One of the many interesting moments during my trip to Barcelona was the opportunity to participate in a Balinese Gamelan workshop. Yes, in Barcelona not in Bali.
When looking online for places to visit in Barcelona during my visit with my friend, I discovered the Museu de la Musica with its many historical instruments. The monthly workshop on the Gamelan was the time I would be there.
I knew little of the gamelan other than I suspected that the vibrations produced by the instrument would be not unlike the gong bath.
When I contacted Jordi, the leader for the workshop (who spoke and wrote fluent English), I became more excited about attending given the information he shared with me.
There are several parts to the gamelan set, and the part we played as a group was made from brass keys which were hit with a mallet. The keys were suspended by a kind of vine or sinew or plastic over large perpendicular bamboo tubes. Each unit was painted with bright gold, red and blue paint.
Below is a 5-minute video of our 1.5-hour workshop — but primarily you can hear the potential of the instrument and see how a group might approach the gamelan.
Jordi gave us a thorough explanation in Spanish. Thanks to Giuseppe, who translated for us.
We practiced slowly then speeded up. We practiced with one note and then two.
Two people played on one instrument — one to hit the brass key with a mallet the other to mute the brass key on the right beat. Otherwise the note would ring and vibrate for quite some time.
People of all ages came for the workshop. You will see some of the younger children lost interest. It did require concentration to hit the note at the right time and in the correct way for a not too harsh sound.
As we continued our practice, I could see it was an instrument for meditation for both players and listeners.
You will get a sense of the final concert sound we were able to produce with Jordi’s guidance. Our final efforts reminded me of high school band practice where as we played faster we tended unwittingly to play louder.
After the workshop, Jordi gave me a short lesson on a different part of the gamelan. Although he was at ease playing, I realized it would take practice to keep the rhythm, hit the gongs correctly and be able to relax enough to appreciate all the different vibrations being produced.