The Class Name
Being the important part of the local culture, the exotic music of Bali is extremely vibrant, complex and various. Originally created to be a religious attribute of the land, it is usually accompanied by wayang theatres and special dances. It has animated the minds and souls of different musicians and composers from all over the world to compose their own new tunes. For example, a composer Bela Bartok named his creation No. 109 “ From the Island of Bali”. It is also claimed that Debussy met an orchestra from Bali performing in Europe; therefore, he was so affected and impressed by Balinese music and the way of performance, that an attentive listener may find some distinct tunes and melodies of Balinese music in his works.
However, the most affected by the Balinese music appeared to be a musician and author from Montreal, Colin McPhee, who was so affected by the Balinese music, occasionally heard in New York. After his purchase of a vinyl of Gamelan music, he felt in love with the music from Bali. His passion was so deep that he sailed to Bali and devoted himself to the studies of Balinese music, as we wanted to contribute to it everything that he could. His studies and researches of music from Bali are well-known among the specialists, as he described a variety of different aspects of Balinese music. Moreover, he`s got his Pulitzer Prize for his “ Tabuh-tabuhan: toccata for orchestra”
Therefore, the main goal of this paper is to find out what is so special with this music that it affected everyone that heard it. The paper will discuss the historical aspects of the origin and development of the genre, the musical diversity of it and the religious aspects of it, as well.
Obviously, the Balinese culture had its influences of the different foreign cultures; therefore, the variety of musical instruments is also enormous: from different gongs and bar instruments to drums, flutes and even string instruments. There`s no need to describe all the instruments that are generally used in Balinese music; we`ll give a brief characteristic only to the main ones. For example, Gong Ageng, which is the deepest of the gongs due to his enormous size, as the size of it often exceeds a meter in diameter. It is of Javanese origin and usually used in the beginning and the end of each metric cycle. The second largest gong is the Balinese Gong Wadon, which is relatively thin taking into consideration its size (under a meter in diameter); therefore, it`s very vibrant for its size. This gong usually ends the metric cycle. As for making the needed accents and punctuations in the middle points of the meter cycle, Balinese Kempur is widely used. It`s also a gong; however, it`s obviously smaller than the previous ones, as its size varies in diapason of 16-25 inches in diameter. One of the high-pitched gongs called Kemong is both of Balinese and Javanese origin; moreover, it is usually played with a soft mallet. It was widely used previously to give accents to any small time punctuations; however, it`s used not that often today.
The horizontal gongs are also widely used in Balinese music both in a row and as a single instrument in the ensemble. For example, Balinese Reong, which is a horizontal row of small-sized gongs with sockets of a conical size,. They are usually tuned on within one scale and can be either held in hands or laid down. An example of a single vertical gong is Javanese Ketuk, which is small-sized and played with a stick wrapped in cord. It usually separates the bigger gongs’ periods of metric cycle, giving the necessary accents to the beats of them. It can also highlight the offbeats like the rhythmic 2nd and 4t beats, as well.
The number and the variety of bar musical instruments of Balinese and Javanese origin is huge. Moreover, the materials, which these instruments are made of is also various, as there are metal and wooden instruments made of hardwood and bamboo. For example, the metal Saron, which is both of Balinese and Javanese origin, is instruments with mid register that usually has six-seven bars lying on a wooden tray that is supposed to be both a resonator and a pedestal. Sometimes, Saron has even up to fifteen metal bars that are played with a sophisticated technique, using a mallet made of softwood and muting the bars with another hand. As for the construction of the instrument itself, the bars are placed to the structure with the metal nails that go through the special points of the bars. The bars are usually made of bronze and the details between the bars, and the wooden tray are of woven plant fiber or rubber. Saron bars can also be made of iron, brass and even wood. Gambang is the wooden representative of bar instruments of Bali, though it came from Java. It`s a xylophone with bars made of hardwood and is played the same way with the small long wooden mallets. There`s also a Balinese analogue of Gambang, which is a couple of xylophones that are played with double hammers, usually forked. The difference is also the material, as Balinese Gambang is made of bamboo; moreover, the bars are placed in non-scale order to support the rhythm intervals, usually the double-stops. The instrument is commonly used for the rites of cremation and its repertoire is inspired by the ancient literature of Kidung.
The common types of cymbals in Balinese music are the Ceng Ceng (six cymbals made of bronze, usually small-sized, which are placed upside down), Rincik (even smaller version of ceng ceng that is commonly placed on a decorative pedestal) and Ceng Ceng Kopyak that are the large bronze cymbals, usually played by pairs at the processional ceremonies.
Now it`s turn for the Balinese drums to be introduced. The diversity of these is one of the biggest, as the shape and the size of them vary depending on the way of use of them. Balinese drums usually have a conical appearance; however, they have a shape of hourglass inside. Just like all the drums of any other nation, the Balinese ones are commonly played by hands with occasional cases of playing them with the specially designed sticks. Another interesting fact about the Balinese drums, is that they are usually played in couples; the main drum is usually accompanied by a deeper and bigger drum under the name ” Wadon” (” female”), or a thinner and high-pitched drum, the ” Lanang” (” the male”).
The flutes are mostly the so-called ” Suling” there, as there are both Javanese and Balinese versions of them. Both are the end blown flutes made of bamboo. However, the Javanese variant of them is tuned differently corresponding with a different patet while the Balinese Suling can be played both is pelog and slendro scales with a different variation of fingering. Moreover, the Balinese flutes are played continuously, giving the legato sound with the help of circular breathing of the player.
The last, but not the least type of musical instruments is the string one. Here the Balinese music two types of them, the bowed strings and plucked strings. As for the bowed, they have a Rebab, which appears to be an instrument with two bowed strings on the coconut shell body covered with goatskin. The plucked string instruments are mostly the Javanese in their origin like Ziret (a zither of box shape with the strings attached on the sides of it, tuned in slendro and pelog respectively). The other variations of the Javanese zither like Celempung and Kacapi are used rarely or as an addition to suling.
Therefore, the variety and diversity of musical instruments on the lands of Bali is unquestionably vast. As it is mentioned above, the native instruments here are the Balinese and Javanese due to the cultural similarity that was proved historically. Moreover, all of the instruments mentioned above accompany another gongs, drums and cymbals in a special Balinese ensemble called “ Gamelan” that we`re going to discuss in the next paragraphs.
The word ” Gamelan” comes originally from the Javanese word meaning the hammer of blacksmith, the ” gamel”, and it represents the native Hindu-Buddhist culture that is obviously dominating in the lands of Bali and the other lands of Indonesia, as well.
All the instruments involved in the ensemble have been invented and changed under the influence of Majapahit Empire until nowadays. The only foreign influence, under which the Gamelan changed, was of the Indian culture, as it introduced singing in Javanese styles and the rare cases of shadow puppet plays accompanied by gamelan play.
The geographical variety of gamelan is also diverse; however, the paper focuses on the Balinese music; therefore, the Balinese gamelan should be described. It is usually associated with the musical virtuosity and the different and unexpected dynamic and rhythmic changes through the musical cycles. This style is the most common for the gamelan music; it is originally called Gamelan gong kebyar style. Another popular style of Balinese performance includes Kecak, a special vocal technique that can be simply described as “ monkey chant”, accompanied by Gamelan. It is much faster and dynamic comparing to Javanese style, which is well known for its slow tunes that allow the listeners take the calm and meditative mood out of the music. As it was also described above, the tuning for Balinese gamelan is drastically different from the other kinds of it.
Gamelan includes a great number of different instruments that were discussed above. The main difficulty in creating gamelan and playing it afterwards is the proper tuning of it. With the different kinds of gamelan, the tuning of it also differs. For example, the Javanese gamelan uses degung, madenda, pelog and slendro tuning systems; however, the most popular are the pelog and slendro, which represent seven and five notes of octave respectively.
The gamelan of Bali is usually played by pairs of instruments that are tuned slightly differently to produce the stray beats, usually at a fast speed for both instruments. This concept is very popular in Balinese music under the name of “ Ombak” or “ the Wave”, meaning the concept of melodic cyclic corrugations. The impression of the sound of the instruments makes the listeners think of breathing process, as high-pitched instrument is the inhale of the metric cycle, when the lower-tuned instrument is the exhale. Sometimes, the beats produced by these pairs leave the impression of a heart beating meaning the symbol of life of everyone. As for the exact tuning of Balinese gamelan, it`s similar to the Phrygian mode of the major scale in the Western music (with the notes EFGBC, if the root is E), representing the 1-2-3-4-6 positions like the slendro scale in Javanese gamelan.
Balinese music doesn`t usually come alone as it accompanies different kinds of processions and performances. For example, the traditional Balinese dance, which is the oldest ancient tradition and the greatest part of the native culture and religion. Balinese dancers usually perform in a fast, expressive and dynamic way, using the whole body, including the different hands and fingers` positions with the moves of eyes and head. Dances of Bali usually represent the religious and mythological dramatic themes; however, one of the most popular dance drama is the one about the witch Rangda and Barong, the great beast. Except the religious dances, the other types of them also take place like the welcoming dance of Pendet and entertainment social dance Joged.
Bali dancers learn the moves and the techniques since their childhood from their mothers even before they learn how to walk, as they are taught to repeat the moves with their tiny hands under the Balinese music accompaniment. The training itself starts once a child grows up to his 8th year of life. It is obviously complex and difficult to learn, as it involves the multiple levels of synchronized and non-synchronized moves of different parts of the body including the facial expressions and the way of the dancers look during the dance. Moreover, the amount of different gestures and positions codified under the different mudras are as big, as the number of gestures in India, Cambodia and other parts of Indonesia.
It was told above that Balinese music and Balinese dance represent the religious subjects and motives; moreover, they are the inevitable parts of every religious procession, including the birthdays and the funerals. The figures state that Balinese population is approximately 85% devoted to the Balinese Hinduism, as the mixture of local mythology and the Hindu religious trends from Southeastern Asia. Balinese Hinduism is also the combination of gods and demigods being prayed to and worshipped and the Buddhist heroes and spirits praised too. Religion in Bali regulates the majority of aspects of common life of everyone, as it practices the belief in ancestor`s wisdom, magic and animism. Moreover, the number of 20, 000 different shrines and temples make Bali “ The Island of the Gods” by right. Therefore, there`s nothing surprising in the great influence of religion on native music and dance, as the last are about to represent the religious images and hear the meditative tunes so important for Hinduism. Moreover, every Balinese belong to a different temple, as there`s a system of fixed membership; the one temples are of virtue and inspiration; the others are of mystical revelation. The notable features of religious expression of the Balinese include the ritualized self-control states. The key ceremony of the religion is the special performance of the witch Rangda, who represents the chaos, and Barong, who is the beast-protector and the incarnation of dharma,. The dance that represents this ceremony has also been discussed above; moreover, the performers fall into the condition of trance and pierce themselves with the different types of knives. The battle of witch and the beast never ends, as it represents not the eternal battle of good and evil, the chaos and the order, but the balance of them.
Summarizing everything that was mentioned above, it can surely be stated that Bali is the land of great cultural and religious heritage, as its variety of music, dances, religious beliefs and myths can inspire everyone, who visits such a beautiful land of mysteries. If a person wants to gain the great experience of the specific Asian culture that is so similar to the other parts of Indonesia, but unique in its forms, complicated and unusual, especially for a Western eye, he/she should definitely visit this land and study its great music and culture, as its calm and meditative, gives a listener the feeling of calm, peace and even the presence of gods that rule this land and its people.
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