Music: Klenengan

Klenengan is traditional music for gamelan.

There is an immense repertoire of pieces, which have been passed down through aural tradition. The traditional repertoire will either require a full gamelan, or a specific combination of some of its instruments, such as “loud style” gamelan soran where the only elaborating instrument used is the bonang, or the gadhon ensemble using only the “soft” elaborating instruments (rebab, gendèr, gambang, siter and suling).

How does it work?

Most of the musical forms used are cyclic, and are determined by the punctuation of the large gong ageng, with gong cycles lasting from 8 beats to 256 beats in the larger forms. The elaborating instruments will each derive their parts from the notes and contour of the balungan, in keeping both with the pathet (mode) of the piece and their own specific musical vocabulary. The elaboration also depends on the irama (which can be very loosely translated as tempo) and usually anticipates important notes. All elaborating instruments play in a metrical division (2, 4, 8, 16, 32 times) of the balungan beat except the rebab, pesindhèn, and the suling.

Gamelan music in context

In Java, gamelan music is often inseparable from the arts of poetry, dance and various forms of theatre such as dance-drama, and shadow-puppet plays (wayang kulit). The stories enacted in dramatic forms will often be taken from ancient Javanese legends (such as the Panji cycle) or Javanese versions of the Hindu Mahabharata or Ramayana epics. Performances which are purely musical are called klenèngan and are usually given in the context of some sort of celebration.