Members of the Sunderman Conservatory of Music at Gettysburg College brought a little Balinese beautiful sound to Shippensburg University’s Old Main Chapel last Tuesday night.
The Gamelan Gita Semara, which is the world music ensemble from Gettysburg College, performed two gamelan songs and gave a small lecture about the culture and history of Bali.
The group was directed by Gettysburg College associate professor and coordinator of music education Brent C. Talbot and accompanied by Nyoman Suadin, a special guest from Bali, Indonesia.
The style of the Gamelan Angklung revolved around the cycle of the same rhythm at different paces. Each sound of the gong offset its iteration of the original melody. This cycle is representative of the Dharma and the cycle of life within Agama Hinduism, which is the majority faith of the Balinese people.
The Gamelan Gita Semara prefer to learn their songs aurally by listening to recordings as a group. They do not formally notate anything, and do not have sheet music in front of them — everything is performed from memory.
The group also does not practice individually. Like most things in Balinese culture, the group rehearses and learns together and helps each other. This creates a cohesive group bond and a collective investment for all of the members.
The group entered the chapel in surongs, which are genderless skirts underneath blue performance jackets. They wore gold sashes around their waists to “cut the body in half” by separating the feet, which are considered unholy, and the head, which is holy. The men also wore orange “Udeng” headdresses.
The ensemble played two songs: The “Bapang Selisir” and the “Tabuh Angklung Klasik.” The “Bapang Selisir” was a five-minute song and was because it is traditionally accompanied by the Legong dance. The Legong dance tells a story of a female attendant of the village court and two legongs who portray the royals of the court.
The nearly 13 minute-long “Tabuh Angklung Klasik” is performed at special ceremonies such as cremations in Balinese culture. This song stood out because Suadin, who drummed in the center of the circle, controlled the dynamics of the song and signaled when the group would move on to the next iteration of the rhythm.
The ensemble meets every Sunday afternoon at Gettysburg College, and welcome new members into the group regardless of musical experience.