Seka Gong Taruna Mekar & Cudamani | Returning Minimalism

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World: Asian Classical: Minimalism Moods: Type: Instrumental
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Returning Minimalism

by Seka Gong Taruna Mekar & Cudamani

Returning Minimalism presents new gamelan works by two renowned Balinese composers, exploring the techniques, textures, and freedoms of minimalism from a unique perspective — and realized by virtuosic musicians from each of their gamelan ensembles.
Genre: World: Asian
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  Song Share Time Download
1. In Deng
Seka Gong Taruna Mekar & Cudamani
24:23 album only
2. In Ding
Seka Gong Taruna Mekar & Cudamani
23:02 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Returning Minimalism: New works for Balinese gamelan gong kebyar

On an afternoon in June 2011, a group of gamelan musicians seated themselves on mats spread out in the middle courtyard of the Pura Dalem Munduk Sangkur in the village of Tunjuk. This serenely beautiful temple, shaded by tall palms and luxuriant hardwood trees, sits nestled like an oasis among broad rice fields. About half the musicians were from the famed Tunjuk gamelan ensemble, Seka Gong Taruna Mekar, which has accompanied hundreds of ceremonies in this and other local temples. The others were from the acclaimed group Çudamani, from the village of Pengosekan, about a half-hour’s drive to the east in the Ubud area. Such a combination is unusual since the gamelan ethos is so tightly bound up with ensemble unity and polished teamwork, usually attainable only through long-term rehearsal by a single, dedicated membership.

From another perspective this hybrid group, led by the ensembles’ directors, I Made Arnawa and I Dewa Putu Berata, reflected the musical project at hand, a cross-fertilization of musical ideas that have reverberated across cultures. The two composers chatted quietly with their fellow musicians about this unusual undertaking while awaiting the start of the recording session, surrounded by mics and recording gear. Acoustically, their conversations were just one element of the gentle sonic environment. A slowly changing palette of sounds––tropical insects, frogs, birds, an occasional distant motorcycle, leaves rustling in the tops of the high palm trees––made up the ambient soundscape. The musicians had just returned from the inner temple courtyard, where (as with any activity undertaken within the temple walls) they prayed for the project’s success, guided by the priest’s bell and mantras.

Initially, success seemed unlikely because of the weather. As the musicians launched into the first of two pieces, a gentle rain began to fall, threatening to derail the open-air recording session. But the mists lifted after a few moments, and the players—undisturbed in their intense concentration—were able to complete their musical journeys. The two pieces had been sketched out over the preceding days of rehearsal and discussion. No one knew beforehand exactly how long they would be, since both involved a live, generative process poised as much upon interpretive freedom as adherence to definitive instructions. As it turned out, the rain returned only minutes before the session ended. Mics and recording gear were hastily covered by tarps; gamelan instruments were carried to the roofed pavilions. Gathering there moments later, we traded relieved smiles that the realization of these two new works was complete. The ambient tropical sounds had seemed to accompany and guide the two process-oriented pieces and become part of the recorded music. Even the tonality of the insect chirps was in accord, on ding, the central scale-tone of Pak Dewa’s piece. By his reckoning, the rain had been a divine affirmation: we had been blessed with a brief sprinkling of holy waters at the beginning, and with a downpour only after the successful conclusion of the session. The bookends of natural and divine influence seemed to him quite perfect.

Cross-Pacific currents

Terry Riley’s 1964 composition In C—the inspiration and basis for the works recorded here—was a musical landmark by any reckoning. It was one of the founding works of the movement later dubbed minimalism, a new way of working with musical materials that eventually penetrated much of Western art music, either directly or indirectly, becoming one of the most potent of all American stylistic currents of the twentieth century. It helped initiate a stunning reaction to the modernist music of the day, especially the hyper-complex scores of composers such as Elliott Carter and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In C was a near-magical distillation of ideas of the times, bringing onto a single page of score, with its simple set of instructions, numerous influences from outside the Eurocentric art music tradition. Jazz improvisation, rock, musical theater, tape music, and musical traditions from Africa and Asia were all part of its DNA. That genetic code, disseminated especially by several of the performers at the 1964 San Francisco premiere—Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Morton Subotnik, John Gibson—continues to be expressed in a wide variety of musical streams and creations.

This recording documents a set of such descendants. But these two works stand in a special perspective to Riley’s formative piece, since both were consciously and directly modelled on In C. They are a continuation of a larger project conceived by John Noise Manis that includes pieces by eight other noted Indonesian composers and players from ISI (Indonesian Institute of the Arts) in Surakarta. In this phase, I Dewa Putu Berata and I Made Arnawa were commissioned with the same straightforward but surprisingly challenging task: to familiarize themselves with Riley’s piece and its conceptual framework, and then reinterpret or re-imagine it within their own musical worlds. The composers put together an ensemble of highly skilled players drawn from both of their gamelan ensembles, in Tunjuk and Pengosekan, to realize their pieces.

(excerpt from the CD booklet text, by Wayne Vitale)

I Made Arnawa – reong, trompong
I Dewa Putu Berata – gangsa, suling, trompong

Komang Arianta – kantil, suling
I Made Karjana – kantil, suling
I Nyoman Muliadi – gangsa
I Nyoman Suriadi – gangsa, suling
I Dewa Made Suparta – gangsa
Ida Bagus Made Widnyana – gangsa
I Made Dita Nava Prajanata – reong, suling
I Wayan Ardika – reong
I Dewa Rai – trompong
Emiko Saraswati Susilo, vocal (on In Ding)
Sang Kompiang Widya Sastrawan – jublag
I Nengah Sudartana – jublag
I Made Dedi Juniarta – jegogan
I Made Eka Arta - jegogan
I Komang Juliarta – gong, kempur, kenong



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