In the fall of 1991, my junior year in college, I started looking into study abroad programs. I was an English major, with a minor in Music. I was well ahead of schedule in regards to completing the course work for my major, so I’d made the commitment to myself to study another form of music (percussion, specifically) overseas before graduation.
For the most part, I’d resolved to go to Africa. I was a drummer, and quite interested in many of the traditions I’d learned about already in both Eastern and Western Africa. Somehow – and I’m not sure how – Indonesia was also on my list. At the time, I knew next to nothing about Indonesia. That fall, however, I picked up a recording that changed my life. The record was Javanese Court Gamelan, Vol. II, published by Nonesuch Records. On this record is a lovely recording of a piece called Gendhing Bonang Babar Layar. This recording has touched me as much as another piece of art, and as a result of which, I abandoned the idea of going to Africa, and instead went to study gamelan in Indonesia. I had to know something more about this music
It has look been an aspiration of mine to play Babar Layar. I make note of this today because finally I have the opportunity. The Cornell Gamelan is adding this piece to our repetoire. This is a lovely time for me. Since first hearing this recording, I’ve learned a great deal more about both Balinese and Javanese gamelan. Gendhing Bonang is perhaps my favorite form of Javanese music, and Babar Layar still means a great deal to me.