New techniques in the performance practice and compositions of the Malay Gamelan

Incorporating the gamelan into contemporary music

Globalization has brought about changes in the music scene. Traditional music from all over the world is being incorporated into contemporary music composition creating new melodies that can be accepted and enjoyed by both the younger and older generation.

The traditional music of Malaysia appears to be sidelined in favour of contemporary music which is more accessible and readily available to the younger generation. The lack of exposure to traditional music also breeds unfamiliarity of this music and hence is not appreciated or understood by most Malaysians. As music is an integral part of the human culture, it is important for this genre of music to be preserved for future generation.

Researchers from the faculty of music studied the Malay gamelan, a traditional musical instrument which is one of the most important ensembles of traditional musical instruments in the Malay world and could be incorporated into contemporary music creation due to the richness of the sound produced by this set of instruments. Secondary school students who are studying music are taught the Gamelan and this would encourage budding musicians to incorporate the gamelan into their music composition.

This study aims to identify and evaluate how music from the gamelan can be assimilated into music compositions and performance practices. This new development of assimilating music produced by the gamelan into contemporary music will create immense possibilities for the use of the gamelan in the music industry.

Research methods used in the field include observation of performances, being a participant-observer during the practices, interview sessions with various practitioners from Malaysia and Indonesia and audio/visual documentation. Desk work involved documentation, transcription and analysis of selected repertoire, and drawing of conclusions. Reference materials and compositions from libraries, National Archives, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture, museums and the internetwere collected. The learning of the Indonesian gamelan will take place in order to render a comparison between Indonesian and Malaysian techniques.

Findings from this study would provide guidelines for performance practices using the gamelan, new techniques for playing and composing music with the gamelan as well as guidelines for practitioners and teachers who may want to make gamelan music more accessible to the public and in schools.

SHAHANUM MD. SHAH [email protected]
Faculty of Music,
University Teknologi MARA.

Published: 11 Feb 2014

Contact details:

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Institute of Research, Development and Commersialisation (IRDC) Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, 50450 Shah Alam Selangor Malaysia

News topics: 
Content type: