Old Darlington School, University of Sydney
Vi King Lim
Ladrang Slamet, laras pelog pathet lima
Traditional welcoming piece. This piece can be played in various scales/modes. Here it is played in pelog lima which conveys a mood of solemnity. The saron perform in an interlocking style known as pinjalan or banyakan which has a ceremonial character.
Gendhing Kocak minggah Ladrang Diradameta, laras slendro pathet nem
A gendhing is a form with larger gong cycles than a ladrang. The placement of the various gong instruments within these gong cycles or gongan is the structural basis of Javanese gamelan music. There is a mysterious, troubled atmosphere to this piece which is appropriate to slendro nem. Kocak means “shaken up” or “to slosh about (like liquid in a container)” or “to wash to and fro (like the sea)” while Diradameta means “wild/crazed/angry elephant”. These two pieces are joined to each other in typical Javanese fashion and the kendhang player cues when to move on from one piece to another by speeding up the tempo. We end this piece with suwukan gropak in which the whole gamelan keeps speeding up to the final gong rather than slowing down, which is the usual way of ending.
Ketawang Puspanjala, laras pelog pathet nem
A ketawang is usually a vocally based piece with short gong cycles. The melody is sung by a chorus of singers. Puspanjala is a piece associated with the court of the Mangkunegaran in Solo. Each verse of the sung text describes a particular flower and its qualities but in fact alludes to a real person who would have been one of the concubines of the Mangkunegaran ruler. The piece would have been performed as the ruler and his entourage (of concubines) entered the main pavilion where the gamelan was situated. As an example, the first verse describes kembang nipah or the flower of the swamp palm which is found amid ricefields. She stares open-mouthed, blinking through spectacles and she exhibits great material obsession. The descriptions of the flowers/concubines are consistently pejorative in Puspanjala unlike those in a similar Mangkunegaran piece with the same concept, Puspawarna.
Ketawang Subakastawa kalajengaken Ayak-Ayakan, Srepegan, Sampak, laras slendro pathet sanga
This suite of pieces is commonly used to accompany the perang kembang or “flower battle” in a wayang kulit performance. In this scene, the refined hero of the story, usually Arjuna/Janaka of the Pandhawa family in the Mahabarata epic, descends from a mountain after meditation and meets with the punakawan or clown characters. As happens invariably in all wayang, he meets a small ogre called Cakil with whom he fights and ultimately kills. The opening ketawang conveys the calmness of the hero after his meditation. The ensuing pieces with their smaller gong cycles and lively character are more suited to the battle.
Ladrang Randha Ngangsu, laras pelog pathet barang
This is a gendhing gecul or a light, humorous piece much loved by the Javanese. The title means “widow searching (for a husband)” and the text that is sung by the pesindhen elaborates on what was a risqué, comical and romantic subject at the time the vocal melody was composed. Many pieces in pelog barang are of this character.
Ladrang Asmaradana kalajengaken Lancaran Ricik-Ricik, laras slendro pathet manyura
This popular piece revolves around love and was famously used as the accompaniment to Menak Koncar, a dance in which a soldier goes off to war leaving his beloved behind. The kendhang plays many patterns which correspond with dance movements which depict the subject’s infatuation. It is followed by Ricik-Ricik, “the sound of light rain”.