The master Javanese gamelan musician Heri Purwanto from Indonesia performs with his students in this evening of music from central Java, Indonesia.
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Ethnomusicology Visiting Artist Concert: Heri Purwanto and UW StudentsJavanese Gamelan Music and Dance
May 27, 2022 7:30 p.m. Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater
The University of Washington School of Music is pleased to showcase music from the island of Java in the country of Indonesia. Java is rich with performance traditions in an array of regional styles. This evening features gamelan music associated with central and east Java.
Gamelan are ensembles largely composed of gongs and keyed percussion instruments. Although many such ensembles are found throughout Southeast Asia, gamelan are primarily associated with musical cultures on the Indonesian islands of Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok. In Java, the most preferred material is bronze, but iron and brass are also used as less expensive alternatives.
Although different gamelan may vary slightly in their tunings, most gamelan music in central and east Java uses a five-tone tuning system called sléndro or a seven-tone tuning system called pélog. There are a number of modes, or pathet, in each tuning system. The tuning system (laras) and mode (pathet) are specified in the titles of compositions below. Tonight’s performance features compositions in pélog using about half of the instruments of the UW School of Music’s bronze gamelan, which is named Hapsari Kusumajaya (Heavenly Nymph Flower Power).
Most Javanese gamelan include four groups of instruments. The large gongs of various sizes mark the musical structure of repeated gong cycles. The largest hanging gongs (gong) mark the very end of each cycle while the smaller hanging gongs (kempul) and horizontal gongs (kenong, kethuk, and kempyang) divide the cycle into phrases. A family of one-octave metallophones (saron, demung, and slenthem) plays a skeletal version of the melody. A third group of instruments elaborates the melody and includes other metallophones (peking, gendèr, and gendèr panerus), the xylophone (gambang), gong-chimes (bonang and bonang panerus), flute (suling), bowed fiddle (rebab), and voice, although sometimes the saron, demung and slenthemelaborate the melody as well. Guiding the melodic elaboration is a conceptual melody that musicians know but that is not sounded by any one instrument. This melody, sometimes called the inner melody, is sounded when all of the instruments play together, and yet is not audible as a single line played on any one instrument. The drums (kendhang), the fourth group, control the tempo.
- Ladrang Wilujeng, laras pélog pathet lima, a composition of 32 beats per gong cycle
This central Javanese composition is often performed as a welcoming piece, with the intention of being a prayer so that the performance runs smoothly, in accordance with the meaning of wilujeng (selamat, or safe). Tonight we present Ladrang Wilujeng performed with a bedhayan vocal part, that is, a vocal part sung in unison (gérong) with a special melody that gives an impression of greatness.
- Dance: Tari Beskalan Lanang Malangan
Tari Beskalan Lanang Malangan is the name of a male-style dance from Malang in east Java, where it is often used as an opening dance. According to one version, the dance portrays a man named Djaka Umbaran, who has been separated from his true love. A strong, agile fighter and also a friendly, outgoing young man, he searches high and low through the forests for her, manipulating a bow, shooting an arrow, and adjusting his outfit as he goes. BeskalanLanang features complicated rhythms in its movements and drum patterns, which are closely related and accented by the dancer’s ankle bells.
- Gendhing Bonang Dhenggung Turularé, laras pélog pathet lima, a composition of 64 beats per gong cycle
Gendhing bonang, a type of composition that features the bonang gong chimes, one-octave metallophones, gongs, and drums—instruments referred to as the “loud” instruments of the ensemble—are often played at the beginning of gamelan performances. Voice and the “soft” elaborating instruments such as the xylophone, multi-octave metallophones, fiddle and flute are not used.
- Suite to accompany wayang kulit (shadow puppet theater) excerpt video projection
Video Producer: Heri Purwanto. Videographer: Devon Berkeley Purwanto. Dalang (puppeteer): Ki Bagus Cahyo Kesawa.
Many stories that are told in Javanese shadow puppet theater are derived from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, as is tonight’s excerpt. In this excerpt, Raden Brajadhenta is tasked with delivering an invitation letter to King Pandu Dewanata, the ruler of Hastinapura. With pleasure and enthusiasm Raden Brajadhenta departs for Hastinapura. Along the way, however, he encounters the malicious Sengkuni. Sengkuni asks Brajadhenta for the letter to take it to King Pandu himself. After Senkuni obtains the letter, he changes the contents to a challenge to war so that King Pandu is angered, and battle ensues between the soldiers of Hastina and Brajadhenta.
- Dance: Tari Topèng Gunung Sari
This masked dance (tari topèng) from the regency of Malang in east Java portrays Gunung Sari, a dashing and energetic character. A knight and hero from medieval times who appears in the indigenous east Javanese Panji story cycle, Gunung Sari is much loved in Malang for the elegance of his movements, which are controlled, agile, and sometimes womanly. Indeed, balancing the masculinity and femininity of the movements is a challenge of this dance. Gunung Sari is portrayed in the forest, where he often goes to meditate or practice his fighting skills. He is quite proud of his appearance and dress: As he walks about he adjusts his outfit, looks at himself in a mirror, and waves to women (or imagined women). To increase his own agility and beauty, he imitates the movements of various animals, including deer and birds.
~ Heri Purwanto and Christina Sunardi
UW gamelan musicians (students of Heri Purwanto):
Julia Aguilar Jerez, Lucy Axtelle, Joel Bergstrom, Kimani Bishop, Aaron Butler, Billie Chance, Emily Chua, Jayme Courtney, Maximilian Czerwinski, Juan Hillon, Karissa Longo, Kieran Matz, Mayah Mbayo, Maria Price, Emily Silks, Max Williams
Heri Purwanto, a highly respected teacher, performer, and master musician of Javanese gamelan, comes from a family of musicians in Wonogiri, Central Java. After graduating from the college level academy (now Institut Seni Indonesia) in Surakarta, Central Java, at the top of his class in 2000, he taught gamelan at the University of California-Berkeley from 2001 to 2004 and directed the Berkeley-based ensemble Gamelan Sari Raras. Since returning to Java in 2004, Heri has continued his work as an artist, building and running an arts studio in his community as well as performing as a musician throughout Indonesia, as well as in Singapore, Thailand, China, and across the United States. He has been a Visiting Artist in the Ethnomusicology Program at the University of Washington in 2011, 2014, and 2019 and has performed with the Seattle-based ensemble Gamelan Pacifica. From 2014 to 2016 he taught gamelan at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where he was in residence on a Fulbright award during the 2014-2015 year.
Christina Sunardi, this evening’s dancer, is an associate professor in the Ethnomusicology Program in the School of Music at the University of Washington and Chair of the Department of Dance. Her interests include performance, identity, spirituality and ethnography in Indonesia. Dr. Sunardi has been studying and performing Javanese arts since 1997 in Indonesia and the United States, earning her Ph.D. in music from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. She began her studies with master artists Ki Suhardi, Nugraha, V. Renaningsih, Djoko Waluyo, Heri Purwanto, Leny Tri Astuti, and Ki Midiyanto, focusing on central Javanese music and dance. Since 2005, she has pursued east Javanese performing arts, studying with Budi Utomo, Djupri, Kusnadi, Muliono, M. Soleh Adi Pramono, Sumi’anah, and B. Supriono Hadi Prasetya in the regency of Malang.
The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.
This concert would not have been possible without the generous support of the University of Washington Southeast Asia Center under the directorship of Celia Lowe, the School of Music under the directorships of Joel Durand and the late JoAnn Taricani, and Christina Sunardi’s Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship in the School of Music at the University of Washington. Many thanks go as well to Tom Burke, Doug Niemela, the staff at the Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater, Joanne DePue, Martinson Piano Moving, Jenifer Moreland, Elena Johns, Shannon Dudley, Patricia Campbell, John Vallier, Michiko Sakai, Gary Louie, TJ Carbary and all of the performers for their help with this performance.
Christina Sunardi is an associate professor in the Ethnomusicology program in the School of Music at the University of Washington, where she has been teaching since 2008. Her interests include performance, identity, spirituality and ethnography in Indonesia. Her work focuses in particular on the articulation of gender through music, dance, and theater in the cultural region of east Java.
Her publications include articles in Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land en Volkenkunde, Asian Music, and Ethnomusicology, as well as reviews in the Journal of Folklore Research Reviews, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, and Indonesia. Dr. Sunardi has been studying and performing Javanese arts since 1997 in Indonesia and the United States, earning her Ph.D. in music from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. Her book about the negotiation of gender and tradition through dance and music in east Java was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2015. In addition to her academic work, she enjoys playing gamelan music with the Seattle-based ensemble Gamelan Pacifica and performing as an independent dancer.