Our friend Brett was a groomsman in our wedding and has been a friend of David’s since college. He has always had an interest in Indonesian music and has been playing with a gamelan orchestra for more than 20 years. He has spoken of it to us many times, but during a recent stop in Portland, we actually got to see him play some of these ancient instruments and watch his group, The Venerable Showers of Beauty, rehearse. They use instruments and practice space at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, which offers studies in Eastern music.
This video from an Indonesian news organization highlights VSB’s director, Mindy Johnston.
And here is one of many videos you can find on YouTube of the group in concert:
I think it is so interesting how the different instruments play the various parts of the piece and how they all combine to form the intertwined sound that results. And yet, when you look at a musical score it is just a small group of symbols to indicate what notes to play. The musicians each learn all of the instruments and switch off for different pieces of music during a concert. It takes dedication to learn to play these ancient instruments. We are glad we got to experience it firsthand!