Review: ‘East meets West: Gamelan and Western Composers’

Review of Oxford Gamelan Society concert.

The Oxford Culture Review

Composer Leopold Godowsky described the effect of hearing the gamelan as being ‘like a musical breeze … spectral … shimmering … I lost my sense of reality.’ Comprised predominantly of percussive instruments, the Indonesian ensemble has proved captivating for composers since its introduction to the Western world, particularly from the end of the nineteenth century. Handmade in their country of origin, each set is unique, created to have a nuance to its tuning system meaning that the sound of each gamelan is quite distinct. Oxford Gamelan Society’s concert at St John the Evangelist church last week offered a rare opportunity to hear a full gamelan ensemble played live, bringing together traditional melodies and compositions inspired by the gamelan.

Lila Bhawa Dance Company © M. J. Coldiron Lila Bhawa Dance Company © M. J. Coldiron

Pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Ligeti, and Godowsky provided the mainstay of the Western repertoire provided on the programme. Performed by pianist Clíodna Shanahan

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