Javanese gongs at the Sydney Opera House and Carriageworks

The Sydney Symphony recently borrowed a gong ageng and two gong suwukan from Langen Suka’s gamelan sets for use in several performances  of 20th-century works at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on 9, 11 and 12 March and at Carriageworks on 13 March.

Mark Robinson, Assistant Principal Timpanist/Tutti Percussionist of the Sydney Symphony, contacted Langen Suka in early March desperately searching for gongs required in two seminal French works of the late 20th century: Oliver Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… (1971–74, “From the canyons to the stars…”) and Gérard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil (1997–98, “Four songs for crossing the threshold”). While Javanese gongs are not specified for these works, the Sydney Symphony percussionists’ set of Thai gongs did not extend low enough for the pitch requirements. Fortunately the Javanese gong ageng from the Indonesian Consulate General’s pelog set and the two gong suwukan from the Australian Museum’s slendro set fitted the bill and were borrowed for the performances. Mark Robinson kindly shared two images of the gongs amidst the extensive set-up for Grisey’s Quatre chants at Carriageworks below.



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