School Update: Gamelan

This semester the gamelan class has managed to get a teacher from Java in to lead the class. As it turns out, he’s from the ethnomusicology department at ISI, though he so far has not seemed very interested in waxing lyrical about our common experiences at ISI.

Actually, though, it’s been great having him here. As I’d hoped, I’m getting the chance to drum and some pointers on drumming. When I was at ISI, the gamelan class I took played a lot of ketawangs. The class was focused on dance music, and I guess a lot of dances eventually end up in a ketawang. Anyway, when it was asked if anyone wanted to drum a ketawang that we were playing, I volunteered. It seemed like a good way to get back into drumming by using a form that I’ve already studied.

Then the gamelan teacher actually arrived. As it turns out, I’m not only drumming the ketawang, but I’m drumming another song tacked on to that one. Naturally it’s in a different form. And faster.

But, actually, this is good because it means I’m learning new drum patterns. The teacher keeps telling me that I should be improvising in this part. Of course, if you know anything about me and music, you know that the word “improvisation” strikes fear into my heart. Right now, no improvisation has happened; I’m still struggling just to hit the important bits. As with Western music, I am no Suzuki student. I like to have my music written down before I try to commit it to memory.

The teacher, of course, is not into this. Right now he’s employing the method in which he plays something and expects me to follow along with him. So far, I know that what I’m doing isn’t quite right. I also know when I need to put in important signal patterns, though I don’t always manage this when we’re actually playing. Hopefully by the concert, though, I’ll have that down.

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