Alyssa Tethal - The Spirit of Great Oak

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WORLD MUSIC COMPARISON:
JAVANESE GAMELAN
AND
JOHN CAGE
By Alyssa Tethal
Java Demographics
Java is an island of Indonesia and the site of its
capital city, Jakarta.


Area 53,588.7 sq mi
The 13th largest island in the world and the fifth
largest island in Indonesia.

The Javanese are 70% of the island's population,
while the Sundanese and Madurese account for 20%
and 10% respectively.


Population 237,512,355 (July 2008 est.)

Most populous island in the world .

One of the most densely populated regions
on Earth.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslimmajority nation, with 86.1%. Other religions include
Christian (8.7%), Hindu (3%) and Buddhist (1.8%) or
other. (2000)
The Gamelan
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
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ABOVE: Notation of balungan
ladrang
Comes from the Javanese word "gamels", meaning to
strike or hammer.
Performed as a group effort, and so there is no place
for an individual showoff.
Traditionally, only played at certain ritual ceremonies,
special community celebrations, shadow puppet shows,
or for the royal family.
Traditionally recorded by oral tradition; however, in
19th century developed distinct notations for
transcribing the repertoire.
Java Gamelan Instrumentation
•Based on metallic percussion with some wooden xylophones
and drums
•In Java, the full gamelan also adds rebab, suling, and
voices.
•The rebab is a main melodic instrument with the
gender.
•Voices consist of male (and sometimes female)
choruses called gerong, together with female soloists
called pesindhen. However, voices not used as "lead"
instruments in court gamelan and instead
blend/complement the sound.
•Soloist has improvisatory role by using notes outside
of the mode of the piece. The words are largely
secondary to the music.
•Vocalists exercise interdetermincy where the
composer gives the performer the right to
interpret his music.
Gamelan Tuning

Two scales of Javanese gamelan music, slendro (pentatonic) and pélog (heptatonic-pentatonic).
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
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Sléndro: five intervals consist of short/medium steps. The difference between the two intervals is so
small they’re often inaccurately described as equal or nearly equal intervals.
Pélog: seven pitches per octave, sets of five pitch positions are used and combined. Consist of small/
medium/large steps.
A complete gamelan consists of a pair of sets, tuned to each scale and intended to be played
together generally.
There are distinct melodic modes, or pathet, within the division of scale,


Three for each of the scales.
Modes are defined according to which notes of the scale are emphasized.
Java Gamelan Rhythmic Structure
Musical forms are defined by the rhythmic cycles consisting
of: major cycles subdivided by smaller cycles, each
marked by the striking of successively smaller gongs. This
framework is "colotomic.”
Colotomy is the use of specific instruments to mark off
nested time intervals, or the process of dividing
rhythmic time into such nested cycles
Cycles controlled by the various gongs.
Gamelan Excerpt
•Instruments:
•Gamelans Kyai Slamêt (slendro),
•Kyai Pringgitan (pelog)
•String and wind sounds of the rebab &
suling which generally go along with
vocal performances, provide smaller
brass ensemble background.
•Develops “horizontally” with various
parts flowing parallel one to the other.
•Music choruses are in unison.
Chamber Music of
Central Java
Mijil Wigaringtyas
John Cage: Background
Years on this Earth:
•
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1912. Died in 1992.
•
Education: Enrolled at Pomona College. But dropped out in 1930
believing that "college was of no use to a writer"by an incident
described in the 1991 autobiographical statement
•
“I was shocked at college to see one hundred of my
classmates in the library all reading copies of the same
book. Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks
and read the first book written by an author whose name
began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class.
That convinced me that the institution was not being run
correctly. I left.”
Studies Abroad: Cage persuaded his parents that a trip to Europe
would He subsequently hitchhiked and evetually made it to Paris.
Cage stayed in Europe for 18 months, trying his hand at various
forms of art.
Death: Already in the course of the eighties, Cage's health
worsened progressively. On11 August 1992, while preparing
evening tea, Cage suffered another stroke. He was taken to the
nearest hospital, where he died on the morning of 12 August
John Cage Cont’d
•
Direct Eastern Influences (late 1940’s)
•
•
•
•
•
•
Gita Sarabhai, taught Cage about Indian
music and philosophy.
Attended D.T. Suzuki’s lectures on Zen
Budhism.
Studied writings by Indian art historian
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.
Adopted principles from:
•
I Ching, the Chinese “Book of Changes”
involved changing events.
Teachers included Henry Cowell and Arnold
Schoenberg who also composed radical
innovations influenced by Eastern music.
Lead to Ideas of:
•
•
Interdeterminacy: where the composer gives
the performer the right to interpret his music.
Chance-controlled music
The cycle comprises sixteen sonatas and four interludes, arranged
symmetrically. Four groups of four sonatas each are separated by
interludes in the following way:
Sonatas I–IV Interlude 1 Sonatas V–VIII
Interludes 2–3
Sonatas IX–XII Interlude 4 Sonatas XIII–XVI
•Unusual tones for Western music,
occasionally sound “out of tune.”
•Some sounds resonant, some dry, some
metallic, some wooden.
• Uses nontraditional harmonies.
Sonata V
Sonatas and Interludes
•
COMPARISON!
SIMILARITIES
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
Both use interdetermincy


Rhythmic structure is organized
colotomically.


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Similar tonal relationship.
There is no consistency in
performances:


Prepared piano will always vary due to
objects’ placement and make.
Gamelan tuning isn’t standardized giving
each ensemble a unique sound

DIFFERENCES
Different instrumentation and number
of instruments used
Different number of performers
required.
Javanese Gamelan music considered
classic to their region while John
Cage’s work is considered avantgarde.
Works Cited
Ricklefs, M.C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300 (2nd edition).
London: MacMillan
Taylor, Jea Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Vetter, Roger. “Flexibility in the Performance Practice of Central Javanese Music.” Ethnomusicology, XXV, 2 (May
1981): 199-214.
"The World FactBook." Central Intelligence Agency. 27 Nov 2009. United States of America Central Intelligence
Agency, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html>.
Pritchett, James. 1993. The Music of John Cage. Cambridge University Press.
"Indonesia." SEAsite Indonesia. Northern Illinois University, Web. 10 Dec 2009.
<http://www.seasite.niu.edu/indonesian/budaya_bangsa/Gamelan/Javanese_Gamelan/javanese_page/FSjavanese
_page.htm>.
"Javanese Gamelan Ensemble." The Detritus Review. Web. 15 Dec 2009.
<http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3K88Os_ixFc/Sd47xuThrnI/AAAAAAAAArk/C39tmoqP2zM/s400/gamelan_gong_gede.jp
g>.
"John Cage." Vinyl Reviny. Web. 15 Dec 2009. <http://www.vinylrevinyl.com/.../2008/10/john-cage.jpg>.
"John Cage Preparing Piano." Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://strawdogs.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/johncage.jpg>.
"Java." Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 13 Dec 2009. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., Web. 10 Dec 2009.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java>.
Lindsay, Jennifer. Javanese Gamelan. 2nd.ed. Kualalumpur: Oxford University Press,
1992.
If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still
boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually
one discovers that it is not boring at all.
–John Cage
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