Figuration

In Balinese gamelan music, the main melody is played by the calung. If ever a Balinese writes down a melody, it will be just this melodic line and the gong pattern that belongs to it. That, for the Balinese, is enough information. The gangsa part, for example, is just embellishment and can easily be reproduced.


For these embellishments follow strict patterns. Which pattern is used, depends on the type of melody. In this document I explain the most common patterns and the way they are related. In the examples I have highlighted group of notes that together for an embellishment pattern, alog with the calung not that is their anchoring point.


The most basic way to embellish a Balinese gamelan melody, is to let the gangsas play the same notes as the calung and to let them play those notes twice (in some cases, they repeat those notes four times) or, in melodies like Baris and Topeng Keras, to let the gangsas double the notes the pemugal is playing.


Pemugal       2       1       6       1       5       6       1       2

Gangsas   1   2   2   1   1   6   6   1   1   5   5   6   6   1   1   2

calung                2               1               6               2


Pemugal       3       5       2       3       1       5       6       1

gangsas   2   3   3   5   5   2   2   3   3   1   1   5   5   6   6   1

calung                5               3               5               1


Let me hear it!

(from: Topeng Keras)


Ngecel

Ngecel  is a slightly more complex embellishment pattern. It is played by letting the gangsas alternate the main calung note (in melodies of this structure, every second note the calung actually plays) with the next higher note of the scale. Each pattern consists of eight notes: four ‘towards’ the calung - the fourth note coinciding with the calung note - and four ‘away from’ the calung.  This type of embellisment is found in melodies like Topeng Tua and Topeng Dalem.


gangsas   1 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 6 5 6 1 1 1 2 1 6 6 1 6 1 6 1 6 1 1 2 1

calung          2       1       2       1       2       6       5       1


gangsas   2 1 2 1 6 6 1 6 1 6 1 6 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 6 6 1 6

calung          2       6       5       1       2       2       3       6

Let me hear it!

(from: Topeng Tua)


Nyocod

If the tempo gets higher, the ngecel way of playing might put too much strain on the wrists of the gangsa players. So, the players switch to nyocod. They employ the technique for which Balinese gamelan music is famous: they rip open the melody like a zipper and the gangsa players divide into two groups. Each group of players plays one of the two interlocking halves - polos and sangsih - of the ‘zipper’. To the ear the same melody sounds again, but at a much higher tempo.


polos       6 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 2 2 . 2 . 2 . 2 5 5 . 5

sangsih     1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 1 3 3 . 3 . 3 . 3 6 6 . 6 .

calung            5       6       5       6       5       2       3       5


polos       . 5 . 5 . 5 . 5 . 5 . 5 2 2 . 2 . 2 . 2 3 3 . 3 . 3 . 3 5 5 . 5

sangsih     6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 . 6 3 3 . 3 . 3 . 3 5 5 . 5 . 5 . 5 6 6 . 6 .

calung            6       5       1       2       5       3       2       5


Let me hear it!

(from: Topeng Dalem)



Ngotek

The embellishment pattern is not limited to just two notes. In lots of melodies the players use the ngotek (or otekan) style of embellishing. Basically, the embellishment uses three (sometimes four) notes ‘around’ the calung notes. In slow movements, the gangsa players may play this pattern in unison.


gangsas   6 1 5 6 1 5 6 1 6 5 1 6 5 1 6 5 5 6 3 5 6 3 5 6 5 3 5 3 5 3 2 1

calung          6       1       6       5       5       6       3       1


gangsas    2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 6 1 2 6 1 2 2 6 3 5 6 3 5 6 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 5

calung           2       3       1       2       5       6       2       5


Let me hear it!

(from: Pendet)



In faster tempi the gangsa part is “zipped open” again, as in nyocod playing. The polos and sangsih players each play one half of the original melody. The halves interlock and come together at certain points in order to maintain synchronicity.


polos     . 1 . 6 1 . 6 1 . 5 . 6 5 . 6 5 . 6 . 5 6 . 5 6 . 3 . 3 . 3 . 1

sangsih   6 . 5 6 . 5 6 . 6 . 1 6 . 1 6 . 5 . 3 5 . 3 5 . 5 . 5 . 5 . 2 .

calung          6       1       6       5       5       6       3       1


polos     . 3 . 2 3 . 2 3 . 2 . 1 2 . 1 2 . 6 . 5 6 . 5 6 . 2 . 2 . 2 . 5

sangsih   2 . 1 2 . 1 2 . 1 . 6 1 . 6 1 . 2 . 3 5 . 3 5 . 1 . 1 . 1 . 3 .

calung          2       3       1       2       5       6       2       5

Let me hear it!

(from: Pendet)



A common feature of nyocod and ngotek playing is, that the players have one-note rests at regular intervals. These very short rests prevent the player’s muscles from locking up and allow them to play at very high speeds for extended periods of time.


Playing interlocking parts at high speeds calls for a good timing mechanism. In Balinese gamelan, the empluk provides this timing. As the tempo increases, the empluk will play louder and more insistently. Far from being a humble time beater, at these moments the empluk is revealed as the anchor all players depend on. 



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