The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

December 8, 2016

Javanese Gender

"If not connected with the seal
of the fully established,
the imagined may be many,
but they are dead bodies."

- from the Autocommentary to the 'Fourth Council,' Dolpopa
Sherab Gyaltsen, in The Buddho from Dolpo, Cyrus Stearns,
Snow Lion, 2010

"A gender is a type of metallophone used in Balinese and
Javanese gamelan music. It consists of 10 to 14 tuned metal bars
suspended over a tuned resonator of bamboo or metal, which are
tapped with a mallet made of wooden disks (Bali) or a padded
wooden disk (Java). Each key is a note of a different pitch,
often extending a little more than two octaves. There are five
notes per octave, so in the seven-note plog scale, some pitches
are left out according to the pathet. Most gamelans include
three gendr, one for slndro, one for pelog pathet nem and lima,
and one for pelog pathet barang." (Wikipedia)

I improvise on a Javanese gender in Atlanta, recorded by Neil
Fried. Video, still by Azure Carter. I am playing the gender
with fingers and fingernails, not the traditional mallets. But
the traditional music is intense, beautiful, my nails touch only
surfaces. But the surfaces are beautiful in their own way. An
uncanny sound, my sound. "I am playing for the resonances of the
world, hovering at the edge of cataclysm," I say. "I await only
the seething of collateral deaths," I continue. "The rocks will
persevere," I insist. "This music is already lost to me, lost by
me, lost away from me," I shout. "Away from me, this music," I
shout. "This music," I said, "this music."


thanks to Neil Fried, Azure Carter, Atlanta

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