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Southern Oregon University

(Gamelan Degung Leuwi Asih)


Students and community members are welcome.

We hold an informational meeting on the first Monday of every term, from 5-7 pm in room 137. Anyone interested may attend, ask questions, and play the instruments. Rehearsal date and time for the term will be determined by the group.  We hold one 2 hour rehearsal per week. Students may receive 1 credit per term if they register for the ensemble, however both students and community members may participate without registering. The ensemble is available for performances both on and off campus.

Please contact Barb Barasa, 541-621-2739 if you are interested in learning to play gamelan.


Listen to pieces performed at our 2006 and 2008 concerts.

Video above from our 2012 performance outsite the Hannon Library

Traditional gamelan degung pieces:

Balinese piece played on our degung set:
Gending Pelugon

20th Century composition by Lou Harrison:
Main Bersama Sama

Lou Harrison compositions published by the American Gamelan Institute

>> Handout for Non-western Music Class (and anyone else who is interested) [PDF - 1.25 MB]


What is gamelan?

The word Gamelan refers to the gong-chime percussion ensembles of Indonesia. Gamelan is a generic term which encompasses a large variety of instruments belonging to an ancient cornucopia of regions and styles.  Generally speaking, a Gamelan will include several metalophones collectively spanning three or four octaves, a multiplicity of pot gongs of various sizes, large hanging gongs (some of which can be one meter or more in diameter) and a small set of drums. To this basic format can be added a host of elaborating instruments taking the forms of bamboo flutes, spike fiddles, wooden xylophones, plucked zithers, singers and, in recent years, just about every European instrument from pipe organs to trombones (still waiting for the kazoo piece).

Gamelan ensemble

The islands of Java and Bali enjoy the highest concentrations of styles and ensembles but Gamelan can also be found in Lombok, Sumatra, Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States and has close instrumental cousins in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. It has clearly become a global music. There are many sources available on the internet and in libraries which describe the music and instruments from the Balinese and Central Javanese styles (see links below).

Gamelan ensemble

The SOU Gamelan

In the Spring of 1999, SOU was able to purchase an iron Gamelan Degung from Bandung, Indonesia, over the internet with funds donated by faculty member Todd Barton. After a little TLC and four cans of spray paint, our Degung was up and gonging. In the spring of 2007 ethnomusicologist Sean Williams visited SOU and worked with the ensemble. She also donated Burhan Sukarma's transcriptions of 35 degung pieces to our ensemble.

gamelanThe set consists of 

  • 1 Bonang (14 pot gongs, 3 octaves, L shaped rack)
  • 1 Panerus (14 keys, 3 octaves, common trough resonator)
  • 1 Peking (same as panerus but different range)
  • 1 Jenglong (6 smaller hanging gongs, low octave)
  • 1 Go'ong (largest hanging gong, lowest pitch in set)
  • 1 Kempul (smaller hanging gong, not used in classical)
  • 1 Kendang & 2 Kulanter (double headed rawhide drums)
  • Miscellaneous Suling (end blown bamboo flutes)
  • Also included are exchange keys and pots for Sorog

The Degung style itself originated in the Sundanese region of Java. The Sundanese language and people are distinctly non-Javanese. Hence, the Degung instrumentation and style of playing varies considerably from the Court Gamelan of Central Java. Catering to the tastes of the various regional Sultans, Gamelan Degung is, traditionally, also a court style. However, the chamber ensemble context of Degung stands in stark contrast to the large 25+ person ensembles found in the major Javanese courts. 

Degung is considered to have three main periods associated with its music. The first is the ancient period, about which very little is know. The second period, beginning in the first half of the twentieth century, is known as classical and consists of a variety of intricately elaborated instrumental pieces. The third period refers to modern times and is characterized by a catchier pop-like brightness. New music is constantly being written for Degung (not to mention Gamelan in general ) by global citizens.

Influence on Western Music

The influence of Gamelan music on non-Indonesians certainly dates far back into the cross-cultural history of the region. However, as far as Western composer are concerned, Claude Debussy's observations of Gamelan at the World's Fair, and subsequent compositions influenced by what he heard, are part of the earliest know contact between European and Indonesian (at the time Dutch East Indies) ideals. Other composers, like Colin McPhee, chose to spend considerable periods of time living in Indonesia where they courteously and accurately documented many different native styles.

GamelonCurrently, many musicians and composers who write exclusively for European instruments are pointing to Gamelan as a serious point of inspiration. There are also those who are not only influenced by, but in fact write new music specifically for, Gamelan (often for American style sets built by the composers). Lou Harrison stands out as a highly respected and prolific composer, having written many pieces for Sundanese, Javanese and American style sets, often times with an instrument from the European tradition as soloist. Other prominent non-Indonesian, Gamelan composers are Jarrad Powell, Jon Kehlior, Steven Miller, Janice Gitek, John Cage, Barbara Benary, Joan Bell Cowan, Daniel Schmidt and Key Ransone to name just a few.

Gamelan for Credit

Currently, a chamber ensemble class in gamelan is being offered for 1 credit. Students are accepted with the permission of Terry Longshore, Director of Percussion Studies.

For more information, contact Barb Barasa 552-9349.

The gamelan ensemble is available to perform for local events. 

Web Sites of Interest

Gamelan Pacifica - Seattle, WA

American Gamelan Institute

Pusaka Sunda - San Jose, CA

Gamelan Sekar Jaya - Bay Area, Balinese music and dance

Sean Williams - ethnomusicologist, specialist in gamelan degung

Gamelan Sari Pandhawa - Eugene, OR, gamelan ensemble