Sunday, December 9, 2007

110. Music of the Great Tradition -- 12: Gamelan

The list, continued:

9. Tonal displacement -- notes from the nuclear theme are routinely displaced at the octave in gamelan music, to accommodate the range of each instrument.

[10. Temporal displacement does not appear to be a significant feature of gamelan music.]

11. Repetition -- certain types of gamelan performance can be highly repetitious, especially when associated with ritual.

12. Variation in gamelan music tends to be more "vertical" than "horizontal" with variants of the nuclear theme appearing simultaneously with its presentation. Improvisation is strictly limited to only a few instruments.

13. Melodic disjunction is not unusual in gamelan music, though found probably less often than in P/B.

14. "Unification of musical space," through use of the same intervals both vertically and horizontally, is a distinctive aspect of both the P/B and gamelan traditions. The gender panerus and gambang kayu parts of the gamelan score I've presented are excellent examples of this. Note the harmonic clashes that arise from the interaction of these parts at several points, e.g., where the notes d and e flat are played simultaneously in the second measure, or e flat and f in the third. Several other clashes of this type can be found throughout the excerpt.

15. Continuous flow. Another very striking similarity between these two traditions is their strong tendency to "fill in the spaces" with continually interlocking parts. The only difference in this respect is that the end of a gamelan cycle is usually marked with a stroke of the largest gong, while P/B cycles remain unarticulated throughout.

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