The term gamelan, more or less synonymous with the term “orchestra,” means “to hammer,” and refers to countless music ensembles on the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia. These ensembles come in various configurations, each with distinct tuning, instruments, and performance contexts. Some require no more than two musicians, while others require over forty; some are intimately entangled with village ritual life, while others are performed at large festivals.
The School of Music at the University of Tennessee Knoxville is home to a Balinese seven-tone semar pegulingan. This type of ensemble is believed to have developed during the 13th through 16th centuries and remained important within Balinese court life through the 19th century. More recently, its unique sonic characteristics, which make it distinct from more popular gamelan that developed during the 20th century, have attracted renewed interest. This music now flourishes on the island of Bali and is learned by countless groups around the world. The gamelan at UTK also includes a large set of suling (bamboo flutes) and a pair of five-tone gender rambat. The gender rambat allow us to more faithfully adapt repertoire from the related pelegongan, which is associated with Bali's legong dances and innovative instrumental compositions by the twentieth-century Balinese composer I Wayan Lotring.
These instruments are currently part of a hands-on learning experience open to all students at UT, available for course credit when registered for Music Ensemble 312 (undergraduate) or Music Ensembles 512 (graduate). No experience playing gamelan or background in music is required. We typically welcome members from outside the university, but have had to suspend this invitation due to Covid-19. We will welcome back members from the community at-large as soon as it is safe to do so.
Begun in the fall of 2015, under the leadership of Leslie C. Gay, Jr., the UT gamelan ensemble has provided workshops for students and performed in concerts here at UT as well as in the area, most recently at the Celebrate Nashville Festival. We strive to create a community of learning open to anyone interested in expanding their musical horizons. We play a combination of long-standing traditional pieces, more recent works by Balinese composers, as well as original compositions.
Contact Jonathan Adams, Director, UT Balinese Gamelan, with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.