Ensemble Gending

Soekarno Blues

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There may be no music as enchanting as that which is made by an Indonesian gamelan orchestra. The sound is so distinctive, instantly recognizable, mesmerizing. But although the group playing on this CD would be just as quickly identified as a gamelan, what it is doing is completely different. This is a Western gamelan orchestra, Dutch to be exact, under the direction of Jurrien Sligter, whose concept is that a Western gamelan shouldn't even try to play the original Indonesian music because they couldn't possibly improve on it or even match the original. (Take that, Johnny Winter!) Instead, the Ensemble Gelding commissions a variety of composers to create pieces specifically for it. This recording collects seven such ventures and there are as many flavors as in a rice table. There are a gamelan blues, a gamelan carillon, even something identified as a "Cannibal Mass." Some listeners may find right off hand that the idea of a Wwestern gamelan group monkeying around with Indonesian music is horrifying, and they probably are not going to like what they hear if they were to sample the disc. The blues is pretty darn cheesy, even if is was written by Willem Breuker. Trouble is when you have a blues played by a gamelan group, well, you have a blues played by a gamelan group. It just doesn't sound very good. Things do improve as the CD goes on; for these composers it was obviously a real challenge to work in this idiom, and probably something of a dream in that the instruments and their sound are simply dazzling. The work that went into these efforts was extensive and the ensemble plays with commendable skill.

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