On Thursday 21 February 2019, first-year music students took part in a traditional Indonesian Gamelan workshop at Gowts Church Hall, led by Elizabeth Williams, guardian of the Lincoln Community Gamelan. The balinese gamelan was purchased along with a javanese gamelan by the City of Lincoln in 2000 as part of a wider government initiative and is now part of the fabric of the community. First year music student Stephanie Pullen, wrote about their experience on the day.
Gamelan is an Indonesian Orchestra, of which incorporates a large variety of tuned percussion instruments; ranging from metallophones (giving the main melody), a set of three drums (to keep tempo), and large, resonant gongs. Gamelan is more commonly played now for formal occasions and various traditional Indonesian ceremonies.
Being able to be a part of this musical tradition allowed us to expand our knowledge of the diverse culture found in the world of music, that we don’t get to see in our studies on a daily basis. We learnt how important Gamelan is to Indonesia, and how significant each section (and individual instrument) was to the orchestra. It was amazing to see just how inclusive this was, as each student was able to play three to four different instruments throughout the afternoon.
We worked alongside Elizabeth (the group and community co-ordinator) to replicate two traditional Gamelan songs, and a series of improvisation pieces. By working as group, we were able to fully understand how the instruments worked together and how we could use them to contribute to the overall sound. Although we came into this workshop as musicians, it was almost as though we weren’t.
It was really enjoyable learning how to play an instrument of which the high majority of us had never seen, let alone played before. For me personally, it definitely sparked an interest inside of me to pick up new instruments and give them a go. Doing both the improvisation and playing pre-existing traditional pieces really helped to bring us together as a group. It was a great experience to walk away from – one of which I would enjoy doing again. If you ever get the opportunity to take part in something like this, jump at it.