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MUSC 212.004, Gamelan Nyai Saraswati Ensemble

Gamelan Nyai Saraswati

The Gamelan Nyai Saraswati Ensemble was founded in 2001 after a donation of the instruments was received in December of 2000. Ever since there has remained a devoted group to this ensemble, both on campus and in the community. The gamelan currently resides in Hill Hall on the UNC campus, and the ensemble (directed John Caldwell) performs regularly scheduled concerts at UNC as well as throughout the Triangle and the state. Members of the ensemble (several of whom had no previous musical experience before joining) include students and faculty from UNC and other universities in the Triangle, as well as members of the surrounding community.

The instruments of a Central Javanese gamelan are conceived as an ensemble and then forged, cast, and tuned in the workshop of one gong maker before being given a name. Prior to its voyage to America, this gamelan was named Gamelan Nyai Saraswati by Bapak Sutina, the renowned performer of shadow puppetry and father of the ensemble’s previous owner, Midiyanto S. Putra of Wonogiri, Central Java. As is typical for a Central Javanese gamelan, the ensemble consists primarily of bronze instruments –– including gongs ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet in diameter and metallophones with anywhere from five to fourteen keys –– but also includes stringed instruments, wooden xylophones, flutes, drums, and male and female voices. Since the ensemble was cast and forged over 20 years ago, the bronze from which the instruments are made has stopped shifting and the tuning has settled, giving it the highly valued and much-sought quality referred to as “manis” or “sweet” in the Javanese language.

The ensemble will present their Fall Concert on Wednesday, November 28 at 7:30 pm in Hill Hall 107. Come hear the beautiful music of Gamelan Nyai Saraswati and even try out the instruments yourself at the instrument “petting zoo”!


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