Percussia Plays The Diversity Of Queens
By Victoria Hernandez
Percussia, a contemporary chamber music ensemble
with percussion as its driving force, will celebrate
the magical Indonesian tradition of gamelan music
in an upcoming free concert at 2 p.m. Sept. 6
at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural
Center, 100-01 Northern Blvd. in Corona.
|Percussia will explore Indonesian music at a free concert at Langston Hughes library.
program, titled "Inspired by Gamelan," is a "campuran"
- the Indonesian word for fusion or mixture -
of Western instruments and Indonesian music. Played
on percussion, flute, harp and viola, the event
features seven eclectic works - including a world
premiere piece - by modern Western composers who
were influenced by this intricate percussion instrument
from Java and Bali.
A gamelan is an orchestra of percussion and other
instruments, such as xylophones, drums and gongs,
that are built and tuned to stay together. Gamelan
music originated in Indonesia on the islands of
Java and Bali as royal court music and is often
thought to have mythical powers. The gamelan,
which is usually hand-forged and made of bronze,
is still a central element in many Javanese and
The concert will kick off with a world premiere
performance of "Variasi-Ombak," composed by Matthew
Welch for flute, viola, harp and two percussionists.
This somber set of pieces extends Welch's focus
on a dialectic between musical devices found in
Indonesian gamelan - in this case, Central Javanese
and antiquated Balinese Saih Pitu (seven-tone)
gamelans, such as Gambang and Luang - and Celtic
music, specifically in the piece piobaireachd.
The choice of instrumentation touches both realms
of disparate music traditions such as the Irish
flute, the fiddle and the celtic harp; or when
viewed from the other side of the world, the suling,
the rebab, and celempung , respectively. The metallic
and wooden percussion instruments further evoke
the sound world of gamelan, notably the specific
forms mentioned above that combine logam-logam
(metals) and kayu-kayu (woods).
The concert concludes with "Nagoya Marimbas,"
an intricate piece for two marimbas by Steve Reich,
who was recently called "our greatest living composer"
by The New York Times. In the mid 1970s, Reich
studied two forms of Balinese Gamelan - Semar
Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang - at the American
Society for Eastern Arts in Seattle and Berkeley,
California, which broadened his rhythmic and timbral
palette. "The repetitive, syncopated, interlocking
rhythms influenced his overall compositional style,"
says Percussia's Artistic Director Ingrid Gordon.
" This piece in particular uses interlocking,
syncopated rhythms, the same you would find in
Balinese music." Reich says that "Nagoya Marimbas,"
written in 1994, is somewhat similar to his pieces
from the 1960's and '70s "in that there are repeating
patterns played on both marimbas, one or more
beats out of phase, creating a series of two part
unison canons. However, these patterns are more
melodically developed, change frequently and each
is usually repeated no more than three times,
similar to my more recent work."