On a daily basis, Java may be just known as a brand name for its coffee, but tonight, its puppets made a debut in tonight’s gamelan concert at Olin. Also known as “wayang“, these Indonesian shadow puppets were the stars of the performance- acting out their story (via the puppet master) as the Bates College Gamelan Orchestra accompanied their adventures. The show was quite a refreshing departure from the typical Hollywood cinema flick- a three-in-one violence, romance, and comedy equivalent of a movie blockbuster.
I must admit, when I first heard the gamelan played live for the first time during freshman year, my ears rang. I thought the sounds the instrument produced were the most eerily jarring, discordant screeches I’d ever heard. Having been used to playing classically mellifluous instruments (violin, piano, and recorder) for years, I guess the gamelan’s raucuous cries clamored me out of my comfort zone. After learning that it’s not only a series of strange bells but rather an ensemble of xylophones, drums, gongs, flutes, and strings, this instrument has also re-”pitched” my conventional definition of music.
As the event was open to the public, I was surprised to see that the theater was completely occupied by local residents interested in seeking an internationally cultural experience. Overall, I’m completely content that as I continue my career here at Bates, old habits will de-”compose” and new perspectives will be re-”noted”. And however “sharp” or “flat” the change may be along the rhythm scale of life, it’s still music to my ears.