Gamelan Elektrika: An Electronic Balinese Gamelan

Pardue, Laurel S. and Boch, Andrew and Boch, Matt and Southworth, Christine and Rigopulos, Alex

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper describes the motivation and construction of Gamelan Elektrika, a new electronic gamelan modeled after a Balinese Gong Kebyar. The first of its kind, Elektrika consists of seven instruments acting as MIDI controllers accompanied by traditional percussion and played by 11 or more performers following Balinese performance practice. Three main percussive instrument designs were executed using a combination of force sensitive resistors, piezos, and capacitive sensing. While the instrument interfaces are designedto play interchangeably with the original, the sound andt ravel possiblilities they enable are tremendous. MIDI enables a massive new sound palette with new scales beyond the quirky traditional tuning and non-traditional sounds. It also allows simplified transcription for an aurally taught tradition. Significantly, it reduces the transportation challenges of a previously large and heavy ensemble, creating opportunities for wider audiences to experience Gong Kebyar’s enchanting sound. True to the spirit of oneness in Balinese music, as one of the first large all-MIDI ensembles, ElekTrika challenges performers to trust silent instruments and develop an understanding of highly intricate and interlocking music not through the sound of the individual, but through the sound of the whole.