The HMC American Gamelan and Guests

HMC’s ensemble of metallophones and gongs ring out in performances of works by Lou Harrison and Bill Alves. Bill Alves, director, with special guests Rachel Rudich, bamboo flutes, and John Schneider, voice and just intonation guitar.

Sunday, November 19, 2023, 7 p.m.
Drinkward Recital Hall

A cropped view of the musician on stage performing in the gamelan. One other musician, instruments, and music stands are also seen in the background.
Bill Alves


Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto 
Lou Harrison

HMC American Gamelan with Rachel Rudich, suling

Voice of the Daimon
Bill Alves

HMC American Gamelan

Book Music
Lou Harrison

HMC American Gamelan with Rachel Rudich, shakuhachi, and John Schneider, voice and guitar

Three Jahlas
Lou Harrison and Richard Dee

John Schneider, guitar, with percussion

At First Light
Bill Alves

HMC American Gamelan with Rachel Rudich, shakuhachi, and video

Lou Harrison dedicated his Serenade (1978) for 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.

Voice of the Daimon (2020) was written in pandemic isolation to celebrate intricate interconnectedness. The title comes from Porphyry’s third-century The Life of Pythagoras: “He called the sound caused by striking on metal the voice of a daimon enclosed in the metal.”

Book Music (1994) was one of Harrison’s last compositions and was intended as a series of pieces to accompany his poetry readings. An accomplished poet, Harrison had published the book of poems Joys and Perplexities in 1984 and was preparing another book, The Path at West Holding, when he passed away in 2003. Harrison’s friend and executor of his estate Charles Hansen brought out a posthumous edition of this last opus, so now we can present Harrison’s Book Music to accompany poetry from his book as he intended.

One of Lou Harrison’s favorite forms was the jhala from India, in which an interspersed drone pitch propels a melody. He used it in many works, but this suite was prepared for guitar by John Schneider based on three. The first comes from his short stand-alone work, A Jhala in the Form of a Ductia to Pleasure Leopold Stokowski on his Ninetieth Birthday (1972), in which the Indian technique is married to the medieval sectional dance known as the ductia. Both other two movements originate in Harrison’s Suite for Violin and American Gamelan from 1974, the second movement by Harrison’s friend Richard Dee, and the third by Harrison.

The music and video animation in 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.

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 interests in 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.

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. 

Rachel Rudich is a western flute player whose music can be explored on more than forty published CDs. Her forty-five-plus year career specializing in contemporary music opened her eyes to extended techniques, Japanese music, and eventually to the shakuhachi. Rudich performs often with her shakuhachi and koto duo, Hana Hibiki with koto player Kozue Matsumoto, and has recorded shakuhachi for TV and video games, as well as diverse genres such as horror movies and even country western bands. Some highlights have been recording sessions for the TV series Kobra Kai, and the video game League of Legends. In addition to shakuhachi, Rudich enjoys playing suling. She has attended and performed internationally at the World Shakuhachi Festivals, as well as the Rockies Shakuhachi Camp in Boulder, Colorado. In 2018 Rudich also performed a solo concert in Tokyo of pieces for shakuhachi and electronics by American composers.

John Schneider is the Grammy® Award winning and four-time Grammy® nominated guitarist, composer, author, producer, and broadcaster whose weekly television and radio programs have brought the guitar into millions of homes. He has released over twenty CD’s, including Lou Harrison’s Por Gitaro – Suites for Tuned Guitars, which was recorded in the composer's Harrison House. He is the founding artistic director of MicroFest, the music ensembles Just Strings, PARTCH Ensemble, and MicroFest Records. He can be heard weekly on Pacifica Radio's The Global Village.

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

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