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montebello gamelan
The complete slendro/pelog Central Javanese gamelan “Kaduk Raras Raras Sari” sits ready to be played in its own pendopo. But the Group of the Impermanence is consistent with its name. Thus, the rather sporadic nature of playing at Montebello has given rise to a number of alternative activities around the gamelan and gamelan music.

The most relevant of such activities is probably the recording and selective publication of traditional gamelan music from Central Java. YANTRA PRODUCTIONS has a growing number of recordings published by international labels. In carrying out such activity - which for YANTRA is strictly non-profit - the basic goal is to address the broad public of music lovers and to present the gamelan music that may best meet the unaccustomed ear, so as to increase the number of appreciators. This number is way below the level that the incredibly rich world of gamelan deserves.
Said goal is pursued essentially through choice of styles and compositions, clarity of recorded sound, quality of performances. Published - as well as private - recordings are listed in the YANTRA PRODUCTIONS page. Extensive info (reviews, booklet notes, substantial mp3 excerpts) on published CDs are included in the www.gamelan.to website.

Other activities are or have been centered in a sound studio and its electronic equipment. One early idea was to create an aid for beginners into gamelan playing. That is, to have them play their part along with a prerecorded base - a sort of music-minus-one tool.
An electronic device called sequencer and sampled gamelan sounds allow great flexibility in terms of which parts to play and at which tempo.
A number of pieces were prepared. Their various versions make up a useful tool for learning to play the simpler instruments. I grant there could be objections to this practice, but, not living in Java, there are not many alternatives.
The use of a sequencer and of sampled sounds lead inevitably to the idea of re-orchestrating Western classical compositions with gamelan timbres. The result of one stage of this process was assembled in a CD: “The Tempered Gamelan (and some Gamelaned Temperament)”. A more detailed discussion of this project appeared in Seleh Notes, the British gamelan publication, November 2001 (“Gamelan Sounds in Western Music” by John Noise Manis).

Another project using the electronic means tries to fulfil the dream of the Western curious mind and ear - to know how a Javanese piece of music sounds on different gamelans. The curiosity stems from the fact that each gamelan in Java and elsewhere has its own tuning, and the differences in pitches and intervals between any two gamelans can go from slight to dramatic. Pitches and intervals of many important Javanese gamelans had been measured by Jaap Kunst first, and by Surdjodiningrat/Sudarjana/Susanto more recently. Using these measurements, the project permits to hear the well-known piece “Puspa Warna” played in the tuning of a number of existing gamelans (as well as some imaginary ones, including Partch’s Olympo Pentatonic and Debussy’s black keys of the piano). One result of this project is a CD titled “ Warna Suara Warna Laras”, which makes possible an immediate musical comparison of  19 gamelans, each one sounding its reported tuning (but no 
stretching of octaves!)

One project particularly dear to the writer was the “reconstruction” of the venerable LP of 1963 by Philips, which has the two gendhing Kombang Mara and Tukung. The worn-out portions of my vinyl were rather seemlessly replaced by more recent recordings, obviously made on location with the same gamelan, Kaduk Manis of Kraton Surakarta. It is rather interesting to hear the two beloved gendhing unwind through somewhat different styles and sonic atmospheres.

Still another project aimed at having a duet of pesindhen (female singer) instead of a single vocal part.
In “Gamelan Vocal Duet” Nyi Cendaniraras sings Kombang Mara and Mandulpati in duet with herself.

The normal gendhing were recorded at Kraton Surakarta, while the second solo vocal parts were recorded at the Lokananta studios. Studio arrangements may be interesting, but the real thing is something else. Happily now YANTRA can present a real version of the last two projects - Kombang Mara and Tukung played in the same setting of the old Philips LP and Kombang Mara performed with two pesindhen at STSI Surakarta (see the published CDs 'Kraton Surakarta' and 'Edge of Tradition' in the Felmay gamelan series).

A quite recent project explores the possibility and the outcome of a listening situation where selected classical gamelan pieces are put next to and alternating with selected pieces by J. S. Bach. These are meant to be "thought-and-pleasure-provoking compilations". 'Bach&Gamel 1' and 'Bach&Gamel 2' are two limited-edition CDs whose content is listed in the Yantra Production page. The idea is that listeners culturally belonging to each of the two music worlds may find the "other" world not so foreign after all. Listening may be had at www.yantraproductions.eu

Finally, in 2005 all the sounds of the Montebello Gamelan, 'Kaduk Raras Raras Sari', have been professionally recorded. The 549 sounds take seven audio CDs when assigning one track to each sound. By pooling and assigning one track per instrument, most part of this 'gamelan sounds library' stays in one CD. This CD was published in 2008 - see "A Javanese Gamelan Sound Library".