Tag Archive for sumarsam

Gamelan Ensemble Provides Virtual Mini-Concerts, Demonstrations During Pandemic

On Nov. 19, students from the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble presented their work-in-progress, a number of compositions in different tuning systems, and formal musical structures.

On Nov. 19, students from the MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners class presented their work-in-progress as part of a virtual mini-concert series. Both the beginning and advanced classes are allowed to perform in person as long as they remain six feet apart and wear masks and disposable gloves.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes were canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students were still allowed to meet in-person as long as they followed strict guidelines: wear a mask and disposable gloves, social distance, and frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

“The university made all of these available to the students in the World Music Hall, where the gamelan meets,” explained Winslow-Kaplain Professor of Music Sumarsam. “The gamelan instruments were set up six feet apart, and the students were required to maintain that distance while playing or sitting in the audience area for discussion, and when lining up to enter or exit the hall. We also planned to have occasional online lectures and discussions, so the group did not have to meet in person as often.”

In the process of planning their hybrid MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners and MUSC 452: Javanese Gamelan-Advanced courses, Sumarsam and fellow gamelan instructor I.M. Harjito, University Professor of Music, decided to create a biweekly series of virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations, each one showcasing a different theme or style in 30-minute formats. “The production staff of CFA has worked tirelessly to publicize and produce these virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations,” Sumarsam noted.

7 Wesleyan Faculty, Alumni, Graduate Student Make Presentations at SEM Annual Meeting

semFour faculty, two alumni, and one graduate student participated in the virtual Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting held Oct. 22–31.

As part of a panel addressing contemporary musical issues in Iran, Bridgid Bergin MA ’17 spoke about the Iranian Female Composers Association (IFCA), which was established in 2017 by three female-identifying Iranian composers: Anahita Abbasi, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and Aida Shirazi. IFCA supports Iranian female-identifying composers by encouraging organizers and ensembles in Iran and beyond to commission and engage these composers in collaborations, while also discovering and mentoring young female composers who are fighting against all odds to become contemporary classical composers in 21st-century Iran. In 2018 the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) became an organizational partner in reinforcing IFCA’s platform as well as advocating for its members. Bergin presented three composer portrait videos and explored IFCA’s “her-story”—its founding members and an analysis of the intersections of gender, music, politics, and identity.

Eric Charry, professor of music, spoke about “An Ethnography of the Five Spot Café,” as part of a panel on rethinking jazz canons. Drawing on cultural geography, Charry examined from multiple perspectives the Five Spot Café (on the Bowery, 1956–62), one of the most important venues in jazz history: as an object in the Lower East Side and in downtown New York City jazz club landscapes; as a place imbued with sociocultural meaning; as a phenomenological space with a unique feel; and as a flashpoint in a historically dynamic scene. Moving beyond reports by American and European journalists, over a half-dozen live LP recordings, and published interviews with musicians, Charry focused on photographs taken inside the club. In this talk, Charry investigated race, gender, age, and especially modes of participation in jazz performance, and explored how an expanded view of ethnographic analysis of the inner workings of a historic venue has much to offer the history of jazz.

Sumarsam, Gruen, Herbst Honored with Faculty Research Prizes

Three Wesleyan faculty were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research in October. The third annual prize is similar to the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, but is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field.

Each recipient received a plaque and citation as well as research funds for their award.

This year’s recipients include: Division I, Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music; Division II, Lori Gruen, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy; and Division III, Bill Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy.

Sumarsam Participates in “Reflections from Quarantine” Conversation


Sumarsam demonstrated how to use a Wayang Kulit puppet during his “Reflections from Quarantine” interview with the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale.

sumarsam song

Sumarsam concluded his reflection by singing the Indonesian songs “Guardian at Night” and “The Song of Disposal.”

Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan and a Fellow at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, is an expert on the history, theory, and practice of Indonesian music and theater, and a performer of Javanese gamelan and puppetry.

Sumarsam’s presentation was part of ISM’s “Reflections from Quarantine” series. He was interviewed live through the Zoom platform by ISM Fellows Program Director Eben Graves.

Sumarsam explained that his current research focuses on how “people—commoners—use performing art, and life of passage rituals for practicing their religion in their everyday lives.” From that angle, he looks at the early existence of performing arts during the period of Hinduized Java from the 9th to 15th centuries, and then proceeds to Islamized Java from around the 15th century onward.

In his reflection, Sumarsam explained the characters in a Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play: The demon is a sensual image of raw nature; the prince and princess are elements of traditional Java; gods and goddesses show a cosmological element of power; and clowns are used as a modern pragmatic element of survival. Sumarsam ended his interview with prayer incantation through song poetry.

Sumarsam Named Honorary Member of the Society for Ethnomusicology


Sumarsam, pictured standing, at right, was named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

For his contribution to the field of ethnomusicology and music scholarship, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, was recently named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM).

The encomium was presented by Wesleyan alumna Maria Mendonca MA ’90, PhD ’02, during the 63rd SEM General Membership Meeting, Nov. 17, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Sumarsam was commended for his scholarship on gamelan and wayang performance traditions, which inspired the SEM membership, explained Gregory Barz, president of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

“Your mentorship of countless students and colleagues, both directly and by example, is held in high esteem, and the ways that you simultaneously embrace and speak to the various subfields among the disciplines of music scholarship is exemplary,” Barz said. “You demonstrate not only a unique career, but one to which we all aspire.”

Sumarsam is the third Wesleyan faculty member to receive this award. The first one is the late David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology, emeritus (2001); the second is Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus (2013).

During the meeting, Sumarsam also attended a number of panels, the Society for Asian Music Business meeting, and the SEM Journal of Editorial Board meeting, in which he is a member.

Center for the Arts 2018–2019 Events Feature Urban Latin Dance, Court Dancers and Musicians of Yogyakarta

In conjunction with a visit from Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta in Indonesia, the Center for the Arts (CFA) will host a performance by the court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta, featuring the instruments of the Wesleyan gamelan on Nov. 9.  “Music and Dance of Yogyakarta” is one of several upcoming performances hosted by the CFA in 2018–19.

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts announces the highlights of the 2018–2019 season, including two world, two New England, and four Connecticut premieres.

“This season we are taking a cue from CONTRA-TIEMPO, whose new work ‘joyUS justUS’ posits that the expression of joy is the greatest act of resistance,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “During the 2018–2019 season, we claim joy and expressive freedom, through which we represent, create, and expand our community. We are particularly excited about presenting the first solo exhibition in New England by up-and-coming multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving, including a number of new pieces commissioned by the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.”

The 2018–2019 season includes:

On Sept. 12, the exhibition “Chado: The Way of Tea” opens. The exhibit explores the prominent role and significance of the tea ceremony as an art and spiritual practice in China and Japan. Objects displayed have been selected from the College of East Asian Studies collection and loaned by tea enthusiasts in the Wesleyan community. Several media are represented, including ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, wood, iron, textiles, and calligraphy. In addition, photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 will be featured.

  • Sept. 7: Ninth annual “Bach to School” organ concert by Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht marks the start of a celebration of 30 years of his teaching at Wesleyan
  • Sept. 8: Seventh annual “The MASH” festival highlighting Wesleyan’s student music scene, inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day)
  • Sept. 12–Nov. 30: “Chado—The Way of Tea” exhibition at College of East Asian Studies Gallery, including photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71
  • Sept. 21: “Point of Interest” featuring a series of solos, duets, and quintets set to soundscapes by hip-hop dancer and breaking artist Raphael Xavier
  • Sept. 26–Dec. 9: “Street Matter — Decay & Forever / Golden Age,” first solo exhibition in New England by Saint Louis–based multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving
  • Sept. 30: Kitchen Ceilí—Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97, Dora Hast PhD ’94, and George Wilson—joined by the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer
  • Oct. 5: Connecticut premiere of “They, Themself and Schmerm,” a disturbingly hilarious personal tale by New York City–based trans actor Becca Blackwell
  • Oct. 7: “This Is It!” The Complete Piano Works of John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce: Part XVI, including world premiere of composer’s 12-tone piece “Homage to Aronchik”
  • Oct. 11–14: 42nd annual Navaratri Festival of Indian music and dance, including the Connecticut debut of Bharata Natyam dancer Mythili Prakash
  • Oct. 26: “The River,” a collaboration between adventurous string quartet ETHEL and Grammy Award-winning Taos Pueblo flutist and Native American instrument maker Robert Mirabal
  • Oct. 26–27: Fall Faculty Dance Concert to feature new visiting assistant professors Julie Mulvihill and Joya Powell in collaboration with other Dance Department faculty and guest artists
  • Oct. 28: The Castlefield Trio performs original jazz and blues tunes, including world premieres by torch heartbreaker Sarah LeMieux and drummer Andy Chatfield
  • Nov. 9: Music and Dance of Yogyakarta, copresented with Yale University and the Asia Society in conjunction with a visit from Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, featuring the Wesleyan gamelan
    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD '97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD '94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

  • Nov. 15: Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht performs works for harpsichord to welcome a marvelous Frank Hubbard harpsichord to campus
  • Nov. 16–18: Theater Department production of “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” written by Anne Washburn and directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Pirronne Yousefzadeh
  • Nov. 30: Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music and puppeteer Sumarsam and Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble directed by Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito present a wayang kulit (Javanese puppet play)
  • Feb. 8, 2019: New England premiere of “joyUS justUS,” a participatory urban Latin dance theater experience by Los Angeles–based CONTRA-TIEMPO
  • Feb. 28–March 2, 2019: Connecticut premiere of “The Fever” by Brooklyn-based theater artists 600 HIGHWAYMEN, the duo of Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone
  • March 29, 2019: Connecticut debut of Alsarah (Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04) and The Nubatones’ lavish, joyful East African retro-pop, full of Arabic-language reflections on identity and survivalTickets are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., by phone at 860-685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center.

    Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to each ticketed performance during the season, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University,” and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount to select performances. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges. Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice. For more information on any of the events, visit the CFA website.

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.”

Sumarsam Honored for Contributing, Fostering Traditional Indonesian Culture

Sumarsam, who is celebrating his 45th year at Wesleyan, teaches conference participants about gamelan. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

This month, the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, will award Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, with a Cultural and Traditional Arts Maestro Award.

The honor, Satyalancana Kebudayaan, is awarded on decree from Indonesia President Joko Widodo and given to eight outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to develop and foster Indonesian traditional culture.

Sumarsam Attends World Class Professors Program in Indonesia

Sumarsam, pictured third from left in the top row, joined 40 scholars for the "Visiting World Class Professors" conference in December.

Sumarsam, pictured third from left in the top row, joined 40 scholars for the “Visiting World Class Professors” program in December.

From Dec. 17-24, 2016, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and other 40 diasporic Indonesian scholars were invited by the Indonesian Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (Ristekdikti) to participate in a program called “Visiting World Class Professor.” The program aims at enhancing human resources of higher education in Indonesia through various scholarly activities.

After the opening of the program by the Vice President Yusuf Kalla, the Minister of Ristekdikti and its Director General of Resources, the first day of the program consisted of seminars and workshops in Jakarta, attended by university rectors and academics. Each of the scholars were then sent to one or two of the 29 universities throughout Indonesian cities, holding a series of workshops, lectures and discussion with members of the faculty of the selected university.

Sumarsam was sent to the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Surakarta (his alma mater).

Watch video clips (in Indonesian) of the event’s opening and news of the program online.

Sumarsam Performs Shadow Puppet Play at Islamic Intersections Festival

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music

On Nov. 9, Sumarsam, professor of music and puppeteer, performed his shadow-puppet play, Bima’s Quest for Enlightenment, at the Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections festival, presented by the Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art and George Washington University. This music, dance, and theater festival celebrates the many manifestations of Islamic culture in the island nation, which is home to more Muslims than any other country.

During the festival, Sumarsam performed a condensed version of an all-night wayang puppet play, featuring only the main episodes of the story. Wayang is the Javanese word for shadow, or bayang in standard Indonesian. More than 200 people attended.

Additionally, Sumarsam and his students led a panel discussion “Intercultural and Interreligious Encounters in Indonesian Performing Arts.”

On Dec 2., Sumarsam and the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble will present a Javanese wayang puppet play in the World Music Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.

Sumarsam’s research on history, theory, and performance practice of gamelan and wayang, and on Indonesia-Western encounter theme has resulted in the publication of numerous articles and two books. His recent research focuses have been on the intersections between religion and performing arts.

Sumarsam, McGraw PhD ’05 Edit Performing Indonesia for Smithsonian



Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, and Andy McGraw PhD ’05 served as co-editors for Performing Indonesia, a Smithsonian Freer Sackler online publication of 16 articles on Indonesian music, dance and drama.

Topics include choral singing of Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo; learning from American schoolchildren playing Balinese gamelan; the challenges of music sustainability in Lombok, Indonesia; gong evolution and practices, “the dancing goddess;” the acoustic concept of an American gamelan; musical kinship in the transnational Balinese gamelan community; and more.

In addition to serving as an editor, Sumarsam co-authored the introduction to the publication, and delivered the keynote address titled, “Dualisms in the Formative and Transformational Processes of Javanese Performing Arts.” His address was delivered at the Performing Indonesia Conference held at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2013.

The paper examines the “formative and transformational processes of gamelan and wayang, Javanese performing art forms, and the ways in which these art forms impacted the arts as they were exposed by and introduced to the West.” Sumarsam and McGraw also analyzed some of the dualisms that accompany traditions, such as stasis/motion, sacred/secular, good/evil, traditional/contemporary and ethnicity/nationality.

Sumarsam, PhD Students, Alumni Present at Symposium

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam and several PhD students and alumni recently presented papers at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA). The symposium was hosted by Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia, from July 31 to Aug. 6.

Sumarsam presented a paper titled, “Religiosity in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play,” and demonstrated puppet movements.