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Jody Diamond: In That Bright World


Release Date: 06/09/2009 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80698   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jody DiamondLou Harrison
Performer:  SarnoSigit AstonoDarsanoSuraji,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



J. DIAMOND In That Bright World. Hard Times. Gending Chelsea. Kenong. Bubaran Bill. Sabbath Bride Musicians of Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Surakarta, Central Java; Jody Diamond (voc) NEW WORLD 80698 (63:09 Text and Translation)


This is a release that truly falls between the cracks, both in terms of its mixing of cultural traditions, and its very attitude towards what we call individual creativity. Jody Diamond (b. 1953) is one of the leading Western scholars and Read more practitioners of Javanese gamelan (the Indonesian percussion orchestra—by now, has anyone not heard one?) This is a collection of her own pieces composed for the medium, played by Indonesian master musicians with whom she has collaborated over many years. Diamond has managed an extremely delicate trick: she’s written music that is deeply respectful of and rooted in Javanese traditions, but with Western materials as the deep structural sources. The result is a transcultural product that is subtle in its syntheses. There’s no facile quotation or appropriation of tropes from one practice to another, which is no mean feat.


The first two works (from 1981 and 1984, rev. 2001) take eponymous American folk songs as a sort of cantus, known in Indonesian as a balungan . This is a melodic skeleton, composed by Diamond, which is then taken by the musicians and used to create the cyclical patterns at different speeds that make up the music’s textures. This process also allows improvisation on these patterns throughout their repetitions. (This seems a bit analogous to me to the “composing” of a raga, though, of course, the realization is completely different from Indian music.) Diamond sings recurrently, sometimes in Western style, sometimes Indonesian. The result seems strangely familiar from either the Western or Asian perspective.


Gending Ch e lsea (1990) works similarly with aphorisms of Virgil Thomson, which gives it a wry tone. Bubaran Bill (1984) is unusual in that it allows for insertions of kecak : a different Indonesian tradition, i.e., the vocal hocketing of the Ramayana Monkey Chant . After a while you anticipate the recurrences, but sometimes it occurs as vocals, sometimes as a percussive figure, sometimes it’s omitted and the music continues in “normal” form. Kenong (1990) is the one “avant-garde” piece in the collection, in that it uses the gamelan as a set of sounds for the realization of process that mixes strict algorithms with improvisation. And Sabbath Bride (1982, rev. 1996) is the tour de force , once again using a non-Indonesian source, but in this case Hebrew chant. The notes point out justly that this is a performance of Jewish-inspired music by an orchestra of primarily Muslim musicians, a testament to the general tolerance of Indonesian culture. The work is also the longest, richest, and most structurally varied work on the program; I found it quite moving.


If one wants, these works can become real teaching pieces about the niceties of Indonesian compositional technique. Judith Becker’s extensive notes outline the organization of each work, including detailed notation of their form (I wish a few niceties of the notation had been further explained, though I think I can figure it out from context). Listening for the familiar folk-song sources can make the process of deciphering the architecture much easier for a neophyte listener. And in that sense Diamond’s work is right on the cusp between creation and scholarship. As I said before, all these works (with the exception of Kenong ) are subtle blends of East and West, eschewing any sort of wild or spectacular hybrids. I admit that my personal taste tends to go in the direction of the two extremes leading in either direction from Diamond’s work—either traditional Javanese music performed by native performers or the sort of “American gamelan” that was originated by Lou Harrison (and with whom Diamond collaborated closely) and is embodied by such contemporary groups as Gamelan Son of Lion. But I hasten to add this has to do with personal taste that doesn’t lessen my pleasure and admiration for this music. In fact, it demands respect precisely because it shows such deep understanding, without showing off. And an additional note from the recording’s supervisor, Joko Purwanto, suggests how happy and excited Indonesian musicians are that this sort of undertaking is occurring, because they feel that gamelan is now a world cultural resource, which needs all sorts of new inputs and approaches to maintain its vigor as a living, developing tradition. Diamond’s work is a major contributor to this vitality.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
In That Bright World by Jody Diamond
Performer:  Sarno (Gambang), Sigit Astono (Suling), Darsano (Voice),
Suraji (Rebab), Rusdiyantoro (Voice), Suskamso (Kendang),
Kuwat (Gong), Jody Diamond (Gamelan), Jody Diamond (Voice),
Waluyo (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 10 Minutes 11 Secs. 
2.
Hard Times by Jody Diamond
Performer:  Darsano (Voice), Suraji (Rebab), Waluyo (Voice),
Sarno (Gambang), Rusdiyantoro (Voice), Suskamso (Kendang),
Kuwat (Gong), Jody Diamond (Voice), Sigit Astono (Suling)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 11 Minutes 29 Secs. 
3.
Kenong by Jody Diamond
Performer:  Sigit Astono (Suling), Darsano (Voice), Waluyo (Voice),
Suraji (Rebab), Sarno (Gambang), Rusdiyantoro (Voice),
Kuwat (Gong), Jody Diamond (Voice), Suskamso (Kendang)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 9 Minutes 25 Secs. 
4.
Sabbath Bride by Jody Diamond
Performer:  Suraji (Rebab), Sarno (Gambang), Rusdiyantoro (Voice),
Suskamso (Kendang), Sigit Astono (Suling), Kuwat (Gong),
Darsano (Voice), Jody Diamond (Voice), Waluyo (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 15 Minutes 55 Secs. 
5.
Gending Chelsea by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Suskamso (Kendang), Sigit Astono (Suling), Darsano (Voice),
Waluyo (Voice), Suraji (Rebab), Sarno (Gambang),
Rusdiyantoro (Voice), Kuwat (Gong)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
Length: 11 Minutes 8 Secs. 
6.
Bubaran Bill by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Suskamso (Kendang), Sigit Astono (Suling), Darsano (Voice),
Waluyo (Voice), Suraji (Rebab), Sarno (Gambang),
Rusdiyantoro (Voice), Kuwat (Gong)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
Length: 4 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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