Gamelan

Key facts and extra detail from the GCSE OCR Music textbook and revision guide

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Gamelan
Gamelan is a set of tuned percussion instruments
A gamelan may have anything between 5 and 50
players, but there are usually around about 10 to 20
players
Everyone is expected to learn each instrument, so they
understand exactly how they all work and understand
the music with confidence so they can fit their part in
with everyone else's
Gamelan comes from the islands of Java and Bali in
Indonesia
The three main styles of gamelan today are:
Javanese ­ from central Java
Balinese ­ from Bali
Sundanese ­ from West Java
Gamelan can be heard in many different venues such as
courts
temples
village squares
The music is often used to accompany an event that
involves dance or ritual, for example:
puppet shows
plays
religious ceremonies
The music is learned by ear, instead of from notation
The word `gamelan' itself refers to the collection of
instruments
Instrumentation
Gongs
They come in various shapes and sizes
Some are suspended, while others are bowl shaped
and sit in a frame
Each gong is pitched to different note of the scale
They are usually at the back of the gamelan
Metallophones
like a xylophone, but with metal keys
In Balinese gamelan the metallophones are often
tuned in pairs with one slightly higher/lower than the
other, creating slight dissonance in the tuning
The saron usually plays the melody

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Drums
barrel shaped and double headed
both ends of the drum are struck with the hands
(depending on the style of the music)
There are usually 2 or 3 in one ensemble
the kendang is the main drum
Other instruments include
bamboo flutes - suling
bowed strings - rebab
plucked zithers
wooden xylophones - gambang
voice
Gamelan instruments are made in sets and designed to be
played together.…read more

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Structure
The music is structured in cycles
one cycle is called a gongan and is marked by a
large stroke on the gong
o the gongan is broken down into 4-beat groups.
One 4-beat group is called a keteg which is like
the equivalent of a bar
The structure is defined by the large gongs
The last beat of each phrase is the most important beat.…read more

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