Program 1998

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University of Pittsburgh

Music Department 







A Concert of

Sundanese Music and Dance




Andrew Weintraub, Director




Guest Artists:

Undang Sumarna, master drummer

Sri Susilowati, dancer





Bellefield Auditorium

March 21, 1998




          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 (see maps of Indonesia below). The University of Pittsburgh gamelan ensemble plays the music of the Sundanese people, who number approximately 25-30 million people and inhabit the area of Pasundan  in West Java. With the exception of Jakarta, the coastal plain to the north, and certain parts of Banten to the far west, Pasundan comprises the majority of the Western third of the  island of 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. The national radio and television station, as well as many local radio stations, publishing houses, and the most prominent Sundanese music recording studios make Bandung the center for the mass mediation of Sundanese music. In addition, the main institutions for studying and researching gamelan styles are located in Bandung, including the High School for Indonesian Performing Arts (Sekolah Menengah Karawitan Indonesia, or SMKI) and the College of Indonesian Arts (Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia, or STSI). 

          In Pasundan, the closest equivalent to the Central Javanese kraton (palaces) were the kabupaten (provincial government seats), which had neither the resources nor the influence to maintain, develop, and preserve dance traditions such as those of the Central Javanese kraton. Dance was performed in the kabupaten and patronized by the bupati (governors), but limited resources necessitated bringing artists in from the surrounding community to perform in the kabupaten. As a result, music and dance traditions were developed within artistic families rather than in the courts.

          During the early twentieth century, influential dancers and choreographers participated in a “renaissance” of Sundanese music and dance. Their efforts to systematize and consolidate Sundanese forms, particularly within the city of Bandung, have continued to the present day. Sundanese dance is performed at life-cycle celebrations, social events, and religious as well as civil holidays. Dance events are essentially communal and provide an opportunity to enjoy other activities as well. 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 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). One set is tuned to laras salendro (a five-tone tuning system made up of approximately equidistant intervals), and the other set is tuned to laras pelog  (a seven-tone tuning system with large and small intervals). For salendro pieces, the musicians face forward; for pelog  pieces, they face to one side.

          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 of Pittsburgh gamelan group is composed of students as well as 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.






1. “Jipang Karaton”A traditional opening piece for a concert.

 “Jipang Karaton” is considered an appropriate opening piece because it allows the musicians to prepare patterns of elaboration associated with each of the five pitches in the salendro tuning system. “Jipang Karaton” functions on many levels as “preparation” -- a crucial transition that frames the minds of the audiences and the performers, so that they are ready to receive or deliver the performance, respectively.


2. Dance: “Kandagan”

“Kandagan” was choreographed by R. Tjetje Somantri, one of the most innovative and prolific Sundanese dance choreographers during the 1950s. In this dance, the female Princess Anjasmara disguises herself as a male warrior in order to meet her lover on the battlefield. The movements reflect both male and female movements and sensibilities. The accompanying music is “Tumenggungan,” played in laras pelog.


3. “Bendrong”--“Gunung Sari”--“Bendrong”I

n the kliningan (“listening music”) repertoire, pieces are strung together to form a suite. These suites include pieces with contrasting formal, rhythmic, and modal characters.  “Bendrong” and “Gunung Sari” are played in different tuning systems (salendro and pelog, respectively), and have different temporal structures. In “Gunung Sari,” the large gong is struck infrequently, whereas in “Bendrong,” the large gong is struck frequently.


4. “Sorban Palid”

“Sorban Palid” comes from a large repertoire of Sundanese vocal pieces. 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 ensemble. 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. Dance: “Topeng Klana”

“Topeng Klana” belongs to a genre of mask dance called Topeng Cirebon. Topeng literally means “mask,” and Cirebon is a coastal city on the north coast of Java. Cirebon, the home to one of the oldest Islamic kingdoms in Java, is culturally and artistically a blending of Javanese and Sundanese traditions. A performance of Topeng Cirebon consists of a series of five dances, each portraying a different character. A performance of the five dances can last nine hours, and builds in intensity from refined to course characters.Klana is the fifth and final character. Klana, also called Rahwana, is greedy, lawless, and wild; his dark red mask symbolized unrestrained passions. Though the character has negative and demonic connotations, it represents an important side of human existence. His dance, which is the most energetic and exciting of the five, is also the most popular one in which the dancer would receive the most tawur (tips) from the audience. The masks (kedok) cover the entire face (the dancer has limited vision as he or she can see only through slits cut under the lower eyelids of the mask-face). The dancer bites on a small leather strap affixed to the inside of the mask to hold it in place.




6. Dance: “Tari Merak”

“Tari Merak” portrays the dynamic and graceful movements of the peacock. It is a relatively recent dance choreographed by the well-known dancer Irawati Durban during the 1980s.


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 8 syllables. The text is about two lovers eating popsicles together.


8. Dance: “Rayak-rayak”

Ketuk tilu  is a Sundanese village social dance in which couples dance together. Although there are standard movement patterns, the arrangement of movements is improvised. Ketuk tilu has had a tremendous influence on jaipongan, a Sundanese presentational dance created during the late 1970s which has become popular throughout Indonesia. Audience members are encouraged to take part in this dance.

 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 instruments and meet the musicians.

Guest Artists

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.”

Sri Susilowati, born in West Java, Indonesia, began studying classical dance at age seven and was performing at age ten. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance composition from the Indonesian Institute of Arts in 1990, and served as choreographer for the national rock music tour and film project “Kantata Takwa.” She moved to the United States in 1993, where she established an Indonesian dance studio in California. Her work has centered on revitalizing and adapting traditional concepts of Indonesian dance, as well as its rich vocabulary of movement. Sri Susilowati currently lives and teaches in Washington, DC.

The University of Pittsburgh Gamelan Musicians

Alexandria Ball

Harris Bierhoff

Joel Dechant

Richard Easton

Megan Gallagher

Yayoi Goda

Richard Kaylor

Joseph Kornblatt

Alec McLane

Andy McMillin

Lauren Patterson

Richard Pell

Kevin Perkey

David Smith

Tim Stein

Hillary Taylor

Andrew Weintraub  


University of Pittsburgh Department of Music, Indonesian Student Organization (PERMIAS), Undang Sumarna, Sri Susilowati, David Brodbeck, Dorothy Shallenberger, Paula Riemer,  Marilyn Locker, Stephen Greene, Henry Spiller, Sharon Blake.

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