Joining the Gamelan in Theory and Practice

Sean Williams


The first time the deck of cards appeared in the gamelan room at The Evergreen State College, the deck was met with silence and looks of shock. The cards landed on the small table, around which at least a dozen students were clustered while the rest of their classmates sat at the instruments of the gamelan degung, a small Sundanese ensemble of West Java. “If I don’t hear some noise and the sound of cards,†I warned, “I will be quite disappointed.†I then returned my attention to the students at the instruments, who looked equally alarmed. Within a few minutes, however, they were lost in the sounds of the gamelan and struggling to learn their parts, apprentices at their sides. Several minutes later, chatter, shouts of triumph, and cards slapping against the table were added to the sounds in the room.

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