MAGHRIB

Maghriba is a piece for Sheng, Sarons (pelog and slendro), Bandurria double with Octavina and Strings. Before I started composing this piece, I performed a spectra analysis on the sarons. From that analysis I derived some frequencies that I use to build the piece. The composition itself consists of three sections. In the first section, the texture and density of this piece become more saturated through the use of complex rhythmic layers and some extended techniques that support the goal of saturation. In the second section, some frequencies from the spectra analysis and modifications of them are used to create beat frequency effects. The texture and “gesture” of this section become more flowing. The beat frequency effects are produced by microinterval combinations and extended technique that I developed with the musician during our observation studies (this is true especially for the extended technique on Octavina). After the second section, the music builds in tension and energy toward a climatic moment at the end of this piece. The increase in energy is created through the use of drastic changes in dynamics, texture, rhythmic complexity, etc.

Duration: c.a 05’.30”

Gamelan and New Music in Indonesia

    Gamelan has a strong standing in Indonesia’s contemporary music scene. Most musicians in the new music scene in Indonesia not only explore gamelan instruments themselves as sound sources but also explore and develop the musical language of gamelan. We can see how gamelan and its musical language were used and developed by Indonesian through the work of composers from Ki Tjokrowasito to Dion Nataraja's generation. How they use gamelan and its musical language for their artistic purpose ranges from taking it as an abstract inspiration for compositional techniques to the use of spectral development from gamelan instruments' timbre analysis.

    K.R.T Wasitodiningrat, known best as Ki Tjokrowasito, was a notable gamelan composer in his generation. There is something unusual that he did in his gamelan music, especially in his piece “Ronda Malam.” In this piece, he negated the traditional musical language of gamelan. He negated the role of bonang as the introduction instrument and exchanged it with gender penerus, which in traditional gamelan music normally develops the balungan, or main melody. In "Ronda Malam" however, he uses gender penerus to start the introduction and adds kentongan (a hollow wooden object) that is normally used as an “alarm” when something bad happens in society. 

    The substance of this kind of negation reminds me of Helmut Lachenmann who transformed pitch-based elements into noise materials in his early pieces. Ki Tjokrowasito developed the musical language/rules in gamelan. A gender penerus, an instrument that usually has to play the complex inner melody, plays the introduction part in his pieces.

    In the 1970s, Paul Gutama Soegijo did interesting work with his gamelan ensemble, Banjar Gruppe. This group did not only play traditional pieces, but also performed new music for Gamelan composed by Gutama himself. During his life, Gutama released two albums “Compositions 1967–1996 a choice” and “New Source Music.” Paul Gutama Soegijo had the idea to deconstruct the tradition by detaching it from its ethnographical context, calling it “Musik Leluhur Baru” (“New Source Music”).

We can read about Gutama’s concept in Dieter Mack’s book. Gutama says,

“I am practicing deconstruction. A further step in the innovative process is made when structural concepts are freed from their ethnographic context and taken as abstract, emerge as objects of compositional speculation. From an ethnographic point of view, Imbalan is the sign of a new section in a Gending, from instrumental and compositional point of view, Imbalan is a practical method of achieving fast figuration on heavy percussion instruments. To the gamelan instruments I later added percussion from other countries and culture (…) This is in short New Source Music.” [1]

This kind of “deconstruction” is also practiced by I Wayan Sadra in his music. There is a famous statement by him:

“Free the sound from its cultural burden.” 

    This statement was manifested in the ways he used gamelan instruments in his pieces. Two good examples are his pieces “Otot Kawat Balung Wesi” and “Daily.” In these, he  uses gongs in novel ways, not as instruments that have the responsibility to determine the structure of a gendhing, as is their traditional purpose. In those two pieces, Sadra puts gongs on the floor and has the player hit them and even drag them over the floor to produce unique sounds. In my opinion, this deconstruction created a new sound horizon for gamelan music.

    Another good example of how Indonesian composers developed gamelan and its musical language comes from Dion Nataraja. In his piece “Pathetan Partiels” Dion combines spectral music techniques and gamelan to explore the potential in advancing postcolonial goals in music. He argues that there is no space for exoticism in the acoustic space and that through spectral development from the timbre analysis of gamelan instruments' sounds he is metaphorically abstracting gamelan from its history by distilling it into its basic elements. The focus is shifted to the act of listening rather than exotic or nationalistic connotations that are usually attached to it. Sound is then liberated from its historical and semantic burdens.

    Dion and I have a similarity in terms of utilizing the tradition for several purposes and by doing spectra analysis in the beginning of our compositional process. In my cyberspace installation titled “[Orien] (spec) [t] (r) [al]”, I performed spectra analysis on saron to criticize Arnold Schoenberg statement that compares and imposes the “Western” music scale and perspective to music from the "other side of the world." His statement ended with the claim that music, for examples, from the Arabs, the Chinese and Japanese, or the Gypsies had not evolved to such heights as ours (i.e. Western music at his time). 

    Through spectra analysis of saron (one of the instruments in a gamelan set), I set all frequencies in this simple “game installation”  based on the spectra analysis result to evolve the saron (the music from another side of the world). Every time the avatar of Schoenberg’s head hit the saron, it triggered the spectra of the saron. The combination of the visuals, the interactive element, and the sounds boost a semantic meaning: a "counter argument" of sorts to Schoenberg's statement! Audience members can play this installation and can also change and modify the code in ways that will affect the piece. For example, one could change the code to counter my critique of Schoenberg statement. Go ahead if you want!

Figure 1_[Orien] (spec) [t] (r) [al].jpg

    In my new piece, “Maghrib” for Sheng, Bandurria double with Octavina, Sarons (Pelog and Slendro) and Strings, I also performed a spectra analysis to support my idea for this piece. However, in this piece, the spectra analysis result doesn't have any political statement, such as “liberating the sound from its connotations (exoticism, nationalism, and so on)” or critique tendency, as in my piece “[Orien] (spec) [t] (r) [al]”. In "Maghrib," I used spectra analysis on sarons to generate some frequencies that I could use to build the piece. For example, I created moments with beating frequencies in this piece using the spectra analysis and its modification (the spectra distorted through some calculation). I generated some micro interval to use in my piece to realize my idea. This is an example of how I deal with tradition (in this case, saron timbre and its spectra analysis). 

Figure 2_Sarons Spectra Analysis for -Ma

    The composition itself consists of three sections. In the first section, the texture and density of this piece become more saturated through the use of complex rhythmic layers and some extended techniques that support the goal of saturation. In the second section, some frequencies from the spectra analysis and modifications of them are used to create beat frequency effects. The texture and “gesture” of this section become more flowing. The beat frequency effects are produced by microinterval combinations and extended technique that I developed with the musician during our observation studies (this is true especially for the extended technique on Octavina). After the second section, the music builds in tension and energy toward a climatic moment at the end of this piece. The increase in energy is created through the use of drastic changes in dynamics, texture, rhythmic complexity, etc.

    

    The examples discussed above are just a few pieces that demonstrate gamelan development in new music in Indonesia. These examples are mostly from composers of Javanese gamelan background, and from this Javanese gamelan background, there are some other names that should also be mentioned, such as Rahayu Supanggah, Aloysius Suwardi, etc. However, we can also find other examples of the development of gamelan tradition in new music in other parts of Indonesia. For example, how Balinese gamelan develops in new works by I Wayan Gede Yudane, Dewa Ketut Alit, Nyoman Windha, I Madé Arnawa, Putu Septa, Yan Priya Kumara (Janu), Ni Nyoman Srayamurtikanti, Ni Komang Wulandari, etc. In West Java, there are several composers that derived new ideas from a Sundanese Karawitan background, such as Iwan Gunawan, Dody Satyaekagustdiman, etc.

Maghrib

Bandurria_Octavina

Contrabass

Saron part paling

Sheng

Viola

Violin

References

Septian Dwi Cahyo.jpg

Septian Dwi Cahyo

University of Music and Performing Arts Graz

 Indonesia