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Nusantara Arts Gamelan Masters Guest Lecture Series

Every Sunday Nusantara Arts is inviting gamelan masters and related scholars to join us for guest lectures on various topics related to gamelan music making and Indonesian culture. These lectures are designed to be enjoyed by anyone in the world with an interest in gamelan.  Participants will have a deeper appreciation and learn more about the culture and practice of gamelan. We are doing this as a way for the gamelan community to connect, learn, and continue our appreciation during this covid crisis. Anyone is welcome. Lectures are related to Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese and a range of other interesting gamelan topics.

Scroll down for the upcoming schedule and to access all previous lectures

Sunday Jan 3rd at 7:30pm EST: 

All lectures are recorded and uploaded to YouTube and hosted below

Register in advance for this meeting and get an email with the link (new)

The Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC through the Education and Cultural Attache is now supporting the events of the lecture series as part of the 75th Anniversary of Indonesian Independence and the 71st year of diplomatic relations between the Indonesia and the US.

Upcoming Lectures

Sunday 1/3 – Gadhung Mlati – Gamelan as a therapeutic with Helen Loth, Sutrisno Hartana, Djoko Walujo, and Jody Diamond

Helen Loth will give a short overview of her doctoral research into the therapeutic potential of gamelan music, looking at the ways that gamelan has been used in the UK with people who have health, social or educational needs. She draws a distinction between the general therapeutic properties of gamelan music and playing and the planned use of gamelan in music therapy clinical practice. 

The word “selamat” in Bahasa Indonesia, although originally means “peaceful”, is often used by many to congratulate each other after the completion of tasks, projects, or even recovery from sickness. There are several gamelan pieces which can be used to represent this peaceful feeling and to congratulate others. As a gamelan player/ teacher, Sutrisno Hartana will share his experience on performing those pieces. 

Recently Pak Djoko Walujo was hospitalized due to an illness and is recovering. He will share his own experience on performing/teaching/learning several gamelan pieces; including Gendhing Gadhung Mlati, among others, that can help him feel better.
Jody Diamond will share an experiential process, inspired by Javanese gamelan and Orff-Schulwerk, that may create new perspectives on the psychological experiences of dealing with the past and envisioning the future.

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Nusantara Arts Gamelan Preservation “Artist to Artist”

One of Nusantara Arts core values is “Preservation”. This Covid epidemic is taking a toll on our musical mentors and cultural beacons on Java who are the ever lit flame that keep the gamelan culture alive. We are taking donations during the lecture series to give to Javanese musicians who are currently facing serious economic hardships due to COVID. A suggested donation of $10 per lecture will be greatly appreciated and remembered by these musicians

Nusantara Arts Gamelan Masters Guest Lecture Series donations are distributed through unique Nusantara Arts programming to the most needy musicians and singers in the greater Solo area, including Karanganyar, Klaten, Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Sragen, and Boyolali, who tend to be musicians with no official governmental status. Kitsie Emerson and Pak Wakidi of the Ekalaya Arts Center are deeply embedded in the community of musicians on Java and will be helping us distribute the funds.

In Round One we raised $4,300 for this effort through the “Artist to Artist Reimagined Online Concert Series”. For round two of fundraising we will be sponsoring the “Artist to Artist Javanese Composers Klenengan” where we will invite Javanese composers to write new gamelan pieces in classical idioms, and perform them in a Covid safe klenengan. A small notation book of the compositions will be published including bios of the composers and performance notes. Make a donation to get your notation book! A small percentage of these donations goes to the administration of the series costs.

Javanese Musician Profiles

Your donations to the Nusantara Arts Gamelan Preservation Fund will go to musicians like this:

Ibu Kris Pringgo – A renowned gender player from Klaten, Bu Pringgo lives in Solo-proper now and relies on small performance opportunities as well as the musical activities of her sons. With covid-19, all members of family have not worked since 1 March 2020. Bu Pringgo has played for numerous dhalang in her career, as well as being a gender player for klenengan. She most recently retired from a 10-year stint as the gender player for Ki Manteb Soedharsono. Many foriegn students have benefitted from listening to and recording her beautiful and unique gender playing, which is an eclectic mix of village-style and court-style playing. 

Bp Karno – Bp Karno, born with an amazing ear and skillful hands but no sight, is an official musical “servant” (abdi dalem) of the Solo palace, the Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat. He is the most knowledgeable and experienced drummer for Keraton Solo bedhayan alive, and is also an excellent gender player. He has dedicated his life to the Solo palace, and is “paid” in return with a very small remittance on occasion, as well as the spiritual well-being and sense of peace that he believes to come from this association. But Bp Karno relies on his attendance at Pujangga Laras and other klenengan events for his livelihood, and that has completely disappeared at this point.

Past Lectures

#1 – Midiyanto – “Rasa: Javanese Gamelan in Cultural Context”

Famed puppet master and UC Berkeley Professor Midiyanto will be lecturing on the topis of “Rasa” one of the beautiful esoteric concepts of Javanese Gamelan.

#2 – Phil AcimovicWhat exactly is Palaran?

Rarely attempted in American gamelan performances, Phil will discuss this exciting and beautiful form that is a regular part of Solonese klenengan.

#3 – Peter Ludwig  –“A talk about gamelan makers in Solo, Central Java “

Peter is a Fellow at Yale’s Tropic Resource Institute and will speaking on his Thesis: Technology and Tradition in Java: Natural Resource Access and Innovation in the Gamelan Instrument Industry

#4 – Matt Dunning – Directors Talk “The Stirring of a Thousand Bells”

Join us with film director Matt Dunning as we watch his sensory ethnographic gamelan film “The Stirring of a Thousand Bells” Released by Sublime Frequencies (SF094), featuring a very rare type of gamelan, and a beautiful dance from the Mangkunegaran Palace. We will watch the films and have a discussion after.

#5 – Sumarsam – “The History of Gamelan”

Professor Sumarsam from Wesleyan University will give us the history and context of gamelan throughout the ages leading to a video about one of gamelans unique artforms called “Gift of the Wali: The Gamelan Sekaten in Central Java”followed by a discussion.

#6 – Alex Yoffe – “The Construction of a Gamelan Suite”

Alex from Friends of the Gamelan in Chicago will be discussing the various theories and possibilities when constructing gamelan suites out of multiple compositions

#7 – Darsono Hadiraharjo – “Lives in Karawitan” Darsono Hadiraharjo, a Visiting Critic with Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program, discusses the music and career paths of his parents, Bapak Saguh Hadi Raharjo and Ibu Panut, in conversation with Cornell Senior Lecturer Christopher J. Miller. Darono’s parent’s were members of some of the most famous and influential gamelan groups from the 60’s to 2000’s like Condhong Raos and, Ngripto Raras. Lecture complete with musical examples and personal stories.

#8 – Sutrisno Hartana – “Creativity in the Gamelan” As an experienced cross-cultural gamelan player, composer, teacher, and collaborator in this field, I have noted that creativity is needed in the gamelan practices. It is a unique musical capability that strongly help “my” (and perhaps also “your”) musical journeys…so lets share in this class then.

#9 – Chris Miller – “Perceptions of rhythm, form, and time in gamelan” – Senior Lecturer at Cornell, Chris Miller will give a thoughtful presentation on some of the building blocks of gamelan music

#10 – Steve Laronga – “Cultural and Musical Worlds of East Javanese ‘Jek Dong’ Shadow Puppetry” An overview of this lively East Javanese form of wayang kulit, in which traditional systems of apprenticeship and collective local sponsorship continue to strongly influence performance practices.

#11 – Kitsie Emerson – “Macapat and Vocal Forms in Gamelan” The rich vocal-music tradition within Javanese karawitan is often a mystery to beginners. Some of this mystery can be unlocked by understanding the category of sung poetry known as macapat, and how macapat are used every day in the performance tradition. Kitsie Emerson, who has lived in Java for almost 30 years studying karawitan and wayang kulit will give an introduction to macapat, using live examples from her and Pak Wakidi’s arts center in Solo.

#12 – Jessika Kenney – “Vocal Practices in Gamelan” Jessika Kenney is a composer, writer, and performer working from the experience of listening to voices and vocalized response. Jessika will give a workshop which draws on life-long interests, including singing with gamelan, to inspire others to create their own unique vocal practices while in and out of various degrees of quarantine.

#13 – Charley Sullivan: “There was an East but there was no East: Javanese Cosmology in a 19th Century Hindu Buddhist Text.”

#14 – Novyandi Saputra & Palmer Keen- Gamelan Worlds of South Kalimantan Banjarmasin-based ethnomusicologist Novyandi Saputra, MA will be joined by Aural Archipelago founder Palmer Keen to share to share their work on the gamelan worlds of South Kalimantan, from Novyandi’s lifelong immersion in the gamelan Banjar tradition to Palmer’s research on the ritual gamalan of the Dayak Halong.

#15 – The Compositions of I.M.Harjito

For this lecture we decided to give it a special treatment, instead of releasing the lecture as one 4 hour chunk we made Pak Harjito his own webpage and released his compositions individually for easier access. Click here for The Compositions of I.M.Harjito

#16 – Panakajaya Hidayatullah & Palmer Keen – Rare Gamelan of Madurese Horsehoe – Madurese ethnomusicologist Panakajaya Hidayatullah, MA will be joined by Aural Archipelago founder Palmer Keen in discussing their research and documentation of rare Madurese gamelan offshoots in the Madurese Horseshoe of East Java, including glundhangan, an all-wooden “gamelan for pigeons,” and dhungdhungan, an ensemble of tuned drums.

#17 “Compositions of Dewa Alit Pt.1” Wayne Vitale

Since 2000, Dewa Alit (b. 1973) of Pengosekan, Bali, has earned appreciation at home and internationally as the composer of consistently demanding, exploratory and rigorously designed music. Because Alit attracts the best performers to join his gamelan groups, the music is also thrilling to hear. In this set of two back-to back lectures, four North American students of Alit and his music present-mini lectures on some of Alit’s major works that trace the arc of his career to the present.

Part 1. Wayne Vitale will speak on “Geregel” (2000) which used the newly-popular seven-tone gamelan semaradana to explore rhythms and tonalities unknown in Balinese music till then.

#18 “Compositions of Dewa Alit Pt.2: Caru Wara” Pete Steele

Since 2000, Dewa Alit (b. 1973) of Pengosekan, Bali, has earned appreciation at home and internationally as the composer of consistently demanding, exploratory and rigorously designed music. Because Alit attracts the best performers to join his gamelan groups, the music is also thrilling to hear. In this set of two back-to back lectures, four North American students of Alit and his music present-mini lectures on some of Alit’s major works that trace the arc of his career to the present.

Part 2. Pete Steele will discuss “Caru Wara” (2006) for the standard gamelan gong kebyar, which took Balinese rhythm to a still-higher level.

#19 “Compositions of Dewa Alit Pt.3: Genetik” Oscar Smith

Since 2000, Dewa Alit (b. 1973) of Pengosekan, Bali, has earned appreciation at home and internationally as the composer of consistently demanding, exploratory and rigorously designed music. Because Alit attracts the best performers to join his gamelan groups, the music is also thrilling to hear. In this set of two back-to back lectures, four North American students of Alit and his music present-mini lectures on some of Alit’s major works that trace the arc of his career to the present.

Part #3 Oscar Smith will discuss the design and tuning of Alit’s own gamelan Salukat, and his first major work for it, the polymetric and modally-extended “Genetik” (2012).

#20 “Compositions of Dewa Alit Pt.4: Ngejuk Memedi Michael Tenzer

Since 2000, Dewa Alit (b. 1973) of Pengosekan, Bali, has earned appreciation at home and internationally as the composer of consistently demanding, exploratory and rigorously designed music. Because Alit attracts the best performers to join his gamelan groups, the music is also thrilling to hear. In this set of two back-to back lectures, four North American students of Alit and his music present-mini lectures on some of Alit’s major works that trace the arc of his career to the present.

Part #4 To close this 45 part series Michael Tenzer discusses “Ngejuk Memedi” (2016) which features whole new Balinese sound worlds and ingenious structures.

#21 Henry Spiller “An introduction to Sundanese gamelan for Javaphiles”

Henry Spiller presents a broad, general overview of Sundanese music—especially gamelan music—customized for those with a North American’s practical acquaintance with Javanese gamelan. The talk will leverage the similarities between Javanese and Sundanese musics to highlight Sundanese music’s unique qualities in terms of instrumentation, playing styles, and repertoire

#22 Andy McGraw “Flowing Structure. Compact Feeling” 

In this talk Andy McGraw will describe his research on temporality in Balinese gamelan music.

#23 Ayu Eka & Putu Hiranmayena “Creating Tari Kreasi “LAKU” Across Oceans”

Indonesian artist scholars, Ayu Eka and Putu Tangkas discusses the process of creating their latest collaborative dance piece for Balinese gamelan, Tari Kreasi “Laku.” In doing so, highlighting the concepts of the piece as they pertain to social mobility in Colorado and Bali.

#24 Putu Evie & Vaughan Hatch “Bring Back Bali – Caring for the Arts and Environment”

A frank discussion about the role that music and dance studios (sanggar) can play in creating environment friendly alternatives to single-use plastic in everyday life in Bali, particularly at ceremonies, practices and performances. With the aim of inspiring others, Mekar Bhuana Co-founders, Vaughan Hatch and Putu Evie will present the solutions they have come up with and how they apply these within their own family as well as teams of musicians and dancers. They will also discuss how foreign arts researchers, private students and study groups visiting Indonesia can make a positive difference.

#25 Vaughan Hatch and Putu Evie “Sustaining the Sacred Sounds of Selonding Selat’ Film & discussion

Through documentation of an critically endangered style of music from Selat Village in Karangasem, this short documentary film, produced by Mekar Bhuana Centre founders Vaughan Hatch and Putu Evie, looks at the disconnect between ritual symbolized by sacred music and an agrarian lifestyle that is no longer lived by most Balinese. On a global level Nyejerang Swara appeals to the international community to help recover lost repertoire through repatriation of recordings that are stored in overseas archives.

#26 Emily Hansell Clark “The Javanese Gamelan in Suriname”

Between 1890 and 1939, laborers from the Dutch East Indies were “recruited” by the colonial government to work on plantations in Suriname, the Netherlands’ much smaller colony on the Caribbean coast of South America, after slavery was abolished there. Today, a distinct gamelan tradition is practiced by ethnically Javanese people in Suriname and in Javanese-Surinamese communities in the Netherlands. In this lecture, I discuss my work with Javanese-Surinamese gamelan musicians and explore what it means to play and listen to a musical tradition that developed out of a colonial history.


#27 Midiyanto: “Gender”

The first in a series of instrument specific Gamelan Masters Lectures talking about the basics of music theory and practice of various gamelan instruments. We start with one of the most important instruments int he group, the “Gender” with Midiyanto,

#28 Ed Luna “A tandem meeting of language and karawitan”

This talk will focus on the intersecting possibilities of looking at language (especially Balinese and Javanese), interaction, and karawitan. I will discuss the older forms of Balinese and Javanese, and what those texts can tell us about what happened historically to bring us to the contemporary forms of those languages, as well as how they show clear affinities to other members of the greater Austronesian language family, especially the Philippine-type languages. I’ll conclude this presentation by talking about current and future projects that relate some facet of linguistic analysis to musical practice.

#29 Sumarsan “Learning to play gendèr”

Mas Midiyanto’s lecture on gendèr triggered Sumarsams memory about a manuscript he wrote decades ago, entitled “Learning to play gendèr.” After digging deep into his files, he found that manuscript. “How did I learn gendèr? How did my teachers use cèngkok (gendèr melodic patterns) to teach? What is the genesis of the names of cèngkok? How can a student become a good gendèr player?” These are among the questions Sumarsam had in mind when writing the manuscript. He is happy to share this “work-in-progress” with us.
This is a link to Sumarsams Gender manuscript:

#30 Kathy Foley “Facing Disease, Combating Covid, and Pacing the Void: Indonesian Wayang/Topeng and Asian Puppets/Masks Confronting the Demonic and Accessing the Cosmic”

Various Asian cultures have used puppets to model curing when disease or disaster threaten and, through miniaturization, to allow in a brief lifespan to envision more cosmic processes. Puppets/masks, including, of course wayang/topeng, have been put to work delivering the souls from hellish pains and allowing initiates to step from mundane to cosmic time. We encounter object theatre used in purifications of individuals or communities as in ruwatan and berish desa and recently we have even seen them put to work contra Covid. So why are puppets/masks sometimes a preferred medium for theatrical events that cure or transcend? Is perhaps their non-realism the central attraction that allows them to carry the weight of the unseen demonic, the ancestral dead, the eternal? Is this function superfluous as we move into a secular/scientific frame, or does wayang or topeng still read as a tool for facing unknowns—from Covid conundrums to our own mortality and potential apotheosis? Why a puppet?

#31 Charley Sullivan “Years of Dressing Dangerously: Modern Women, National Identity and Moral Crisis in Sukarno’s Indonesia”

As Indonesia explored a new world of independence in the 1950s and 1960s, the question of how to be simultaneously Indonesian and “modern” fell largely on the nation’s women. A reading of the voices that emerged through women’s magazines therefore offers a highly nuanced understanding of the process of the development of Indonesian national identity during the Sukarno era. In particular, it suggests that ongoing incidents of moral crisis about what was “too much” modernity helps explain the dynamics of cultural tensions that exploded between different social and political groups in 1965.

#32 Lisa Gold “Balinese Gender Wayang: Musical Knowledge, Innovation, and Transmission from Zaman Dulu (a Bygone Era) to the Present”

In this talk I will be sharing some of my research on musical transmission, performance practice, and recent developments in Balinese wayang (shadow puppet theater) and gender wayang across several generations. My elderly teachers in the 1980s and 90s shared with me memories of zaman/jaman dulu (a concept of a rich, bygone past) from the early 20th Century as they saw the wayang repertoire of their teacher’s time diminishing. Today, despite that loss, their descendants are part of a burgeoning wayang performance scene as they train numerous young performers, with females sometimes at the forefront. I will share video & audio examples of early and more recent innovators, including some wayang listrik, and thoughts about personal and public space.

#33 Richard North & Felicia Danon North “The Gamelan of Cirebon”

Richard North (who has been studying, teaching and performing Cirebon gamelan music since 1976) and his wife Felicia Danon North (a talented Cirebon Topeng (mask) dancer who has been playing Cirebon gamelan since 1998) will give a lively and informal introduction to five genres of gamelan music from the ancient north coast Javanese kingdom of Cirebon. Richard currently directs the University of California Santa Barbara Gamelan Ensemble, as well as the community group Gamelan Sinar Surya.

He divides his time between teaching and performing in California and in Cirebon, where he has been instrumental in helping to revive several ancient forms of traditional gamelan music, in collaboration with gamelan teachers and musicians there.


#34 Burhan Sukarma “Suling Sunda”

Master suling player Burhan Sukarma discusses and demonstrates, through live and recorded playing, the role of the Sundanese suling in Gamelan Degung, Tembang Sunda, and Kacapi-Suling.
Burhan is a master suling player known for his deeply moving improvisations. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1988, he built an influential career as a recording artist and principal musician at RRI Bandung. Burhan has directed the gamelan group Pusaka Sunda in San Jose, California for 32 years. His new Kacapi-Suling recording (Banda Manusa, 2020) is a collaboration with master kacapi musicians from West Java.

#35 Iwan Gunawan: “21st Century Sundanese Gamelan Composition in Performance: Regional Meets International”

Bandung composer, musician, educator and music director Iwan Gunawan explores his gamelan-centered international music performance and compositional career. For over 15 years he has sought to express through his hybrid music not only his native Sundanese traditions but also to reflect Western musical practices and aesthetics.

#36 Andrew Timar: “North of Java: 37 Years of Canadian Degung”

Andrews talk focuses on the many aspects of the hybrid musical work of the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (ECCG), a Toronto-based professional ensemble playing degung – and often working with musical forces from other traditions and media: dance, feature film, video and shadow theater.

#37. Robert Cowherd: “Kraton and Culture: Reflexive Practice of the Sacred”

Since the 1949 Independence of the Republic of Indonesia, the Karaton Surakarta has had to make hard choices between maintaining its buildings or its rituals. Under Pakubuwana XII (reigned 1942-2005) the consistent policy was to give priority to the demanding cycles of ritual renewal while buildings were left to fall into disrepair. When in 1992 three princesses declared a hunger strike, it called attention to a dramatic mismatch between conventional practices of historic preservation and the living culture of the Karaton.

#38 Joko Sutrisno: “The 6 Steps to Success in gamelan and in life”

Based on Joko Sutrisno’s experience teaching gamelan for many years in Minneapolis, he has devised 6 steps to learn and make gamelan music. These Steps however can be applied to other areas in life to make your dreams come true in other areas such as finance, health, and relationships. Joko will talk about this concept and practical philosophy that is his guide to success.