International Education Week Spotlight: An Interview with Balinese gamelan artist I Dewa Made Suparta

I Dwea playing gamelan music

Below is a short interview with I Dewa Made Suparta, Conrad Grebel's artist-in-residence, regarding the Balinese gamelan concert taking place during the 2015 International Education Week


Could you say a little about the history of Balinese gamelan music?

Gamelan is the Indonesian term for orchestra or ensemble. There are many different kinds of Balinese gamelan and can be classified according to era: the ancient period (pre-1400), middle period (1400-1900), modern period (since 1900). At UW we have two gamelan ensembles: gamelan gender wayang — a chamber ensemble from the ancient period played by 2 or 4 people, and gamelan semaradana — a large modern ensemble of usually 20 to 25 players. The gamelan semaradana was invented around 1986 by I Wayan Beratha, a reknown composer and gamelan tuner, and amalgamated a 7-tone gamelan from the middle period and a modern 5-tone gamelan invented in the early 1900s.

What would you say is the most rewarding part about playing Balinese gamelan?
When the ensemble is able to create a unified sound and feeling. This happens when every player in the ensemble has the music in their body and no longer has to think about their part. Each player can simply enjoy the sounds and give feeling to the music. Players feel deep joy and satisfaction and hope that the feeling transfers to the audience.

How is this particular music made in comparison to other types of music?
Balinese gamelan music is characterized by different instrumental layers and interlocking parts; and the music often has sudden shifts and changes in dynamics and tempo, though these can also be gradual. The music is learned and taught orally (without notation) with the full ensemble.

How does Grebel hosting this concert help contribute to the University’s international goals?
Balinese gamelan is among the music ensembles offered by the Music Dept at Grebel to UW students. By learning music students can learn about another culture. In the future, Grebel will offer a music and culture travel course to Bali.

Come experience a unique world of shimmering sounds and energetic rhythms of Balinese gamelan on Friday November 27th, 2015 at 7:30 PM in the Humanities Theatre.