Department of Music

Javanese Gamelan

Gongs and percussion instruments made of tuned metal are found throughout Southeast Asia. In Java (an island in the Republic of Indonesia), ensembles built around such instruments are called gamelan.

Gamelan music is very much an ensemble music, and the players and singers, despite their various musical roles, must be sensitive to each other. There is no visible conductor, but the drum (kendhang) and the bowed lute (rebab) lead the ensemble with subtle aural cues.

MUSC 0650

Marc Perlman & I.M. Harjito

Javanese Gamelan

The complete gamelan orchestra is made up of a number of different gongs and metallophones, and students can learn to play several instruments over the course of a semester.They often begin with the seven-keyed saron, which plays the "skeletal" melody of the composition (balungan). They may also learn to play several types of gongs, which punctuate this melody according to different proportional divisions of the time cycle. Other more advanced instruments such as the gender, the gambang, the rebab, and the pesindhen round out the ensemble with melodies that express the performer's personal interpretations of the composition.


Brown University's gamelan is named Sekar Setaman (literally, a garden of flowers). It was made by the Solonese gongsmith Tentrem Sawwanto in 1997-98, especially for Brown. Its name can be symbolically interpreted to mean the harmonious coexistence of different people and different opinions in tolerance and unity. 

Javanese Gamelan Crest
Javanese Gamelan Crest

For those registering to take Javanese Gamelan as a course, there is no prerequisite and the course may be repeated once for credit. [Half-course credit - S/NC] Enrollment is limited. 

I. M. Harjito is one of the finest living Javanese musicians. A graduate of Indonesia's state conservatory for the traditional performing arts, he worked closely with one of the major figures of 20th-C Javanese music, Martopangrawit. He has directed gamalen ensembles in Indonesia, the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Professor Perlman's research interests include Indonesian music, the psychology of music, the history and ethnography of music theory, intellectual property law, the variety of musical taste cultures, the cultural impact of music technology, the social history of American music education, the Historical Performance movement in Western art music, Irish music, and Burmese music.


  • Tuesdays, 6:00-9:00 p.m. Orwig Rm. 111



Students may choose to join one of the department's many performing groups
Students seeking to improve their playing or singing ability have the option of taking individual private lessons with about thirty professional musicians from the greater Boston-Providence area.