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Music For Sri Tanjung : The Scent of Innocence Tactics of Innovation  

by on Thursday, 5 March 20093 Comments | 1,389 views

Wayan Sadra

Essentially, music, or sound is untamed energy which is open to interpretation. However, through the formation of man’s culture and civilization, music has been given meaning, symbol, usage or function within the context of man’s life. Most notably, in the world of art. In the case of the performing arts, music is sometimes positioned at the second level, or often functions as a subordinate of some other main element. Because of this, in the world of dance, for example, musical compositions transform to become accompaniments of dance.

It is very interesting to obseNe what has been achieved by Kadek Suardana, Mari Nabeshima, Gusti Putu Sudarta and the Arti Foundation in the creation titled Sri Tanjung: The Scent of Innocence, notably in the field of music. Here, music plays a major role in enabling the dancers to realize their dramatic expressions to their maximum. In the dance-drama, music functions as an important artistic element, and plays a substantial part in shaping the story-line, conflicts of character, and the essential message of ‘faith’ and ‘self-retrospect’ innate to the story of Sri Tanjung, a story of penglukatan or ruwatan (purification). Clearly, music has functioned as the defining element in the conception of this work of performing art. Its modal aspects involving the preparation 01 musical instruments which are out of the ordinary to the process of composition on the computer, followed by the transference of completed compositions

to acoustic instruments, are all a part of a long and winding process which requires patience. The intensity of this process has given birth to a new kind of form or model of music for the dance-drama. This is different from what has been done by the musicians of Bali in the process realizing their thoughts and feelings into a work of performing art or theater. In this work, the role of music is not second to other artistic elements. Here, music stand on equal ground as theater and dance.

In creating the music for this dance-drama, the composer has not strayed afar from his own backyard. It turns out that traditional music of Bali, whether it is something alive or something which is on its brink of extinction, holds large potentials in the form of musical idioms or vocabulary which can be developed into actual musical works fulfilling the necessity of different times. Traditional music is a heritage from the past which is the source of life for new music, and its richness will never run short. The history of gamelan in Bali, is a reflection of creative activity which places tradition as the source for creation, and indeed, this has been going for a long time. The many different kinds of expressions and ensembles observed is an evidence of this phenomena. However, as a result of legitimation due to the cultural politics of rulers, specialists and the strength of the mass media, the 20th century, up to the present, has been dominated by the gong kebyar, one musical expression which it seems as if in recent years, it has lost its essence. Indeed, it seems that this gong kebyar is not only music, but a movement. Kadek Suardana belongs to a generation who anxiously reached out from the development of the main stream and the musical atmosphere of daily life.

In this work, Kadek has explored and searched into the variety and the richness of traditional music in Bali. Various types of musical instruments has been modified to accommodate a richer tonal placement. In modification of instruments such as the gangsa of the stonding, grantang-joged bumbung and rindik which are constructed larger than their original, the consideration was in the effectivity of expanding the range of the saih pitu (seven-note scale), in order to widen the possibilities of composition. The addition of these notes is a challenge for the musicians who only has the experience of playing the conventional petog saih pitu, and getting used to the instruments is not an easy task. The ensemble prepared especially for the dance-drama, at its first impression is questionable. Instruments from different ensembles are combined, along with instruments from different cultural contexts, such as the piano and the violin. This is a challenge indeed. How can a stonding be performed with the piano, the kendang angktung, the mandolin of the Islamic community in Karangasem? Or the violin in a duet with with the Balinese suling, and so on? The different colors of the

sounds do not clash in this combination. It feels complete without being forced, even if there is contrast in regard to the characteristics of the sounds.
Another characteristic of creativity which is based on the musical heritage of Bali, is the recycling of the various idioms and vocabularies of traditional music, such as the musical idioms of the gamelan stonding, gambang, gender wayang and the various melodies of the Balinese tembang such as the dandang, adri, durma, and also the cecetantungan used in the arja and the gambuh. In addition, musical sources which have been taken from different ethnic cultures such as the melody from Sunda, vocal style from Banyuwangi, compositional characteristics of the Sampak, and also the cyclic style of minimal music. I explain here that minimal music is a type of music which was born in the middle of the 20th century. As a new genre of music, minimal music existed in western countries, but its initial concept was adopted from the ethnic or traditional music of the east, including Bali. It’s strongest characteristic is its cyclic style built on short and repetitive musical motifs.

The traditional idioms mentioned above have been incorporated into compositions of which at first impression seems to flash past before our eyes. These are mostly used in the transitions of scenes or to accompany dialogue. Essentially, its function is to project different musical impressions in order to strengthen the dramatic aspects of the story. And the appearances of vocabularies of traditional music which have been developed anew within the various compositions are no longer the same as their original. One extreme sample is the duet between piano and violin, given periodical accents by the jegogan. A traditional composition of the gender wayang (Mesem) , are developed into a style of a improvisational dialogue including changes in the notes, between the piano and violin. The original melody is almost unidentifiable, for it has been developed into something which gives a new impression.

Music composed in the context of fulfilling the necessity of a dance-drama, is different from a work composed to be performed independently in a concert. Reliance on the interpretation of the story, the setting of scenes will affect the general path of the music. However, music was one of the first things which was worked on, and the result is clearly something more than an accompaniment, creating the kind of atmosphere which can bring out the best of the performers. Involved in every happening on the stage, the music aspires perfection and efficiency, It is as if anything which flows regardless of context is forbidden. Indeed the contribution of music is most substantial in the creation of a highly original performance.

Reference : www.artifoundation.org

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