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World Music Comparison: Javanese Gamelan and John Cage

World Music Comparison: Javanese Gamelan and John Cage

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World Music Comparison: Javanese Gamelan and John Cage

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  1. World Music Comparison:Javanese Gamelan andJohn Cage By Alyssa Tethal

  2. Java Demographics Java is an island of Indonesia and the site of its capital city, Jakarta. Area 53,588.7 sq mi The 13th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in Indonesia. The Javanese are 70% of the island's population, while the Sundanese and Madurese account for 20% and 10% respectively. Population 237,512,355 (July 2008 est.) Most populous island in the world . One of the most densely populated regions on Earth. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, with 86.1%. Other religions include Christian (8.7%), Hindu (3%) and Buddhist (1.8%) or other. (2000)

  3. The Gamelan • Comes from the Javanese word "gamels", meaning to strike or hammer. • Performed as a group effort, and so there is no place for an individual showoff. • Traditionally, only played at certain ritual ceremonies, special community celebrations, shadow puppet shows, or for the royal family. • Traditionally recorded by oral tradition; however, in 19th century developed distinct notations for transcribing the repertoire. ABOVE: Notation of balungan ladrang

  4. Java Gamelan Instrumentation • Based on metallic percussion with some wooden xylophones and drums • In Java, the full gamelan also adds rebab, suling, and voices. • The rebab is a main melodic instrument with the gender. • Voices consist of male (and sometimes female) choruses called gerong, together with female soloists called pesindhen. However, voices not used as "lead" instruments in court gamelan and instead blend/complement the sound. • Soloist has improvisatory role by using notes outside of the mode of the piece. The words are largely secondary to the music. • Vocalists exercise interdetermincy where the composer gives the performer the right to interpret his music.

  5. Gamelan Tuning • Two scales of Javanese gamelan music, slendro (pentatonic) and pélog (heptatonic-pentatonic). • Sléndro: five intervals consist of short/medium steps. The difference between the two intervals is so small they’re often inaccurately described as equal or nearly equal intervals. • Pélog: seven pitches per octave, sets of five pitch positions are used and combined. Consist of small/ medium/large steps. • A complete gamelan consists of a pair of sets, tuned to each scale and intended to be played together generally. • There are distinct melodic modes, or pathet, within the division of scale, • Three for each of the scales. • Modes are defined according to which notes of the scale are emphasized.

  6. Java Gamelan Rhythmic Structure Musical forms are defined by the rhythmic cycles consisting of: major cycles subdivided by smaller cycles, each marked by the striking of successively smaller gongs. This framework is "colotomic.” Colotomy is the use of specific instruments to mark off nested time intervals, or the process of dividing rhythmic time into such nested cycles Cycles controlled by the various gongs.

  7. Gamelan Excerpt

  8. Instruments: • Gamelans KyaiSlamêt (slendro), • KyaiPringgitan (pelog) • String and wind sounds of the rebab & suling which generally go along with vocal performances, provide smaller brass ensemble background. • Develops “horizontally” with various parts flowing parallel one to the other. • Music choruses are in unison. Mijil Wigaringtyas Chamber Music of Central Java

  9. John Cage: Background Years on this Earth: Born in Los Angeles, California in 1912. Died in 1992. Education: Enrolled at Pomona College. But dropped out in 1930 believing that "college was of no use to a writer"by an incident described in the 1991 autobiographical statement “I was shocked at college to see one hundred of my classmates in the library all reading copies of the same book. Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks and read the first book written by an author whose name began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class. That convinced me that the institution was not being run correctly. I left.” Studies Abroad: Cage persuaded his parents that a trip to Europe would He subsequently hitchhiked and evetually made it to Paris. Cage stayed in Europe for 18 months, trying his hand at various forms of art. Death: Already in the course of the eighties, Cage's health worsened progressively. On11 August 1992, while preparing evening tea, Cage suffered another stroke. He was taken to the nearest hospital, where he died on the morning of 12 August

  10. John Cage Cont’d Direct Eastern Influences (late 1940’s) Gita Sarabhai, taught Cage about Indian music and philosophy. Attended D.T. Suzuki’s lectures on Zen Budhism. Studied writings by Indian art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. Adopted principles from: I Ching, the Chinese “Book of Changes” involved changing events. Teachers included Henry Cowelland Arnold Schoenberg who also composed radical innovations influenced by Eastern music. Lead to Ideas of: Interdeterminacy: where the composer gives the performer the right to interpret his music. Chance-controlled music

  11. The cycle comprises sixteen sonatas and four interludes, arranged symmetrically. Four groups of four sonatas each are separated by interludes in the following way: Sonatas I–IV    Interlude 1    Sonatas V–VIII Interludes 2–3 Sonatas IX–XII    Interlude 4    Sonatas XIII–XVI • Unusual tones for Western music, occasionally sound “out of tune.” • Some sounds resonant, some dry, some metallic, some wooden. • Uses nontraditional harmonies. Sonatas and Interludes Sonata V

  12. COMPARISON! SIMILARITIES DIFFERENCES • Both use interdetermincy • Rhythmic structure is organized colotomically. • Similar tonal relationship. • There is no consistency in performances: • Prepared piano will always vary due to objects’ placement and make. • Gamelan tuning isn’t standardized giving each ensemble a unique sound • Different instrumentation and number of instruments used • Different number of performers required. • Javanese Gamelan music considered classic to their region while John Cage’s work is considered avant-garde.

  13. Works Cited Ricklefs, M.C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300 (2nd edition). London: MacMillan Taylor, Jea Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Vetter, Roger. “Flexibility in the Performance Practice of Central Javanese Music.” Ethnomusicology, XXV, 2 (May 1981): 199-214. "The World FactBook." Central Intelligence Agency. 27 Nov 2009. United States of America Central Intelligence Agency, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <>. Pritchett, James. 1993. The Music of John Cage. Cambridge University Press. "Indonesia." SEAsite Indonesia. Northern Illinois University, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <>. "Javanese Gamelan Ensemble." The Detritus Review. Web. 15 Dec 2009. <>. "John Cage." Vinyl Reviny. Web. 15 Dec 2009. <>. "John Cage Preparing Piano." Web. 10 Dec 2009. <>. "Java." Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 13 Dec 2009. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., Web. 10 Dec 2009. <>. Lindsay, Jennifer. Javanese Gamelan. 2nd.ed. Kualalumpur: Oxford University Press, 1992.

  14. If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all. –John Cage