Video: Bernard in Indonesia




Last spring I was in Cincinnati performing with a well-established local group. On a night off, everyone who took part in the performance was invited to dinner at the home of L.B. and T.G., longtime supporters of the group’s director and art patrons.

Walking into their house was like stepping back into the Victorian Era with a number of modern touches. Among the decorations, which reflected a passion for travel and culture, were musical instruments of many varieties, period and traditional.

Several of us found ourselves in the living room at some point and the conversation turned to the most unusual instrument resting in front of the fire place—an Indonesian gamelan.

I was familiar with the gamelan to the extent that I’d heard a gamelan orchestra perform on recording, but that was it. And, until recently, I knew nothing of the many types of instruments that made up the orchestra (pictured above) or its music.

A couple of us took turns trying out the gamelan, just for fun.

When I sat down to play, I had no idea was to do, but as I got the feel for how to produce sound with the hammers, I came up with the only kind of music that made sense in mind at that very moment—minimalism.

The following video is my improv, taped by T.G. and edited by L.B., who added the fancy Star Wars-inspired opening crawl.


Learn More: What’s a gamelan?

(Instruments of the gamelan orchestra; photo: Alex Williams)

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