photo: Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan - Ryan Scott, Bill Parsons, Andrew Timar, Blair Mackay (artistic director), Mark Duggan, Rick Sacks, Paul Houle, Graham Hargrove

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Music for gamelan...

Neomundo (2018) for Javanese gamelan and two Brazilian percussion (10')

Neomundo, literally “new world”, can be viewed from a number of perspectives. At it’s core, the piece is written for Javanese gamelan and Brazilian percussion, with 90% of its rhythmic material being derived from the Brazilian style of samba batucada. As a new world phenomenon, with obvious roots in a number of African music traditions, samba batucada shares a variety of characteristics with Javanese gamelan music, including rhythmic layering, which presents multiple, syncopated rhythms at the same time, played by specific instrumental groups within the ensemble at different pitch levels (high, medium, low); an interactive call-and-response dynamic between a lead drummer and the other musicians in the ensemble;  and sudden tempo shifts and dramatic dynamic contrasts. 

In a wider context, Neomundo refers to the idea of “world music”, a term commonly used to refer to music from a non-European cultural context and aesthetic. With this composition, I have attempted to create a new world aesthetic by giving equal weight to important musical principles from within the style of samba batucada, Javanese gamelan and a more contemporary, western esthetic, minimalism.

Pitohui (2005) for violin, cello and gamelan degung (10')

Pitohui is the name of a species of songbird found in Papau New Guinea. Along with its bright reddish/orange coloring and song, it has the distinction of being the only poisonous bird on earth. Even casual contact with its feathers will produce a reaction in humans from toxins carried in the animal’s feathers and skin. This juxtaposition of both attractive and deadly qualities contained in an exotic phenomenon was the primary inspiration for this work.

Revealed (2006) for Sundanese gamelan degung and three voices (S-S-A)

Language of Landscape (2004) for bass clarinet, cello, organ and gamelan degung (13')

Language of Landscape was inspired by the book "Spell of the Sensuous" by David Abram. The book's central theme is about learning to recognize how we participate in our existence on a precognitive level, ie. before our mind kicks in and starts trying to define, describe and categorize whatever it is we're experiencing at the moment. Abram suggests that this is done by being more responsive to our senses and learning to recognize that the physical world has a way of communicating that is direct and yet non-rational. The senses have their own logic and language. In this context, the title of this piece refers not only to a beautiful vista in the countryside but also to whatever physical environment, room or culture we surround ourselves with - and whether or not we are able to communicate in that language. For the purposes of this piece then, I am working with the landscape of the church sanctuary itself as a means of communication. 


"Tired of all who come with words, words but no language 

I went to the snow-covered island. 

The wild does not have words. 

The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions! 

I come across the marks of roe-deer hooves in the snow. 

Language, but no words." 

Tomas Tranströmer

Gamelan Solo (2001)
for extended Sundanese gamelan degung
(in nine movements) (19')
1 - wood
2 - delicate
3 - buzz
4 - slap
5 - aggressive
6 - open
7 - soft
8 - reflective
9 - charm

Gamelan Solo was written to explore and highlight the tone colours of the new Evergreen Club Gamelan instruments, a set of Sundanese gamelan degung aquired by the group in the spring of 1999. From the outset, I wanted to write a piece that would feature each of the ensemble's "voices" in small instrumental combinations, like chamber groups within the gamelan, rather than writing for the entire group. Thus, Gamelan Solo contains nine movements in which there are two quartets, two trios, one sextet, one quintet, one duet, one solo and an octet (the final movement). The work is continuous, without breaks between movements, and each has a distinct character. The overall esthetic is not at all Indonesian but rather, draws from a dramatic, minimalist language with the whole work having a narrative quality. 

Three of the movements feature the "sorog" note, an alternative pitch used to alter the usual degung scale. There is a thematic relationship between three pairs of movements (1 & 7, 2 & 5, 6 & 8) while the other three are more singular. Many of the movements are contemplative and slow moving in character to focus attention on the subtle combination of instrumental timbres. 

The title of the piece has two meanings - a composition for gamelan alone, and a gamelan from the city of Surakarta, Indonesia, also known as Solo, where the Evergreen instruments were manufactured.


Jali's Dream (1990) for Sundanese gamelan degung and steel pan or marimba soloist  (10')

Originally written for kora soloist and gamelan degung, this version of Jali's Dream has the lead voice divided between steel pan and kacapi (an Indonesian zither). The piece is a kind of fantasy inspired by the kora music of Gambia and the Latin American derivative dance music called salsa. 

In Gambia, the word jali is a title and term of respect given to a class of musicians whose function goes beyond playing music and singing songs for entertainment. A jali carries the historical, social and philosophical roots of the Mandinka culture in his songs and thus acts as teacher and general spokesperson at most social events. 

In this piece, jali (musically characterized by the steel pan) dreams of travelling eastward to Indonesia and westward to the Americas where he meets several different characters represented in the gamelan by the suling (bamboo flute), gambang (wooden xylophone), and bonang (small pot gongs). The piece is divided into three large sections which correspond to the initial dream, encounter and dialogue, and a final dance.