Gamelan Sekar Jaya
This recording is the product of a remarkable intercultural musical experiment. It contains five strikingly varied works, each one the fruit of musical cross-pollination between America and the island of Bali. The three American composers represented here－Evan Ziporyn, Michael Tenzer and Wayne Vitale, along with their peers in the Sekar Jaya ensemble－have, since 1979, devoted an extraordinary amount of effort, intelligence, and talent to the study and performance of traditional Balinese music. Their creative endeavors elude classification in cultural pigeonholes.
American composers have noted (and admired) Balinese music since the 1930s. Composers as different as Colin McPhee (1900-1964) and Steve Reich (b 1936) were affected by it. But the three composers represented here differ from their predecessors by their eagerness to perform the music, by their intimate knowledge of it, and by the social awareness which united them in Sekar Jaya's cooperative venture, inspiring them to seek true exchange with Balinese culture.
These three American composers illustrate three different approaches to Balinese music. Roughly speaking, we can place them along a continuum. Wayne Vitale (b 1956) is the most immersed in Balinese tradition. Composing an idiomatic piece is, for him, a way of figuring out how the music works. Michael Tenzer (b 1957) adopts a much more self-consciously innovative stance; he uses traditional Balinese instrumental idioms, but within those limitations he tries to write music as different from Balinese music as he can. Evan Ziporyn (b 1959) is in some ways the most American of the three, yet he is the one who has been the most haunted by the ambiguities and conflicts of Sekar Jaya's cross-cultural experiment. He never felt he understood the language of gamelan well enough to compose in Balinese forms, yet he did not want to be simply a composer who happened to play gamelan. Uncomfortable with the locked doors between his different musical selves, he tries to reconcile them in his compositions.
Gamelan Sekar Jaya was founded in Northern California by Michael Tenzer and Rachel Cooper. They twice toured Indonesia at the invitation of the Governor of Bali, and participated each time in the Bali Arts Festival, in 1985 and in 1992. It was hailed in the Indonesian press as "clearly the finest Balinese gamelan outside of Indonesia."