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    Exploring and Exposing Semara Pagulingan Saih Lima at Bali Arts Festival 2017

    As always, when any of our gamelan troupes get an invitation to perform at a major festival, we take this opportunity to reconstruct lost music in preparation. This year, we plan to perform five rare five-tone semara pagulingan pieces, including one which hasn’t been heard for more than 70 years. The pieces are from four different origins: Kaliungu Kelod in Denpasar, Puri Payangan in Gianyar, Pagan Kelod in Denpasar and Puri Gerenceng also in Denpasar.

    Over the past decade, the Balinese public have only really focussed on seven-tone semara pagulingan music, which has a different nuance to five-tone music, due to the range of the terompong, as well as the position of the keys of the gangsa. In addition, the appearance of the orchestra, with the majority of the instruments having just five keys, makes it look smaller overall in performance – in fact, some Balinese say that without the terompong it looks like an angklung set!

    The reason for this focus has been that most Balinese only think of semara pagulingan orchestras having seven tones, even though that based on my research over the past 20 years, historically there have been many more five-tone orchestras, and only a handful of six- and seven-tone orchestras. However, over the past decade there has been an explosion in the production of seven-tone semara pagulingan orchestras, most commonly tuned to the STSI tuning, which seems to have become some sort of a standard (even though it is not based on any seven-tone semara pagulingan tuning found in the court orchestras). These orchestras are tuned to a move kebyar oscillation and also play in a kebyar manner, including all the cabaret mannerisms of a modern kebyar performance.

    So our performance this year is a lot about education about the existence of five-tone semara pagulingan; of its differences in instrumentation, nuances and playing techniques.

    It took us a long process of analysis and arrangement to reconstruct one of the lost piece, as part of it was missing and there are a number of instruments that are part of our orchestra which are not heard on the vintage recording. Over the last month we have been practicing five times a week to perfect the old style, and arranging the instrumentation and orchestral formation to recreate what this court orchestra would have sounded like in the past before the influence of the kebyar style.

    Watch this spot for more information about the repertoire we will be performing!


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