190 :: 11 September – A MUSIC IN BALI (part 1)

190 :: 11 September – A MUSIC IN BALI (part 1)


This week, the first of three programs in preparation for Evan Ziporyn’s A HOUSE IN BALI at UC Berkeley Cal Performances (September 26/27):

Gamelan Mitra Kusuma: Pendet    (excerpt) – on Archive.org

Colin McPhee: Tabuh-Tabuhan
Howard Hanson, cond; Eastman-Rochester Orchestra; Mercury 434310 (1956/1992)

Evan Ziporyn: Ngaben (for Sari Club)
Gamelan Galak TIka; New Albion NA128 (2005)

Jeff Morris: Rain (1987) for Javanese Gamelan
Gamelan Pacifica; What Next/Nonsequitur WN0016 (1994) – iTunes

Evan Ziporyn:  Pondok (section I)
Sarah Cahill, piano;  New Albion NA128 (2005)

McPhee describes his first encounter with music in Bali:

As I listened from the house, the music was simply a delicious confusion, a stragely sensuous and quite unfathomable art, mysteriously aerial, aeolian, filled with joy and radiance. Each night as the music started up I experienced the same sensation of freedom and indescribable freshness. There was none of the perfume and sultriness of so much music in the East, for there is nothing purer than the bright, clean sound of metal, cool and ringing and dissolving in the air. Nor was it personal and romantic, in the manner of our own effusive music, but rather, sound broken up into beautiful patterns.

It was, however, more than this, as I was to find out. Already I began to have a feeling of form and elaborate architecture. Gradually, the music revealed itself as being composed, as it were, of different strata of sound. Over a slow and chantlike bass that hummed with curious penetration the melody moved in the middle register, fluid, free, appearing and vanishing in the incessant, shimmering arabesques that rang high in the treble as though beaten out on a thousand little anvils. Gongs of different sizes punctuated this stream of sound, divided and subdivided it into sections and inner sections, giving it metre and meaning. Through all this came the rapid and ever-changing beat of the drums, throbbing softly, or suddenly ringing out with sharp accents. They beat in perpetual cross-rhythm, negating the regular flow of the music, disturbing the balance, adding a tension and excitement which came to rest only with the cadence that marked the end of a section in the music.

Tiny cymbals pointed up the rhythm of the drums, emphasized it with their delicate clash, while the smallest of bells trembled as they were shaken, adding a final glitter, contributing shrill overtones that were practically inaudible.

–from A HOUSE IN BALI, Colin McPhee (1947)

Tags: program