Harvey Mudd College American Gamelan

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 instruments were built on commission by Suhirdjan of Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Nevertheless, they are unusual for Javanese instruments in several ways. 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 “Pleng: Composing for a Justly-Tuned Gender Barung.”

This ensemble was established in 2000 and has since performed the works of Bill Alves, John Cage, Lou Harrison, David Doty, Tom Flaherty, Douglas Leedy, Peter Steele, and others.