University of Pittsburgh
Puppet Theater and Gamelan Music
of West Java, Indonesia
Andrew Weintraub, Director
Kathy Foley, dalang (puppeteer)
Undang Sumarna, master drummer
Henry Spiller, rebab (fiddle)
April 11 & 12, 2003
The modern nation of Indonesia consists of 13,000 islands (of which a few thousand are populated), the fourth largest population in the world, hundreds of ethnic groups, and nearly as many languages spoken. The cultural and musical diversity of this modern island community is staggering. Outside Indonesia, perhaps the most well-known musical ensemble type is gamelan. Gamelan refers to a set of predominantly percussion instruments including tuned gongs, metal-keyed instruments, and drums (as well as bowed lute and voice). Gamelan music is played as accompaniment to dance, drama, puppet theater, and martial arts, as well as for concerts of listening music. Gamelan is performed for special occasions and to mark important life cycle events.
Regional gamelan styles are played by different ethnic groups on the islands of Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok. The University of Pittsburgh gamelan ensemble plays the music of the Sundanese people, who number approximately 30 million people and inhabit a large area in West Java.
The Sundanese share a common language and culture. While the majority of the population live in rural or semi-rural settings, urban patronage networks actively support the performing arts. Bandung, the fourth largest city in Indonesia, is home to many of the most prominent Sundanese musicians, dancers, and composers.
All Sundanese dance genres share certain traits including the prominent drumming, manner of stepping, and graceful arm gestures. In dance music, the drummer accompanies the movements of the dance by playing corresponding sound patterns for each movement.
Each gamelan has a unique tuning and character--instruments in one set are tuned to each other and are not generally interchangeable with instruments from other sets. Gamelan sets are often named to reflect their individual character. The University of Pittsburgh gamelan, which arrived in October, 1995, is named appropriately “Kyai Tirta Rukmi,” or “Venerable Rivers of Gold.” The gamelan is actually comprised of two sets of instruments, and each set is tuned to a different intervallic structure (laras). Tonight’s performance features laras salendro (a five-tone tuning system made up of approximately equidistant intervals.
Each instrument is associated with one of four primary musical functions or roles, which contribute to the rich polyphonic layering or strata of sound (see diagram below). Instrumental functions include 1) structural melody (saron I and saron II), 2) elaboration (panerus, peking, bonang, rincik, and gambang), 3) punctuation (ketuk, kenong and goong) and 4) time-keeper (kendang). In vocal pieces, the instrumentalists play an accompaniment to the female vocalist (pasinden) and male vocalist (juru alok). The player of the two-stringed spike fiddle (rebab) reinforces the vocal line of the singer in a heterophonic manner.
The University gamelan group is composed of Pitt students, CMU students and community members. The participants in the gamelan program are encouraged to use Sundanese processes of learning as much as possible; oral transmission of musical parts is preferred over written notation. Students are also encouraged to learn and play more than one instrument and to learn the relationships among them. Therefore, in our concerts, the musicians move from one position to another in order to put into practice what they have learned. The University of Pittsburgh Music Department offers classes in gamelan and African music and dance as part of its program in Ethnomusicology.
The “strong” playing style, unison melodies, and rapid tempo show the ensemble’s ability to play well together (kekompakan). The melody is played in unison on the metal-keyed saron in the front row and the wooden-keyed gambang. The bonang player accents the weak beats of the rhythmic structure by playing its own melody in octaves. This type of piece is meant to create an upbeat mood for the concert ahead.
This song was composed by R.T.A. Sunarya, the regent of Ciamis.
3. Gunung Sari
4. Sorban Palid
“Sorban Palid” comes from a large repertoire of Sundanese vocal pieces called kawih. A common Sundanese musical aesthetic practice is to sing or play a melody on the rebab using “vocal tones,” tones that cannot be realized on the fixed-pitch instruments of the gamelan. The piece is made up of three parts--Part 1: instrumental interlude--Part 2: verse--Part 3: chorus. Vocal texts tend to focus on male-female relationships. The lyrics for the chorus of “Sorban Palid” compare the confused feelings of a man in love to a suling (flute) that is out of tune.
5. Baju Hejo
Wayang Golek Purwa Hanuman Duta/ The Tale of Hanuman the Messenger
Who is Hanuman?
Synopsis of the lakon (plot-line) by Kathy Foley
After the kidnapping of his wife, Prince Rama, who is an incarnation of the god Wisnu, allies himself with the monkey kingdom ruled by King Sugriwa. Soon the monkey troops of Kiskenda have travelled in all directions to seek Sita, who is an incarnation of the rice godess, Dewi Sri. Hanuman, the monkey general, returns to report the progress of the search to Rama and his brother Laksmana. They decide that Hanuman will undertake a mission to Alengka, the island ruled by the demon king Rahwana to see if Sita is there.
The clown servants Semar and his sons are on the shore of the southern ocean discussing the situation, when they see Hanuman streaking through the sky on a cloud blown by his father Bayu, the god of wind.
Arriving in Alengka, Hanuman finds the garden of the Asoka tree where Sita is held captive. Rahwana boasts to Sita that he has killed Rama. His niece Trijata consoles the distraught Sita. Hanuman arrives and reveals that he is on a mission from Rama who is alive. She begs him to lead her husband to Alengka. Hanuman is caught by Rahwana's men as he leaves her chambers . The ogres set fire to his tail. But he leaps out of their grasp and sets fire to all of Alengka with his flaming tail before returning to Rama with the news that Sita has been found.
Notes on the music of wayang golek
7. “Es Lilin”
“Es Lilin” (“Popsicle”) is known throughout Indonesia as one of the most popular Sundanese melodies (lagu). In this arrangement for gamelan, the form consists of two parts. Part 1 is an instrumental section in which a unison melody is played on the metal-keyed instruments. In part 2, the ensemble accompanies the singer. The verse consists of four lines and each line contains
The text is about two lovers eating popsicles together.
9. “Kebo Jiro”
The traditional ending piece for Sundanese gamelan music performances. In West Java, audiences have usually departed by the end of this piece. However, we invite you to take a closer look at the
Datan nira tanga deman
Datan nira tanga deman
Ewuh pagulingan rana
Denira kang samia prapta
Names of musicians
Kathy Foley is a Professor of Theatre at the University of California Santa Cruz where she directs and teaches Asian performance practice. She is the Southeast Asian Editor for Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre and Asian Theatre Journal. Recent articles have been published in TDR, Puppetry International, and Asian Theatre Journal. She performs wayang golek puppetry in the style of the Sundanese of West Java, Indonesia and has curated puppet exhibits for the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, the East-West Center in Hawaii. Her work is currently on display in Seattle and Calgary.
Undang Sumarna comes from a lineage of famous drummers and musicians. His grandfather and main teacher, Abah Kayat, helped to develop and crystallize a style of dance drumming during the 1950s which incorporated influences from the music of Central Java, Bali, Cirebon, and various Sundanese regional styles. Undang began studying drumming as a child and quickly developed into one of the most sought-after dance drummers in Bandung, West Java. He has taught gamelan at KOKAR (High School for Indonesian Performing Arts) and ASTI (College of Indonesian Arts) as well as UC Berkeley and UCLA. Undang Sumarna currently teaches at UC Santa Cruz, a position he has held since 1974. In addition to introducing thousands of American students to Sundanese music, he has toured throughout the United States as an “Ambassador of Sundanese Arts.”