University of Pittsburgh

University Gamelan

Andrew Weintraub, Director

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Audio Excerpt: The University Gamelan in concert.

The University of Pittsburgh Gamelan Ensemble plays the gamelan music of the Sundanese people, an ethnic group that inhabits roughly the western third of the island of Java. Gamelan refers to a set of predominantly percussion instruments including tuned gongs, metal-keyed instruments, and drums (as well as bowed lute and voice). Gamelan music is played as accompaniment to dance, drama, puppet theater, and martial arts, as well as for concerts of listening music. Gamelan is performed in conjunction with special occasions and to mark important life-cycle event.

 

The University of Pittsburgh owns two gamelan sets. Each set has its own name that signifies its unique character, tuning, and identity—instruments in one set are tuned to each other and are not interchangeable with instruments from other sets. The first gamelan, which arrived in October 1995, is named “Kyai Tirta Rukmi,” the “Venerable Rivers of Gold.” Its name signifies the rivers of Pittsburgh, and the black and gold colors on the instrument stands mark the colors of our beloved sports teams.  This gamelan is tuned to laras salendro, a five-tone tuning system made up of approximately equidistant intervals. The second set of instruments, which arrived in March, 2005, is named “Ligar Pasundan,” the “Fragrance of Pasundan.” This name suggests that the gamelan, like the fragrance of a flower, spreads its influence far from its place of origin in the Pasundan region of West Java. This gamelan is tuned to laras degung, a five-tone tuning system made up of large and small intervals. Other Sundanese instruments that we play include angklung, shaken bamboo rattles;  calung, bamboo idiophones struck with mallets;  terbang, a small frame drum; kacapi, a long board zither; and suling, an end-blown bamboo flute.

 

Pitt's gamelan group includes students as well as community members. Participants in the gamelan program are encouraged to use Sundanese processes of learning as much as possible; oral transmission of musical parts is preferred over written notation and working together as an ensemble is more important than developing individual talent. Students are also encouraged to learn and play more than one instrument and to learn the relationships among them. Therefore, in our concerts, the musicians move from one position to another in order to put into practice what they have learned.

 

Each year, the Department of Music sponsors a large-scale gamelan concert. The department invites guest artists from Indonesia to serve as artists-in-residence. During their residence in Pittsburgh, guest artists present lecture-demonstrations, public lectures, workshops, and performances that reach people from a variety of sectors in the University and the broader Pittsburgh community. These events are intended to increase the community's awareness of Indonesian performing arts and culture.

 

You can view concert posters, programs, photos, and video examples from all our annual concerts (1998-2014):

http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/gamelan/

You can also view some of our concert videos on YouTube.

For concert information and tickets, call 412-624-4125 or visit our Events Calendar.

Find out more about past gamelan performances and repertoire.

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