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The Performance

The guest performers

One of the preeminent musicians of his generation, Midiyanto, who hails from a long line of dhalangs (shadow theater master) in central Java, is also a dhalang in his own right. A gifted teacher, as well, every semester he attracts 120 students to his gamelan classes at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been invited to perform as a musician and as a dhalang in Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and throughout the U.S.

Hèni Savitri is a leading young Javanese singer and a graduate of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Central Java. In 2008 she was chosen to represent the Institute in the international sindhèn (solo female singing) festival in Jakarta. She now performs as a member of Gamelan Sari Raras, U.C. Berkeley.

Heri Purwanto is a freelance musician in great demand as a performer and teacher in Java and the United States. A graduate of the prestigious Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (Indonesian Advanced School for the Arts) in Surakarta, he has taught at UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and in Chicago. Mr. Purwanto came to Earlham in the fall of 2014 on a Fulbright grant, and has been able to stay another year thanks to an NEH grant that freed up music department funds. He plays all the instruments of the gamelan but is known for his drumming and his gendèr playing.

Michael Awe, Doug Hudson, Peter Ludwig, Linda Maher, and Christian Priebe, long-time members of the Chicago-based Friends of the Gamelan (FROG), have graciously offered to help out by filling in on various parts, both vocal and instrumental.

The ensemble

The Earlham Javanese gamelan ensemble consists of students enrolled in MUSG 127 for first-time participants, and MUSG 327 for returning members, as well as faculty and community members. Very few have had previous gamelan experience, and many have no experience performing music of any kind. The ensemble was founded in the spring of 2004, by Marc Benamou, who has taught in the music department since 2001. He is an ethnomusicologist specializing in the musics of Java and Peru, and is the author of Rasa: Affect and Intuition in Javanese Musical Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2010). In the gamelan world he is known primarily as a singer.

The instruments and the puppets

Earlham’s gamelan was purchased in 2006 and shipped over from Java after some repairs, some additions of new instruments, and a complete retuning. The set was originally used, in the 1960s, by a wayang wong troupe (a “people wayang” in which actors take the part of the puppets, incorporating song and dance into the performance) sponsored by a wealthy Chinese businessman in Solo, Central Java. It is an unusually fine set, with magnificent gongs, and is of the same type as the bronze gamelans found in the royal palaces and at other institutions in the larger cities (village gamelans are often made of iron).

The puppets were custom made for Earlham by Bp. Margono of Kentingan in Solo in late 2015 and early 2016. In addition to the puppets used in the performance, we are displaying the “right” and “left” sides of the Pendhåwå-Kuråwå conflict to either side of the screen, as would be done in Java. These are called wayang simpingan.

The wooden frame for the screen was custom made by Heri Purwanto’s father, Bp. Sarno, also around the beginning of 2016. One further component bears mentioning. In Java, the dhalang sticks the puppets into a large, fresh banana log when he needs for them to stand upright on their own. Twenty-foot-long banana logs are hard to come by, but we have substituted a straw wattle made for erosion control. Ours was kindly donated by Hanes Geo Components of Indianapolis, and we are grateful to Steve Richardson for his invaluable help in supplying us with it.

 

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