Monday, 9 February 2009

Music for Wayang Kulit

There are several types of music used in the Javanese wayang kulit.The first distinction we will want to make is between measured and un-measured. We normally mean that there is some sort of arranging of these beats into larger groups, of two, three, or four. In Western music we call these groups "measures". In Javanese music, we call the groups "gatras". When we play measured pieces, we are counting "and-one-and-two-and-three-and-four", or something to that effect. "Un-measured" music lacks this quality. The rhythm ebbs and flows at the whim of the performer, normally lacking any feel of "beat" or "meter". The phrasing of the music is left to the will of the performer, and the skills at interacting in a way that still makes musical sense, even while lacking a meter to give them structure.

Types of Measured Pieces. The measured pieces played by the gamelan come in two types: regular and irregular. The regular forms have gong structures that are completely predictable just from the title of the piece. The irregular forms have gong structures that vary from one piece to the next of the "same" form. They will vary as to how many gatras per gong, both within a single piece, and from one piece to the next.

Here's a chart of some of the regular forms:

Legend: X = balungan + = kethuk - = kempyang N = kenong G = gong
Lancaran 8 beats to the gong / 4 kenongs + + N + + N + + N + + N/G
. X . X . X . X . X . X . X . X
Ketawang 16 beats to the gong / 2 kenongs - + - - + - N - + - - + - N/G
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Ladrang 32 beats to the gong / 4 kenongs - + - - + - N - + - - + - N
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
- + - - + - N - + - - + - N/G
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Now here are the irregular forms:
Ayak-ayakan 2 kenongs to the gatra + +N+ +N
X X X X
Srepegan 4 kenongs to the gatra +N+N+N+N
X X X X
Sampak 8 kenongs to the gatra + + + +
NNNNNNNN
X X X X




Types of Un-Measured Pieces. The unmeasured pieces are distinguished mostly by instrumentation and function. They are often labelled sulukan as a general classification.

  • Tembang or Sekar. These are solo songs, often accompanied by a gender, very lightly. As a Bawa, a solo song would serve as an introduction to a measured piece. As an Andhegan, it would serve as an interlude in the middle of an measured piece.
  • Pathetan. This piece is played by gender, gambang, suling, rebab and a solo voice. In the wayang kulit, it is used to open each act of the play, setting the mood, and the tonality for the coming act.

  • Sendon. This is scored like a pathetan, minus the rebab. Sendon would be used as required by the drama of the scene. For example Tlutur is a very sad song, and so is used to express deep sorrow on the part of one the wayang characters.

  • Ado-ado. Is the most widely used of the sulukan within the context of the wayang kulit. It is palyed by the voice, gender, and suling. It is intimately bound up with the dramatic rhythm of the play, acting almost lke a musical glue, holding the scenes together. A common dramatic structure for a wayang scene might go something like this: Srepegan (or other irregular form) - Ado-ado - Narration - Dialog, which might then be repeated several times, with variation, so as to slowly build the story of the wayang kulit.

http://www.efn.org/~qehn/wayang/music.htm

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