Festival of Oriental Music and the Related Arts

Festival of Oriental Music and the Related Arts

Festival of Oriental Music and the Related Arts

Festival of Oriental Music and the Related Arts

Excerpt

It was back in 1931 that I was first drawn to Bali by the chance hearing of some recordings of Balinese music which had recently been made. Some of these were traditional popular songs and stylized episodes from classical plays, sung or declaimed to the soft accompaniment of unimaginable percussion instruments. Most enchanting, however, especially for me, a young composer in search of new sounds, were the recording of the gamelan, the orchestra of Java and Bali composed primarily of tuned bronze gongs of many sizes and shapes, various forms of metallophones, cymbals, and hand beaten drums. These gamelan recordings had a polyphonic complexity, an animation and strange metallic shimmer like nothing I had ever heard. Nothing would satisfy me but to go East and hear it at its source.

I had originally planned to spend a few months in Bali, and then go on to Java, and finally to Southeast Asia, where instrumentally related but considerably smaller orchestras were to be found. But the Balinese field turned out to be so rich and varied that I found it impossible to leave, and what started out as a simple exploration trip ended in the building of a house on the island and a more or less continuous residence there until the end of 1938.

The musical situation was quite unbelievable. With a population of around one million crowded into this small island of 2905 square miles there were literally thousands of music clubs and dramatic societies actively alive. Here, miraculously coexisting in time, was a wealth of ancient and recently developed orchestras, from archaic and rarely heard sacred ensembles to the large and highly perfected modern gamelans created primarily for diversion. A few of the remaining palaces maintained large orchestras for ceremonial occasions,while a village was . . .

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