University of Pittsburgh

University Gamelan

Andrew Weintraub, Director

You may need: Adobe Flash Player.

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 events.

Each gamelan has a unique tuning and character—instruments in one set are tuned to each other and are not interchangeable with instruments from other sets. Gamelan sets are often named to reflect their individual character. The University of Pittsburgh gamelan, which arrived in October 1995, is named appropriately "Kyai Tirta Rukmi," or "Venerable Rivers of Gold." The gamelan is actually composed of two sets of instruments, and each set is tuned to a different intervallic structure (laras). One set is tuned to laras salendro (a five-tone tuning system made up of approximately equidistant intervals), and the other set is tuned to laras pelog (a seven-tone tuning system with large and small intervals).

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.

Rampak refers to a group performance and kendang is a set of three drums made up of one large drum and two small drums. Each set is played by one person and there are three sets played in this recording. Conventional rhythmic patterns played on the kendang are arranged and coordinated to create a feeling of excitement. The piece played on the gamelan is a new composition (karangan anyar) based on the tonal structure of a traditional piece ("Gendu").

You can also view recent video from the Spring 2009 Gamelan concert 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.

Join Our Mailing List!

Copyright 2009 | Site by UMC Web Team