The Harvey Mudd American Gamelan

Directed by Bill Alves

Left to right: Katherine Hagedorn, Bill Alves, Toby St. Clair, Darryl Yong, Julie Simon, Pete Steele
The Harvey Mudd College American Gamelan is an ensemble of instruments from the classical Javanese orchestra known as the gamelan, but which plays new works by composers outside of that tradition. While these composers may be informed by traditional Javanese works, they have adapted this ensemble for their own expression, a "tradition" established in the United States by Lou Harrison and Bill Colvig, who named their ensembles "American Gamelan."

However, unlike their homemade instruments, these were built on commission by Suhirdjan of Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Nevertheless, they are unusual for Javanese instruments in several ways. For one thing, even though their tuning falls into the traditional categories known as pelog (a seven-note scale) and slendro (a five-note scale), they are tuned to particular just intonation versions of those scales, a form of tuning based on harmonic ratios. For the specifics of these tunings, see my article called "Pleng: Composing for a Justly-Tuned Gender Barung."

Our ensemble was established in 2000 and has since performed the works of Bill Alves, Lou Harrison, Tom Flaherty, Peter Steele, Bryan Tysinger, Masashi Ito, and others.

We will next perform on May 19, 24, and 25 with the Pacific Symphony as a part of their American Composers Festival series honoring Lou Harrison. On May 19 we will be performing Harrison's formidable Double Concerto with violinist Raymond Kobler and cellist Timothy Landauer at the Irvine Barclay Theater. On May 24 we will be performing Harrison's Bubaran Robert and other works with trumpeter Barry Perkins at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Current members of the Harvey Mudd American Gamelan include Bill Alves, Kristin Hunt, Martin Hunt, John Pham, Ansel Schmidt, Julie Simon, Mutiara Sandjaja, Kiattikun Tanapad, Gena Urowsky, and Darryl Yong.

Here are some excerpts of our performances: