Absence of Notation [...]

A story from the new media reader:

A friend of mine is an ethnomusicologist who spent several years studying the gamelan music of Central .lava He was trained in Western music in the States. and spent many years working on his own compositions and performing with other musicians. One of the most frustrating things about his studies in Java, he told me. was trying to work on specific parts of songs with the gamelan musicians. Once they were at a rehearsal, and after running through a piece. he asked them to play only a section from the middle so that he could make sure he got all the notes right. This proved to be an impossible request. After a lot of hemming and hawing, excuses. and several false starts, he realized that the group just could not do it. They insisted on playing the entire piece over again. from beginning to end In Java. the music was learned by rote. from many years of observation and imitation. not from written notation. The idea of taking a small part out of context or playing just a few bars. simply did not exist. The musk was learned and conceived as a whole in the minds of the musicians.

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