pacific rim gamelan

Students practice using Balinese gamelan instruments. View Video. Photo by: Gary Ferrington

Students practice using Balinese gamelan instruments. View video. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

by GARY FERRINGTON

The sound of hammers percussively striking metal bars explodes in an unexpected complex of tonal structures and rhythms. For those listeners with an ear tuned to traditional Western music, an initial encounter with a gamelan ensemble may be quite startling — a musical soundscape that most have not experienced. ArtsWatch readers will be able to explore this exciting sound when the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance presents its spring 2014 Pacific Rim Gamelan concert Tuesday night at the UO.

Since 1991, when Dr. Robert Kyr, professor of composition and music theory, created the Pacific Rim Gamelan, the UO has become known for its gamelan studies and performances, made possible through a gift of a beautiful set of Gamelan Suranadi Sari Indra Putra instruments donated to the school in 1986 by John and Claudia Lynn of Eugene. Closely translated as “Gamelan Holy Springs: Ascent of the Song of the God of Rai,” the instruments, in the Balinese tradition, have become an integral part of the composition program.

“Almost all of our composers (both undergraduate and graduate) take the Balinese gamelan course at some point and the piece that they compose becomes part of their degree portfolio,” wrote Kyr in an email to OAW.  According to Kyr, “the gamelan is a unique artistic community in that each player is both a composer and performer, which means that each musician is both a creator and interpreter. No other school offers this kind of experience and opportunity to explore new worlds of music as part of its curriculum and as an essential part of the musical education of its composers.”

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