Gamelan Fusion: New and Traditional Music of West Java


April 9, 2016 - 8:00pm

Pitt’s University Gamelan will present “Gamelan Fusion: New and Traditional Music of West Java” on April 9th at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. Gamelan comprises mainly percussion instruments including tuned gongs, metal-keyed instruments, and drums (as well as bamboo flute and voice). This instrumentation has a unique capacity to saturate the air with resonances that reach from rumbling lows to shimmering highs. The concert will feature student performers and two artists-in-residence: composer Ismet Ruchimat and vocalist Masyuning. 

Ismet’s compositions evoke the rural past of mountainous West Java with the bustling energy of his home base in the modern city of Bandung. His music blends Sundanese music with other Indonesian musical styles from Java and Bali, as well as reggae, salsa, and Islamic chant, among others. For example, one of Ismet’s pieces blends the music of West Africa and West Java, while another evokes the popular pan-Indonesian genre called dangdut. The breathtaking vocal skills of leading female singer Masyuning will bring Ismet’s dynamic stylistic fusion into brilliant focus.

Each year the University Gamelan’s annual spring concert is the culmination of its Artist-in-Residence Program that offers Pitt students a rare opportunity to study music, dance, and theater with some of Indonesia’s finest artists. After preparing the program throughout the year with director Andrew Weintraub, students spend from 1 to 3 weeks leading up to the concert immersed in rehearsals, private lessons, and lecture demonstrations with outstanding teachers. Since its creation in 1998, the University Gamelan Artists-in-Residence Program has hosted 40 prominent musicians, dancers, and theatre artists at Pitt.

This year’s concert will feature the music of gamelan degung, a type of gamelan that was created for local Sundanese regents of West Java during the early 20th century. Regents promoted the performing arts for the entertainment of their families and other aristocrats of the Dutch colonial state. In its classic pre-independence form (pre-1945), gamelan degung is predominantly instrumental and features the melodic improvisations of the bamboo flute (suling). During the post-independence period, many Indonesian composers created songs for the ensemble and popularized the new genre of vocal music (degung kawih). In its modern form, gamelan degung also incorporates songs from the gamelan salendro ensemble, a more popular village-based genre of gamelan. New music composers are adept at combining instruments from other ensembles, including Western instruments.

Tickets are available through the University of Pittsburgh Stages Box Office, by calling 412-624-7529, or visiting Tickets in advance: general admission is $8.50; non-Pitt students and seniors are $5. At the door: general admission is $12; non-Pitt students and seniors are $8. Pitt students: free with valid ID. Purchase tickets.