Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last Week in Bali: Performances, Lessons, Build-a-Gangsa

A quick photo-tour.

In Balinese dance, this guy is evil/comic relief.  The performer usually hams up the role by live improvised interaction with members of the gamelan:

The warrior dance:

Offering dance.  Alison and I learned a variation of this in Balinese dance lessons.  Ask to see the video sometime:

Dance lessons:

We took Balinese gamelan lessons, which focused on learning melody and rhythm parts on a xylophone-like instrument called the gangsa.  You have to dampen the keys appropriately with your left hand after striking with the right.  The tuning system differs significantly from Western tempered instruments (like piano or guitar).  One cool byproduct of their tuning is it seems to maximize a metallic dissonant ringing at the highest frequencies.  So the sounds, especially when playing multiple instruments together, really jump.

Gamelan lessons:

The gangsa:

Our gamelan teacher also plays in shows at an Ubud venue:

Alison happened to meet another American named Dan who is living in Cambodia and doing ethnomusicological research - recording and transcribing the music of Cambodia's dying master musicians.  He was looking to buy a Balinese gangsa, so we ended up tagging along.  Our gamelan teacher took the three of us to local villages where families have made gamelan instruments for generations.

Gamelan-making warehouse:


Putting on the finishing touches:

In Java they call these bonongs but I don't know what Balinese call them:

Cockfighting is so pervasive in Bali that you almost can't help running into them:

We went to a gamelan bambu performance, where the gamelan was crafted out of bamboo.  This tradition comes from western Bali, and the dancing was as different as the instruments:

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