Gender Wayang

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Music to support shadow puppet plays

Balinese wayang in its traditional form is an old and powerful form of dramatic storytelling. The dalang (shadow puppeteer) is a master of Balinese mythology, religion, philosophy and language. He is also a virtuosic performer. He plays every role, manipulating dozens of puppets, creating voices in several languages, directing the musicians, recounting the story and improvising dialogue to include jokes and allusion to contemporary events. In the traditional format, the puppets’ shadows are cast on a six by four foot screen illuminated by a coconut-oil lamp.

The wayang performance is accompanied by gender wayang music—a repertoire specific to the form in which a quartet of musicians plays on ten-keyed metallophones in a complex interlocking style. The gender wayang repertoire is wide ranging in mood and texture in reflection of the dramatic variety of the play; the musicians must respond instantaneously to the many changes in dance movement, voice, and dramatic development as the story unfolds.

Gender Wayang Batel Music for the Balinese shadow puppet theater (wayang) is usually provided by four musicians playing ten-keyed metallophones known as gendèr, such as the two pieces heard earlier in the program. In the dramatization of the Ramayana epic, the ensemble is expanded to include drums, cymbals, a suspended gong, and small gong chimes that keep the beat and/or punctuate the metric cycles. The resulting batel ensemble is considered better suited for accompanying the many fight scenes (the word batel is derived from “battle”) that occur in the Ramayana play.

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