various artists,
Gamelan of Central Java X: Sindhen Trio
Gamelan of Central Java XI: Music of Remembrance
(Felmay, 2008)

These are two more of the fine Gamelan of Central Java recordings by the Italian label Felmay. As with the rest of the series, the booklets that accompany both records give a thorough description (all in English) of each piece. Sindhen Trio has an interview with the lead musician on that CD, and Music of Remembrance has a piece about a Western composer's view of gamelan.

Gamelan is an ancient form of music that has orchestras using instruments of which xylophones, gongs and related instruments are the most prominent, with added flutes and bowed types. These two CDs have orchestras of various configurations up to 17 musicians. Gamelan has some similarity to other Far Eastern music, although gamelan orchestras have a unique sound because of the instrumentation.

The lyrics are also included in the CD booklets, both in the original language and in English. These two CDs differ from some of the others in the series by including vocal pieces. Of the Sindhen CD, two of three are vocal, while three of five are vocal on the Remembrance one.

The Sindhen Trio CD only has three cuts. The first is 34 minutes long. The "trio" refers to the three singers, who have intertwining parts. Their Western equivalents are "coloratura," "mezzo-soprano" and "soprano lirieo," although this does not sound at all like Western opera. The singers draw out their notes as in Arabic music.

Music of Remembrance is music remembering the dead. The five pieces range from 6 to 22 minutes long. This music makes use of the rebab, a two-stringed lute, which is not always heard in gamelan. The music here is a bit more subdued and stately than the other CD. There are also three female voices, and male ones as well.

As always with these releases, they contain beautiful, meditative, exotic, otherworldly music.

review by
Dave Howell

1 August 2009

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