Thursday, 2 August 2012

Not La Java Javanaise

I don't know if Boris Vian or Serge Gainsbourg ever played the gamelan, or where indeed this peculiar way of speaking came from. Just returned from the Saint-Lizier Festival teaching Javanese music to a group of extremely talented young musicians. They were there to perfect their virtuoso piano-playing and vocal skills, but all took part in the gamelan group every morning. Being the 150th anniversary of Debussy's birth it was the idea of festival director David Lively to show some of the influences on his music, and the encounter with Javanese gamelan music at the Great Exhibition of 1889, according to many musicologists, was a decisive one - the multi-layered floating textures, rootless whole-tone scales, sonorous gongs in the bass, rippling pentatonic patterns, may never have happened otherwise.

First excerpt is part of an exit piece or bubaran - the Hudjan rain Mas gold of the title is to wish everyone 'much wealth' as they leave, and is therefore, understandably, a firm favourite with Javanese audiences.
The other, entitled Ladrang Mugirahayu features the great American soprano June Anderson together with her student Nana Sawaushi.
Many thanks to all the students and teachers, to David, Gilles super-administrator person, for such a great week, and the technicians who moved the gamelan around with such good humour.

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