(Joseph) Vincent McDermott (September 5, 1933 – February 10, 2016) was a classically trained American composer and ethnomusicologist. His works show particular influence from the musics of South and Southeast Asia, particularly the gamelan music of Java. He was among the second generation of American composers to create and promote new compositions for gamelan.
McDermott was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He received a B.F.A. in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania (1959), an M.A. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley (1961), and a Ph.D. in music history, theory, and composition from the University of Pennsylvania (1966). His composition instructors included Constant Vauclain,[ citation needed ] George Rochberg, Darius Milhaud, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In 1980, McDermott became friends with Lou Harrison, the godfather of American gamelan. It was Harrison who encouraged McDermott to start composing for gamelan.
McDermott first encountered gamelan circa 1965 in Amsterdam. He later studied Javanese gamelan in Indonesia at the Akademi Seni Karawitan Indonesia (now Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia Surakarta) in Central Java (1971, 1978, and 1984). He studied or worked in Surakarta with Sumarsam and Rahayu Supanggah, and later, in the United States, with Pak Cokro and Midiyanto. In the 1970s he made an intensive study of Hindustani classical music, studying with sitarist Ira Das Gupta, and with renowned tabla player Zakir Hussain.[ citation needed ]
He died in Sumatra, Indonesia, on February 10, 2016.
Many of McDermott's works are for standard Western ensembles (e.g. chamber, orchestral, choral, solo, and electronic). In 1969 he began to incorporate sounds and ideas from North Indian music. In 1980 Lou Harrison encouraged McDermott to begin composing for gamelan. He then composed a number of works for gamelan (some in combination with Western instruments), and presented gamelan workshops in several Asian nations (including Malaysia and Japan), focusing primarily on encouraging new compositions for gamelan. He received several Fulbright grants and National Endowment for the Arts commissions and a "Master's Award" from the Oregon Arts Commission.
McDermott's compositions have been performed in North America, Europe, and Asia. From the earliest period he was drawn to cross-cultural works, multimedia, and theatrical music. Two of his operas, The King of Bali and Mata Hari, juxtapose gamelan and Western ensembles. Both were written and performed in the U.S. with English texts in the 1990s, and in this century were translated into Indonesian and performed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.[ citation needed ]
McDermott's musical style varied. His generation witnessed the onset of a wealth of new styles, and in his early days he tried his hand at many of them. By and by he eschewed the poles of abstract atonality and indeterminacy that were much in favor in the 1960s and 1970s, turning instead to modality, melody, and counterpoint. His compositional goals are expressivity, depth, and spirituality, yet often with a light heart. In Asia, he advised young composers to borrow from Western traditions, saying it will help them speak to international audiences, but he insisted that the soul of their music as well as many of its techniques must come from their own soil.[ citation needed ]
McDermott taught at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia (1966–67) and at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee where he served for a time as dean and director (1967–1977). In 1977 he began teaching at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon; he retired in December 1997. While there he began the college's world music program and in 1980 founded its first gamelan, Venerable Showers of Beauty, which was purchased in Java with the help of Rahayu Supanggah and Nyonya Nora along with an American patron, Loraine Fenwick. He directed the gamelan and later invited Javanese musicians to teach (including Midiyanto, Supardi, and Darsono). He also instituted classes in Indian and African music performance with Nisha Joshi and Obo Addy. He later helped to establish gamelan programs at the College of William & Mary and the University of Puget Sound. Among his composition students at Lewis & Clark College were Greg Bowers, Erika Foin, Hoe Yeong KIm, Duncan Nielson, Myrna Schloss, and Sophia Serghi.[ citation needed ]
After retirement, McDermott was a Visiting Professor at The College of William and Mary (2002); Indonesian Institute of the Arts (2002–03); University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur (2006); Osaka City University (2005); and University of Technology (MARA), Shah Alam, Malaysia (2009). The last four placements were assisted by Fulbright programs.
During his last years, McDermott divided his time between the United States and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In Yogyakarta, he directed an ensemble called Musica Teatrica Nova.
Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese peoples of 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/Kendang, which register the beat. The kemanak and gangsa are commonly used gamelan instruments in Bali. Other instruments include xylophones, bamboo flutes, a bowed instrument called a rebab, a zither-like instrument siter and vocalists named sindhen (Female) or gerong (Male).
Pelog is one of the essential tuning systems used in gamelan instruments that has heptatonic scale. The other, older, scale commonly used is called slendro. Pelog has seven notes, but many gamelan ensembles only have keys for five of the pitches. Even in ensembles that have all seven notes, many pieces only use a subset of five notes, sometimes the additional 4th tone is also used in a piece like western accidentals.
SlendroPlay (help·info) is one of the essential tuning systems used in gamelan instruments that has pentatonic scale. Based on Javanese mythology, the Slendro Gamelan tuning system is older than the pélog tuning system.
John Stanley Body was a New Zealand composer, ethnomusicologist, photographer, teacher, and arts producer. As a composer, his work comprised concert music, music theatre, electronic music, music for film and dance, and audio-visual gallery installations. A deep and long-standing interest in the music of non-Western cultures – particularly South-East Asian – influenced much of his composing work, particularly his technique of transcribing field recordings. As an organiser of musical events and projects, Body had a significant impact on the promotion of Asian music in New Zealand, as well as the promotion of New Zealand music within the country and abroad.
Gamelan surakarta A typical large, double gamelan in contemporary solo (Surakarta) will include, in the sléndro set, one saron panerus, two saron barung, one or two saron demung, one gendér panerus, one gender barung, one slenthem, one bonang panerus and one bonang barung, one gambang kayu, one siter or celempung, one rebab, one suling, one pair of kethuk and kempyang, one set of three to five kenong, one set of three to five kempul, one to three gong suwukan, and one gong ageng.
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.
The Music of Java embraces a wide variety of styles, both traditional and contemporary, reflecting the diversity of the island and its lengthy history. Apart from traditional forms that maintain connections to musical styles many centuries old, there are also many unique styles and conventions which combine elements from many other regional influences, including those of neighbouring Asian cultures and European colonial forms.
A gendèr is a type of metallophone used in Balinese and Javanese gamelan music. It consists of 10 to 14 tuned metal bars suspended over a tuned resonator of bamboo or metal, which are tapped with a mallet made of wooden disks (Bali) or a padded wooden disk (Java). Each key is a note of a different pitch, often extending a little more than two octaves. There are five notes per octave, so in the seven-note pélog scale, some pitches are left out according to the pathet. Most gamelans include three gendèr, one for sléndro, one for pelog pathet nem and lima, and one for pelog pathet barang.
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 learn to play the music they were studying.
A kempul is a type of hanging gong used in Indonesian gamelan. The kempul is a set of pitched, hanging, knobbed gongs, often made of bronze, wood, and cords. Ranging from 19 cm to 25,4 cm in diameter, the kempul gong has a flat surface with a protruding knob at the center and is played by hitting the knob with the "soft end of a mallet." "The wooden mallet used has a ball shape head with heavy padding on a short wooden handle. The number of kempul gongs present in a gamelan ensemble varies but, "although there can be two to ten kempul on one separate rack, it is common to have five kempul hanging on the same rack as the Gong ageng and gong siyem".
The slenthem is an Indonesian metallophone which makes up part of a Javanese gamelan orchestra. The slenthem is part of the gendér family. It consists of a set of bronze keys comprising a single octave: there are six keys when playing the slendro scale and seven when playing the pelog. These keys are suspended by leather cords over individual bamboo tube resonators in a wooden frame, which are cut so that the placement of the bamboo's node causes the functional length of the resonator to be shorter for higher notes. The instrument is played by striking the keys with a mallet, called a tabuh, which has a short handle and a thin wooden disk edged in cloth or rubber. One hand is left free to dampen notes. It is a low-pitched instrument with a softer sound than the saron demung.
The gong ageng is an Indonesian musical instrument used in the Javanese gamelan. It is the largest of the bronze gongs in the Javanese and Balinese gamelan orchestra and the only large gong that is called gong in Javanese. Unlike the more famous Chinese or Turkish tam-tams, Indonesian gongs have fixed, focused pitch, and are dissimilar to the familiar crash cymbal sound. It is circular, with a conical, tapering base of diameter smaller than gong face, with a protruding polished boss where it is struck by a padded mallet. Gongs with diameter as large as 135 centimeters have been created in the past, but gongs larger than about 80 centimeters are more common especially to suit the budget of educational institutions.
Notation plays a relatively minor role in the oral traditions of Indonesian gamelan but, in Java and Bali, several systems of gamelan notation were devised beginning at the end of the 19th century, initially for archival purposes.
Pathet is an organizing concept in central Javanese gamelan music in Indonesia. 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.
Udan Mas is a composition for gamelan which is popular in Central Java, especially Yogyakarta. It is a bubaran, which is an ending piece played while the audience departs. In Western concert performances, it is often played as an encore. It is often one of the pieces students learn early in their studies.
Kanjeng Pangeran Harjo Notoprojo, also known as Tjokrowasito, Wasitodipuro, Wasitodiningrat, among other names, was one of the most highly respected performers of Javanese gamelan. He led the Paku Alaman palace gamelan as well as the gamelan for the Radio Republik Indonesia Yogyakarta, and taught gamelan in universities around the world. He was also a noted composer and rebab performer.
Gamelan, although Indonesia is its origin place, is found outside of that country. There are forms of gamelan that have developed outside Indonesia, such as American gamelan and Malay Gamelan in Malaysia.
The Gamelan Sekaten is a ceremonial gamelan from central Java, Indonesia, played during the annual Sekaten festival. The word "sekaten" itself is derived from syahadatain or shahada, the first requirement for converting into Islamic faith. Traditionally it is played once per year, on the occasion of Mawlid, Muhammad's birthday, for the week from the 6-12 of the month of Mulud. On this celebration it is brought from the palace at 11 pm to two pavilions before the Great Mosque. It is played every day during that week except the Thursday night/Friday morning. On the eve of the birthday proper, it is returned at 11 pm.
Slamet A. Sjukur was the founding father of contemporary Indonesian music. He studied and worked in Paris under Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. He was a lecturer at IKJ but because of his unconventional ideas, he finally had to leave. He had been living in Jakarta and Surabaya as a freelance composer, teacher and music critic. Developing the idea of minimax in music, his compositions are "notable for their minimal constellation of sounds and for their numerological basis which indicate the composer’s interest in a new ‘ecology of music’". This idea views limitation not as obstructions but as a challenge to work with a simple material, maximally.
Gamelan Pacifica is an American musical ensemble, as well as a non-profit music and dance foundation that focuses on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration. Formed as a community group in 1980, the group plays the gamelan, and is as of 2022 ensemble in residence at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. The ensemble is directed by Jarrad Powell.