Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble Participates in Indonesian Festival

Members of Wesleyan’s Gamelan Ensemble participated in the 2018 International Gamelan Festival in Solo, Java, Indonesia, Aug. 9–16. The annual festival is sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture and the Provincial Government of Solo and features various programs honoring gamelan—not only for music but also as historical and cultural artifacts.

During the conference, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, delivered a keynote address titled  “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.” He also led a discussion about his new book, written in Indonesian, titled Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection.

Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito of the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed classical Javanese gamelan pieces.

In addition, the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed three experimental compositions, including Paula Matthusen’s or say the day is jeweled and burning (2018), Alvin Lucier’s Music for Gamelan Instruments, Microphones, and Amplifiers (1994), and Ron Kuivila’s The Fifth Root of Two (2018). Matthusen is the chair and associate professor of music; Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, and Kuivila is professor of music and director of Wesleyan’s electronic music and recording studios. Matthusen and Kuivila also attended the Gamelan Festival.

Other members of the Wesleyan group who participated in the festival included Alec McLane, music librarian and director of the World Music Archives; Jennifer Hadley, library assistant for scores and recordings and World Music Archives; music graduate students Katrice Kemble; Gene Lai, Christine Yong, Feiyang Xu and Ender Terwilliger; alumni Maho Ishiguro MA’12, PhD ’18, Aloysius Suwardi MA ’97, Joseph Getter MA ’99, Leslie Rudden ’77, Carla Scheele ’78 and Peter Ludwig ’99; and community members Darsono, S. Pamardi, Urip Sri Maeny, Denni Harjito, Anne Stebinger, and Anton Kot.

Wesleyan has an emerging synergy with the performing arts of Indonesia, specifically the region of central Java. A Javanese gamelan study group has been in existence at Wesleyan since the late 1960s, and in 1984 a court gamelan from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was donated to Wesleyan.

On Nov. 9, court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta will perform in Crowell Concert Hall and feature the instruments of Wesleyan’s gamelan. In addition, Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, will visit and tour the Center for the Arts, and participate in a Music Department symposium on Islam and performance.

“The Sultan has been aware that the gamelan housed in the World Music Hall originates from his court,” said Wayne Forrest ’74, MA ’77. “He has made it one of his priorities to support the understanding of the culture of his region by sponsoring tours as well as gifting instruments.”

Photos of the International Gamelan Festival are below: (Photos courtesy of the International Gamelan Festival)

Sumarsam is one of the keynotes speakers. His keynote speech entitles “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Sumarsam discussed his new book titled, Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection. He also delivered a keynote talk titled “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Directed by Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito, Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed classical Javanese gamelan pieces.

Directed by Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito, the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed classical Javanese gamelan pieces.

Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed three experimental compositions: Paula Matthusen’s or say the day is jeweled and burning (2018), Alvin Lucier’s Music for Gamelan Instruments, Microphones, and Amplifiers (1994), and Ron Kuivila’s The Fifth Root of Two (2018).

During the closing ceremony on Aug. 16, Sumarsam, pictured at far left, received an International Gamelan Festival award for his dedication to disseminating gamelan literacy in Indonesia and the world. Second to left is Al Suwardi MA ’97, who received an award for his dedication as gamelan innovator, composer, and researcher.