Order 3 or more CDs and get 1¢ domestic shipping through 03/31/2020.
Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan Ensemble | Cherish, Consider, Conserve, Create: Compositions for Gamelan by Lou Harrison

Go To Artist Page

Recommended if You Like
Gamelan Pacifica

More Artists From
United States - Oregon

Other Genres You Will Love
World: Gamelan Classical: New Music Ensemble Moods: Type: Instrumental
There are no items in your wishlist.

Cherish, Consider, Conserve, Create: Compositions for Gamelan by Lou Harrison

by Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan Ensemble

Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan ensemble (Kyai Guntur Sari) presents compositions by Lou Harrison (1917-2003) that stretch from his charming early efforts in the mid 1970s to one of his final gamelan compositions.
Genre: World: Gamelan
Release Date: 

We'll ship when it's back in stock

Order now and we'll ship when it's back in stock, or enter your email below to be notified when it's back in stock.
Continue Shopping
just a few left.
order now!
Share to Google +1

To listen to tracks you will need to update your browser to a recent version.

  Song Share Time Download
1. Gending Dennis, Slendro Sanga
4:38 $0.99
2. A Dentdale Ladrang, Slendro & Pelog
13:28 $1.49
3. Music for the Turning of a Sculpture by Pamela Boden, Slendro Sanga
9:59 $0.99
4. Gending Vincent, Slendro
11:15 $1.49
5. Lancaran Daniel, Slendro Manyura
4:57 $0.99
6. Ladrang Carter Scholz, Pelog
11:38 $1.49
7. Gangsaran: Ladrang in Honor of Pak Daliyo, Slendro
9:56 $1.49
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
First recordings of gamelan music by Lou Harrison

At the height of Lou Harrison’s career as one of America’s most innovative composers, when he was regularly commissioned by some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and classical musicians, the ensemble he most loved to write for was the radiant ensemble of gongs, metallophones, and other instruments from Java, Indonesia, called gamelan. Yet this side of Harrison’s career is more heard about than heard, as most of his innovative and alluring music for gamelan ensemble has never been recorded. Now, in celebration of the 2017 centennial of Harrison’s birth in Portland, Oregon, the city’s Gamelan Kyai Guntur Sari (translated to “Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan”), with which he worked from its inception, presents seven of his previously unrecorded gamelan compositions.

Lou Harrison’s exposure to Asian art began in his childhood Portland home, which was crowded with his mother’s varied collection. During his teenage years in San Francisco he explored Chinese opera, and he used instruments bought in Chinatown shops in the percussion concerts he created with fellow West Coast music pioneer John Cage in the 1930s and ‘40s. He first experienced an Indonesian gamelan ensemble at San Francisco’s 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The entrancing sound stayed with him; his impressions of the music pervade the Suite for Violin, Piano and Small Orchestra, written in 1951 toward the end of a decade spent living in New York City. While it didn’t use gamelan instruments, the suite’s sonorities and some performance techniques imitated gamelan, as would many later compositions. In 1949-50, Harrison composed at Portland’s Reed College before moving back to California’s central coast in 1953, where he lived for the rest of his life.

During the 1960s Harrison studied in Korea and Taiwan, returning with fusions of these traditions and Western music, but his greatest affection remained with the gamelan traditions of Java. An opportunity to immerse himself in gamelan came with the residency of one of Java’s master musicians, K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat (known familiarly as Pak Cokro), at Berkeley’s Center for World Music in the 1970s. Harrison and his life partner Bill Colvig built their own gamelan, and with Pak Cokro’s encouragement, Harrison began composing a diverse repertory of gamelan music that by the time of his death in 2003 included dozens of compositions.

Harrison’s motto: Cherish, consider, conserve, create

The Pieces:
Harrison wrote Lancaran Daniel in 1976, making it one of his earliest compositions for Javanese gamelan. A lancaran is a quick and loud form with 16 beats per gong cycle, and Harrison dedicated this one to his friend and fellow gamelan composer and instrument builder, Daniel Schmidt. It uses the traditional slendro tuning: a scale of five tones roughly equally spaced across the octave. As with many of his gamelan pieces, Harrison worked out some of the instrument parts in quasi-traditional style with the help of his good friend and gamelan expert Jody Diamond.

Like several of his early gamelan pieces, Music for the Turning of a Sculpture replaces the regular binary structure typical of most Javanese music with an asymmetrical form. Harrison called his prose-like melodic structures “Whitmanesque” forms, and, like the free verse of that American poet, the melody wanders in rhapsodic yet finely-balanced expression. Composed for an exhibition featuring the art of Australian sculptor Pamela Boden, the music matches the dynamic asymmetry of her Mountain Torrent, a cascade of gracefully curved wooden planks.

Gending Dennis is another composition in lancaran form, and is dedicated to conductor Dennis Russell Davies, a long-time friend of Harrison and champion of his music. Davies was the director of the Cabrillo Music Festival, which Harrison helped to found. Davies’ wife, Molly, used this piece and other Harrison gamelan compositions as the soundtrack to her experimental multi-projector film Beyond the Far Blue Mountains in 1982.

Harrison wrote Gending Vincent to honor the founder of Venerable Showers of Beauty, Vincent McDermott, following Harrison’s first residency with the ensemble. This performance shows off the refinement of the slow style of Javanese gamelan, in which the expansion of the rhythmic forms gives the softer instruments the opportunity to weave intricate heterophony around the core tones. As in many of Harrison’s pieces, the underlying rhythmic structure departs from Javanese conventions, using a framework of 24 beats rather than 16 or some multiple thereof.

Harrison and Colvig traveled to Indonesia for the first time in 1984, where they met the traditional gamelan maker Pak Daliyo. Harrison ordered a small slendro gamelan from Daliyo, which he housed in his California home. In 1986, Harrison composed Ladrang in Honor of Pak Daliyo, a 32-beat ladrang form, preceded by a gangsaran, a variety of the lancaran form which repeats a single tone.

Harrison’s late gamelan compositions incorporate especially complex and introspective melodies that often explore the nuances of modes and subtle expressive turns. He wrote A Dentdale Ladrang during a visit to a friend in England, poet Jonathan Williams, where he was inspired by the beauty of the valley (dale) near the town of Dent. The composition borrows one of the Javanese gamelan tradition’s most startling innovations: a midstream switch from one tuning system, slendro, to the other, pelog, a scale of seven tones per octave with some step sizes approaching semitones.

Ladrang Carter Scholz honors Harrison’s composer and writer friend, who shared Harrison’s long love of calligraphy and also developed a now widely used computer font for notating gamelan music, called Kepatihan. Here Harrison presents a non-traditional approach to the pelog scale, employing equally all seven of the available pitches rather than focusing on a subset of only five or six, as is most common in traditional Javanese music. Also unusually, Harrison stops the melody before each culminating gong stroke, leaving the melody floating above any expected resolution.

Lou Harrison in Portland: Harrison’s most lasting relationship with Portland began at the invitation of music professor Vincent McDermott, who in 1980 founded the Venerable Showers of Beauty (VSB) Gamelan at Portland’s Lewis & Clark College, where it has resided ever since. Built in a village near Semarang, Central Java, in approximately 1880, the Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan was the first of its kind in the Northwest and about the tenth gamelan to arrive in the United States. The gamelan was named by Harrison’s teacher Pak Cokro, who was a mentor for the group in its early years. Another renowned Javanese musician and Harrison friend, Pak Midiyanto, who was an artist in residence with VSB for nearly a decade, joins the ensemble on this recording. Harrison returned to his native Portland several times to work with McDermott and the ensemble.

Since its inception, VSB has performed new and traditional works at hundreds of events throughout the Northwest. The extensive community of music lovers who devote their time to this group includes Lewis & Clark College students, alumni, and community members. Currently directed by Mindy Johnston, VSB continues to contribute to the rich cultural fabric of the region.

MINDY JOHNSTON, music director
MIDIYANTO, guest artist
JESSE SNYDER, guest artist

VSB members appearing on this recording include:
April Bertelsen, Amelia Bierly, Vera Brink, Brett Campbell, Michael Echols, Joy A.A., Priska Hillis, Mindy Johnston, Teresa Justice, Yael Schweitzer, Earl Temp, David Tweet, Brogan Woodburn


1. Gending Dennis, slendro sanga -1982 (4:38)
2. A Dentdale Ladrang, slendro & pelog – 1993-99 (13:29)
3. Music for the Turning of a Sculpture by Pamela Boden, slendro sanga – 1977 (10:00)
4. Gending Vincent, slendro - 1983 (11:15)
5. Lancaran Daniel, slendro manyura - 1976 (4:58)
6. Ladrang Carter Scholz, pelog - 1998-2002 (11:38)
7. Gangsaran to Ladrang in Honor of Pak Daliyo, slendro -1986 (9:56)

Recorded October 2–4, 2015, at Evans Auditorium, Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon, by Pat Kearns. Mixed and mastered by Pat Kearns at PermaPress Recording.
Produced by Pat Kearns and Mindy Johnston.

Cover photo by Eva Soltes, harrisondocumentary.com.
Artwork by Joy A.A., http://joyaa.deviantart.com

This recording is a project of Gamelan Rakyat (www.gamelanrakyat.org), made possible by a grant from Oregon’s Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Dedicated to Lou Harrison and Vincent McDermott
Cherish, consider, conserve, create (Harrison’s motto)
For more information, see VSB’s website: www.vsbgamelan.org
For Lou Harrison gamelan scores, contact agi@gamelan.org

Special thanks to Pak Midiyanto, Jesse Snyder, Bill Alves, Vincent McDermott, Lewis & Clark College Department of Music, Regional Arts & Culture Council, and the American Gamelan Institute.

Notes by Brett Campbell and Bill Alves.



to write a review