Sumarsam Leads Gamelan Workshops in Beijing

Olivia DrakeDecember 16, 20103min
Sumarsam (pictured in the center, with a black shirt) taught the students at the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) four traditional gamelan pieces of different length for instruments of various levels of technical difficulty.

Sumarsam made his first visit to CCOM in June 2007, where he helped CCOM to purchase a complete set of gamelan from Indonesia. Now the gamelan set (pictured) —about 60 tuned-gongs, metallophones, xylophones, and drums—has its own spacious room on CCOM’s seventh floor.

Sumarsam, adjunct professor of music, visited the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in Beijing in October, where he led a 10-day intensive gamelan workshop with 22 students. The workshop consisted of three hours of gamelan instruction every evening and a number of individual lessons during the day.

The students performed the music during CCOM’s 70th anniversary celebration in early November and for the fourth annual celebration of World Music at the conservatory.

“I was pleased with the outcome of the workshop,” he says. “Given the limited time of the workshop, the students were able to master the four pieces I taught them. I envision that gamelan and Indian music performances will have certain impact on the development of the future World Music Program in China.”

As chair of the music department in 2007, Sumarsam organized the visit of six members of Wesleyan music faculty to CCOM (pictured) including himself, Mark Slobin, Su Zheng, Ron Kuivila and Alvin Lucier. Eric Charry lectured at the CCOM in November 2007.

The Wesleyan-CCOM collaboration began in 2001, when Wesleyan’s acclaimed professor of Indian music, the late Professor Viswanathan and his group from Wesleyan to CCOM. In 2005-2006, the Chair of Musicology Department of CCOM, Professor Zhang Boyu spent one academic year of residency at Wesleyan, under the auspices of Fulbright grant.

Presently, Sumarsam is assisting Zhang Boyu on a search for a gamelan teacher from Indonesia to teach at the conservatory, starting next year. He’s also helping Dean of the College of Arts and Professor of Musicology Yu Hui Ph.D ’01 integrate gamelan music into the curriculum at Ningbo University, Zhejiang Province.