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The Lightbulb Ensemble: Maurissa Dorn, Dave Douglas, Carla Fabrizio, Lucas Helland, James Iwamasa, Sarang Kim, Lydia Martin, Keenan Pepper, Scott Siler, Wayne Vitale, Sarah Willner; Brian Baumbusch, musical director
Brian Baumbusch (b. 1987) is a composer/performer based in Northern California working at the nexus between contemporary American and contemporary Indonesian music. Wayne Vitale (b. 1956) is a composer and educator who has long been inspired by the music of Bali, Indonesia. He has studied and collaborated with many of Bali's finest musicians and ensembles.
Mikrokosma (2014-15) is an exploration in sound and light of the "microcosms" of Bali-Hindu cosmology, where the universe is reflected and re-created in all its parts. The underlying concepts of the piece, revealed in form, proportions, meters (every movement is partially or entirely in 11), colors, sequence, and symmetry, are a direct interpretation of the pengider buana, the "turning of the universe." This graphic, spatial conception appears in a 19th-century Balinese treatise on cosmology called the Prakempa. It may appear esoteric to outsiders, but the graphic is known to most gamelan musicians, every priest, and a good number of others in Bali. It informs not only religious practice, but day-to-day practical matters such as the layout of a home. The pengider buana associates the 11 directions (N, E, S, W; the points in between, plus up, down, and center) with colors, gods, Sanskrit letters - and tones of the gamelan. Music, by Balinese reckoning, is part of the basic structure of the universe. In this way, the piece is divided into 11 movements, which are reflective of one another; the first six movements were written alternately between Baumbusch and Vitale, and the later five movements are reinterpretations by Baumbusch and Vitale of each other's pieces composed in the first half.
The work is a cross-cultural endeavor. Mikrokosma utilizes musical techniques and concepts that fuse or juxtapose Balinese and Western new-music traditions, particularly American minimalist music and its many offshoots. One of these fusions takes place in the realm of timbre and tuning. The instruments were conceived, constructed, and tuned by Baumbusch. Although he started from a Balinese conception in shaping the basic scale, recent research on the inharmonic partials (overtones) of metal keys and gong chimes informed the fine-tuning process, yielding a unique scale and sonic world.