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date: 25 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Musical instrument design and aesthetic desiderata for a shimmering bronze sound determine the tuning, timbre, and range of orchestral possibilities in the Balinese gamelan gong kebyar. This chapter considers the gamelan, paradoxically, as both a timbrally unified “single” instrument modularly constructed for performance by two dozen players, and as a collection of separate instruments with varied musical roles. The gamelan is timbrally unified because the sound spectrum of the full ensemble is an amplification of individual instruments’ spectra, and simultaneously it is timbrally diverse due to differing instrument ranges, mallet hardnesses, and varying thickness or shape of bronze keys and gongs. Starting from a general description of the instruments, the chapter explains the design features and musical practices step-by-step, pairing this with transcriptions and pedagogical recordings making the polyphony comprehensible and audible.

Keywords: polyphony, contour, Balinese gamelan, reyong norot figuration, interlocking rhythms, inharmonic partials, Iana-based spectral analysis

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