Wednesday January 14, 2009

It Takes a Village

An 8,000 pound brass and iron Indonesian gamelan, also called a 'gong orchestra,' is the newest addition to UD's musical scene.

An 8,000-pound musical instrument from Indonesia is expected to arrive soon at the University of Dayton, adding a new dimension to the University's and the Dayton community's access to world music.

Made of brass and iron, the gamelan — sometimes called a "gong orchestra" — is a collection of xylophones, chimes and gongs, according to Arlene Chongson, professor of world music. The University's new 75-piece gamelan features the UD logo on the instrument stands.

"It's really easy and fun to learn. It's very accessible music because you don't have to read notation," she said, adding that the gamelan group will be open to anyone in the community.

The gamelan is an important means of "collective music-making," Chongson said. Next to the classical Western orchestra, it's the largest type of ensemble in the world of music. UD's gamelan is designed to be played by 15 to 20 people, she said.

Chongson said unlike classical orchestras, the gamelan is tuned as a set, and individual instruments are not interchangeable.

"I can't take one instrument to another gamelan and jam with another group," she laughed.

Sumarsam, a Javanese gamelan master from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, will visit campus March 16-19 for a three-day residency. He'll work with the ensemble and give a free, public lecture and demonstration at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 19, in Room 104, Music/Theatre Building.

The UD Javanese Gamelan Ensemble will give its inaugural performance at a joint concert with the University's percussion ensemble at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at the Boll Theatre.

About eight students have already joined the group, and Chongson is encouraging campus and community members to join.

Rehearsals are from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. Wednesdays in the Music/Theatre Building on campus. For more information on joining the group, contact Chongson at 937-229-3915 or Arlene.chongson@notes.udayton.edu.

For more information, contact Cilla Shindell, director of media relations, at 937-229-3257 or shindell@udayton.edu.