So, the first question probably is…What the heck is Gamelan? The short answer? For us, an extraordinary experience and gift at WCU in Cullowhee, NC.
Sometimes, even though you’ve scheduled yourself for a night out…once you get home and settled, it’s easy to talk yourself into staying in. Especially in the winter.
Luckily for us, we didn’t allow the homebody voices to win last night. I wrote yesterday about the daily notice we get from Western Carolina University called “The Main Event”. It posts all the things happening out at WCU…musical performances, live plays, and speaking forums. We’d noticed the announcement for the Low Tech Gamelan Ensemble weeks ago and put it on our calendar.
The only familiarity we had with the term “Gamelan” came from Will Peebles, Professor and Director at the School of Music at WCU. We’ve known Will for at least 20 years, having met him when he was a customer at our camping and backpacking store, Venture Out. Still…we really didn’t know what to expect.
We entered the performance hall and beheld a stage full of gleaming gongs and intricately carved instruments that looked like xylophones. Joy Shea entered the stage and announced the performers and also gave us the good news that there would be visiting performers from Warren Wilson College in Brevard. Turns out Dr. Shea has a long history with Gamelan.
For the next hour and a half, we were transported to another land. Nothing could have prepared me for how well I would submerge myself in this music. It is so different from Western music and because of the unfamiliarity with the tones and rhythms, the first sound seems discordant but rapidly develops into peaceful sounds and melodies. Within minutes I felt all the tensions of the elections and the holidays disappear.
I was hoping to find videos of the Low Tech Gamelan Ensemble uploaded to YouTube but couldn’t, so instead here is one video of a Gamelan concert and two videos explaining the roots of Gamelan and some of the instruments.
The music may not appeal to everyone and that’s okay but it appealed to us and we’ll be watching for the next opportunity to attend a concert of the Low Tech Gamelan Ensemble at WCU and we'll be able to answer the next person who wonders what the heck is Gamelan!