This piece for piano trio and electronics makes use of a version of pelog, which is one of the two scales used in Javanese and Balinese gamelans, the great percussion orchestras of Indonesia. One of the many intriguing things about pelog is its tuning. This varies a fair bit, even between sets of instruments in the same region, but always seems to defy a satisfactory approximation in Western tuning. For this reason some of the notes have a certain beautiful ‘wrongness’ about them, at least to the unaccustomed ear. The piano of course cannot easily adapt to this, but the piece exploits this fact by adopting another characteristic of (in this case Balinese) gamelan music: instruments playing in detuned pairs, creating shimmering beating effects. Texturally the piece makes some use of gamelan-like schemes for elaborating melodies, but my intent was not to make a bit of exotica, or faux gamelan music. Rather as someone who has played and experienced various types of gamelan, Western art music, pop, and the musics of other cultures and traditions, I wanted to create a real hybrid music which embraced those aspects of my musical life and identity. This seemed to me in keeping with the spirit of the CrossCurrents festival, for which the piece was written. The title comes simply from the older system of naming the seven notes in the pelog scale: bem, gulu, dhadha, papat, lima, nem, barang. Translated from Javanese, these are head, neck, chest, four, five, six, thing.
The piece is dedicated to the amazing Fidelio Trio, in thanks for bringing it to life, and to Michael Zev Gordon and Jo Sweet, for having the vision and determination to make the bold idea of CrossCurrents a reality. http://www.fideliotrio.com