Anyone who walks across the Lawrence University campus on a regular basis will have heard the strange chimes coming from Colman Residence Hall. With an almost otherworldly sound and a rhythm that may be lost to our Western ears, the many percussion instruments that make up the Gamelan ensemble are some of the most unique instruments on what is already such a musical campus. This Sunday at 5pm, the Fox Cities will have the opportunity to hear both Lawrence students and other community members play these instruments in a concert at Lucinda’s in Colman Hall on the Lawrence University campus.
The Community Gamelan group will perform works that will feature a masked dance and traditional instrumental pieces. Gamelan Cahaya Asri will perform traditional instrumental pieces as well as a traditional male masked dance and a female temple dance.
Gamelan ensembles are made up of traditional instruments from Indonesia, particularly from the Bali and Java regions. Unlike other musical ensembles, gamelan ensembles are unique in that all of the instruments in a particular ensemble are designed to stay in tune with one another. In other words, if you took an instrument from one gamelan ensemble and put it into another, that instrument would stand out during a performance because it wasn’t built to play alongside these gongs, bells, and xylophones.
Indonesian myth tells us that a god who ruled as the king of Java created the gamelan as a way to send messages to the other gods through the different notes that were played. Now, it is a traditional Indonesian art form. After Lawrence received its gamelan instruments a few years ago, it also created a gamelan ensemble for anyone who wanted to join. This way, it pushed beyond the student body to get the community members more involved in the musical aspects of Lawrence.
If you’d like to see this unique ensemble for yourself, this Sunday will be your chance. Who knows? Maybe next year, you’ll be playing along with them.
—By Alyssa Villaire