MicroFest: Metallophones & Cell Phones

With the Harvey Mudd College American Gamelan

Rachel Rudich, flutes
Audrey Lamprey, horn
Alexis Alrich, tack-piano

Sunday, April 22, 2018, 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.


Liminal Landscape
Bill Alves

The HMC American Gamelan: Adam Busis, Caitlin Cash, Marissa Gee, Sarah Hale, Natalie Kadonaga, Kemper Ludlow, Athena Paraskevas-Nevius, Bradley Phelps, Bella Puentes, Varun Singh; Bill Alves, director

Lou Harrison

The HMC American Gamelan
Rachel Rudich, suling

Main Bersama-Sama
Lou Harrison

The HMC American Gamelan
Rachel Rudich, suling
Audrey Lamprey, horn

At First Light
Bill Alves

The HMC American Gamelan
Rachel Rudich, shakuhachi


Suite in the Cinna Tuning
   1. Two-Part Invention (Septimal Slendro)
   2. Slow Aire (Sean Nós) with Variations (Ptolemy's Syntonon Diatonic)
   3. Lament (Didymus' Chromatic)
   4. Fugue (Ptolemy's Malakon Diatonic)
   5. Padovana (Al Farabi's Chromatic)
David Doty

Alexis Alrich, tack-piano

Transposed Dekany
Greg Schiemer

Bill Alves, Stetson Bost, Priscilla Chu, Eleanor Cramer, Tom Flaherty, Anne Harley, Elizabeth Hedenberg, Amy Huang, Feiyang Lin, Joaquin Fuenzalida Nunez, Maggie Parkins, Bella Puentes

The Harvey Mudd College American Gamelan is an ensemble of traditional gongs and metallophones commissioned from a master instrument maker in Java, Indonesia. The concept of using traditional Indonesian instruments, techniques, and forms, but playing newly composed, non-traditional compositions comes from Lou Harrison, who built his own "American Gamelan" in the early 1970s. This gamelan continues that tradition, playing compositions, so far, of American origin. These instruments are tuned to just intonation versions of the traditional Javanese tuning systems, and each instrument exists in two versions, one for the five-tone slendro scale and another for the seven-tone pelog scale. This set of instruments has been in residence at Harvey Mudd College of the Claremont Colleges since 2000.

The music and video animation in Liminal Landscape (2012) and At First Light (2012) were composed in tandem. The visual images were created in non-real-time with POV- RAY rendering software to correspond to changes in pitch sets and tonality in the electronic and gamelan sounds. The symmetrical patterns of the images often reflect the numerical patterns of the musical tuning systems you hear.

Bill Alves is a composer, video artist, and writer engaged at the intersections of musical cultures and technology. He studied the music of Java and Bali during a 1993-94 Fulbright fellowship and is now the director of the HMC American Gamelan. He is the co-author of Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick and author of Music of the Peoples of the World is now in its third edition from Cengage/Schirmer. His recordings include The Terrain of Possibilities, Imbal-Imbalan, Mystic Canyon, and Guitars and Gamelan. His work with computer animation pioneer John Whitney inspired his abstract computer animations with music, now released by the Kinetica Video Library as Celestial Dance. He has extensively explored non-standard tunings in his work and is a co-director of MicroFest, the Southern California festival of microtonal music. He is on the faculty of Harvey Mudd College.

Lou Harrison dedicated his Serenade (1978) for suling (Indonesian flute) and gamelan in honor of his friend the new music patron Betty Freeman and her then fiancée sculptor Franco Assetto. Freeman at the time had just agreed to finance the construction of Harrison’s first large-scale gamelan orchestra, which Harrison also named in her honor (Gamelan Si Betty, now at Harvard University). The simplicity of the charming melody is deceptive, as its (un-Javanese) six-beat rhythm slyly shifts away from the expected placement of the gong. As soon as it was first performed, Harrison sent a cassette to Freeman, who played it when she and Assetto were married in Las Vegas in 1978.

Main Bersama-sama (1978) is one of Lou Harrison's several marriages of the Indonesian gamelan with Western solo instruments, this one written for Scott Hartman, then at San Jose State University. The title means “playing together” in the Indonesian language, a reflection of Harrison's ideal of a cross-cultural musical community. This spirit is also reflected in the alternation between the French horn and the suling.

Lou Harrison (1917-2003) was one of the great American composers of the twentieth century and a pioneer in art of cultural hybrids and alternate tunings. As a young man in California he studied with Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg and with his friend John Cage established the first concert series devoted to new music for percussion. In 1943, Harrison moved to New York, where he made a name for himself as a composer, critic, and conductor, premiering the Third Symphony of Charles Ives. However, to escape the stress and noise of the city, he moved back to California in 1953, where his relative isolation was the perfect environment to study his new interests, Asian music and just intonation. In the 1960s he traveled to Asia, studying Korean and Chinese music. In the 1970s, he began studying and performing Javanese gamelan music and would produce a remarkable body of nearly 50 pieces for the orchestra, often in combinations with Western instruments. By the 1990s, the world began to catch up with Lou Harrison, who by the time of his death was recorded on dozens of CDs and was the subject of many festivals and tributes. In 2001 he was the guest of honor at the MicroFest conference here in Claremont.

Suite in the “Cinna” Tuning: To the Memory of Lou Harrison, Teacher and Friend. The suite is composed in the tuning originally created by Lou Harrison for his Incidental Music for Corneille’s Cinna (1955–56), and is intended for his chosen instrument, the tack piano (a piano with thumbtacks inserted in the hammers). The Suite and Cinna use a 12-tone scale in 7-limit just intonation. The suite uses modes— mostly Greek tetrachordal types—embedded in the Cinna tuning, with a different mode for each movement.

David B. Doty is a primarily self-taught composer, performer, theorist, instrument builder, and synthesist. He is a leading authority on Just Intonation and is the author of The Just Intonation Primer and served as editor of 1/1, the Journal of The Just Intonation Network. He began building instruments and composing in 1970, inspired by the work of the Harry Partch. In 1975, Doty cofounded the San Francisco–based experimental music ensemble Other Music (1975–1986). After studying intonation with Lou Harrison, he helped create Other Music’s American gamelan and composed extensively for those instruments. From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, Doty composed mainly for electronic instruments in a studio environment. In the early 2000s, he resumed composing music that can be performed in real time on acoustic and electroacoustic instruments.

Transposed Dekany won Vice-Chancellor's prize in the SpaceTime Concerto Competition in 2012 when it was played by a consort located in several global venues interconnected via the Internet. It has since been played by established consorts including traditional gamelan musicians at Bandung International Digital Arts Festival, choristers from Melbourne's Astra Choir, and smaller ensembles at EuroMicroFest, Freiburg, and International Conference on Auditory Display, Canberra. The Satellite Gamelan is a mobile phone app designed as a set of hand-held instruments used to perform music in a tuning system based on pure harmonics. Each instrument is tuned to a 10-note scale with recognizable pitches that are not available in standard 12-tone equal tempered tuning. And every instrument in the consort is tuned to play the scale in a different register. Players using the app literally handle some of the first software instruments created by computer music pioneer and composer Jean-Claude Risset, as they perform concert music using a 10-note scale created by contemporary tuning theorist and instrument-builder, Erv Wilson.

Greg Schiemer is an Australian electronic music composer and instrument designer whose music since the early 1970s has been allied with the design of interactive analog and digital instruments, much of it in collaboration with dance. He studied composition with Peter Sculthorpe and lectured in Composition and Music Technology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for almost two decades before moving to the University of Wollongong where he became Associate Professor in Music and Director of the University’s Sonic Arts Research Network, a research group embracing sound specializations in Informatics, Engineering and Creative Arts. He has been Australia Council Composition Fellow at CSIRO Division of Radiophysics, Epping, NSW in 1994 and Visiting Associate Research Fellow at the Interactive and Digital Media Institute at the National University of Singapore in 2008. He is known for the Tupperware Gamelan, a collection of bespoke electronic instruments designed for group performance and productions of live public interactive radio events such as the Concert on Bicycles and The Talk Back Piano. His Pocket Gamelan, developed with support from the Australian Research Council, is a network of microtonally tuned java phones used as flying sound sources.

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