Gamelan features U.S. and Indonesian guests, work by Maine composer
Exemplifying the robust cross-cultural conversations that happen all the time at Bates College, guest artists from Indonesia, an Indonesian-style dancer from the U.S. and a Maine composer all have a part in the Bates College Gamelan Orchestra concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 31, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.
The event is free, although tickets are required because of limited seating. For more information, please contact 207-786-6135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining the orchestra, which uses traditional Indonesian gamelan instruments to play music from that nation as well as by Western composers, are drummer-composer Wahyu Roche and dancer Achmad Farmis, both from Indonesia, and California-based dancer Ben Arcangel.
The program includes “Tango Tanggung,” a piece for gamelan instruments and cello by Philip Carlsen, professor of music at the University of Maine at Farmington.
Directed by associate professor of music Gina Fatone, the Bates Gamelan Orchestra makes music with percussion — drums, tuned gongs and polyphonic instruments like xylophones and metallophones — as well as bamboo flutes, stringed instruments and occasionally voice. The orchestra plays music from West Java (Sunda) and Central Java. Participation in the orchestra is open to students of all levels of musical experience.
Farmis, visiting Bates for the first time, specializes in “pencak silat,” an Indonesian dance style influenced by martial arts. Fatone explains that her musicians will have to respond on their instruments to Farmis’ dance steps — a new challenge for them.
“Accompanying dance is a dramatically different way of interfacing with the music, and requires the development of more highly nuanced skills,” she says.
“For the student audience, as well as the audience from the community, the ability to showcase the intimate relationship between drumming and dance within traditional West Javanese arts enhances both the aesthetic and teaching power of the gamelan ensemble.”
Farmis will perform with Arcangel in “Hanuman’s Revenge,” a scene from the ancient Hindu epic “Ramayana.” In a solo performance, Arcangel, who has also performed at Bates previously, will perform a traditional, masked dance from the genre “topeng cirebon.”
Farmis has received numerous awards for his work in performance and composition, and represents Indonesia in cultural delegations throughout the world. He has performed and taught regularly in the U.S. for years, and is associated with the California-based Indonesian ensemble Harsonari.
Roche has been at Bates twice, including a guest residency in 2008. He is classically trained in gamelan drumming and singing. As a performer and teacher, Roche has performed in the United States, Australia, Singapore and Germany. As a member of the influential group Jugala, he opened for Mick Jagger during a 1989 concert in Jakarta.
As a dancer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Arcangel was awarded “Outstanding Performer” at the 10th National American College Dance Festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The award, presented by Dance Magazine, represents the highest honor among college and university dance students.
The Indonesian guests will work with students at Bates March 21-31 as Johnson Learning Associates. Farmis’ teaching will include training in a traditional West Javanese folk dancing that incorporates tuned bamboo rattles called “angklung.” Bates acquired a set of angklung several years ago, but the group has yet to perform with these instruments and learn the dancing traditionally associated with them.
Farmis will also teach pencak silat in a beginning modern dance course.
In the Bates curriculum the gamelan orchestra plays an important role in creating dialogue across disciplines. Besides music and dance, the group is a great resource for Bates students studying anthropology, cultural psychology and Asian studies.