Gamelan Music - PBS Music Department!

January 21, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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Gamelan Music of Indonesia

Music Worldwide: Elizabeth Sharma: Cambridge University Press

History The Indonesian islands have had _________ links with China and India for two thousand years. There have been many _____________ and migrations which have all had an impact on the religion, language, politics and culture of Indonesia. In the 5th century the Hindu religion was brought to Bali and Java and both _______ and poor people had an active musical life at this time. In the 15th Century, there was a Muslim invasion and Islam spread through Java. Many Hindu princes ___________ to Bali and even today Bali is mainly Hindu whilst Java is mainly Muslim. From carvings and _____________ we can see that the Gamelan instruments were already in use during the 16th century. In Bali, the Hindu religion and __________________is a large part of the culture.







Gamelan music expresses the deepest beliefs and feelings of the Indonesian people. The Indonesian culture doesn’t let people openly show many emotions so they use music to express themselves. Gamelan music is played at celebrations and rituals such as births, deaths and religious festivals. It is also performed at court and state ceremonies. The gamelan is housed in a pavillion in the centre of the village. Traditionally boys and men were the musicians but now more and more women and girls play too. Performers learn to play all the instruments and learn by imitation and memory.

The Gamelan The gamelan is regarded as one large instrument with many players performing on a variety of gongs, drums and metallophones. Gamelan music is heterophonic – this means that different versions of the tune are played on top of one another.

There are two main scales: Slendro (5 notes) Pelog (7 notes) Gamelan performances are an important part of community life. Often performances accompany puppet plays, poetry, dance, drama, traditional rituals and ceremonies. Gamelan students learn to play by ear, although a notation system does exist

Gamelan music and shadow puppet play: Gamelan music :

Which instruments do what? The instruments can be divided into four groups: Group


Instrument names

Balungen Instruments

Play the main tune

These are metallophones played with a wooden mallet. Saron family, slentem, gender

Interpunctuating Instruments

Divide the main tune into phrases

The gong family. Biggest gongs: gong ageng (68kgs) Horizontal gongs: kenong Small, high pitched: kempyang

Panerusan Instruments

Decorate the main melody

The gender family: thin bronze keys over bamboo resonators. Bonang family = gong chimes. Rabab = 2 string instrument with bow. Sulung = flute

Rhythm Instruments

Cue in orchestra and accentuate movements

Kendang and ketipung – cone shaped drums which are played with both hands. Play sounds indicated by words like the tabla players in Indian music (bols)



No two Gamelans have exactly the same tuning – so Gamelan instruments from one village would not be compatible with instruments in the next village.

RESPECT FOR THE GAMELAN Gamelan instruments are treated with great respect as it is believed that they have spiritual powers. Indonesian people never step over the gamelan as they believe it would break the link between the instrument and Heaven. Naming giving ceremonies take place when a new gamelan is made People often take presents to the village Gamelan such as incense and flowers.

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The music of the gamelan is based on one of two different tuning systems or scales, slendro and pelog. Certain instruments, such as the bonang and gender, have two sets of instruments; one is tuned in slendro and the other in pelog. This pair of instruments is often positioned at right angles to each other so that musicians can switch from one to another during a performance. Compositions do not mix the two tuning systems.

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