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Intercultural Compositional Techniques and Approaches: Ethnomusicology as Avant-Garde

29 August 2019

“My compositions intertwine old classical and new avant-garde imagined histories and futures from the lush flower-bed of harmonic overtones. This is what I write about my music—both traditional and modern.” I will look at the nexus between what seems like two far ends of a continuum of musical understanding. How does ethnomusicology, with its scholarship and academics, partner with avant-garde (for want of a better term to describe the post-post-modern 21st century where all types of music and approaches are readily available and easily used). 

I will look at how vertical structures of tuning, sustained tones, overtones and clusters are used as a basis for meeting the horizontal traditional Javanese and Hindustani structures of raga alap, buka, mérong, minggah, pathetan and irama. The tuning systems and approaches of Javanese slendro and pelog, and Hindustani raga system can be an argument between tonality, polytonality, and finally, micro-polytonality. And where does serialism and atonality and noise fit? 

With examples of my compositions, I will show an underlying understanding of my study and work with La Monte Young’s Dream House and Well-Tuned Piano; with Terry Riley’s modal looping, and Robert Ashley’s open-mindedness composition. These minimalist pioneers are positioned with luxurious and opulent sound spaces from my studies with Pandit Pran Nath, who uses Indian concept of sruti to great illustration of rasa (feeling) and ethnomusicologic research with Cokro Wasitodiningrat, the late gamelan master of Central Java, and Bu Bei Mardusari, diva singer of the Mangkunegaran Palace in Solo.

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