HMC American Gamelan: MicroFest (Spring 2019)

Bill Alves, Director

Tyler Adam Busis, Celena Chen, Priscilla Chu, Jason Dwyer, Erika MacDonald, Athena Paraskevas-Nevius, Bradley Phelps, Milton Salazar, Varun Singh, Christopher Strong

with special guests
Shalini Vijayan, violin
Alison Bjorkedal, harp

Sunday, April 21, 2019, 7 p.m.
Drinkward Recital Hall

Musicians of the HMC American Gamelan perform on a dark stage. A video art is displayed on screen in the back and above.
HMC American Gamelan performs "Breath of the Compassionate" by Bill Alves. Photo courtesy of Bill Alves.


Suite for Harp (1952-1967)
   Beverly’s Troubadour Piece, Music for Bill and Me, Serenade
Lou Harrison

Young Caesar Suite (1969-1971)
Lou Harrison

Dances from Faust (1985)
Lou Harrison

Imbal-Imbalan (2001)
Bill Alves


Ladrang Epikuros (1981-82)
Lou Harrison

In Honor of the Divine Mr. Handel (1991)   
Lou Harrison

Gending Sycamore Canyon (2008)
Bill Alves

Breath of the Compassionate (2009)
Bill Alves

HMC's ensemble of metallophones and gongs ring out as part of L.A.'s festival of microtonal music. Special guests Shalini Vijayan, violin, and Alison Bjorkedal, harp, join the HMC American Gamelan in performances of works by Lou Harrison and Bill Alves.

A gamelan is a traditional orchestra from the islands of Java and Bali, Indonesia, made up mostly of metallophones (instruments of metal bars) and gongs. For hundreds of years, its luminous, bell-like sonorities have accompanied dance and drama, ritual and ceremony in villages and royal courts. The most famous type of gamelan plays the very refined and contemplative art music of Central Java, and its sound is often described as flowing water. In constrast, the gamelan music of Bali is more typically bright, dynamic, and fast, emphasizing precise community coordination and intricate interlocking parts.

The famous American composer Lou Harrison was entranced by the sound of the gamelan from the first time he heard it in the 1930s, and by the late 1960s was inspired to build his own version of the orchestra together with his partner Bill Colvig. They called this their "American gamelan." By then, a number of traditional gamelan were in use in the United States, mostly on the west coast, and beginning in 1974, Harrison had the opportunity to study with the Javanese master composer and musician K.P.H. Wasitodiningrat, familiarly known as Pak Cokro. Pak Cokro encouraged Harrison to compose new music for the traditional ensemble, and Harrison happily obliged, producing over 50 works before his death in 2003. His work as music's cultural ambassador inspired others to compose new American works for these instruments.

After studying gamelan from books and recordings, Bill Alves began playing with the UCLA gamelan in 1992. In 1993-94 he was a Fulbright scholar in Indonesia, where he had the opportunity to intensively study gamelan and to commission some instruments from the gamelan maker Suhirdjan of Yogyakarta, Java. Although they were made in Java, these instruments became the HMC American Gamelan, so named because, like Lou Harrison's American gamelan they play new compositions (so far all American) rather than traditional Javanese music. The HMC American Gamelan regularly performs at the Claremont Colleges and at MicroFest.

Shalini Vijayan, violin, is regularly featured with Southwest Chamber Music. A founding member of Absolute Ensemble, Vijayan has performed throughout the US And Europe, most notably in the Barbican Hall and the Concertgebouw. Vijayan has served as a concertmaster for conductors and composers including Michael Tilson Thomas, Reinbert de Leeuw and Oliver Knussen and for the world premieres of Steven Mackey's Tuck and Roll. In Los Angeles, Vijayan is a member of the Lyris Quartet, resident ensemble of the famed Jacaranda Series in Santa Monica. Most recently, she has been a featured soloist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Chinary Ung’s Spiral XII and Tan Dun’s Water Passion. Vijayan is on the performance faculty of the Nirmita Composers Workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Alison Bjorkedal, harp, is a freelance GRAMMY award-winning musician who teaches and performs in the Los Angeles area. She is a member of Southwest Chamber Music, Golden State Pops Orchestra and MUSE/IQUE. She has performed with the San Diego Symphony, Pasadena Symphony/Pops Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach Opera, Opera Santa Barbara and wildUP, as well as in the studio and stage with artists including Sia, Madonna, Nate Ruess, Kid Cudi, and Salaam Remi with Akon. She records for the motion picture and television industry. Bjorkedal is harp faculty at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), teaches Music Appreciation at Pasadena City College, and maintains a private harp studio.

HMC is deeply grateful for the generous support that created The Ken Stevens ’61 Founding Class Concert Series.

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