Gamelan in Oxford: An Interview with Pete Smith

Interview with Pete Smith, director of Oxford Gamelan.

The Oxford Culture Review

Pete Smith directs Oxford Gamelan Society, an Oxford-based group dedicated to performing on these traditional Indonesian instruments. Ahead of their next concert at St John the Evangelist Church on the 14th February, I spoke to him about what the Gamelan is, the traditions that surround it, and its influence on Western composers.

What is the Gamelan?

The Gamelan is an Indonesian orchestra of bronze metallophones. It is a percussion ensemble made up predominantly of gongs, metallophones, and chimes, all hand-forged in bronze and mounted on exquisitely carved frames and beds with snakes, tropical plants, and other decorative embellishments.

The Oxford Gamelan comes from central Java. It’s been part of the university since 1983, and we are the country’s oldest established community Gamelan group. We meet regularly on Wednesdays in term time to play and learn on the heirloom gamelan ‘Kyai Madu Laras (‘The Venerable Sweet Harmony’) by kind permission of the

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