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The Flowering of Gending Agbekor: A Musical Collaboration with I Dewa Putu Berata

Author(s): Paul Humphreys

Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 5-28
Published by: Perspectives of New Music
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A WAKENING"IS A WORDwell-chosen to describe the point at which a

set of Balinese instruments becomes a gamelan in the fullest sense,
the point at which those instruments come to life as a consequence of
interaction between their enabling presence and the human activity that
takes place within and around them. In fall 2000, the stage was set for
such an awakening at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles
where I teach and direct world music ensembles. At my request, and
with the authorization and encouragement of faculty colleagues, Dr. I
Nyoman Wenten had contacted the esteemed Balinese instrument maker,
I Made Rindi, in spring 1999. Twenty-five or so instruments were to be
constructed that would comprise a five-tone gamelan angklung.1 These
6 Perspectives of New Music

instruments were completed during the summer, tuned in early fall,

shipped in November, and received in the port of Los Angeles in late
December of that year. They received an enthusiastic welcome upon
their arrival at the university in January 2000, but, for the most part,
stood silent through the next three seasons. During that interim, I made
the happy acquaintance of Mr. I Dewa Putu Berata-a highly regarded
composer, performer, and teacher from Bali-and invited him to under-
take a semester-long artist's residency at LMU. With the coming of the
fall, his artistry and skill as a teacher generated a palpable sense of com-
mitment among student members of the ensemble.2 Mr. Berata's know-
ledge of classical Javanese also allowed us to settle upon the name
Kembang Atangi, translating literally as "Flower of Awakening,"3 for the
new gamelan.
In addition to teaching a traditional composition from the gong genre
of tabuh telu,4 Mr. Berata created two works for five-tone gamelan ang-
klung which were premiered during a fall concert at the university. Even
before the concert, it had occurred to me that we might work together,
in the light of a successful "awakening," to co-compose another piece.
Since the ensemble had a three-year history of performing West African

gangogui rF r r r D r r D

voices - r
m t
A-wu ma-to-dzo e - de-woe la-wu-ma? A-wu ma-to-dzo

n I

n de-woe la- wu- ma?

J =crFr
de-woe la-wu - ma?
de- woe?

rr p Dr r D r p
gb7 rp

de-woe la-wu - ma? A- wu ma-to - dzo de-woe la - wu- ma?


Flowering of GendingAgbekor 7

(primarily Ghanaian) music, I proposed a collaboration, the result of

which could serve as a kind of signature piece, combining Balinese with
Ghanaian musical ideas and idioms. A melody the ensemble had played
previously using traditional Ghanaian flutes seemed well-suited for adap-
tation as a pokokor "skeleton melody" from which to start. A representa-
tion of this melody, associated with the Ewe dance-drumming genre,
Agbekor, is given in staff notation in Example 1.5
After simplifying the melody that it might better serve as the basis of
variations within a Balinese setting, I transcribed the result to numerical
(or cipher) notation.6 I also shifted initial "downbeats" to culminating
or "end" beats in order to suggest a Balinese metric orientation (compare
the metric orientation of Example 2 with Example 1). On the occasion of
my sharing this adapted transcription with Mr. Berata for the first time,
he immediately began to sing the melody with the vowel sounds that
serve as Balinese solmization syllables or ndings.7 Example 2 thus repre-
sents what we each brought to a first stage of collaboration.
This initial session was promising, but I harbored some skepticism. I
had learned a great deal in a short period of time with "Pak" Berata.8 We
had worked together successfully in bringing the new gamelan to life, but

A phrases (sung twice):


4 3 4 2 2 3 5 3 2 2 2
i a i u - a o a u u *

3 1 2 2 2 1 3 3 2 2
a e u - - e a - u -

B phrases (sung twice):


5 5 5 5 5 4 5 2 3 2 4
o - - - - i 0 u a u i

5 5 5 5 5 4 5 4 5 4
o - - -i o i o i

reprise of A phrase (sung once):


3 1 2 2 2 1 3 3 2 2
a e u - - e a - u -


8 Perspectivesof New Music

aside from these salutary interactions, neither of us was truly aware of the
other's creative background. I was particularlyuncertain of whether an
excursion outside current Balinese practices might hold any fascination
for Mr. Berata.9As it turned out, he was at least as eager, if not more so,
as I.


I trace a disposition toward intercultural collaboration to associations

during ethnomusicological fieldwork with composers and musicians in
Native North America and West Africa. The compositions that have
resulted include instruments and styles that are more or less directly tied
to local repertoires and practices. Among less directly related, but never-
theless "derivative"compositions for solo piano, ThreeMusings of Kyekye
(2000) draws upon studies in traditional Ghanaian xylophone and Toc-
cata Walatowa (1992) upon fieldwork in the Southwest Pueblos of
Native North America. In general, my compositional technique has
tended away from chordal and contrapuntal procedures toward rhythmi-
cized, "transactional"processes that are consonant, if not precisely iden-
tical, with Balinese as well as some repertoires of West and East African
music. Another important impetus has been the friendship and example
of Lou Harrison.10 His characteristically terse epigram-"Don't put
down the hybrids; that's all there are"-has more than once been a
timely source of encouragement of efforts to see and hear other music
cultures through the focus of my activity as a composer.
In the years since his upbringing in a family of Balinese artists and
musicians, I Dewa Putu Berata has devoted a considerable share of his
artistic energies to innovation and collaboration. His recent activities are
indicative of this vitality: during the year 2000, he composed and
brought to performance four compositions with the Northern
California-based Gamelan Sekar Jaya (two of which call for gamelan
angklung), two compositions with the newly formed Gamelan Kembang
Atangi at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and Sosok
("Magical Brewing"), created in collaboration with the Javanese dancer-
choreographer Eko Suprianto.1l Dewa Berata has also worked in
association with his former teacher, I Nyoman Windha, in the composing
of a work recorded by Gamelan Sekar Jayain 1994.12
Mr. Berata has extensive experience as a teacher. In Bali, he is co-
founder and director of Sangar (Cudamani,a school for traditional and
tradition-inspired performance in his home village of Pengosekan. In the
United States, he has served five residencies as guest artistic director for
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 9

Gamelan Sekar Jaya from 1994-2001. A hallmark of his teaching is an

uncanny knack for summoning those of his estimable talents-as musi-
cian, composer, and exponent of Balinese tradition-that best serve the
learning and teaching moment at hand.


At our next meeting, my skepticism was laid to rest. Mr. Berata had cre-
ated complementary melodies for reong (tuned kettle gongs) to corre-
spond with the first two sections of the Ewe song. As occurs frequently
in a lesson context, he performed these ideas playing "backwards"on one
side of a gangsa (keyed metallophone) while I gradually assimilated them
by modeling after him on the other side. Example 3 illustrates that while
each of the new melodies draws upon features of the adapted original, lit-
eral paraphrasinghas been avoided.

A Phrase (each line played twice):

? 4 3 4 ? 2 * 1 * 3 ? 5 4 ? 3 2

? 4 3 1 ? 2 ? 1 ? 3 ? 5 4 ? 3

B Phrase (two-line sequence played twice):

? 4 ? 5 ? 4 3 ? 5 ? 3 ? 5 * 3 4
? 2 ? 4 ? 5 * 4 3 ? 5 ? 3 ? 1



I found the transformation thoroughly engaging, but missed the

underlying sense of three that seemed so fundamental to the character of
the original melody.13 Before long, however, he unveiled a second mel-
ody, intended for gangsas; as illustrated in Example 4, pulses are here
clearly grouped in threes.
Both of these melodies were to be combined, not only with the origi-
nal melody, performed (as adopted) on traditional flute or suling, but
with one another. Since my previous understanding and experience had
led me to expect that the component parts of Balinese music were always
10 Perspectivesof New Music

A Phrases


4 3 4 3 4 3 4 2 1 1 3 1 * 2

4 3 4 3 4 3 4 2 1 1 3 1 * 2

121 3 3..__2 3 2 4 5 5 4 5 2

1 2 1 3 3 _2 3 2 4 5 5 4 5

B Phrases (strike through indicates simultaneous dampening and striking

of key):

b- 5- 5 5- 5- 5 5 5 5 3.___3 3

4- 4- 4 4- 4- 4 22 2 2 I* 1

5- - 5 5- - 5 5 5 5 * 3 3 3

4- 4- 4 4- 4- 4 2 22 1 1 1


related though a kind of "stratified" heterophonic procedure, this sug-

gestion came as something of a surprise.14 Although these melodies both
originate from a common source, they differ in ways significant enough
to suggest a polyphony of independent parts when sounded in combina-
tion. Moreover, the simultaneous juxtaposing of subdivisions within the
two melodies results in a 4:3 polymeter. We worked for some time, with
gangsa and electronic keyboard (as it happened to be at hand), to "lock
in" the relationship between the two. (Once we had success, we agreed
that there was something about playing and listening to the melodies in
combination that sounded the way tickling feels.) In a subsequent meet-

Norot figuration with polos and sangsih parts:

5555 5 5 0 3 3 3
5 5 5 3 33

4- 4- 4 4- 4- 4 2_2 2 1 11
4 4- 4- 4 4- 4- 2 2 2 ?2 111


Floweringof GendingAgbekor II

ing, and at my suggestion for more variety, Mr. Berata also devised a
complementary sangsih part for the B portion which, in combination
with the original polos, generates a type of resultant texture called norot,
as illustrated in Example 5.15


In Bali, musicians use terms that suggest parts of the body to discuss the
structure of a traditional composition. Thus kawitan (literally "head")
designates an introduction; pengawak (literally "body") designates a first
main section; pengecet (literally "legs") designates a contrasting second
section.16 A transitional idea may link sections within the piece and can
serve also as a "retransition"that allows for returning either from a later
to an earlier section of the piece or leading to the closing pekad (literally
In a meeting before his return to Bali in December 2000, Mr. Berata
and I sketched out rudimentary details of structure within individual sec-
tions. I had suggested that the gangogui or time-keeping bell of Agbekor
could be combined with Balinese instruments in some portions of the
pengawak. He went a step further to suggest that it could sound
throughout. We had also arrivedat a provisional plan to feature primarily
Ghanaian instruments in the pengecet, carrying over only reong and

Kawitan, trompong gineman:

{2} 2 2 2 2 2 2 2222

4 3 4 2 2 2 2 2 2 2222

3 5 3 4 2 2 2 2 2 2 2222

3 1 2 2 2 2 2222

1 3 1 {2}

Pekad, kekebyaran (lightning):

{2} 4 _3 4 2 3 5 3 4 . ..

{ 2} 3____.4 1 1 3 1 .

{2 } _ 4 .

{2 2 2 2 222.


12 Perspectivesof New Music

suling from the pengawak section. Mr. Berata also suggested a penulti-
mate section, featuring Ghanaian instruments only. To frame the piece as
a whole, he drew upon two characteristic gestures within the repertoire
of gong kebyar,the most familiar and technically demanding of Balinese
ensembles. Gineman trompongsuggests the gong kebyar ensemble with
a series of phrases, each of which culminates in the dramatic aural para-
dox of an accelerating roll.17 Kekebyaran(literally "lightning") calls for
rapid execution of phrases set apart by silence; the last of these also fin-
ishes with an accelerating roll. These kebyar-derived gestures are illus-
trated in Example 6. This kreasi baru approach to composing for
gamelan angklung (see note 9), strongly influenced by the larger instru-
ments and more virtuosic techniques of gamelan gong kebyar, came eas-
ily to Mr. Berata.18His choice of it in the context of our collaboration
suggests that, even at this early stage of the work, he held a strong, dec-
lamatory conception of the piece.


The first opportunity to introduce these ideas to members of the en-

semble came during the early weeks of the millennial semester, 2001. It
had been exactly one year since I Nyoman Wenten and I unpacked the
shipping crates in which the gamelan had come by sea from Bali to Cali-
fornia; it seemed now both remarkable and inevitable that the ensemble
should be working toward a third premiere. This newest undertaking,
however, posed several immediate practical concerns, foremost among
which was whether the ensemble could grasp the polyrhythm between
reong and gangsa parts. During a phone conversation with Mr. Berata
(who had, by this time, returned to the United States for a short resi-
dency with Gamelan Sekar Jaya), I seized with enthusiasm upon his idea
of recording early rehearsals. The tapes that came of it furnished encour-
aging preliminary evidence that the group was indeed equal to the task.
Practice led to better focus, and ideas for instrumentation and struc-
ture began to take shape that were, in some respects, simpler than those
Mr. Berata and I had considered during earlier discussions. The
ensemble's mastering of the component parts of the pengawak section
revealed it to be already rich enough in texture and thus not requiring
inclusion of the West African gangogui. Nor did inclusion of the original
Agbekor melody, played on suling, quite seem to fit in this section.
Instead, a structure articulated by contrasting timbres, textures, and
dynamic levels grew from one rehearsal to the next; suggestions from
members of the ensemble led to further refining of the structure.19
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 13


In early discussions of the project, Mr. Berata and I had agreed in more
or less abstract terms that the second section, by contrast with the dis-
tinctly Balinese character of the pengawak, was to have a more clearly
etched African identity. The bell phrase or "time line" for Agbekor pro-
vided an unambiguous point of departure for that identity.20 Efforts in
rehearsal to combine Ghanaian with Balinese instruments, however,
failed to yield a result that I found engaging or satisfactory.
One evening after rehearsal, I found myself improvising with three
stand-mounted gangogui. Two additional instruments-the time-line
pattern for Agbekor typically sounds with high and low bells of one
instrument-enabled me to "melodicize" the rhythmic pattern.21 Num-
bering the six bells from low to high allowed me to notate the results. In
a relatively short, but gratifying intercultural leap, I substituted six reong
kettles for the "choir" of gangogui. The epigrammatic phrases that
resulted are shown in Example 7.

A: * 5 * 5 5 * 3 * 3 * 4 2 (8x)
B: * 5 * 5 5 * 4 * 4 * 1' 2 (7x)

BCl: * 5 * 5 5 * 4 * 4 * 1 2

C: * 5 * 5 5 * 4 * 1' * 1 2 (7x)

CCl: ? 5 * 5 5 * 4 * 1' * 5 2



Adding a simple figuration for gangsas, also derived from the bell
phrase of Agbekor, at last provided a suitable context for the original
song, now adapted as a melody for suling to be played during the "A"
phrases of the pengecet, as notated in Example 7.


Although both main sections had come to reflect, in varying degrees, a

meeting of Ghanaian and Balinese musical ideas, the challenge of
14 Perspectivesof New Music

intercultural encounter seemed epitomized in the efforts to forge links

between them. Had only a change in tempo been required, these transi-
tions would have had a more or less exact counterpart in Balinese prac-
tice. Owing to the distinct rhythmic character of each section, however,
it was necessary, additionally, that these passages accomplish a metric
modulation between duple and triple rhythmic orientations. In gamelan
angklung, as with other relatively large Balinese ensembles, changes of
tempo, dynamics, and sectional cues are signaled by the player of the ken-
dang, a long, double-headed drum that resembles the South Indian
mrdangam.22 Using four of the sounds availablefrom the timbral palette
of the kendang, I had already devised accompanying and cueing phrases
for the two main sections.23 Example 8 illustrates kendang phrases
within the pengawak: a duple-based paraphrase of the reong part (first
and second lines)24 sounds until a cueing gesture, shortly preceding the
entrance of the gangsas, leads into a polyrhythm of two-against-three
(third line).

Reong paraphrase (A phrases only):

d t- d d - d d t- d t- (2x)
P D p D p p
d d - d t d d t d {-} (2x)

Basic polyrhythm (J J =J J J)
d d d d d d d d d d d d
--p p -p --p-
P P -P P

Embellishing phrase with angsel:

d d d d d d k k k k
_p P P p P P PP



Example 9 (first and second lines) illustrates accompanying phrases

within the pengecet that are derived from timbral variations of the bell
phrase for Agbekor.
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 15

Timbral variations of bell phrase:


d d t- d d k
P p p P


d d k k k
p P P P P


d d k k k



Example 8 (fourth line) and Example 9 (third line) also represent

phrases within each section that culminate with accentual cueing gestures
or angsel.
Through various experiments, it became clear that a transition leading
from first to second sections must bring about a "compression" of the
rhythmic unit of the pengawak, as measured out by the kajar or time-
keeping instrument (a circumflex indicates the sounding of this instru-
ment in the transcriptions). As illustrated in Example 10, the duration of
one of the modulated units corresponds to half the duration of the origi-
nal unit.

Pengawak (J = 90):

* t- * d ? t- d P * d
0 p S p
* p * p
(3) 4 + 1

Pengecet (J = 180):
* t- * d t- d * d * k
* p **? p * p p * P
(1) 2 3 4 1


16 Perspectivesof New Music

Example 11 illustrates how this compression is accomplished. To

begin, a new, sharper timbre ("kep") is added in the right hand to
emphasize alternate strokes. This creates a new polyrhythm, four-against-
three, that spans, at first, two of the original rhythmic units (see Example
11, first line, in which two of these "four-against-three" polyrhythms
occur25). As the tempo increases, the four-against-three quickly con-
tracts in duration toward the time value of a single rhythmic unit. Upon
reaching J. = 180, a new unit forms through the subtraction of alternate
strokes in the left hand and commencement of the bell phrase in the
right. The result is a kind of dialog between two typesof two-against-
three polyrhythms, one of which is congruent, the other "displaced" in
relation to pairs of the new rhythmic unit (Example 11, second line).26
At the culmination of the passage, a signaling phrase or angsel marks the
close of the transition with a variant in which sharper "kap" and "pak"
timbres are prominent (Example 11, third line).

While increasing tempo:

k d k d k d k d k d k d
Pp P P -P -P P - P

Upon arriving at J 180:

d d -- d * d * k
P P p P

Angsel signaling end of transition, start of pengecet:

d d k k k
p P P P P P



Example 12 illustrates an analogous retrograde procedure that leads, at

a point midway through the piece, to a second statement of the pen-
gawak and, in closing moments of the piece, to the pekad.
In hindsight, these procedures embody a simplicity and inevitability
that belie the challenges posed by their discovery and implementation. At
the time I came only gradually to realize that devising these linking pas-
sages was, in fact, a process of learning to know the piece from within, a
process that recalled an earlier conversation with Pak Berata in which he
spoke of the necessity of "leading from the heart." Happily, and with the
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 17

Angsel signaling end of pengecet:


d d k k k
p P P P P P

While decreasing tempo:


t d t d t d t- d d t d

Slowingto J = 90 with angsel signaling close of transition:


- d t- d - d k k k



enthusiastic participation of members in the LMU World Music En-

semble, this was accomplished in time for us to win a warm reception for
Gending Agbekorat its premiere in April, 2001.27


At our next meeting in June 2001, Mr. Berata and I shared in the plea-
sure of our collaboration through a video recording of the April perfor-
mance. I described the ways in which some departures from our original
concept had come about: the structure of the pengawak had been simpli-
fied in the interest of textural clarity; the suling had been withheld to
sound only in the pengecet section; the pengecet also had evolved as an
adaptation of African musical ideas rather than an adopting of African
musical instruments. During this exchange, he maintained a polite but
unmistakable enthusiasm at the prospect of yet including African instru-
ments. This was to be the first of several discoveries for me during the
meeting: by comparison with the perspective of a Balinese composer
whose work, in an initially uninformed reckoning, might be termed "tra-
ditional," my own perspective was turning out to be the more cautious.
Another discovery came as we viewed and listened to the video of the
performance again: Mr. Berata began to tap a precise three against the
four beats of the time-keeping kajar during the pengecet section.28 A
18 Perspectivesof New Music

broad smile betrayed my surprise and delight! At my suggestion that this

polyrhythm could be incorporated in the jegogan part of the pengawak,
it was his turn to smile, perhaps at the prospect of our renewed collabora-
tion, perhaps at the piece now flowering anew.
I remarked, next, that there had not been time to create a sangsih part
for the gangsa "A" phrases within the pengewak. At this point, we sat
down on opposite sides of the gangsa and began to play: first the duple-
oriented phrases of the reong part, then the triple-oriented phrases of the
gangsa. Mr. Berata now asked that I play the gangsa part, continuously
repeating the first phrase as he alternately searched upon the instrument
and within his imagination for a complementary sangsih part. I was
familiar with a formulaic procedure: anticipate each tone of the original
polos by one half beat and play one key higher. Mr. Berata, however, was
clearly in search of something else. As the new part came gradually into
focus, I found myself letting out with spontaneous encouragements (as if
listening to a blues or jazz musician taking a solo) while continuing to
play the supporting polos. Before long, the sangsih was happily dancing
its differences both above and belowthe polos! Now assuming the role of
teacher, Pak Berata encouraged me to model the sangsih after him, add-
ing the polos once I had gotten hold of the new part. We followed this
exhilarating and revelatory procedure for both A phrases of the pen-
gawak. More could and shall be said about the piece, since Mr. Berata
plans to teach it to his students in Bali, and transformations, as he has
assured me, are inevitable. Those transformations are expected, in turn,
to inform a new realization of the piece when Mr. Berata returns to Loy-
ola Marymount for another artist's residency, planned for spring 2002.29


Over the past century or so, different composers in "the West" have in
differing degrees sought to define their own musical language through
interaction with (and occasional misinterpretation of) the musics of
Indonesia. More recently, several have engaged in direct collaboration
with Indonesian composers. The work described here brings yet another
fold to the fabric through strong resonances of a third cultural perspec-
tive from West Africa. These intercultural involvements are representa-
tive of larger trends both within and outside of Indonesia.30 Each
suggests the character of "liminality" ascribed by Victor Turner to the
nodal "rites de passages"that set off longer and more predictable episodes
of social interaction within the span of a human lifetime (1967, 93). Per-
haps these compositional collaborations, in analogous fashion, bespeak
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 19

passages in the life of human culture toward a more unified and inter-
intelligible era in which individuals and societies demonstrate ever-
increasing evidence of taking differences seriously rather than "person-
In my own case, the discovery of both shared and divergent perspec-
tives in the course of collaborating with I Dewa Berata has been a source
of insight in examining musico-cultural assumptions, as well as joy in the
co-creation of new music. Nor would I have expected, at the outset of
our work, for it to have led to an awakening and a flowering-in one.
20 Perspectivesof New Music


1. Gamelan angklung is traditionally a four-tone ensemble that plays for

ritual occasions, sometimes of a processional nature. Since the 1930s,
when five-tone gamelan angklung were built and played primarilyin
northern Bali (see McPhee 1966), this type of ensemble has become
more common in the south and taken on timbral and technical char-
acteristics of the larger (and more recently developed) gamelan gong
kebyar (see Ornstein 1971). Five-tone gamelan angklung are still
quite rare, however, outside of Bali (I Nyoman Wenten, personal
2. I am pleased to acknowledge my profound thanks to Mr. Berata for
the generosity of spirit that so thoroughly informed his commitment
to this residency. I am further indebted to Professor Judith Mitoma,
Director of the Center for Intercultural Performance, UCLA, for her
suggestion and subsequent facilitation of the residency. I also
acknowledge with gratitude the support of the Asian and Pacific
Studies Program and Office of International Students and Scholars at
Loyola Marymount University. Finally, a deep bow of thanks and
friendship to Dr. I Nyoman Wenten through whose agency Gamelan
Kembang Atangi now is an integral part of the World Music Program
at LMU, and to Elaine Barkin for her invaluable counsel during the
fashioning of this article.
3. This name acknowledges both the new artistic possibilities that the
gamelan has opened for the ensemble, as well as the pervasiveness of
Buddhism in the era during which gamelan orchestras first flourished
in Indonesia. "Flower of Awakening" is a reference to the "Flower
Sermon" of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha (see Suzuki 1959,
4. Please see the glossary for brief definitions of Balinese musical terms
that appearwithin this writing.
5. This melody first came to my attention while perusing a discussion of
processional songs among the Ewe-speaking peoples of southeastern
Ghana (Creighton 1997, 62, citing Locke 1978). An alternate ver-
sion, which appears in Locke 1996, suggests that in Ewe practice,
there is typically "no one 'correct' version of a melody" (Locke 2001,
personal communication; for translation and exegesis of the Ewe text
of this song, see Locke 1996, 98-9).
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 21

6. The tuned instruments of Gamelan Kembang Atangi include five keys

that correspond roughly with g, a, b, d', e'. In our working sessions,
lessons, rehearsals,and for the examples, the numbers 1-2-3-4-5 were
and are used; they indicate the numbering of the keys, from lowest to
highest. (An alternate numbering, to indicate the slendro modal tun-
ing, would be: 3-5-6-1'-2'.)
7. Mr. Berata frequently uses traditional Balinese nding symbols to
notate on paper and modify new musical ideas (these have a distinc-
tive "cursive" appearance and can be written quite rapidly). In our
working sessions, however, he has been gracious to accommodate my
(and generally, the non-Balinese) preference for cipher notation.
8. "Pak" is one of several honorifics applied in Indonesia to esteemed
teachers (see Miller and Lieberman 1999, 66).
9. Indonesian composers have identified two categories of musical inno-
vation: kreasi baru ("new creation") designates a work the techniques
and structure of which suggest its place within the ongoing lineage of
traditional practice; musik kontemporergives sanction to experimental
approaches that go, in some cases considerably, further afield (see
Barkin 1997, 139-42).
10. The music of Lou Harrison came, full-force, to my attention in 1981
when I had the privilege of working with the distinguished artist and
teacher, I Nyoman Wenten, as co-director in the premieres of
"Ladrang Epicuros" and "Gending Hephaestus" at UCLA. Shortly
thereafter, these compositions became movements I and III of Mr.
Harrison's Double Concertofor Violin, 'Cello, and Javanese Gamelan
(see also Miller and Lieberman 1998, 307).
11. Sosok,which effects a seamless combination of Balinese, Javanese,
and African instruments with voices, was premiered at UCLA and
subsequently performed at the Getty Museum and Japan-America
theater in Los Angeles, May 2001.
12. Gamelan SekarJaya: Balinese Gamelan in America (Gamelan Sekar
Jaya. 1995), track 5.
13. Triple meters and subdivisions into threes-as well as fives and
sevens-are still rare in Balinese gamelan music and have occasionally
been the source of performance difficulties in newer works that call
for them. However, within a relatively short rehearsal time, such
uncertainties are easily surmounted.
22 Perspectivesof New Music

14. While McPhee calls into question the ubiquity of a "pokok" or par-
ent melody in compositions of the repertoires for gamelan gong and
gamelan angklung (1966, 96; 246), his discussion nevertheless sug-
gests procedures that can, by and large, be interpreted as "simulta-
neous variation" (Lou Harrison's preferred term for heterophony).
15. Norot refers to a variety of figurations and textures which might
include damping a key while striking it. Norot figurations can be
slow or fast, and might or might not involve interlocking. (See
Tenzer 2000, 63-5; 215-6 and his Figures 6.4 and 6.7.)
16. During one session, we had both laughed at my suggestion that the
transition between kawitan and pengawak might be called a "neck."
17. Because it fixes attention on a process that by its very nature leads a
listener into silence, this rhythmic phenomenon can be regarded as
an auralparadox (see Humphreys 1992).
18. Tenzer describes a "secular subgenre of angklung kebyar"that has
resulted from the adaptation of new music and choreographies for
gamelan angklung (1998, 87).
19. Mr. Berata would later describe such interaction as common in Bali
and that Gending Agbekorwas likely to evolve in a similar way in the
course of his teaching it to his ensemble in Bali.
20. See Nketia (1974, 131-8) for a discussion of the role of time lines
within what he terms "multilinearrhythmic organization." For a rep-
resentation of the parts for the supporting drums of Agbekor, see
Chernoff (1979, 48-9).
21. Locke's salutary interpretation of this pattern (1996, 91) suggests
its compatibility with the "arrival-oriented" metric character of
Balinese music (in the adaptation of Locke's notation that appears
below, slashes indicate articulations, dots indicate silences):

high bell: * * / / / * I I/
low bell: . . . ...... . . /
hand clapping * */ * / * */ * * /

beat: 2 3 4 1

Because of its widespread use in the Ewe-speaking regions of West

Africa, as well as urban settings outside of that region (see
Agvorbekor 1998, passim), this distinctive rhythmic phrase was
Flowering of GendingAgbekor 23

termed the "standardpattern" by A. M. Jones, after the usage of his

Ghanaian consultant, Desmond Key (1959, 53). With some excep-
tions, however (see Temperly 2000, 81-2), this term has less cur-
rency in recent scholarship.
22. Typically kendang are played in pairs with a higher-pitched lanang
("male") drum and a lower-pitched wadon ("female") drum per-
forming intricately transactional parts. See Tenzer (1998, 48) for a
brief discussion of contexts in which lanang or wadon may, alter-
nately, take the lead role.
23. In Examples 8-12, the representation of these phrases is consistent
with the manner in which they would be notated "orally"with drum
syllables. The following table gives descriptions of the strokes that
are employed in Examples 8-12 (I am grateful to Dr. I Nyoman
Wenten for helping to clarify the usage of these syllables when one
drum is used instead of two; for a more detailed description of ken-
dang techniques and their associated timbres, see Tenzer 2000, 47-

Wadon Lanang
RightHand DAG(d):openstroke TUT(t):lanang
nearthe edge of right equivalentof DAG
drumhead (alsosoundedby
lefthandto imply
PUNG(P):partially dialogbetween
dampedstrokewithlittle wadonandlanong);
andringfingers strike-through(t)

LeftHand KAP(k):open stroketo PEK(p):lanang

centerof left drumhead equivalentof KAP
drumhead(soundedby PUNG(P):lanangequivalent
righthandin thiscase of wadonPUNG
to implydialogbetween

24. McPhee describes the close "rhythmic agreement" between kendang

and reong in his discussion of gamelan angklung (1966, 239).
25. This phrase can be understood as a "higher-order"polyrhythm, since
the two-against-three unit remains a constitutive element within it.
26. Several scholars of African music have commented on the prevalence
or "success" of the bell phrase from which this portion of Gending
24 Perspectivesof New Music

Agbekor is derived. Temperly has suggested its widespread use may

have come about, in part, as a consequence of each of the twelve
pulse-demarcated moments within the phrase having a unique rhyth-
mic "address" (my paraphrase)in relation to the others (2000, 82).
Locke accounts for the attractiveness of the phrase in terms of the
variety of timbral patterns that a listener may perceive within it,
going on to foreground two of these as "more important than the
others" (1996, 66). My own experience suggests that what Locke
describes as the "chameleon-like" character of the phrase is a conse-
quence of its perceptual entanglement with the hand-clapping pat-
tern that corresponds to the "regulating beat" (see note 21 above).
The phenomenological result is a ceaseless and seamless shifting
between alternately congruent and non-congruent two-against-three
polyrhythms as embodied in timbral adaptations of the pattern such
as that represented in Example 11, line two.
27. In addition to the indispensable assistance of Mr. Rocky Kitamura,
ensemble assistant for gamelan Kembang Atangi during its inaugural
year of 2000-1, I also acknowledge the pivotal contributions of Mr.
David Gray (a student in the MFA program at CalArts) toward real-
izing this performance.
28. A similar polyrhythm occurs within the closing ostinato of the pen-
gawak section in his "Gending Sekar Gadung," recorded by Sekar
Jayain 2000.
29. Funds enabling this second residency have been generously made
available by the Office of the Academic Vice President at Loyola
Marymount University.
30. Tenzer has commented that "there are few limits on what is accept-
able or possible in Balinese music today" (1998, 55).
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 25


angklung: Designation for an ensemble comprised of instruments with

four or, (more recently) five tones, of the slendro scale; also the name
of a tuned bamboo idiophone.

angsel: A point of rhythmic and textural articulation, signaled by the ken-

dang (within dance performance, may also be signaled by a dancer).
gangogui: An iron double bell commonly used to articulate the refer-
ence phrase or "time line" in West-African dance-drumming.

gangsa: A family of metallophone instruments with tuned keys resting

over a sounding box.

gending: A generic term for "composition" or piece.

gineman trompong: A prelude with improvised character that suggests
the style of solo playing associated with the trompong (larger counter-
part of the reong).
jegogan: The lowest-sounding keyed instrument within gamelan ang-
kajar: A small, hand-held gong used to sound a reference pulse.
kawitan: The opening or "head" of a composition.

kekebyaran: A kebyar-derived style of playing that calls for rapid execu-

tion of phrases set off by pauses of indeterminate length (literally
kendang: An elongated, two-headed drum, used to signal changes of
texture and tempo as well as embellish and energize gamelan perfor-
mance; typically played in pairs consisting of larger wadon ("female")
and smaller lanang ("male") drums.
kotekan: A general term for two-part gangsa figuration, often interlock-
mrdangam: A two-headed drum, similar in construction to the kendang,
central to the performance of art music in South India.

ndings: Balinese solmization syllables: ndeng, ndung, ndang, nding,

ndong (in order corresponding with gamelan angklung pitches 1
through 5).
26 Perspectivesof New Music

norot: Figurational patterns and the various ensemble textures associated

with them.

pekad: The closing section or "feet" of a composition.

pengawak: The first main section or "body" of a composition.
pengecet: The second main section or "legs" of a composition.
pokok: The "nuclear"tones of a composition (literally, "tree trunk").
polos: The component melodic part within a two-part kotekan that falls
more or less consistently on accented divisions within the overall met-
ric scheme (literally, "direct").

reong: A set of eight to twelve small kettle gongs, arrayedwithin a long

wooden frame.

sangsih: The component melodic part within a two-part kotekan that

falls more or less consistently on unaccented divisions within the over-
all metric scheme (literally, "differing").
slendro: Tuning system based on five more or less equidistant intervals
within an octave.

suling: A type of bamboo fipple flute, frequently used as a contrasting

melodic timbre within predominantly metallophone contexts.
tabuh telu: A compositional genre in which gong-articulated units of
cyclic structure total sixteen beats.
Floweringof GendingAgbekor 27


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