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Through the Eyes of Researcher: Contrasts of Music Style between Java and Bali  

by on Tuesday, 6 May 2008One Comment | 3,230 views

Here is an interesting article on the contrast of Music style between Java and Bali from Fredric Lieberman.

Music Style Jawa

Java and Bali share many basic music-style elements. The predominant instruments in both traditions are struck metal idiophones and idiophone sets, large ensemble performance is the ideal, and solo instrument traditions are rare. The same kind of tuning systems are found in both areas. Musical form is delineated by colotomic or interpunctuating instruments (gongs) while agogic instruments (drums) control the kinetics of flow; and the prevailing texture is that created by several musical levels, or strata, elaborating or abstracting a basic melody.

Music Styel Bali

Music is primarily an adjunct to ritual, dance-drama, or puppetry, the literature of which derives from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. Despite these shared characteristics, the two music styles give decidedly differing impressions. Javanese music is refined, controlled, serene, intellectual, “. . . each note is so soft, so tender, so vaguely thrilling, so changing–but ah! how compelling, how bitterly beautiful: that is no tinkling of glass, of copper, or wood; it is the voices of men’s souls that speak to me . . .” (Kartini 1964:50) Balinese music, on the other hand, is dynamic, lively, full of contrast and excitement, with “. . . a beauty that depends upon form and pattern and a vigour that springs from a rhythmic vitality both primitive and joyous.” (DeZoute 1939:6)

Terompong

The Javanese gender, a set of thin bronze keys suspended over tuned bamboo resonators, is struck with a round padded beater, producing a mellow sound of long duration; by way of contrast, the Balinese gender is struck with a hard wood beater, and is played in pairs tuned so as to create audible beats, producing a bright and shimmering sound. The instrument used to give signals and underline dance rhythms in Java is a woodblock (keprak); the same function in Bali is realized by a pair of small cymbals (tjeng-tjeng); again the dull bright contrast. The Javanese bonang family (like the Filipino kulintang) has two Balinese counterparts, the trompong and the rejong. The trompong, like the bonang, is played by one man, and is relatively soft. Recently, however, the trompong was used bv the famous dancer Mario as a dance-prop in his popular kebyar dance, and has therefore declined sharply in musical significance. The rejong, however. is played by four men, and has been developing towards brilliance: “. . . the range and volume of the instrument have tripled and taken on the added function of supplying rhythmic-harmonic ‘shock-waves’.” (Hood 1963:456 57)

Rebab

Contrasting the large gamelan orchestras of Java and Bali, one finds that the soft-playing instruments gambang (xylophone), tyelempung (zitcher), rebab (bowed lute), suling (vertical flute), and human voice, all present in Java, are either totally absent or relatively little-used in Bali. There is a larger number of ensemble types in Bali. In Java a single type of large gamelan, a fine set of instruments perhaps preserved in a royal court, acts as an ideal upon which the surrounding villages model less perfect and less complete ensembles. Major variants such as gamelan munggang or gamelan sekati are reserved for rare ritual occasions. However, Covarrubias lists thirteen different kinds of ensemble in regular use in Bali (1937:218 19).

The tuning systems in both Java and Bali are pelog and slendro. Pelog is more popular than slendro in Bali, while in Java there does not seem to be any clear preference. The exact pitches of the scales in both areas vary considerably, as the tuning systems are general principles rather than definite rules. The concept of mode, known in Java as patet, appears to be one of the most important elements of nearly every developed music system in the world (Western church modes, later major-minor, Arabic maqam Persian dastgah, Indian raga, and various systems in China and Japan). In Java there is a clear notion as to the musical significance and effect of mode, but this subconscious knowledge of the musicians has not yet been articulated in theory. The Balinese do not seem to know about modal types, but McPhee postulates the implied existence of modal practice in slendro (1936:21).

Improvisatory elaboration of the main melody is basic to Javanese gamelan music. The performers operate within the guidelines and restrictions of patet, instinctively knowing which figurations are typical, possible, or appropriate to each patet. In Bali, however, improvisation does not exist. Lacking the powerful organizing factor of a conscious feeling for mode, improvisation becomes difficult and aimless. Also, in Balinese gamelan music, the elaborating instruments play in interlocking parts. “Balinese musicians seem to operate on the principle that if two players play interlocking parts as fast as possible . . . the result will be a performance twice as fast as either of them can play.” (Hood 1963:455) Balinese figuration performed in this manner are often driving ostinati. Thus Balinese figuration technique, stressing precise rhythmic control, precludes the use of improvisation, and is more direct and potentially more dynamic than Javanese.

Perhaps the best summary of the above outlined contrasts is that of McPhee:
Javanese gamelans have an incredibly soft, legato, velvet sound; the hammers and mallets that are used to strike the metallophones and gongs are padded so thickly as to eliminate all shock. Tempos are slow and stately, and there is little change in dynamics; the prevailing mood is one of untroubled calm and mystic serenity. Balinese music, on the other hand, is vigorous, rhythmic, explosive in quality; the gamelans sound bright and percussive; hard hammers of wood or horn are used for many instruments, and the thin clash of cymbals underlies every tone; only the great gongs are gently struck. While the classic calm of Javanese music and dance is never disturbed, music and dance in Bali is turbulent and dramatic, filled with contrast and bold effects. Javanese musicians find the music of Bali barbaric. Balinese complain that the music of Java “sends them to sleep.” (1949:25l )

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  • One Comment »

    • Pmazaj said:

      it’s really very nice stuff , enjoy while reading your post. saved this blog i will keep checking here. keep the good work up.

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