Last week I posted an article on gamelan, not realizing that I would have the chance to view a live performance of a Balinese gamelan less than one week later. To learn a bit of background information on gamelan, you can read the article here.
Gamelan Galak Tika, led by composer Evan Ziporyn, is a Balinese gamelan comprised of about 30 players drawn from the MIT community (including students and staff.) “Galak Tika” is Bahasa Kawi for “intense togetherness.”
The concert opened up with “Panyembrama,” which involved two dancers whose dance routines are based on the Gabor temple dance, which virtually all Balinese women perform at some point in their lives. It was followed by the world premier of “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” by Andrew Alden. This piece featured not only the gamelan instruments, but also some Western instruments such as a bass, keyboard, EWI, and other electronics. The last piece before the intermission was “Kelakat Anyar” by Dewa Ketut Alit.
One minor, and perhaps somewhat odd, complaint that I have about the concert is that the intermission was too long. The concert started promptly at 8:00PM, and I think the first three songs of the program were over before 8:40PM. They waited until 9:00PM to start the second portion. Twenty minutes isn’t absurdly long for an intermission, but it ended up being a significant fraction of the total concert’s time. There was nothing extra to do during that time (e.g. no albums or t-shirts on sale), and it didn’t appear that the performers needed the extra time for anything.
Luckily, the second half of the concert was worth the wait. It started off with “Taruna Jaya” (“Victorious Youth”) which was perhaps the most traditional piece in the program. It is standard piece in a Balinese gamelan’s repertoire; each gamelan has a signature way of playing it. This piece featured Shoko Yamamuro, a professor/performer of Balinese dance. She wore a brilliant gold and purple costume and transitioned effortlessly between both the hard and fluid movements required in Balinese dance.
The last piece was “Tire Fire,” written by Ziporyn, the leader of the group. This piece also blended the traditional gamelan instruments with Western instruments.
I find a Balinese gamelan difficult to listen to simply because there is always so much going on. I would pick out a certain element of the music and become so entranced by that instrument that I would forget to watch the dancer. It was difficult to take it all in as a whole. Seeing a Balinese gamelan perform live was a mind boggling experience, and I would recommend it to all.