In November ’95 a group of musicians in Toronto inaugurated Gamelan Toronto. This was a central Javanese-style gamelan housed at the Consulate General of Indonesia. For me, this was another adventure in getting my musical imagination sent back to the inventory department. Everything about this music, from the cipher notation, the fact that all that’s written out is a skeletal melody, and the orientation of the music itself around the arrival of the gong, posed a very engaging learning experience. Of course, what kept us going, the end of the musical rainbow as it were, is that the music itself is a very beautiful gift to the world from a very ancient tradition. I played bonang barong, which was a little scary because of its particular foreground role in the ensemble.
For various reasons, I had to stop gamelan in 2004. But it was great fun, and I was exposed to a lot of great music, including many cd recordings, which I still listen to regularly. Maybe I’ll pick it up again at some point. If you have a chance to join a gamelan, you’ll find it a very rewarding experience.
As a further postscript, Gamelan Toronto ceased functioning a little while after I stopped, although there are still people playing that music and using those beautiful instruments. And then, years later, I heard from a former member that we still had a bank account with some money in it so that, in that sense, the group was still on the books. In order to finally close things down, I shut the account and, with the agreement of the people involved, donated the money to the Annex Cat Rescue organization. Lots of cat food!