Bringing Bali To BYU
In addition to bringing in guest artists whenever possible, Dr. Grimshaw travels to Bali to learn various types of repertoire for the ensemble to perform.
In 2012, Dr. Grimshaw traveled to the Mekar Bhuana Conservatory in Denpasar, Bali, where he learned pieces from two antique types of gamelan: the court style known as semar pegulingan and the ancient ceremonial selonding. He is shown here learning a semar pegulingan piece with Mekar Bhuana director Vaughn Hatch and Balinese teacher I Kadek Sumara (both on drums) and their group, and later joining Hatch’s family for a rehearsal of selonding, which Grimshaw studied with Pande Widiana.
Earlier trips to Bali have included study of the modern kebyar and semaradana styles with I Ketut Gede Asnawa, lessons in vocal kecak performance with Ida Bagus Mas of the national conservatory in Denpasar, and participation in the annual summer workshop offered by the world-renowned Çudamani
The Gamelan Instruments
The gamelan ensemble is made up of sixteen bronze xylophones, several gongs and gong-chimes, drums, cymbals, and bamboo flutes—over forty instruments in total. This particular type of gamelan is a relatively new style known as gamelan semara dana. It has a special tuning and keyboard layout that makes it possible to play several of the many different types of gamelan repertoires from Bali—including the ancient selonding, the court-era semar pagulingan, the flashy kebyar style of the 20th century, and more recent works.
The instruments were custom-built in the workshop of I Wayan Beratha, one of Bali’s most beloved teachers, composers, and instrument makers. Beratha is shown here (on the left) playing drums with his former student, I Ketut Gede Asnawa, a lauded musician in his own right and one of the ensemble’s past guest directors.
The instruments are covered with elaborate carvings depicting important scenes from the Hindu epic the Ramayana and various other stories. (Photo courtesy Adam Grimshaw.)
Each gamelan ensemble functions as one gigantic instrument, with its own unique timbre and tuning. In the summer of 2009, the gamelan instruments required their first retuning. With assistance from a BYU Mentoring Environment Grant, guest clinician Wayne Vitale, one of the foremost experts on Balinese music and tuning in the US, was invited to campus to lead students in a tuning workshop. Several participants learned the craft of gamelan tuning hands-on under Vitale’s supervision. Over the course of four days, Vitale and the students retuned each of the ensemble’s 180+ bars and gong-chimes.
Pictures From Past Performances
Since its founding, Gamelan Bintang Wahyu has sought to learn from and collaborate with expert Balinese artists whenever possible. Guest directors and guest dancers have included some of Bali’s finest virtuosi.