Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Release: Angklung Buleleng

Today I am pleased to publish on Bandcamp a downloadable CD of recordings taken in 2007 and 2012 in Munduk, Bali. These recordings feature three different groups of four- and seven-key angklung, a traditional slendro pentatonic bronze ensemble.

Unlike studio recordings, this collection includes all the contextual sounds that signal the perpetuation of angklung and other Balinese music through generations of cultural and political upheaval. Most often gamelan, especially angklung, perform not for an attentive audience but as part of regular Hindu ceremonies.

I witnessed the most striking evidence for this in the unskilled but functional practice in migrant communities in Central Sulawesi. The sekaa, or group, comprised predominantly of Balinese laborers, produced rough sketches of the required repertoire: lelambatan for temple ceremonies, bondres half-mask skit comedy, classic kebyar, and ancient Rejang. Even the dancing was a mere shadow of the high-tension, balletic drama of performances on the island. The arts are essential to these ceremonies, though, so the artists take a day off from the farms and receive some compensation.

And why all the ceremonies? If nothing else, Balinese are a deeply pious people. Exposure to such extremes of geology, weather, and imperialist violence tends to correlate with escalation in faith practice.

A prominent ceremonial sound on some of these tracks is amplified solo singing. These songs belong to the same class of music as angklung for cremation ceremonies, the Pitra Yadnya, and are collected in published volumes of text. Hired singers, both male and female, train in private collectives and use these books as references. When women sing in unison at these same ceremonies the songs are from the same collections but they use no reference, having learned through community practice.

When you hear these contextual sounds, please comment with the following details and I'll update them to this main post:
  • Track Number 
  • Start time 
  • End time (optional) 
  • Description of the sound


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Here are some observations and questions that I got by email from Rob Waring. I believe the intervals between an angklung's four keys are M2 M2 m3, but I'm no angklung expert, so feel free to add your answer.


    I am a fan of angklung, but this is not like any anklung I have ever heard before because of the bizarre tuning. I thought that the intervals in anklung tuning are always approximately like A B C# E. This tuning is more like A B D F.

    I am curious about another thing. The first 7 tracks are in one tuning. Tracks 8 - 10 have the same kind of tuning, but slightly lower in pitch. Are these different sets of instruments, or has something happened to the pitch of the recordings?

    Tracks 11 - 15 use a pentatonic scale and the basic pitch is even lower than tracks 8 - 10. Interestingly, the pentatonic scale adds one note below the 4-note scale and B is replaced by C, which results in G A C D F. The note F is also used one octave lower. The first 4 notes - F G A C - are the "normal" intervals of angklung (I thought). This makes a total of 6 pitches. You wrote that they use 7-key instruments. What is the seventh key?