Unique instrument to be launched at MUN music school

The Memorial University School of Music has purchased a gamelan, an Indonesian instrument. It is one of just a few that exist in Canada.
The gamelan is a custom-made Indonesian instrument, typically housed in carved teak frames. (Submitted photo)

Memorial University's School of Music is excited about a rare and unique instrument it has purchased.

The gamelan is an Indonesian instrument, a set of keyed metallaphones (similar to xylophones) and gongs. The various instruments are created by a master artisan in Indonesia and are meant to be used together only in that particular gamelan.

Memorial's gamelan was crafted by Tentrem Sarwanto who has made the instruments for several major universities in Europe and North America.

There are only several gamelans in existence across the country.

Dean Ellen Waterman said one of the most interesting things about the gamelan is that it's not just one instrument — but an integrated collection of instruments.

"All of the instruments in a given gamelan work together, so you can't sort of pull one of the instruments (the gambang) out of our gamelan and play it with somebody else's — they're all tuned integrally to one another. So it's almost like a real community of instruments," said Waterman.

The bronze instruments are housed in carved teak frames, and up to 16 players sit cross-legged on low cushions to play it. 

A gamelan launch event is set for Thursday, marking the culmination of a two-year project for the music school. A traditional ceremony will also be held, during which the MUN gamelan will be given its own name.