Grattage: Baris Tunggal

by Claire Fassnacht and Lawton Hall

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The term “grattage” (Fr., “scraping”) was coined by the German artist Max Ernst to describe a technique where colors and textures are created on a canvas by scraping away layers of dried paint, rather than adding more layers on top of one another.

Instead of adding to the fantastically complex sound of the full Balinese gamelan gong kebyar ensemble, Grattage: Baris Tunggal scrapes away many of its instruments and textures and focuses on a small group of gongs, trempong (a set of tuned bowl gongs), jegogans (deep, resonant brass bars), kantilans (high, sparkling melodic instruments), sulings (bamboo flutes), ugal (the large, central melodic instrument), and kajar (an unpitched timekeeping gong). In a different sense, the sounds produced by literally scraping the large gongs with wire brushes become the source of all of the electronic sounds in the piece. When filtered, looped, delayed, and distorted, these sounds fill in many of the textures traditionally played by the absent instruments and create a noisy, swirling, otherworldly sound-environment for the rest of the ensemble to inhabit.

Baris Tunggal is a traditional dance performed by a solo male dancer depicting a strong, masculine warrior. Even with the reduced gamelan ensemble, the driving kajar and pervasive, stuttering, electronic sixteenth notes of Grattage maintain the percussive ferocity of the original dance while the metallophones and sulings, situated at the extreme highs and lows of the frequency spectrum, create a striated musical tapestry that is accentuated by the sharply filtered electronics. The gongs, traditionally the “life force” of the gamelan, pervade the entire piece in both their conventional role (by delineating the cyclical melodies and sectional divisions) and with their eerie, metallic surface vibrations (captured with tiny contact microphones) which drive the electronics.

The only sounds in Grattage: Baris Tunggal that do not directly originate from the gamelan instruments are the sounds of nocturnal insects recorded in Ubud, Bali in the summer of 2011.

credits

released October 15, 2011
Performed by members of Gamelan Cahaya Asri:

Claire Fassnacht, trempong and ugal
Emily Cook, kantilan and suling
Stacey Stoltz, kantilan
Rachele Krivichi, jegogan
Guerin Platte, kajar and suling
Mark Hirsch, gongs
Lawton Hall, live electronics

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