Gamelan Alligator Joy, Vancouver’s central Javanese gamelan ensemble, will premiere a new program of intercultural music by three of its composer-performers, Sutrisno Hartana, Michael O’Neill and Mark Parlett, as well as performing music by the American composer and gamelan lover Lou Harrison. Gamelan Si Pawit, VCC’s Sundanese gamelan degung, led by Jon Siddall, will present premieres of six pieces. And Beledrone, Michael O’Neill’s ensemble of Balinese processional gamelan beleganjur, Scottish bagpipes, viola, solo voices (Ukrainian bilij holos or “pure voice”) and chorus (the instrumentalists), will play sections of its repertoire.
An initial impetus for this concert came from gamelan-aware pianist Rory Cowal, who approached us with the idea of honouring Lou Harrison’s 100th anniversary by performing his Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan. We’ll play the exquisite and somewhat less traditional middle movement. Cowal will also be featured in the premiere of Michael O’Neill’s Mode of Attunement, a multi-sectional piece which utilizes Alligator Joy’s distinctive tuning to create a beautifully strange fusion of gamelan and piano sounds and contemporary new music structures. Sutrisno Hartana will premiere Baureksa KailiJaVan, a semi-ritual piece featuring overlapping polyrhythmic vamps and the deep, resonant tones of the lalove, and gimba, bamboo flutes from Palu, Central Sulawesi, played by guest artist Smiet Ilyas Abdul Hamid. The aim of the piece is to strike a balance between the spiritual and physical aspects of life. Mark Parlett’s premiere, Palindromnia, delves into expansion/contraction of rhythmic cycles within a non-idiomatic sense of jazz harmony. (Note: Gamelan Alligator Joy is the chamber ensemble incarnation of the performing group Gamelan Madu Sari, playing instruments commissioned by composer and Western Front co-founder Martin Bartlett in 1990.)
Opening the concert, Michael O’Neill’s Beledrone project will play sections from his full-length work, which was premiered in 2016 in Music on Main’s Modulus Festival. Beledrone also has a kind of ritual quality – its Balinese component is based on funeral music – but the piece weaves together its multicultural materials, including text by Vancouver poet Gerry Gilbert, to achieve an unexpected synthesis of solemnity and piquancy. Vocal soloists are Beverly Dobrinsky and Alison Jenkins.
Then, Gamelan Si Pawit, the resident gamelan at Vancouver Community College, will premiere works by Jon Siddall (who studied with Lou Harrison at Mills College), Scott Archibald, Anthony Fehr, Peki Hajdukovic, Rowan Tichenor and Tomas Valenzuela. Hip hop dancer Rupert Common will dance to Archibald’s composition Go East. Si Pawit’s light-textured music demonstrates the versatility and expressive potential of the gamelan degung style’s single tuning. Degung was in fact the first gamelan tradition played professionally in Canada, by Toronto’s Evergreen Club, founded in 1983 by, among others, Jon Siddall.
GAMELAN AT THE ROUNDHOUSE continues on April 27 when Balinese Gamelan Gita Asmara and Guests will hold forth.