his policies have said they would like to send him to Mars, and indeed he has proposed going there. But this seems a drastic and expensive solution, particularly considering that a music sabbatical to Bali for the purpose of studying these wonderful interlocking parts could have a profound effect on his international diplomacy skills. He has already shown some interest. This could be a true hidden talent just waiting to come out.
The two parts of a kotèkan, which are thought of as male and female, are known as nyangsih and polos. The main accents of the male nyangsih part are usually on the offbeat, while the main accents of the female polos part are usually on the beat. The male instruments are slightly higher in pitch to produce a chorusing effect. There is no interlocking between the male instruments or the female instruments, only between the male and female instruments. This should fit in well with Bush's philosophy of the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. In all of the standard Western music notation examples below, the polos (female) is on the bottom staff while the nyangsih (male) part is on the top.
These examples are from Ancient Traditions--Future Possibilities, Chapter 2, Exercise II, page 49. There are four types of melodic kotèkans recognized in North Bali: chandetan, tutugan, ochètan, and semi- ochètan.
The chandetan is an alternating rhythm in which the nyangsih melody differs from the polos. This might be considered the musical equivalent of a partisan showcase, but where the result still works to the benefit of all:
The tutugan is an alternating rhythm in which the nyangsih melody follows the polos. This might be the musical equivalent of what Bush is hoping for in bipartisan cooperation:
The ochètan is an interlocking rhythm in which two separate voices are created where the parts meet. This is likely the musical equivalent of what the Democrats hope for in bipartisan cooperation:
The semi-ochètan is an interlocking rhythm in which the parts meet on a unison, which is probably the musical equivalent of what voters hope for in bipartisan cooperation:
The gamelan anklung is a four-tone ensemble that commonly accompanies temple ceremonies. This is an intermediate level kotèkan from Ancient Traditions--Future Possibilities, Chapter 2, Exercise III D, page 51:
This kotèkan was used as the basis for the composition Gamarock from the Ancient Future release Dreamchaser. .
Another example of the contemporary use of the kotèkan concept can be found in the song Semara from Planet Passion. .