The word gamelan means "to hammer;" the term refers generally to the large percussion orchestras of Java and Bali. The primary instruments are gongs, metallophones, and hand drums, with cymbals, vocals, bamboo flutes, and spiked fiddles used as well. Gamelan is the wellspring of all music in Bali, both sacred and secular. The Balinese people are ardent practitioners of a unique form of Hinduism, and gamelan is necessary for all ritual events, as well as to mark any large social occasion. There are dozens of different types of gamelans in Bali, ranging from large metal orchestras to bamboo ensembles, vocal groups, and groups dedicated to the imitation of frog sounds. All the music is marked by the use of one of two non-tempered pentatonic scales called pelog or slendro and by rhythmically precise interlocking parts known as kotekan.
Gamelan Galak Tika consists of approximately 30 members, drawing musicians from the students, staff, and community of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The founder and director is Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music at MIT. The group learns aurally, without the aid of notation, and functions in the tradition of a Balinese village sekeha, with decisions made communally and responsibilities shared among the members of the ensemble.
Gamelan Galak Tika has been at the forefront of innovative, cross-cultural music for Balinese gamelan since 1993. Galak Tika has performed groundbreaking music at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, several Bang on a Can Marathons, Southern Exposure, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and colleges throughout the northeast. In 2005, the group toured Bali, performing at the Bali International Arts Festival, Kuta Beach, and numerous villages around the island. Galak Tika is dedicated to commissioning and performing new works by Balinese and American composers, for gamelan and mixed ensembles of gamelan and Western instruments, as well as performing traditional Balinese music and dance. Recent projects have included Christine Southworth's "SuperCollider" for electronic gamelan and string quartet, Evan Ziporyn's "Bayu Sabda Idep" for gamelan and strings, and new works by Dewa Alit, Ramon Castillo, and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. Galak Tika has recorded for Airplane Ears, New World, and New Albion. The group plays on three complete sets of instruments. These include one traditional pelog set, one tuned in just intonation, and our newest collection, the completely electronic Gamelan Elektrika. "Galak Tika" is Bahasa Kawi (classical Javanese, a dialect of Sanskrit) for "intense togetherness."
Williams presents Gamelan Galak Tika as part of the Ernest Brown World Music Series, which invites outstanding artists to the Williams campus to work with students and faculty and perform for the pleasure of all.
Poster by HVB Imaging