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Gamelan | VSAO3601 | CDIME


Our final week of gamelan was interesting. We finished of Gilak Dung and played the whole piece through, including the introduction and the pengecet. We played most instruments in this, including the jegogan, gongs, trompong, kendang, kantilan and gangs. This piece is very low and of a religious nature, so we focused on putting people on the lower instruments. It was really exciting to see this piece finally come together.

The structure we followed was:

intro ||: lagu | kotekan 1 | kotekan 2 :|| pengecet

I found Gilak Dung really easy to remember week to week and I find that the melody is very easy to recall — the second kotekan was a little more difficult to remember, but this week it came back to me pretty easily. The Bapang Tembung however I’ve always found pretty difficult to recall, the melody stayed in my head a bit more this week, but overall this piece I found much harder. We spend the majority of time this piece re-learning the notes of the kotekan and second lagu, and then learning the pengecat (which was essentially a condensed version of the second lagu and kotekan). Because this piece is used played in a Royal Court we played it on the higher instruments (lighter, more delicate music is considered more luxurious), switching out the trompong for the reong, and the jegogan for the calung.


This week we were also given info sheets - they didn’t have much new info on them, but it was nice to see things written down and to have a reference for words and terms I couldn’t quite remember, and to have more specific terms for instruments and different types of kotekan, and the name of the Bapang Tembung which I kept forgetting!

This unit has mostly made me reflect on the effectiveness of teaching without sheet music, and I've been implementing this in my choral teaching. In ensembles, listening and copying may result in a slightly longer learning period, but I think it also creates less room for error once learned. Performers already have the music memorised allowing for more communication with the conductor during performance, and also since the conductor can communicate more effectively during the learning period, these intricacies are already in place.

I've really enjoyed learning these different techniques and elements of such an unfamiliar type of music, and I look forwards to playing more Gamelan in the future!


Once we went through it a few times, I felt much more comfortable with the fandango dance. I messed up the direction a few times in the beginning, but I feel much more comfortable with it now. I also finally understood the starting point and the change from duple time to triple. I think doing a little more practice at home will also make me feel a bit more comfortable.

I still didn’t feel great about the minuet — we had to do this step while spiralling into a whirlpool, and the tightness of the space made this really it really hard to get the step right as I was trying not to run into people. However, I had a little practice at home in my living room and felt a lot better. I also found it much easier without shoes on which was interesting.

I'm really excited to be working on the Bridesmaid 2 part this week, I've sung with Erina before and it'll be really nice to prepare this little duet with her. I've found myself singing more Soprano 2 parts lately, and while I usually hate it, I'm starting to enjoy the challenge and the strength in the lower parts of my voice -- its been nice to become more acquainted with them.

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This week I had my first two assignments due. I'm usually a last minute, late night essay writer, but I've been trying to stay more on top of things and use my time better, and hopefully this will result in a higher quality of work as well. I've been keeping up with my weekly blogs and class readings pretty well, but this week I've been struggling with my mental health and feeling really burnt out. I found it harder to engage during lectures, and getting the work done feels a lot harder, but I'm still going!


Week three of Gamelan was interesting, and we built on the techniques and songs we learned in the first two weeks.

Gilak Dung (which I thought we had finished learning!) had a coda section in the same style of Kotekan as the first kotekan. The two sections used the same rhythm, but it was reversed in the sangsih. I actually didn't get to play this part much because I was moved onto the gongs to fill out the texture. Obviously this was incredibly exciting to me, but I also got to learn a whole new instrument and technique. This was much easier than the smaller instruments like the pemade or the kantilans, mainly because its a much slower part and I only had 3 notes to worry about. The technique was mostly easy and involved striking the centre of the gong in a downwards motion, however the smallest gong required me to flip the pungal over in my hand and strike it with the handle, which I found difficult.

Next we spent some time learning about the Reong, which looks a lot like the Trompong, but has more notes/gongs and can be played by up to four people at one. We played a Kotekan between four people, and we learned a few different techniques to create different sounds. The four players have to cover both the polos and sangsih, and the parts move up and down the instrument together.

Finally we played our new piece, which I still keep forgetting the name of. I couldn't remember the lagu at all until Anthony sang the start of it, but then it came right back and I found it easier to play than last week. I found the Kotekan easier to remember as the rhythm was quite distinct and has a very syncopated section near the end. I find it much harder to play this one as it moves a lot faster and has bigger jumps in it, but I think I like this one a lot and I like the way the sangsih and polos interact.

Next week is our final week of Gamelan, and I look forwards to looking back through the videos and reflections I've done on here and seeing my progress. And as much as I've enjoyed learning without being preoccupied by note taking, I'm looking forwards to having things on paper and having Peter's notes from the class.


This week we did a lot of work on movement and dance with Lorina who choreographed the dance break in amanti costanti. I’ve never been much of a dancer so this was a step outside of my comfort zone but I was excited to give it a shot and try something new.

I found the fandango easy enough to follow, in theory, but practically I found it difficult to put it all together. Each step made sense separately, but I struggled with the counting a bit, especially in the beginning as the starting point wasn’t clear at all. I found it really easy to copy her movements in the moment so I think some practice at home to practice the transitions between moves will really help me.

The Minuet was more difficult for me to grasp — I felt it was a bit rushed and we didn’t have as much time to ask questions and I missed steps. For example, I didn’t understand the second step when the foot sweeps through to the front and then you step onto it before step three — I took the sweep through and the step to be two different beats which messed me up. I think I’ll be ready to work on this again next week, now that I have a better understanding of the movements.

Minuet: Video Tutorial (from 1:51)

I searched up this video for a better understanding and its almost the same as what we did in class (less sweep though) — I’ve had a bit of a practice and feel a little more confident.


This week I've been working to complete my rationale for Share the Song and put together my Share the Song performance with Alicia. We decided to perform Sui Ja Re, an Indian lullaby her mother used to sing for her.

We transcribed it separately and brought it together today to figure out how our parts would work together. We wanted to perform it with as my integrity as possible, but we struggled to find authentic instruments -- ideally I would have performed the accompanying chords on an instrument like a guitar, but I'm not very strong on guitar so we're going to use a keyboard with a harmonium effect to recreate the sounds used in the recording. Alicia wanted to borrow a wooden flute from her aunt to play the flute solo on, however it was in the wrong key, so we tried to transfer the melody on to a recorder, which also didn't work because its a very old plastic record which we couldn't seem to get in tune, so we decided to put it onto clarinet.

We discussed concerns about having 'westernised' the song through this process, but decided we could maintain the integrity of the piece by using similar pitch bends on the clarinet that would be used in the flute part, and by singing the lyrics together in their original language.

I'm really excited to perform this song with Alicia and I think it'll be nice to share this beautiful piece with our peers.

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Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Things are picking up! With 2 assignments due next week (including a group performance project) I've been getting busier and a little more frantic -- I think its time to get organised and start getting things done.

I'm finding these blog posts really useful for reflecting and keeping myself from going into autopilot as I usually do when things get stressful. I'm actually engaging more with my coursework at the moment, and thinking more deeply about how I can incorporate it into my teaching.


I was really worried when I saw the Gamelan class pop up on my timetable at the start of the semester - I work Saturdays and thought I'd struggle to keep up with work and rest if I didn't have my full weekend from Sunday-Monday, but I am really enjoying these Gamelan classes and couldn't think of a better way to start my week. Coming into the room with no expectations other than watching, copying and playing is really relaxing, and I was surprised this week by how much of the Gilak Dung I remembered. There were definitely parts of the sangsih I had forgotten, but most of the lagu and pokok I remembered. This really demonstrated to me the value of learning music without notation and I've tried to implement this with my choir, teaching them songs without sheet music. What I've struggled with in this kind of pedagogy is that the memorisation in gamelan is really supported by the clergy defined structure of the piece, while the piece I chose to use doesn't necessarily have that clear of a structure, so my students, while having learned the musical material easily, are struggling to know which order to put it in. But, its a great lesson to have learned and I look forwards to using this pedagogy again, maybe with a more structured piece.

I was very excited to play the Trompong this week, one of the larger instruments in the ensemble. It's made of 10 gongs and tuned to a different scale than the higher instruments and played with a different pungal, wrapped in twine. The sound dampened and doesn't ring as much as the other instruments, and only plays the lagu, while the higher instruments move onto the kotekan. I found the dampening technique really difficult, especially since I had to use the pungal to dampen each note, rather than my hand. I did very much enjoy the experience though.

We performed the Gilak Dung as a class and then learned the second Kotekan. It took me a little longer to get the polos this time because it had a few more jumps in it, but it was very repetitive and played on the beat instead of off beat which really helped.

I was very interested to learn about the different types of Kotekan as well. In Gilak Dung (the first Kotekan), the polos and sangsih occasionally play at the same time to create a chord, while in the second Kotekan, the two parts never play at the same times, and the alternating parts create a melody together. This was really interesting for me, and I loved hearing how the two different groups could play together to create one line.

This video is the second Kotekan (I'm playing the polos) and the sangsih is audible in the background.

We finished off the lesson learning a second piece, which I have to admit I don't remember much of!


Stage Fundamentals was quite different this week, Nell had to attend to a family matter, so we focused on repertoire with Simon. I really enjoy working with Simon and I find he makes me really think about my vowels and how to alter them to get my best sound. We focused a lot on the ensemble, making the most of double consonants, cut offs and matching our vowels. I'm very confident with my sight reading and I found the Mozart musically very easy to read (I sang Sop 2 and I think we had 3 different notes) but keeping up with the text as well was really difficult, and Simon did not slow down. I actually really enjoyed the challenge and I found that I was able to pick it up reasonably well.

I've been doing a lot more singing lately, preparing for auditions and starting regular singing lessons again, and I've been feeling much more confident with my voice. I'm really enjoying singing in my lower register which has strengthened a lot over the past year, as well as my top notes which are growing more reliable as well. I found singing sop 2 quite enjoyable but had to be careful to not push to out sing the sop 1 group.

We didn't do any stage work this week, but it was nice to focus on the ensemble singing portion for a little while.


I said last week in my reflections on CDIME and Gamelan that the pedagogies seemed really similar to Orff Pedagogy we had learned in first year, and I now realise that Orff pedagogy is (of course) derived from the practices that many cultures have used to teach and pass down songs and music.

We had members of the Conservatorium's Chinese Music Ensemble visit us this week to show us their instruments and teach us songs they've learned. They used the same technique we did in Gamelan and Orff pedagogy to teach us a song called Feng Yang -- no sheet music, listening and repeating the melody in small chunks and then performing all together. I understood that Orff Pedagogy was influenced by non-western instruments and teaching styles, but I don't think I realised just how similar it is to teaching styles I've been observing from different culture bearers over the past few weeks.

I've also been really interested by the different tunings and pitch sets used by these different cultures, because it completely changes the way we look at music, moving from 12 notes to an infinite and undefinable number of pitches that can be used. Nicholas taught us that Chinese instruments were each tuned differently before a standardised tuning was introduced by musicians who had studied overseas. It reminded me of Gamelan tuning, adn that we'd been taught that no two gamelan sets were tuned exactly the same.

I'm really enjoying the CDIME course so far and I'm excited that its expanding my idea of music and giving me more ideas about repertoire and ways I can teach my students. I often discuss with my students what I'm studying in class and I was really thrilled to have some of my students suggest songs they wanted to learn and share from their own cultures. I'm really excited to begin this process with my students and diversify my teaching.

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