Ethnomusicologist Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, delivered a paper titled, “Javanese Gamelan in a Changing World,” during the annual meeting of the Asian Pacific Society for Ethnomusicology (APSE), hosted by Mahasarakham University, Thailand Jan. 6-9.
He also chaired plenary sessions at the annual meeting.
The main objectives of the APSE are to preserve and safeguard the ancient and traditional music and music of ethnic groups, which are invaluable cultural heritage of the world. The APSE has held a conference every year since 1994. Many ethnomusicologists, scholars, and musicians from all over the world, who are interested in Asian Pacific cultures, particularly, traditional music and ethnomusicology have joined and participated in these APSE events.
Sumarsam also participated in a recent festival and conference on Indonesian performing arts at the Smithsonian. Read about this conference here.
Ethnomusicologist Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, is the author of two new articles published in 2013.
“Past and Present Issues of Javanese-European Musical Hybridity,” was published in Recollecting Resonances: Indonesian-Dutch Musical Encounters by Leiden: Brill, pages 87-108.
Soon after the introduction of European music in Java in the 18th century, Java-European musical hybrids emerged. In his article Sumarsam asks the following questions: how do we explain the incorporation of European sounds into the indigenous gamelan ensemble? Is this incorporation a kind of Javanese-European intercultural sonic dialogue, a subversive act of European authority, or the domestication of an exotic sound? Sumarsam addresses these questions by examining the history and meaning of “marching gamelan pieces” in the court of Yogyakarta and other hybrid genres, the performance of which requires the inclusion of European brass bands and drums and other Western instruments.
“A Preliminary Report on Javanese Wayang and Islamic Dakwah,” was published in (Re)Producing Southeast Asian Performing Arts by Manila: Philippine Women’s University, pages 200-203.
In the preaching of Islam (dakwah), some preachers in Java incorporate wayang shadow puppet play to make their presentation more interesting and effective. In this regard, the Hindu story and characters are linked to Islam. To attract the audience further, the musical accompaniment for this play is a hybrid ensemble consisting of some indigenous gamelan instruments (traditional) and Western electric keyboard, guitars, and a drum sets (modern). The article addresses the dynamic hybridization of this wayang dakwah.
Ethnomusicologist Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, received a Henry Luce Fellowship grant worth $5,000 from the American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS) in January 2014 for his research on “Expressing and Contesting Java-Islam Encounters in the Performing Arts.”
Since 2001 due to global geo-politics, issues of religion and culture have been highlighted, especially within Muslim cultures that were repositioning in non-normative ways.
“This adjustment, the popular if historically flawed perception of Islam as ‘against performing arts’ has made for significant dialogue about performing arts,” Sumarsam said. “Inserted in a taking its cue from global dialogue between wahabi Islam and westernized global culture in a nation reasserting its own spiritual and national identity in the aftermath of the 1998 ouster of the repressive Suharto regime, this study will focus on the discourse around the performing arts in Java/Indonesia and Islam.”
Sumarsam will focus his research on the use of wayang puppet performances as a proselytizing tool (dakwah) that involves three component tiers of hybridity: Java, Islam, and Western. In this dakwah, the preacher incorporates wayang to reenact stories based on Hindu epics but frames them in the context of Java-Islam. Many of these performances are accompanied not by traditional gamelan music, but by a Western rock band, yet the band performs gamelan compositions, alongside the repertoire of Java-Western popular music.
Ethnomusicologist Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, participated in a festival and conference on Indonesian performing arts at the Smithsonian Institution Oct. 31-Nov. 3. Sumarsam and Andy McGraw Ph.D. ’06 helped organize the conference, “Performing Indonesia: Conference, Music, Dance, and Drama” with support from the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Sumarsam delivered the conference’s keynote address on “Traditional Performing Arts of Indonesia in a Globalizing World” on Nov. 2. He discussed Javanese musical and cultural interactions with the rest of the world, focusing on current trends in and the changing role of classical and contemporary gamelan music and other genres in Indonesia and around the globe.
In addition, six Wesleyan alumni delivered paper presentations or chaired sessions at the event.
During the opening ceremony of the festival on Oct. 31, Sumarsam and Andy McGraw Ph.D. ’06 received a “Certificate of Appreciation” for their role in strengthening the ties of friendship between Indonesia and the U.S. The event was attended by the Indonesian Ambassador, the Smithsonian museum director, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, the Director General of Indonesian, Cultural Attache of Indonesia, and many others.
On Nov. 3, Sumarsam, Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito and members of the Wesleyan Gamelan participated in a “jam session” with gamelan teachers at the California Institute of the Arts, University of Michigan, U.C. Berkeley and other American gamelan teachers/musicians.
Ethnomusicologist Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, and Andy McGraw Ph.D. ’06, now an associate professor at the University of Richmond, have been working with the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian Institution to organize and design a festival and conference on Indonesian performing arts. The festival will be held in the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art, Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
The Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble will participate in the festival and Sumarsam will deliver the keynote address on “Traditional Performing Arts of Indonesia in a Globalizing World” on Nov. 2. Sumarsam will discuss Javanese musical and cultural interactions with the rest of the world, focusing on current trends in and the changing role of classical and contemporary gamelan music and other genres in Indonesia and around the globe.
The event will offer family-friendly talks and events on painting shadow puppets, Indonesian music, Indonesian dance, a Javanese show play, gamelan marathons and more. See the full schedule online here.
New book by Sumarsam.
Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, is the author of Javanese Gamelan and the West, published by the University of Rochester Press on July 1.
In Javanese Gamelan, Sumarsam examines the meaning, forms and traditions of the Javanese performing arts as they developed and changed through their contact with Western culture. The book traces the adaptations in gamelan art as a result of Western colonialism in 19th century Java, showing how Western musical and dramatic practices were domesticated by Javanese performers creating hybrid Javanese-Western art forms, such as with the introduction of brass bands in gendhing mares court music and West Javanese tanjidor, and Western theatrical idioms in contemporary wayang puppet plays.
The book also examines the presentation of Javanese gamelan to the West, detailing performances in World’s Fairs and American academia and considering its influence on Western performing arts and musical and performance studies. The end result is a comprehensive treatment of the formation of modern Javanese gamelan and a fascinating look at how an art form dramatizes changes and developments in a culture.
As a gamelan musician and a keen amateur dhalang/ (puppeteer) of Javanese wayang puppet play, Sumarsam performs, conducts workshops, and lectures throughout the U.S., Australia, Europe and Asia.
Sumarsam and symposium organizer John Bell, director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, spoke on “Puppets and Texts: Global Perspectives.”
Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, discussed Indonesian puppetry during the Playwriting, Puppets and Dramaturgy Symposium March 9 at the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts Complex.
The symposium brought together playwrights, puppeteers, dramaturgs, students and puppetry enthusiasts to share ideas and experiences about the practice, theory, and history of puppetry’s uses of text in performance.
Experts discussed ways the visual dramaturgy of puppetry’s sculpture in motion works in tandem with dramatic and narrative texts.
Sumarsam and symposium organizer John Bell, director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, spoke on “Puppets and Texts: Global Perspectives.” This was Sumarsam’s third time speaking about puppetry at UConn. Wesleyan’s Theater Department has invited Bell and his colleagues to perform and speak at Wesleyan.
“We at Wesleyan Theater and Music Departments have a good connection with the puppetry program at UConn,” Sumarsam said.
View more photos of the event in this Facebook gallery.
Sumarsam also will take part in the “Indonesian Performing Arts and Public Life” event, April 25-27 at Wesleyan.
Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, was named one of the 50 “successful” Indonesians in the United States by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in 2012.
In collaboration with the Indonesian Consulate General in the U.S., the Embassy is publishing a book titled Secret of My Success: 50 Prominent Indonesian[s] Share Their Lessons on Life and Remarkable Career[s]. Sumarsam will contribute a 3,000 word essay for the publication. The goal of the book is to inspire Indonesian communities in the U.S.
At Wesleyan, Sumarsam teaches Indonesia music and theater, focusing on the performance, history and theory of gamelan and wayang. He studies Islam in Indonesian performing arts. Sumarsam is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for Asian Music, the International Council for Traditional Music and the Association for Asian Studies.
University Professor of Music Sumarsam is the author of a paper titled “Binary Division in Javanese Gamelan and Socio-Cosmological Order,” which was published in the Proceedings 1st Symposium Singapore: ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia. The abstract of the paper is online here.
According to the abstract, “The paper presented by Sumarsam exhibited a firm commitment to indepth musicological analysis of aspects of gamelan music, yet strongly connecting the music analysis to aspects of cultural studies, that is, the social and cosmological order of Javanese society.”
In addition, BBC quoted Sumarsam in their broadcasting on “A History of the World:” http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/1ZYzVW9uRPOlGE4Vo1h05g
And Voice of America mentions Wesleyan gamelan and Sumarsam in its TV’s program on the music of Lou Harrison:
Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, is the author of the essay, “Past and Present Issues of Islam within the Central Javanese Gamelan and Wayang,” published in Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia by Oxford University Press, pages 45-79, in 2011.
According to the abstract: “Sumarsam’s contribution to the volume addresses Islam in the context and development of the Javanese gamelan and wayang kulit shadow play. The chapter uniquely combines the interpretation of primarily Javanese and European texts, the author’s personal experience as teacher, performer, and practitioner of gamelan and wayang kulit, and a assessment of the public attitudes of the two largest Islamic organizations, Muhammadiyah and Nadhlatul Ulama, towards the arts.”