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By Bambang Sunarto
This article elaborates on categories of artistic on musical composition of karawitan music,
characterized by particular styles. This writing is intended to describe or depict scenes of
musical form and their framework or pragmatic context in everyday life in Javanese music
culture. This elaboration was done by indentifying and taking apart the components of of any
term and musical concept as manifestation of the cultural statements that exist in everyday
life. The outcome of this explanation is a new conception and perception of artistic categories
related to the medium, musical construction, and pragmatic reality. In new creations of
karawitan music, one can distinguish a new karawitan with classic/traditional nuances
,another with popular nuances, with reinterpretation, and with an experimental or explorative
nature. This writing seeks to characterize a generic idea generalized from particular
instances of karawitan music.
musical genre, aesthetic category, characteristic classification, musical treatment
A. Introduction
Both the conception and form of the term “karawitan”, are cultural realities that have
grown in the area of Javanese culture. The image held by Indonesian people outside Java in
general is that karawitan is equivalent to gamelan music1. The layman’s perspective of
karawitan is also understood to be music of gamelan, even by Javanese people. The word
“gamelan” is a term used to indicate a group of instruments typically from Java and/or Bali,
featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs as
well as bamboo flutes, rubbed and plucked strings in a particular assembly to express
karawitan music. Karawitan music can be expressed without the medium of gamelan. So, the
understanding of karawitan as music of gamelan is not entirely accepted, because Javanese
karawitan is in fact often expressed in the form of music that does not use gamelan
The expression of karawitan music without the medium of gamelan has a nature of
characters, concepts and ways of expression which is synonymous with karawitan music
expressed by using gamelan medium. During its development, as stated by Supanggah2, the
term karawitan is now used to refer to a variety of various musical types that have the nature,
character, concept, way of work, and or rules that is similar to the music of karawitan. This
understanding grows through the consideration of increasing urbanization as an important
phenomenon since the 1970s in Indonesia, especially in Java,. This happens because
urbanization has intense effects not only on the ecology of a region and on its economy, but
also but also on the conditions of cultural arts in some communities. Urbanization is
essentially the increase over time in the population of cities in relation to the region's rural
population. The most striking immediate change accompanying urbanization is the rapid
change in the prevailing character of local livelihoods through agriculture or more traditional
local services and small-scale industry. It gives way to modern industry and urban and related
commerce, with the city drawing on the resources of an ever-widening area for its own
Supanggah, R. 2002. Bothekan Karawitan I. Jakarta: Ford Foundation & Masyarakat Seni Pertunjukan
Indonesia. p. 5.
Supanggah, R. 2002. . Bothekan Karawitan I. p. 5.
sustenance and goods to be traded or processed into manufactured goods. These factors all
have significant impact on the life of karawitan music.
The music of karawitan in the context of urbanization is understood to be music with
musical construction and typicality, manner and genuine form of cultural expression of the
ethnic music in Indonesia. Therefore karawitan embodies the meaning of descriptive terms
with very broad domains. The ranges of possible musical entities are classified into (1) culture
areas, (2) personal characters, (3) a character of groups, and (4) a musical genre.
Classification of the karawitan based on the region of musical culture points to the
musical style that is determined by the music dialectics with talent, character, and aesthetic
tendencies that grow and develop in a particular area of musical culture. This classification
essentially points to the style of typicalities marked by musical medium, manner and form of
expression applied and abided by the artists and practitioners in a particular area of musical
cultures, such as the musical styles of Sundanese, Minangkabau, Bali, Banyumas,
Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Jawatimuran, Madura, Cirebonan, Semarangan, Sragenan, and so
on. The classification based on personal character refer to the types of karawitan that are
determined by a strong musical talent, character, and aesthetic tendencies that grow and
develop in an individual artist. Classification thereby generates the musical aesthetic style of
Nartosabda, Tjakrawasita, Martopangrawit, Rasito, Mang Koko, Gede Manik, and so
on. Classification based on the musical character of the group points to musicality that is
determined by the strong tendency of aesthetic that grows and develops in a particular musical
community. This classification results in understanding a musical entity with a particular style
of musical styles such as RRI Surakarta, RRI Ngayogjakarta, Pakualaman Pura, Pura
Mangkunegaran, the Palace of Surakarta, Surakarta ASKI musical styles, and so on.
The classification of karawitan music based on musical genre is essentially pointing to
musical style or aesthetic flow with the trend and content of the certain conceptual fields. This
classification refers to types of music that are determined by musical ideas, and contents color
its musical form and configurations. Musical ideas relate to medium, vocabulary, musical
treatment, and inclination of its message. The existential reality of the music of karawitan can
be grouped into two major genres, namely (1) traditional music of karawitan, and (2) new
musical work of karawitan. The new musical works of karawitan can be subdivided into (2.a)
new traditional karawitan music, and (2.b) contemporary karawitan music. New musical
works in karawitan usually consist of three categories, namely (2.a.1) new musical karawitan
on classic-traditional, (2.a.2) popular karawitan music, and (2.a.3) a type of karawitan music
called gagrag anyar. Karawitan as a musical genre may be mapped as follows.
New Musical
Karawitan on
Traditional Music
of Karawitan
New Traditional
Music of
New Musical
Work of
Popular Music of
Karawitan Music
of Gagrag Anyar
B. The Traditional Music of Karawitan
The meaning of the term “traditional” is essentially something related to the manner,
method, or typical style as a legacy of culture that are still alive in the present day. It cannot
be separated from the mindset, behaviors, actions and attitudes to life as a cultural habit. The
meaning of “traditional” is often understood as “classic”, so the term “traditional karawitan
music” is normally understood as classical karawitan music. These two terms (traditional and
classic) are often used with very wide and overlapping connotations and denotations.
The sense of “classic”, which is also meant as traditional, here is understood as related
to the principles or standards that are followed, appreciated, and respected continuously and
inhereted from generation to generation in specific artistic fields. The principle or the standard
in the karawitan music is embodied in the arrangement and work of a musical system with
specific characteristics that are transmitted by means of oral tradition, the creator of which is
often anonymous. That is why a classic conception in music of karawitan here is also stated as
traditional, because neither musical conceptions can be separated.
The body of traditional karawitan music is musical composition the form, structure,
and treatment of which refer to the standard of conventional form, structure, and musical
treatment of the musical culture of karawitan music. Gendhing as the composition of
traditional karawitan music constitutes anonymous creation in a cultural music legacy. Other
nature of the gendhing are close and stuck to musicians or pengrawit, and its musical
performance is completely dominated by the pengrawit.
The traditional music of karawitan is marked by existing repertoire, a wealth of
gendhings that can be classified into (1) gendhing ageng and (2) gendhing alit. Gendhing
ageng is understood to be conventional music composition, both the treatment and
appreciation of which need deep and adequate provisions and comprehensions. Both its
structure and treatment are relatively complicated, and a whole musical composition
comprises no less than four sections. Each section has different form and structure. Gendhing
alit is also conventional music composition, but neither its treatment nor its appreciation
require deep and adequate provisions and comprehensions. Both its structure and treatment is
relatively simple, uncomplicated, easy to imitate, so it is easy to learn. It is possible that a
single musical composition comprises only one part of the form.
1. Medium
Traditional karawitan music as an expressive tool is performed using the media of
voice or conventional gamelan, and/or the combination of voice and conventional gamelan.
The conventional gamelan is a group instrument, and its empirical form is music cultural
heritage. It is not result of new engineering. Existent material of conventional gamelan has
existed far ahead of new instruments, a result of new musical instrument engineering that its
material existent presents contemporaneous with the author of this article.
The involvement of the human voice in the music of karawitan is not a must. Vocal
parts in karawitan music differ from vocal parts in other music tradition, especially musical
tradition that places the voice as the “main” entity, since without its presence it is incomplete,
and presentation of music cannot be implemented. If in a music composition there is a
musical part that usually presented by vocal voice, and there is no figure capable of presenting
the vocal part, that part should be presented by the sound of other instruments. The human
voice in karawitan music shares its position with other sound entities presented by the
treatment through gamelan instruments.
2. Various Kinds of Gamelan
The conventional instruments of gamelan music are ensembles that exist in the island
of Java, Madura, Bali, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Lombok in various kinds of sizes, shapes of
ensembles, and pragmatic contexts. In Java especially two musical cultures have developed,
namely (1) Javanese music culture scattered throughout Central Java and East Java, and (2)
Sundanese musical culture scattered throughout West Java.
People sometimes mention gamelan using the term “gong”. The term “gong” is
considered synonymous with gamelan in Bali and Lombok today, as well was the case in Java
from the eighteenth century up to mid-nineteenth century. Conventional gamelan instruments
are formed and arranged in ensembles in a systemic manner, through the inheritance of a long
history. The following are examples of some conventional gamelan, from Javan, Sunda,
Madura, Borneo, and Bali.
Picture 1:
Conventional Javanese Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Ageng
Picture 2:
Conventional Sundanese (the West Java) Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Degung
Collection of the University College London, United Kingdom
Picture 3:
Conventional Maduranese Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Klenangan
Picture 4:
Conventional Gamelan from Borneo Named Gamelan Banjar Rakyatan
Collection of the Lambungmangkurat Museum
Picture 5:
Conventional Balinese Gamelan Named Gamelan Gong Kebyar
Haryono describes that gamelan has been mentioned in some inscription, literary texts,
and temple reliefs from the eighth to the tenth century3. Haryono has mentioned some
inscriptions, those of Wukajana, Poh, Kuburan Candi, Kembang Arum, Gandasuli II, Kuti,
and Kwak I. Haryono also points to some literary text that mention instrument of gamelan,
namely Bharatayuddha, Bhomakavya, Smaradahana, Nagarakrtagama, Kidung Ranggalawe,
Kidung Sundha, Kidung Harsawijaya, Kidung Pamancangah, Sri Tanjung and Panji Stories.
The reliefs mentioned above are found in the temple of Kedaton, Penataran, Sukuh,
Borobudur, Loro Jonggrang, Pamandaian Jalatunda, Jago, Ngrimbi, Kedaton, and
Ferdinandus has also described traces of the history of gamelan that is scattered in
various inscriptions, ancient literary texts, and temple reliefs on IX-XV century4. Besides
mentioning mentions inscriptions, ancient literary texts, and temple reliefs that have been
mentioned by Haryono, Ferdinandus also mentions some temples such as Borobudur,
Prambanan, Jalatunda, Jago, and Jawi. Unfortunately, there is no historian who describes the
process of the formation of the gamelan ensemble so that it becomes complete as found in the
present day.
Soetrisno has also discussed the whole things that are presented by Haryono and
Ferdinandus5. All of them confirm that formation of the gamelan ensemble occurs gradually
Haryono, T. 2001. Logam dan Peradaban Manusia. Yogyakarta: Philosophy Press. p. 07-114; & Haryono, T.
2008. Seni Pertunjukan dan Seni Rupa dalam Perspektif Arkeologi Seni. ISI Press Solo. Surakarta. p. 138-169.
Ferdinandus, J.P.E. 2001. Alat Musik Jawa Kuno. Kajian Bentuk dan Fungsi Ansamble Abad IX-XV Masehi.
Yayasan Mahardika. Yogyakarta.
Soetrisno, R. 1976. Sejarah Karawitan. Akademi Seni Karawitan Indonesia. Surakarta.
so as to achieve the peak of perfection. That perfection is more real since the reign of
Pakubuwono X (1893-1939) in Surakarta. The perfection appears in various artifacts of
gamelan made in that time. The perfection in various contexts and for various purposes is
developed further by contemporary artists in the post independence era.
Javanese karawitan has several types of ensembles; a group of supporting musicians
and instruments are bound into one unified system to obtain a full complement of
harmonizing expression, including the following ensembles: (1) gamelan ageng, (2) gamelan
gadhon, (3) gamelan cokekan, (4) gamelan kodhok ngorèk, (5) gamelan monggang, (6)
gamelan corabalen, and (7) gamelan sêkatèn. Supanggah has described the form and function
of these set of ensembles, with the exception of gamelan cokekan and gamelan gadhon6.
There is a set of gamelan ensemble the instruments of which are formed of wilahan
gambang or xylophones, and made of bamboo. This ensemble generally develops in the
periphery of Javanese culture, Banyumas. This bamboo gamelan is called gamelan calung.
The role and function of this gamelan ensemble imitates the nature instruments of gamelan
agêng. Meanwhile, gamelan agêng is mostly dominated by type instrument of wilahan and
pêncon type instruments.
Yasa states that in Bali there are about 26 types of gamelan ensemble that have the
treatment, shape of gendhing, timbre, function of instrument, character and different
repertoire of gendhing7. Sukerta recorded 31 type set or “barungan” of gamelan, which
include barungan angklung don nem, angklung kembang kirang, angklung kléntangan,
bebatelan, bumbung gebyog, caruk gambang, gebug ende, genggong, gong beri, gong duwe,
gong gede, kebyar gong, gong luang, gong pareret, gong suling, jegog, kendhang barung,
parwa, pegambuhan, pejangeran, pejogedan, geguntangan, rindik gegandrungan, saron,
selonding, semar pagulingan saih lima, semar pagulingan saih pitu, semarandana,
tektekan/okokan, and trompong beruk8.
Most gamelan in Bali and in Java contain percussive instruments, comprising wilahan
and pencon instruments. There are several complementary instruments, as in Java, including
(1) cymbals instrument or kecer that in Bali is called ceng-ceng, (2) kendhang instruments
that usually consist of pairs, called kendhang lanang and kendhang wadon respectively, (3)
suling (flute) that have a variety of shapes and sizes, and (4) rebab (fiddle). The type of zither
known as siter and celempung in Java is not found in Balinese karawitan music. However, a
new musical genre called gènjèk has recently been developed in Bali . This music is a subgenre of Cakepung, using plucked instrument like zither9.
In Java there is gamelan calung, the entirety of whose instruments take the in shape of
wilahan or xylophone types. This may also be found in in Bali, as there are numerous
gamelan ensemble made of bamboo such as (1) gamelan jegog, (2) gamelan joget bumbung,
(3) gamelan rindik, (4) gamelan gambang, and (5) gamelan gandrung10. These instruments
musically imitate the form, role, functions, intern and extern relations of gamelan ageng in
Bali, such as (1) gamelan gong kebyar and (2) gamelan semar pagulingan.
Various types of gamelan are also found in Sunda, in cultural province of West Java.
The existence of gamelan in Sunda can be seen in various genres of art such as (1) kethuk tilu,
Supanggah, R. 2002. p. 32-37.
Yasa, I.K. 1991. Gendhing-gendhing Dalam Upacara Memungkah di Pura Dadia Agung Pasek Bendesa
Tonja. Laporan Penelitian. Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (STSI) Surakarta.
Sukerta, P.M. 2004. Perubahan dan Keberlanjutan dalam Tradisi Gong Kebyar: Studi tentang Gong Kebyar
Buleleng. Disertasi Doktor. Denpasar: Universitas Udayana.
I Nyoman Sukerna, interview 5 Juli 2008.
I Nyoman Sukerna, interview 5 Juli 2008.
(2) jaipongan, (3) degung, (4) bajidoran, and other arts11. Rasita Satriana explained that in
Sunda there are numerous set of gamelan such as (1) gamelan renteng, (2) gamelan ajeng, (3)
gamelan saléndro-pelog that is called gamelan prawa-prada in Cirebon, (4) gamelan degung,
(5) kecapi ensemble, (6) tarawangsa ensemble, (7) calung ensemble, (8) calung ensemble, (9)
angklung ensemble, and (10) gamelan pencak silat (martial drums)12. New gamelan has
recently been born in Sunda called gamelan selap, with modification of its scale system
(Sopandi, 2006). Meanwhile, Natapradja divides gamelan in Sundanese karawitan music into
two categories: (1) gamelan utama [main gamelan], and (2) gamelan madya [middle
gamelan]. Gamelan utama consists of gamelan renteng, gamelan degung, gamelan pamirig
kethuk tilu, and gamelan saléndro-pélog. Gamelan madya consists of gamelan ajeng,
gamelan lilingong, gamelan munggang, gamelan cokek, gamelan gambang kromong, and
gamelan kemodong13.
Physical form of Sundanese gamelan is not much different with gamelan in Java and
Bali. Most of its instruments are percussive, comprising a group of instruments shaped like
wilahan and pencon. Typical added instruments in Sundanese karawitan music are kendhang
(drums), various types of suling (flutes), and plucked strings instruments called kecapi, and
another bowed string instrument called rebab (fiddle). In Sundanese karawitan music there is
also gamelan angklung and calung as found in Java that are made of bamboo. Gamelan
calung in Sundanese culture and in Java have fundamental differences in their organological
C. The Types of Instruments in the Gamelan
A gamelan is a set of instruments that form a distinct entity, as they are built and tuned
to stay together; instruments from different gamelan are not generally interchangeable. The
gamelan in Central Java feature a variety of instruments, most of which are percussive. They
can be categorized into the following groups: (1) pencon instruments (2) wilahan instruments
(3) drums, (4) bamboo flutes, and (5) bowed and plucked strings.
1. Pencon
The pencon group consists of circular, metal percussion instruments, each with an
overturned rim, that resemble plates They are struck in the centre with a soft covered beater,
to produce a sound of either definite or indefinite pitch. Pencon instruments have deep rims
and are bossed (knobbed) in the centre. There are two broad categories of pencon: pencon
gantung and pencon renteng. Pencon gantung are those that are usually called gongs. They
are hung and come in various sizes: the is the gong ageng, three type of gong suwukan and
ten types of kempul. Pencon renteng consist of a group of small gongs that are arranged in a
The pencon gantung consists of (1) the gong ageng, (2) the gong suwukan, and (3) the
kempul. The gong ageng (which means ‘large gong’, and is also called gong gedhe) is a
musical instrument that has a fixed, focused pitch. It is circular, and has a conical, tapering
base whose diameter smaller than the upper face. It also has a protruding polished boss which
it is struck by a padded mallet. Gongs whose diameters are as large as 135 centimetres
(54 inches) were made in the past, but gongs with diameters of about 80 centimetres
(32 inches) are more common today, especially because such gongs better suit the budget of
Sopandi, C. 2006. Gamelan Selap: Kajian Inovasi Pada Karawitan Wayang Golek Purwa. Tesis S-2. Program
Studi Pengkajian Seni. Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Surakarta. p. 1.
Rasita Satriana, interview 6 Juli 2008.
Natapradja, I. 2003. Sekar Gendhing. Bandung: PT. Karya Cipta Lestari. p. 97-129.
educational institutions. There is at least one large gong in each gamelan, but it is common to
have two.
The gong suwukan is a smaller gong that is used to mark smaller phrases. It is
generally higher pitched, and is pitched differently for pélog and sléndro. A gamelan will
frequently have several gong suwukan, for different ending notes and pathet (musical mode in
karawitan). The most common note or tone for pathet sanga and lima is 1, but for pélog pathet
nem and barang, and sléndro pathet nem and manyura, it is 2. A 1 can be usually be played
for balungan ending in 1 or 5, and a 2 can be played for 2 or 6. A few gamelan have a gong
suwukan 3 as well.
The kempul is a type of hanging gong that is often placed with the gong suwukan and
gong ageng. All kempul hang on a single rack at the back of the gamelan, and these
instruments are often played by the same player with the same mallets. There are usually
several kempul for each pélog and sléndro; however, there are frequently some notes for
which otherly pitched kempul must be played (usually at a related interval, like a fifth). The
appropriate kempul depends on the balungan, the pathet (mode), and other considerations.
The kempul in Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese gamelan has a colotomic function, similar
to the kenong and kethuk-kempyang. Below is a picture of pencong gantung (hanging
pencon), which consists of gong ageng (or geng gedhe), gong suwukan, and kempul which
are attached to single rack.
Picture 6:
A group of gong (pencon gantung) in a Javanese gamelan ensemble
Consist of a gong ageng, three type of gong suwukan dan ten type of kempul
Pencon renteng come in several basic types, such as the bonang, the kenong, and the
kethuk kempyang. The bonang consists of a collection of small gongs (sometimes called
"kettles" or "pots") placed horizontally onto strings mounted to a wooden frame (rancak),
either one or two rows wide. All of the kettles have a central boss, but the lower-pitched ones
have a flattened head, while the higher ones have an arched head. Each gong is tuned to a
specific pitch in the appropriate scale; thus there are different bonang for pelog and slendro.
In Central Javanese gamelan there are three types of bonang used. Those are the bonang
penerus, the bonang barung, and the bonang penembung.
The bonang panerus is the highest pitched, and thus uses the smallest kettles. It
generally covers two octaves, which roughly corresponds to the range as saron and peking
instruments combined. It plays the fastest rhythms of the bonang, either interlocking with the
bonang barung or playing at twice its speed. The bonang barung is pitched one octave below
the bonang panerus, and also generally covers two octaves with correspond to the range of the
demung and saron combined. This is one of the most important instruments in the ensemble,
as it gives many cues to the other players in the gamelan. The bonang panembung is the
lowerst pitched. Its range covers approximately the same range as the slenthem and demung
instruments combined. It is reserved for the most austere repertoire, and typically plays a
paraphrase of the balungan. The parts played by the bonang barung and bonang panerus are
more complex than many instruments in the gamelan; thus, it is generally considered an
elaborating instrument. In essence they play melodies that are based on the balungan (or
musical skeleton), though these generally modified in a simple way. However, they can also
play more complex patterns, which are obtained by combining barung and panerus patterns;
such alternations may be interlocking parts, usually called imbal, or they may be the
interpolation of florid melodic patterns that usually called sekaran. Below is a picture of
pencong renteng, a group of small gongs are arranged in a row, namely the of bonang barung
and bonang penerus in pairs, for both in slendro and pelog tuning systems.
Picture 7:
A group of bonang in a Javanese gamelan ensemble
Consist of bonang barung in slendro and pelog as well as bonang penerus in slendro and pelog
2. Wilahan
The instruments of the wilahan can be divided into three types, namely (2-a) the
wilahan gambang or xylophones, (2-b) the wilahan gender, and (2-c) the wilahan balungan
or metallophones. The wilahan gambang or xylophone instruments are percussion
instruments which consist of a set of graduated, tuned wooden bars supported at nodal (nonvibrating) points and struck with padded mallets. The bars of the instrument are made of a
dense wood, generally teak. It also found in ironwood (kayu besi). The bars are mounted in a
deep wooden case that serves as a resonator. Instruments typically have 17-21 keys that are
easily removed, and are kept in place by a hole and nail. A full gamelan generally has two
sets, one pelog gambang and one slendro gambang.
Picture 8:
A a gambang instrumen in a Javanese gamelan ensemble
A pair of long thin mallets (tabuh), made of flexible water buffalo horn tipped with
felt, are used to play the instrument. Gambangs are generally played in parallel octaves
(gembyang). Occasionally, other styles of playing are employed such as playing kempyung
which are played by striking two notes separated by two keys. Unlike most other gamelan
instruments, no dampening is required, as the wood does not ring like the metal keys of other
instruments. In Javanese gamelan, the gambang is an elaborating instrument.
The wilahan gender is a kind of metallophone instrument arranged in row with with
hanging resonators. It consists of 14 tuned metal bars, each suspended over a tuned resonator
of bamboo or metal, which are then struck with a mallet made of a padded, wooden disk.
Each key is a note of a different pitch, often extending a little more than two octaves. There
are five notes per octave, so in the seven-note pélog scale, some pitches are left out according
to the pathet. Most gamelans include three gender, one for slendro, one for pelog pathet nem
and lima, and one for pelog pathet barang.
Picture 9:
A gambang instrument in a Javanese gamelan ensemble
There are essentially there are two genders which are used, the gender barung and the
gender panerus. The main difference between them is that gender panerus is octave higher
than the gender barung. The gender panerus plays a pattern that consists of single melodic line
, following a pattern similar to the siter. The gender barung plays a slower, but more complex
melodic pattern characterized by more separate right and left hand melodic lines that come
together in kempyung (approximately a fifth) and gembyang (octave) intervals. The melodies
of the two hands sometimes move in parallel motion, but often play contrapuntally. Since
playing gender barung requires two mallets, the dampening technique, which important to
most gamelan instruments, becomes more challenging: the previously hit notes must be
dampened by the same hand immediately after the new ones are hit. This is sometimes
possible by playing with the mallet at an angle (to dampen one key and play the other), but
may require a small pause.
The wilahan balungan or metallophones instruments are percussion instrument
consisting of a series of struck metal bars. There are three instruments that can be classified in
wilahan balungan, as they come in a number of different sizes. From largest to smallest, they
are the demung, saron, and saron penerus. Each one of those is pitched an octave above the
previous. It provides the core melody (balungan or skeleton) in the gamelan orchestra. Below
is a picture of wilahan balungan instruments, including the demung, saron, and saron
Picture 10:
The Balungan instrument in Javanese gamelan in the form of wilahan balungan
3. Kendhang
Another type of instrument in gamelan is the kendhang. In Malay, is called gendang,
while in Tausug/Bajau Maranao it is known as gandang. It is a two-headed drum, thus
technimcally classified as a membranophone among the percussion group of musical
instruments. In Java, especially in Central Javanese gamelan (both in Surakarta and
Yogyakarta) there are four sizes of kendhang.
Firstly, there is kendhang ageng or kendhang gedhe, which can also be named
kendhang gendhing. It is the largest kendhang, and usually has the deepest tone. It is played
by itself in the kendhang satunggal style, which is used for the most solemn or majestic
pieces or parts of pieces. Secondly, there is the kendhang ketipung. It is the smallest
kendhang, used with the kendhang ageng in kendhang kalih style, which is used in faster
tempos and less solemn pieces.
Picture 11:
The Kendhang Ageng and Kendhang Ketipung in Javanese gamelan
Thirdly, there is the kendhang ciblon. It is a medium-sized drum that used for the most
complex or lively rhythms. It is typically used for livelier sections within a piece. The word
ciblon derives from a Javanese type of water-play. The term ciblon or water-play refers to the
way in which people smack the water with different hand shapes to give different sounds and
complex rhythms. Naming this kendhang technique ciblon indicates that it is meant to imitate
water-play, and thus is more difficult to learn than the other kendhang styles.
Picture 11:
The Kendhang Batangan or Kendhang Wayang in Javanese gamelan
Finally, there is the kendhang batangan or kendhang wayang. It is also medium-sized,
and it was traditionally used to accompany wayang performances, although now other drums
can be used as well. This kendhang has the same shape as the kendhang ciblon, but it has a
slightly larger size, so that the resulting sound is also slightly deeper. The technique for
playing this kendhang is not much different from the kendhang ciblon, but it requires a very
different vocabulary of musical expression.
4. Bamboo Flutes
A suling is bamboo ring flute. It is made mainly of bamboo (schizostachyum blumei)
that has kind of a long tube bamboo with a very thin surface. The head of suling, near a small
hole, is circled with a thin band made of rattan or rotan to produce air vibration.
a thin circle
band made of
Picture 12:
The Sulings in Javanese gamelan
When playing a suling, there are two factors that affect its pitch: the fingering position,
and the speed of the airflow from the player’s mouth. The fingering position changes the
wavelength of the sound resonance inside the suling's body. Depending on the distance of the
nearest hole to the suling's head, different notes can be produced. The airflow speed also can
modify the tone's frequency. A note with twice the frequency of a given fingering can be
produced by blowing the air into suling's head's hole with twice speed.
Picture 13:
The Slendro Suling in Javanese gamelan with four hole
5. Bowed and Plucked Strings
In Indonesia, there are two kind string instruments. The bowed or swiped string
instrument is known as a rebab, and the plucked string instruments are known as the siter and
the celempung. The following is a picture of the rebab.
Picture 14:
The Rebab in Javanese gamelan
It can be tuned in Slendro or Pelog
As said by Lindsay (year or footnote?), the rebab is an essential elaborating instrument,
ornamenting the basic melody or balungan. It is a two-stringed bowed lute consisting of a
wooden body, that was traditionally made out of a single coconut shell, but this is rare now.
The body is covered with very fine stretched skin. Two brass strings are tuned to a kempyung
(a fifth) apart and a bow of horse hair is loosely tied (unlike modern Western stringed
instruments); the proper tension is controlled by the players bowing hand, which contributing
to the difficult technique of playing rebab. There are typically two rebabs per ensemble, one
for pelog scaling system and one for slendro, thus they never played together14.
The plucked string instruments of the gamelan ensemble are the siter and celempung.
The siter is the small stringed instrument in a gamelan, while celempung is a bigger than siter.
The following are pictures of the siter and celempung.
Picture 15:
The Siter in Javanese gamelan
It can be tuned in Slendro or Pelog
Lindsay, J. 1992. Javanese Gamelan: Traditional Orchestra of Indonesia. Singapore ; New York : Oxford
University Press. p. 30-31.
Picture 16:
The Celempung in Javanese gamelan
It can be tuned in Slendro or Pelog, 1. Viewed from the front, 2. Viewed from the side
The siter and celempung each have between 11 and 13 pairs of strings, strung on each
side between a box resonator. Typically, the strings on one side are tuned to pélog and those
on the other to slendro. The siter is generally about a foot long and fits in a box (onto which it
is set upon while played), while the celempung is about three feet long and sits on four legs,
and is tuned one octave below the siter. They are used as elaborating instruments that play
melodic patterns known in karawitan music as cengkok (patterns based on the balungan).
Both the siter and the celempung play at the same speed as the gambang, which is fast. The
strings of both the siter and the celempung are played with the thumbnails, while the fingers
are used to dampen the previous strings when the next one is hit, as is typical with instruments
in the gamelan. The fingers of both hands are used for the damping, with the right hand below
the strings and the left hand above them.
D. Musical Construction
The most essential specification of karawitan music lies in its musical construction.
The construction of karawitan music is determined by using the following elements: (1) tones,
(2) scales or tuning systems, (3) musical time management, (4) a harmonic system, (5)
vocabulary, and (6) relations between vocabulary and management other elements
The term “tone” is commonly used to describe a sound that has definite pitch and
vibration. In music, the term “pitch” refers to the position of a single sound in the complete
range of sound. Sounds are higher or lower in pitch according to the frequency of vibration of
the sound waves producing them. One of the characters of a tone is that of controlled pitch
and timbre. To achieve a typical character of sound and timbre, the degree of highness or
lowness of pitch in karawitan music is not based on mathematical calculations with accurately
measured frequency. The measurement of tone vibration tends to take qualitative senses into
consideration. The scale or tuning systems used are slendro and pelog. More detail can be
seen regarding tones in this estimate arrangement below, which demonsrates that they are not
as too precise as diatonic scales.
Referred to as
Referred to as
Referred to as
Basically the tuning varies so widely from island to island, village to village, and even
gamelan to gamelan. It is difficult to characterize in terms of intervals. One rough
approximation expresses the seven pitches of Central Javanese pelog as being a subset of 9tone equal temperament. An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of
tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. As pitch is
perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency, this means that the perceived “distance”
from every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for every note in the system.
As happens in pelog, the slendro scale often varies widely. The amount of variation
also varies from region to region. For example, slendro in Central Java varies much less from
gamelan to gamelan than it does in Bali, where ensembles from the same village may be
tuned very differently. The five pitches of the Javanese version are roughly equally spaced
within the octave. As the determination of tone that does not give priority to accuracy of each
frequency, it influences the nature of sound in each instrument. The shared typicality of the
instrument sounds causes naturally unique and distinctive sound vibrations that are called
Musical time management is determined by the conception of gatra that constantly
extend to be concepts of irama. In karawitan music irama is the relative width of the gatra
which has certain hierarchical stages. Gatra is the basic concept of musical composition in
karawitan music. A form of gatra is set of four pulses, beats or taps in a unit, as the smallest
element of musical composition. Each pulse beat or tap has its own position, function and role
within the hierarchy of irama15. The connotation of gatra has conceptual similarities with the
concept of “bars” in Western music. It contains regularly and repeated pulses, beats or taps
with constant pressurized and non-pressurized accents16. However, it must be recognized that
the denoted meaning of gatra and bar are essentially different concepts.
The harmonic system in karawitan music does not recognize the combination of tones
that are sounded simultaneously, which is formulated rigidly through calculating frequency,
so there is combination formulas based on gathering certain frequency of tones, each of which
is not easy moved to the position or shape of different arrangements. Karawitan music does
not give priority to the system of chords. Its concentration or emphasis is on its artistic
attention to the melodic system.
Vocabulary that is produced and used is a logical consequence of the use of the
medium and constituent elements of musical construction. Its form is that of distinctive
musical idioms or artistic style. The distinct concepts of artistic styles or musical idioms are
not found in application in other music, such as the concepts of pathet, garap, balungan,
cengkok, wiled, luk, gregel, seleh and sekaran. The management of the relationship between
the vocabulary and musical elements used has become a regular convention of musical form.
It is manifested into structures that distinguish each composition.
Supanggah, R. 1994. “Gatra: Inti dari Konsep Gendhing Tradisi Jawa” on Jurnal Wiled, Sekolah Tinggi Seni
Indonesia (STSI) Surakarta, I/1: 13-26; Supanggah, R. 2000. “Gatra: Konsep Dasar Gendhing Tradisi Jawa”,
paper to be presented in the Seminar of Karawitan, held by DUE-Like Program of STSI Surakarta; Supanggah,
R. 2007. Bothekan Karawitan II: Garap. ISI Press Surakarta. Surakarta. p. 63-106; Supanggah, R. 2009.
Bothekan Karawitan II: Garap. Revised Edition. Program Pascasarjana collaboration with ISI Press Surakarta.
Surakarta. p. 77-129.
Widodo, T.S. 1997. Belajar Menyanyi dengan Not Blok 1. Yogyakarta: Penerbit Kanisius. p. 21.
E. Pragmatic Reality
The pragmatic realities of the classical/traditional music of karawitan appear through
the context that determines their existence, related to its use in certain functions, both in the
context of (1) artistic expression and (2) cultural existence. The pragmatic realities that
surround classical/traditional music of karawitan are cultural contexts in a variety of
traditions. These contexts can be differentiated into (1) internal and (2) external context.
Internal contexts are related directly to the form of musical expression. The form of
musical expression is primarily concerned with how musical expression is produced and how
musical expression is expressed, so as to express the "meaning". Thus, the pragmatic reality in
internal context is the production of musical expression as manifestation of interactional
between musicians in the states of musical expression.
The pragmatic reality in this context includes developing, managing, and utilizing
musical implicature and musical references. Musical implicature is musical expression that
implies something that is expressed by the music, whereas musical reference is a substance of
music that has a relationship with the musical forms, which is something that is referenced by
the musical form. Supanggah mentions pragmatic reality in an internal context as “perabot
garap”, although he does not explicitly refer to it as pragmatic reality. Pragmatic reality or
“perabot garap” includes techniques, pattern of garap, irama, laya, scale or laras, pathet,
conventions, and dynamics. Therefore, the essence of implicature and musical references in
karawitan is technical, pattern of garap, irama, laya, scale or laras, pathet, conventions, and
dynamics that is called perabot garap by Supanggah17.
The external context in the traditional music of karawitan is the use of musical
expression as a tool for presenting “meaning” in the context of broad interests. The objects of
such interests can be either of its own practical music of karawitan, or other than its own
practical music of karawitan. The latter includes the need for (2-a) an event paying tribute to
important person or atmosphere, (2-b) expressing depth of certain spirituality and religiosity,
and for (2-c) helping define the aesthetic principles of other art genres. To better understand
the contextual meaning of karawitan music, here with are a few pictures. Firstly, there is a
picture of gamelan that is usually used to pay tribute to an event, important person or
atmosphere. There are two type of gamelan that has this kind function: Gamelan Monggang
and Gamelan Carabalen.
Picture 17:
Conventional Javanese Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Monggang
The archaic Gamelan Monggang of the Keraton Yogyakarta, Kanjeng Kyai Gunturlaut.
Supanggah, R. 2007. p. 199-247; Supanggah, R. 2009. p. 241-299.
Used to welcome guests and enliven the atmosphere as sign of honorary
To better understand that karawitan played with gamelan instruments is used to express the
depth of a certain spirituality and religiosity, below are pictures of gamelan Sêkatèn and
gamelan Gong Gede. Gamelan Sekaten is usually played to commemorate the birth day of
Prophet Muhammad, SAW. The Gamelan Gong Gede is usually associated historically with
public ceremonies and special occasions such as temple festivals.
In short, there are only Sêkatèn in Surakarta and Yogyakarta Palace. Sêkatèn is
originated from Arabic word, Syahadatain. It is from the root word “syahadah”, from the verb
sahida, “he witnessed”, means “to know and believe without suspicion, as if witnessed,
testimony”. Syahadah is the name of the basic Islamic creed. The syahadah is the Muslim
declaration of belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and acceptance of Muhammad as man of
God, as messenger, and as prophet. The declaration in its shortest form reads in Arabic “Laa
ilaaha illalLaah, Muḥammadar RasuululLaah” that in English means “There is no god but
Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Picture 18:
Conventional Javanese Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Sêkatèn
The archaic Gamelan Sêkatèn of the Keraton Surakarta, Kanjeng Kyai Gunturmadu.
This picture is ceremonial performing in frame of commemorate the birthday of prophet Muhammad, SAW.
The expression of the Islamic faith – or the basic creed of Islam that verbally
expressed as Laa ilaaha illalLaah, Muḥammadar RasuululLaah, there is no god but Allah,
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah – needs to be done in a symbolic ceremony that is
manifestation of Islamic creed. This ceremony is called Sekaten. In fact, Sekaten implies a
week long Javanese traditional ceremony, including a festival, fair and night market
commemorating Maulid Nabi. Th term Maulid Nabi is the birthday of prophet Muhammad,
SAW. It is celebrated annually, started on 5th day through the 12th day of Maulud month in
Javanese Calendar. This calendar is basically correspond to the month of Rabi' al-awwal in
Islamic Calendar. The festivities usually took place in northern alun-alun (square) in
Surakarta, since the Great Mosque (Masjid Agung) northern alun-alun. It is held
simultaneously also celebrated in northern alun-alun of Yogyakarta. Picture below is gamelan
Sekaten presented on Great Mosque (Masjid Agung) northern alun-alun in Surakarta.
On the other hand, Gong Gede means “gamelan with the large gongs”. This gamelan is
a form of the ceremonial gamelan music of Bali, dating from the court society of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries, and as mentioned above that this gamelan is historically associated
with public ceremonies and special occasions such as temple festivals. This gamelan is
usually played by a temple orchestra of over forty musicians. The music written for the gong
gede is sedate and graceful, and follows an andante tempo. It fluctuates in cycles, one fast,
one slow, one loud, and one soft. The beat is provided by the largest gong. During
colonization of Bali in the late nineteenth century, the Dutch dissolved the courts. The use of
the gong gede became limited to temple music. It was later superseded in popularity by gong
kebyar, a more up-tempo form of gamelan played with smaller gongs that originated in
Balinese villages in the late 19th century and became widely popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
The following picture is one of the gamelan Gong Gede. Most of its instruments are big like
that all instruments of gamelan Sêkatèn in Java.
Picture 19:
Conventional Balinese Gamelan Ensemble Named Gamelan Gong Gedhe
To better understand that karawitan played gamelan instruments is used to help another forms
of artistic expression, especially helps define the aesthetic principles of other art genres,
below is a picture that could explain (that could explain what ?).
Supanggah in grouping of gendhing has called the pragmatic reality in the external
context, i.e. in form of classification types of gendhing, mainly the gendhings in the musical
culture of Central Java18. For example, he called the gendhing whose purpose are concerts,
gendhing klenengan and gendhing dolanan. The equivalent of this pragmatic reality – or
gendhing klenengan – of Central Javanese music culture, is called gendhing petegak in Bali
and gendhing kliningan in Sunda. Gendhing dolanan in Bali are called gendhing rare, while
in Sunda they are called sekar balareang or kaulinan urang lembur.
Supanggah has mentioned gendhing pakurmatan (or admiration music) for gendhings
whose purpose in mark respect for events, important people, or atmosphere19. Admiration
music in Balinese music culture is connected to the cultural religious setting, and this are not
simple. The choice of gendhing or gamelan orchestra that used for admiration is always
associated with basic rules that must be applied in ceremony or yatnya. Yasa explains that in
Bali there are five yatnya; these are (1) dewa yatnya (ceremonies dedicated to the gods), (2)
rsi yatnya (ceremonies for affirming of religious duty for pemangku, wasi, and pendeta), (3)
manusa yatnya (ceremonies for marking important stages and events in the life of a person),
(4) pitra yatnya (ceremonies associated with death), and (5) bhuta yatnya (ceremonies held as
Supanggah. 2007. p. 135; Supanggah. 2009. p. 164.
Supanggah. 2007. p. 107; Supanggah. 2009. p. 129.
a manifestation of belief that in this environment there is "strength, power, and other
creatures" that should be taken into account)20.
Musical compositions and/or a set of gamelan orchestra that called gamelan gong
gedhé are used for the dewa yatnya ceremony. These ceremonies are odalan (ceremony for
temple anniversary), ngenteg linggih or mamungkah (ceremony for creating a new temple),
nyepi (day of silence which is commemorated every Isakawarsa or Saka new year in Bali's
calendar), saraswati (ceremony that is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge,
music, arts, science and technology), pagerwesi (ceremony which is dedicated to the god of
Siva or Sang Hyang Pramesti Guru), galungan (ceremony which is commemorated creation
of the universe and its contents and the victory of dharma against adharma), kuningan (This
ceremony is connected to the galungan. Galungan is a Balinese holiday that occurs every 210
days and lasts for 10 days. Kuningan is the last day of the holiday. During this holiday the
Balinese gods visit the Earth and leave on Kuningan), and others. Musical compositions
and/or a set of gamelan gong gedhé are used for rsi ceremony. This is ceremony in honour of
the pendeta-s. Musical compositions that are expressed by gender wayang are used for the
ceremony of manusa yatnya. This is ceremony to invoke the safety and commemorate events
in human life, such as birth, wetonan, cutting teeth, wedding, and so on. Musical
compositions that are expressed by gamelan angklung are used for pitra yatnya ceremony.
This is ceremony related to the death, such as ceremony of telung dinoan (three days), bulan
pitung dinoan (42 days), (3) ngaben, and (4) mukur. Musical compositions on gamelan
kalaganjur are used for bhuta yatnya ceremony, such as village purification ceremony.
Gamelan kalaganjur as separate ensemble is also used in a broader context, generally used for
various ceremonial processions in every yatnya ceremonies. Admiration music in Balinese
karawitan differs from its counterpart in Central Java. In Bali, this music is a feature required
to complete ceremonial perfection of yatnya ceremony, which must equipped with a variety of
sesaji, variety of offerings. Any implementation of the yatnya ceremonial must meet the
panca gita, namely the (1) mantram, (2) bajra (gentha), (3) kidung (singing), (4) kulkul, (5)
tabuh-tabuhan (music percussion). Karawitan is manifestation of the concept of the tabuhtabuhan, a part of panca gita which is needed in the ceremony.
In Sunda (West Java), there is never any gamelan orchestra and repertoire that is
specifically dedicated to honour an event, important person, or create an atmosphere such as
the gendhing pakurmatan in Central Java and Bali. The only repertoire that has similar
musical structure and external function of the gendhing pakurmatan of Central Java is
gendhing Bêboyongan. The shape and structure of this gendhing is similar to gendhing
Monggang in Central Javanese karawitan music, which is usually used to accompany the
bride. In Sunda, there are no forms of gendhing used pragmatically for admiration purposes to
be found. The ensemble of gamelan dêgung, ajêng, and kromong are used for various
purposes of reverence, but it is not means gamelan dêgung, ajêng, and kromong and all of its
repertoire is specific term of admiration21.
Supanggah has mentioned gendhing gereja22 and gendhing santiswaran23 as gendhing
for expressing the depth of spirituality and religiosity. Lately it also emerged a new musical
genre with karawitan music as a base, namely sholawat campurngaji24. In Bali, all forms of
Yasa, I.K. 1991. Gendhing-gendhing Dalam Upacara Memungkah di Pura Dadia Agung Pasek Bendesa
Tonja. p. 1-4.
Cucup Cahripin, interview 20 September 2008.
Supanggah. 2007. p. 108.
Supanggah. 2007. p. 133.
Sunarto, B. 2006. Sholawat Campurngaji: Musikalitas, Pertunjukan, dan Maknanya. Tesis S2. ISI Surakarta.
p. 75-228.
musical expression in karawitan music which is used for yatnya ceremonies always have a
certain dimension associated with the “meaning” of the depth of spirituality and religiosity.
Meanwhile in Sundan, the tarawangsa instruments and goong rèntèng have a major role in
various ceremonies, and depitc the depth of spirituality and religiosity in Sundanese rural
communities. It is especially “old” spirituality and religiosity that are associated with the
belief of local communities who are still steeped in animism, dynamism and Hinduism25. As
described by Sasaki, it appears that musical expression presented with tarawangsa and goong
rèntèng is never separated from a variety of ceremonies, such as ceremonial worship of dewi
pohaci (goddess of pohaci), dewi sri (goddess of sri) and ancestor or ancestral spirits26.
Meanwhile, in the spirituality of Islam, it is found the rebana music (music of tambourines)
or sholawat music with vocals character that uses musical construction of karawitan music.
There are several types of gendhing in Central Java that have the function of defining
the founding aesthetics of other art genres. Those are (1) gendhing wayangan, (2) gendhing
kêthoprak, (3) gendhing tayub, (4) gendhing langêndriyan, and (5) gendhing bêksan27. There
are similarities in the Sundanese music culture, because it also has gendhing of sejak tari,
gendhing of metakpusejak wayang and so on. Gendhing as well as in Bali, beside there is
gendhing pêtêgak or musical concert, it found also other types of gendhing for special
purpose, those are gendhing for dance and puppets. It is proved by the existence of specific
barungan (ensemble) for arja dance-drama, i.e.: gamelan pêngarjaan or gamelan
gêguntangan. Specific gamelan for legong dance uses gamelan palégongan. Gamelan
pêgambuhan is normally used specifically to accompany the presentation of gambuh dance.
F. New Creation of Karawitan Music
Essentially, new creations of karawitan music are not diametrically opposed to the
classical/traditional karawitan music. The only thing that characterizes the difference between
classical/traditional and new creations of karawitan music is simply when and who created a
work. Most people understand karawitan to be the old works of classical/traditional karawitan
music, which were created more than one or two centuries ago. The composers who created
the musical genre of classical/traditional karawitan are often anonymous. The new creations
of karawitan music are those that are created now, during the contemporary period, whose
composers are known. Since the orging of a work is clear, so its form can be used to
understand the music and be related to its quality, integrity, aesthetic tendencies, patterns of
thought, and orientation of values, as they have been shared expressed by the composer.
Meanwhile, a form of classical/traditional karawitan music the relationship marker of
aesthetic tendencies, patterns of thought and cultural orientation of values which is held by the
followers or devotees.
The form of new karawitan is a new musical composition with its own form, structure
and treatment. It may be a sort of reconstruction, reinterpretation, modification and/or
deconstruction of the existing forms, structure, and musical treatment. Yet, it is likely that the
new creation is a new musical composition without any reference to the traditional/classic. It
rather follows the tendency of some new aesthetics that the composer leads. Hence, new
karawitan is not something generated from the tradition whose time of composition and
composer cannot be tracked down. In new karawitan music, the time of composition and
composer can can be obviously be identified.
Caca Sopandi, interviewed 23 September 2008.
Sasaki, M. 2007. Laras Pada Karawitan Sunda. P4ST UPI. Bandung. p. 113-230.
Supanggah, R. 2007. p. 139.
It iss time for the creation of the contemporary one, running along with the scholars
making scientific endeavors to study them as their object. New forms of karawitan are
characterized by their rich repertoires and their creative nature containing an aesthetic
nuanced with (1) classic/traditional, (2) popular, (3) reinterpretation, and (4) experimental.
1. New Karawitan with their Classic/Traditional Nuance
A manifestation of a traditional/classic nuance in new karawitan can be seen from its
musical composition properties or the gêndhing that form its repertoire. An inherent property
of it is the improvised interpretation made by its pêngrawit (instrument players) to the
arrangement of balungan gêndhing (musical skeleton of the composition in karawitan music)
with their ability to use céngkok (melodic patterns), the song pattern or the melodic
arrangement and some variety of musical treatment vocabularies28. According to Sumarsam
(year or footnote), balungan gêndhing is an abstraction of the song depth in karawitan, which
is felt by the pêngrawit29. Thus, balungan gêndhing ca essentially can be perceived as an
abstract melodic arrangement—a raw material idea which has not been completely musical30.
The relation between the improvised interpretation and the balungan gêndhing fully known to
the composer’s, thus this knowledge leads him/her to create compositions only by describing
its balungan gêndhing. The composers decides to make such a creation because they believe
the pêngrawit can understand their pieces’ essential elements, and serve as a guide when
taking artistic action through their musical expression. Here I describe an example of a new
gendhing with traditional/classic nuance that was created by pêngrawit that is very well
known in Central Java. That is Lelagon “Ngimpi”, which is still uses the form, structure,
vocabulary, and musical treatment of conventional gendhing, or conventional music
Ngimpi, Ketawang, laras Pelog, pathet Nem.
Buka Celuk (begins with a single vocal)
. . . .
j.! @ j.7 !
. [email protected] j!6 5
Sri-pat sri-pit
Balungan Gendhing:
3> n5
3 n5
5 n3
3 n5
j.4 j43 j.4 5
mrak kê – simpir
Vocal Notation:
_ . . . . _ j.! @ j.7 ! _ . [email protected] j!6 5
Sri-pat sri-pit
g1 ] Swk./Stop
_ j.4 j43 j.4 5 _
mrak kê – simpir
_ . . . . _ j.4 5 j56 1 _ j.3 2 j.k15 5 _ j.2 2 j13 2
Gandhês luwês
wi-ra - ga – né
_ . . . . _ j.! @ j.7 ! _ . [email protected] j!6 5
Sè-dhêt singsêt
bêsus a-nga -
_ j.4 j43 j.4 5 _
di bu – sã - nã
_ . . . . _ j.4 5 j.6 1 _ j.3 2 j.k15 5 _ j.3 j2k.1 j.u 1_
Sunarto, B. 2006. Sholawat Campurngaji: Musikalitas, Pertunjukan, dan Maknanya. Tesis S2. ISI Surakarta.
p. 120.
Sumarsam. 2002 Hayatan Gamelan: Kedalaman Lagu, Teori & Perspektif. Surakarta: STSI Pers. p. 41.
Sunarto, B. 2006. Sholawat Campurngaji: Musikalitas, Pertunjukan, dan Maknanya. p. 120.
Dasar a-yu
_ . . . . _ 6 6 j!7 6
Tak ca- kêt-i
_ . . . . _ ! ! j.6 5
O-ra srãntã
tan ku – ci -wã
mak-sih kê-nyã
_ j.! 7 j.6 6
_ j.6 6 j.k43 3 _
a-duh mèsêm
sêpêt madu
_ j.1 1 j15 5
tak gandhèng
_ j.3 j2k.1 j.u 1_
ma-lah gu - mu-yu
_ . . . . _ j.! @ j.7 ! _ . [email protected] j!6 5
Ka-ton bungah
_ j.4 j43 j.4 5 _
kênyã kang pin – dhã hap – sa - ri
_ . . . . _ j.4 5 j.6 1 _ j.3 2 j.k15 5 _ j.3 j2k.1 j.u 1_
ka bèh ma - u
amung ngimpi
Their artistic action, as shown in the above notation, are executed by interpreting the
balungan gêndhing, i.e. by identifying the melodic contour or sèlèh (heavy or strong accent
that usually exist in final melodic pattern) of balungan gêndhing, then implementing the
céngkoks, or song patterns or the melodic arrangement produced by the combination of
melodic arrangement and the musical treatment vocabularies. Unfortunately, in this very short
paper the céngkoks cannot be described here.
2. New Karawitan with their Popular Nuance
New karawitan has some popular colors, embedded by the repertoires containing the
musical characters which have been wide-spread and known by society—a mass culture31.
Among such kinds are the new karawitan with its sub-repertoire types of (1) langgam, (2)
ndangndut, and (3) popular song. The first type is the repertoire containing forms and
elements of music like the langgam in keroncong music. The keroncong songs generally have
four types of forms, i.e. (1) the pure keroncong, (2) the langgam, (3) the stambul songs, and
(4) other songs with structures distinct from the three. The second has some forms and
elements of the ndangdut music. The last type with its popular color always has some musical
construction which (1) applies a diatonic mode (2) borrows the western musical system in its
musical treatment, (3) has a homophonic melodic accumulation.
In realizing and implementing the diatonic mode of the Western musical system, and
homophonic melodic accumulation, it been presented using instruments that commonly used
in Western music. Some commonly used Western music instruments are (1) a drum kit, drum
set, or trap set (2) an electronic keyboard, (3) a guitar, and (4) a bass guitar. A drum set is a
collection of drums and other percussion instruments set up to be played by a single player
that consists of (a) a snare drum, mounted on a specialized stand, placed between the player's
knees and played with drum sticks (which may include rutes or brushes); (b) a bass drum,
played by a pedal operated by the right foot; (c) A hi-hat stand and cymbals, operated by the
left foot and played with the sticks, particularly but not only the right hand stick; (d) one or
more tom-tom drums, played with the sticks; and (e) one or more suspended cymbals, played
with the sticks, particularly but not only the right hand stick. An electronic keyboard is digital
keyboard instrument that has major typical components. They area (1) a musical keyboard, (2)
an interface software, (3) a rhythm & chord generator, (4) a sound generator, and (5) an
amplifier and speaker.
This means that this instrument with the plastic white and black piano-style keys
which the player presses is connected the switches, which triggers an electronic note or other
sound. Most keyboards use a keyboard matrix circuit to reduce the amount of wiring that is
Sunarto, B. 1987. “Kehidupan Karawitan di Tengah Kebudayaan Massa”. Paper discussed on Student
Seminar of ASKI Surakarta. p. 18-22; Mack, D. 1995. Apresiasi Musik Populer. Yogyakarta. Yayasan Pustaka
Nusatama. p. 33.
needed. This instrument has a program, embedded in a computer chip, which handles user
interaction with control keys and menus, which allows the user to select tones (e.g., piano,
organ, flute, drum kit), effects (reverb, echo, telephones or sustain), and other features (e.g.,
transposition, an electronic drum machine). It also has a software program which produces
rhythms and chords by the means of MIDI electronic commands. Furthermore, it has an
electronic sound module typically contained within an integrated circuit or chip, which is
capable of accepting MIDI commands and producing sounds. This instrument also has a lowpowered audio amplifier and a small speaker that amplify the sounds so that the listener can
hear them perfectly.
Picture 21:
Drum Set used to accompany Gamelan Ensemble
Picture 22:
Guitar, Guitar Bass, and double Piano Keyboard used to accompany Gamelan Ensemble
The characteristic of new karawitan music with nuance of popular nuance is related to
the spread of popular music with their publication via the mass electronic media, cassettes,
CDs, or commercial VCDs. Furthermore, the new karawitan composition is undertaken for a
commercial reason, oriented to the entertainment purposes. The tendency gives rise to lyrics
that are written following basic emotion with the application of simple melodic phrases rather
than on something mature and artistically treated. Here is one of the more popular songs in the
pop music of Java, which is then processed into karawitan, i.e. song of “Cinta Tak
Terpisahkan” created by Dikin.
“Cinta Tak Terpisahkan”
By Dikin
3. New Karawitan and its Reinterpretation (Karawitan Gagrag Anyar)
This type of new karawitan refers to pieces created by utilizing the musical expression
form of traditional/classic pieces as their base. Their repertoire is relatively the same as those
of classical/traditional karawitan. The salient difference is in their musical treatment and
expression. The repertoire treatment of this genre is by reinterpreting the existing musical
forms and treatments as those produced by the classic. Their creation not only relies on the
improvised interpretation by the pêngrawit, but rather on the development of the creativity
taken through (1) the crossed musical style, (2) the processing of tempo, rhythms and
dynamics, and (3) the addition and the reduction of the various musical treatment types.
This new karawitan is not perfectly new, despite its new forms of expression. In fact,
these pieces are new creation made by modifying old repertoires by using new treatment
variations which are accepted in the classic/traditional style music of expression. Hence, the
new karawitan a color reinterpretation is karawitan which resulted from the artistic tolerance
of creativity and the violations of the musical treatment from their cultural convention,
undertaken by the composers to the classical/traditional works.
4. The New karawitan with an Experimental (Explorative) Nature
This type of karawitan is to so-called contemporary karawitan. The dominant character
of this genre is no longer classical, interpretative, and traditional, but it is strongly an avantgarde. One of aspect of avant-garde in art is that it be developed by the educated intellectuals
applying new concepts and/or some experimental efforts. The picture below is an example of
musical instruments for avant-garde karawitan music, created by Aloysius Suwardi. This is a
picture of the modified gender barung instrument, which is processed using the vibration
processing machine so that the sound produced is different from conventional gender. Its
consequence, how to process and work on this musical expression is also different from
conventional karawitan music.
Picture 23:
Gendér instrument with vibraphone character or Gendér Jangkung
The contemporary music of karawitan, related to their concept development, is
manifest in two of the three natures of the existential, which are:
1) The founding concept and/or idea and musical character of the karawitan is primarily on
the existential concept more than the performance of the art work as its expressed form.
2) The founding concept and/or idea and musical character for its musicality puts so much
priority on the musical existence as its form of expression that its artistic orientation is
emphasized on the value of the artwork.
3) Two points above relies on the typical and personal experience of each individual
Existentially, each piece in contemporary karawitan always has either the first
characteristic or the second in mutually exclusive way. The third is always found in every
contemporary work. This means that the concept, idea and the experience of each individual
is a very critical element, which determines the medium and the musical construction of the
contemporary karawitan empirically present.
The notion of “experimental” or “contemporary” refers neither to the recent
development of the karawitan music, nor does it indicate the growth or the rejuvenating
movement in it. It does not simply imply the personal styles beyond the classical/traditional
mainstream in its relation to the emerging intercultural issues. The contemporary karawitan is;
1) Karawitan whose existence is supported by the concepts representing the thought of
composer when designing his/her musical character which influence of intellectualism,
inspiration and subtle impressive internalization.
2) Karawitan demonstrating artistic vocabularies as musical “expression language”, with its
progressive nature since the composer intentionally escapes the “expression language”
bonded to the cultural tradition and rules.
3) Karawitan whose musical formats are designed by applying the avant-garde or
experimental techniques with their unlimited existence. It offers something far from the
consideration of the marketing purposes, to make the works easy to sell.
Based on the elaboration above, it is clear that the contemporary karawitan is the one
having a developed achievement; it has gone beyond the traditional convention. In its
advance, this genre poses an artistic model which is never touched in the mind of
classical/traditional vocabularies. The reason is that it has a creative spirit manifested by an
open-form system of composition toward any orientation, tendency, and artistic value; it is
freely open.
G. Conclusion
The above discussion has shown that Indonesian karawitan has two great musical
genres, i.e., the classical/traditional and the new creation. The genre of classic/traditional
karawitan is always the foundation for the development of any type of karawitan. Another
genre is the product of the developing endeavours, consisting of four main types, i.e. new
karawitan colored by 1) the classic/traditional, (2) the popular, (3) the reinterpretated and (4)
the experimental. In the discourse of Indonesian karawitan, the experimental karawitan is
called contemporary karawitan, because it is avant-garde in nature. It is represents the pushing
of boundaries beyond what is accepted as the musical norm or the musical status quo,
primarily in the musical-culture realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde
karawitan music is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, and posibly an
odyssey of the mind area of postmodernism.
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Bambang Sunarto graduated from the Institute Indonesian Arts of Surakarta, and
received a doctoral degree in the science of philosophy at the University of Gadjah Mada
Yogyakarta. He is a contemporary music composer whose works of music have been
performed in various venues such as in India, Thailand, and Philippines. His scientific articles
relating to music have been published at various journals such as Asian Musicology,
Panggung, Dewa Ruci, Keteg, and Terob.
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has published his book titled
Between Sangeet and Karawitan: Comparative Study on India and Indonesian Music. He has
also published his new book in Indonesian about the methodology of arts creation entitled the
Metodologi Penciptaan Seni. IGNCA has also funded his research relating to the aesthetic
concept of Indian and Indonesian music. In 2012, DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer
Austausch Dienst), German academic exchange service provided the funding to conduct
research on the University Music of Lubeck in German the epistemology of music creation.
He is currently associate professor at the ethnomusicology department of the Institute
Indonesian Arts of Surakarta.