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The Javanese Gamelan. Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia. Culture/Religion. Great diversity Major religions are Islam and Buddhism followed by Christianity Before 13 th century CE, Hinduism and Buddhism Trade, missionaries, ruling class. Indonesia. Archipelago of ~17,508 islands

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the javanese gamelan

The Javanese Gamelan

Southeast Asia

culture religion
  • Great diversity
  • Major religions are Islam and Buddhism followed by Christianity
  • Before 13th century CE, Hinduism and Buddhism
  • Trade, missionaries, ruling class
  • Archipelago of ~17,508 islands
  • Over 238 million people
  • Shares borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Malaysia
  • Important trade region since at least 7th century
indonesia continued
Indonesia continued…
  • Dutch colonialism
  • Turbulent history
  • Distinct ethnic, linguistic, religious groups
  • Javanese largest ethnic group
  • “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” “Unity in Diversity”
  • 100 million people
  • ~75 million ethnically Javanese
  • Most Muslim though a minority practice
  • Mostly a farming society
    • Wet rice agriculture
  • A musical ensemble from Indonesia featuring a variety of instruments
  • Refers to a set of instruments unified by their tuning and often by their decorative carving and painting
  • Gamels “to strike or hammer”
gamelan continued
Gamelan continued…
  • Predates Hindu-Buddhist culture that dominates earliest records of Indonesia
  • Developed into current form during Majapahit Empire (1200-1500)
  • Javanese mythology- Created by Sang Hyang Guru in Ska era 167 (c. AD 230)
gamelan tuning and modes
Gamelan Tuning and Modes

Laras (tuning system)

Slendro: a five-note (pentatonic) tuning

Pélog: a seven-note tuning

Pathet (Modes)*

Slendro Nem Pélog Nem

Slendro Sanga Pélog Lima

Slendro Manyura Pélog Barang

*Modes correspond to Wayang Kulit performance:

Nem from 9:00 PM to Midnight;

Sanga from Midnight to 3:00 AM;

Manyura from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM.

gamelan musical structure
Gamelan Musical Structure
  • Colotomic Structure: based upon a circular perception of time.
  • Reflects the persistence of Hindu-Buddhist conceptions of time introduced to Java during the first millennium C.E.
  • All instruments in the gamelan must play important structural or “auspicious” notes together. These “coincidences” carry important meaning in Javanese culture.
gamelan musical structure1
Gamelan Musical Structure
  • The sounding of the gong agung with the kenong marks the musical instance of the greatest weight or importance. It is at this point that the gendhing(piece) may begin or end.
  • Lesser points of coincidence also exist (listed in order of importance):

Kenong stroke

kethuk stroke

Kempul stroke

gamelan texture
Gamelan Texture

Three layers:

Structural: gong and kenong as well as kethuk/kempyang

Balungan: basic melodic content

Elaboration: realizes “inner melody”

punctuating instruments
Punctuating Instruments


Gong Agung & Siyem


punctuating and time keeping instruments
Punctuating and Time Keeping Instruments




(Played by

the conductor

of the gamelan


sarons balungan instruments
Sarons: Balungan Instruments

Saron Panarus or “Peking”

Saron Barung


elaborating instruments melodic leaders of the gamelan
Elaborating Instruments: Melodic Leaders of the Gamelan


Bonang Barung and Bonang Panarus

soft style elaborating instruments
“Soft-Style” Elaborating Instruments

Four Sulings (different tunings)

Gender (three tunings)