American Gamelan Institute

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The American Gamelan Institute (AGI) is an organization devoted to promoting and documenting all forms of gamelan, the performing arts of Indonesia, and their international counterparts.

Gamelan Indonesian traditional ensemble

Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments used are metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand-played drums called kendhang which register the beat. Other instruments include xylophones, bamboo flutes, a bowed instrument called a rebab, and even vocalists called sindhen.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, contains more than half of the country's population.

The Institute was founded in Berkeley, California in 1981; the office moved to New Hampshire in 1990. AGI publishes scores, recordings, monographs, translations and other material. AGI has an online library with a wide variety of monographs, collections of notation, and a font for the cipher notation commonly used for gamelan, called KepatihanPro. These materials may be freely downloaded for educational use. AGI maintains an extensive archive of notation and scores for both new and traditional gamelan music, scholarly writings on gamelan, as well as audio and video recordings. Its founder and director is the composer and gamelan musician Jody Diamond. The organization's scope includes gamelan music as practiced in Indonesia as well as around the world. The journal Balungan was started in 1984 to encourage a dialog between artists and scholars involved in gamelan. Current and back issues [ permanent dead link ] of Balungan are on line, and many libraries have subscriptions. The sixteenth issue was printed in December 2010.

Berkeley, California City in California, United States

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.

Jody Diamond American composer and performer

Jody Diamond is an American composer, performer, writer, publisher, editor, and educator. She specializes in traditional and new music for Indonesian gamelan and is active internationally as a scholar, performer, and publisher.

The Institute also has a podcast, called Gongcast and hosts directories of gamelan groups around the world. The directories for North America (Canada and the U.S.), are maintained by Barbara Benary. In the early 1990s, AGI produced three gamelan festivals called "Planet Gamelan."

Podcast type of digital media

A podcast or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user's own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.

Barbara Benary is an American composer and ethnomusicologist specializing in Indonesian and Indian music.

The American Gamelan Institute is the publisher of all gamelan works by the American composer Lou Harrison, who built gamelan instruments with his partner William Colvig.

Lou Harrison American composer

Lou Silver Harrison was an American composer. He was a student of Henry Cowell, Arnold Schoenberg, and K. P. H. Notoprojo.

William (Bill) Colvig was an electrician and amateur musician who was the partner for 33 years of composer Lou Harrison, whom he met in San Francisco in 1967. Colvig helped construct the American gamelan used in works such as the puppet opera Young Caeser [sic] (1971), La Koro Sutro (1972), and the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan (1974).

See also

American gamelan

American gamelan could refer to both instruments and music; the term has been used to refer to gamelan-style instruments built by Americans, as well as to music written by American composers to be played on gamelan instruments. American gamelan music usually has some relationship to the gamelan traditions of Indonesia, as found primarily on the islands of Java and Bali in a variety of styles. Many American compositions can be played on Indonesian or American-made instruments. Indonesian gamelan can be made of a variety of materials, including bronze, iron, or bamboo. American gamelan builders used all sorts of materials including aluminum, tin cans, car hubcaps, steel, antique milk-strainers, etc. American gamelan may also describe the original music of American ensembles working with traditional instruments.

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Mantle Hood was an American ethnomusicologist. Among other areas, he specialized in studying gamelan music from Indonesia. Hood pioneered, in the 1950s and 1960s, a new approach to the study of music, and the creation of the first American university program devoted to ethnomusicology, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was known for a suggestion, somewhat novel at the time, that his students actually learn to play the music they were studying.

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Colotomy is a description of the rhythmic and metric patterns of gamelan music. It refers to the use of specific instruments to mark off nested time intervals, or the process of dividing rhythmic time into such nested cycles. In the gamelan, this is usually done by gongs of various size: the kempyang, ketuk, kempul, kenong, gong suwukan, and gong ageng. The fast-playing instruments, kempyang and ketuk, keep a regular beat. The larger gongs group together these hits into larger groupings, playing once per each grouping. The largest gong, the gong ageng, represents the largest time cycle and generally indicates that that section will be repeated, or the piece will move on to a new section.


The balungan is sometimes called the "core melody" or, "skeletal melodic outline," of a Javanese gamelan composition. This corresponds to the view that gamelan music is heterophonic: the balungan is then the melody which is being elaborated. "An abstraction of the inner melody felt by musicians," the balungan is, "the part most frequently notated by Javanese musicians, and the only one likely to be used in performance."

Gerong is the Javanese verb meaning "to sing in a chorus." Penggerong is the proper name of a member of the chorus, but often the word gerong is used to refer to the unison male chorus that sings with the gamelan. The chorus or the melody may also be called the gerongan.

Pathet is an organizing concept in Central Javanese gamelan music. It is a system of tonal hierarchies in which some notes are emphasized more than others. The word means '"to damp, or to restrain from" in Javanese. Pathet is "a limitation on the player's choice of variation, so that while in one pathet a certain note may be prominent, in another it must be avoided, or used only for special effect. Awareness of such limitations, and exploration of variation within them reflects a basic philosophical aim of gamelan music, and indeed all art in central Java, namely, the restraint and refinement of one's own behaviour." Javanese often give poetic explanations of pathet, such as "Pathet is the couch or bed of a melody." In essence, a pathet indicates which notes are stressed in the melody, especially at the end of phrases (seleh), as well as determines which elaborations are appropriate. In many cases, however, pieces are seen as in a mixture of pathets, and the reality is often more complicated than the generalizations indicated here, and depend on the particular composition and style.

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