Official Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Area: 1,916,907 sq km
Current Population: 270,203,917
Climate: The climate is tropical, with an annual average temperature of 26°C (79°F) and heavy rainfall during most seasons.
Main Religions: Islam, Christianity
Music is exclusively an ensemble tradition, reflecting the communally-organized society. Ensembles, collectively referred to as gamelan (or the Balinese term, gambelan), have historically served specific functions in religious ceremonies and (prior to their demise) in Balinese courts. A standard body of repertory exists in myriad versions and variants, owing to oral transmission and diverse regional styles and practices. Gamelan is mostly performed by men and boys; however, 17th-century manuscripts depict female court musicians, a practice that probably ended with the destruction of the courts in the Dutch conquest. Most villages possess communally-organized gamelan groups that perform for village ceremonial functions, some reaching professional status or employing professional musicians from elsewhere to direct and teach the groups.
The Pancayadnya (five ceremonial categories), which comprise all Balinese religious ceremonies, honour the living (manusayadnya, rites of passage including weddings and tooth filings), the dead (pitrayadnya, e.g. cremations), the gods (dewayadnya, e.g. temple ceremonies), sages (resiyadnya) and demons (bhutayadnya). Music plays a powerful role of accompanying ceremonies: gamelan ensembles, genres, and repertories are associated with each category and with functions within each category, depending on, for example, the ensemble’s age, tuning system, timbre, and dynamic range...in general, the older the genre, the more sacred and unchangeable it is.
Most Balinese music is transmitted orally. Notation is rarely used in the transmission process and never in performance. However, versions of the notational system known as grantangan are used for preserving the skeletal pitches of long compositions. Syllables comprising the pitch notation systems are also used as vocalized mnemonics in teaching. There are several such systems. The oldest, used in gamelan gambang and other seven-tone sacred ensembles, is derived from sacred vocal music notation in which the vowels of poetry are translated into musical pitches.
Gamelan are comprised of gongs, metallophones, xylophones, gong-chimes, drums, cymbals, flutes, and spiked fiddles in various combinations. Materials of construction include bronze, iron, wood, and bamboo. Gongs range in size from small to very large. Most are hung vertically and struck with a padded mallet and provide a framework that marks the form. Metallophones are in pairs and consist of two types: with keys suspended over bamboo resonators (e.g. gender), and with keys resting on trough resonators (e.g. gangsa jongkok). Various sizes of two-headed drums (kendang) are played with and without mallets.
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