Javanese Gamelan and Dance Comes To Bell (Part 1)

As part of the ongoing learning for the Bell Biennale Arts Festival “Our Asian Neighbours”, the grade 3&4 students were were treated to an amazing incursion on Thursday. Aaron and Nita Hall from Asia Raya travelled all the way from Bendigo with a complete Javanese Gamelan ensemble and dance costumes. What is a Gamelan? I hear you ask. Wikipedia pretty much nails it:

“Gamelan is traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments are metallophones played by mallets as well as a set of hand played drums called kendang which register the beat (Wikipedia).”

The Javanese gamelan is mostly made up of six types of percussion instruments.
Saron

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Gong Kempul

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Kethuk

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Kenong

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Bonang

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Kendang

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When all these instruments are played at the same time the gamelan produces very impressive and loud sound. Yet simultaneously producing a calm and relaxed feeling because of the the nature of the harmony and pentatonic like scale.

The large size of the the ensemble means that everyone gets to have a go at playing an instrument and through several rotations the students were able to have a go of all the instruments.  Aaron explained that the gamelan at a beginning level is very accessible and the first songs can be learnt by students from a young age. Each part plays an equally important role in the ensemble. However, the main melody that the students learnt and was followed by the rest of the ensemble was played by the Saron. Bell students were able to learn quickly these melodies drawing on their previous knowledge of playing metallophones and what they had learnt about Javanese gamelan in class. The main melody followed a repeated pattern of hitting the notes on the Saron marked 5,6,5,6,2,1,2,1.  Aaron was very excited to see that Bell students learn the difficult Kenong and Bonang part easily. This part required the player to play their notes on what is called the ‘Off Beat’ or better described as the in between beats. The Gong Kempul required three students to play it. Once the first group had learnt the part they then became the pointers for the next group of pointers. Aaron was able to split the Kendang part into 4 separate drum parts. The Kendang is responsible for holding and directing the tempo of the ensemble.

To experience actually playing a real life gamelan was an incredible learning opportunity for Bell students. This incursion has been invaluable in allowing the student construct their knowledge about the Javanese gamelan. Which will hopefully be put to good use when the 3/4 students begin to compose their own Javanese inspired compositions.

Please make sure that you are one of our subscribers so that you will get a notification of when Part 2 will be posted. Part 2 will look at the wonderful Javanese Dance that the students were engaged with.

One comment

  1. Wow, this all look very impressive and interesting. Aimee came home raving about how much she enjoyed this incursion and what she had learnt for it. The clip of the children playing sounds amazing. Can’t wait too see part two and hear them all at the performance.

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