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Ensemble Searches For Fitting Home

Now the gamelan is on the move again -- there just aren't many spaces at UNC that requires a 25-person ensemble to play it and that occupies 460 square feet while in use.

"You can't park your car at this University, how can you possibly park a gamelan?" asked Sarah Weiss, the ensemble's leader and a professor in the Department of Music.

The gamelan arrived in December 2000 and must leave its current home in the Chapel Hill Museum by Jan. 17.

Gamelan music is the largest ensemble music practiced outside of the Western orchestra, and its resonant rhythms are an integral part of Javanese culture. And unlike a Western orchestra, many of the gamelan's instruments -- metallophones, gongs, xylophones, drums and strings -- can't be simply carried around.

When the instrument arrived it was unpacked in the music department's Hill Hall, but it couldn't remain there, said Operations Manager Paul Cole. "We've got such a space crunch over here in the music department, there just wasn't anything we could do," he said.

So Weiss approached Morgan Kenney, director of the Chapel Hill Museum, who agreed to house the gamelan there for a modest rent. "He took a real punt on us," Weiss said. "He agreed to let us stay here for a short time, and then he agreed to let us stay on for another semester," Weiss said.

But the museum is about to receive a donation of regional pottery, and it needs the floor space the gamelan occupies. "It was a great way for people who live here to see part of other cultures they may never get to see on their own, but it wasn't going to be part of our permanent collection," Kenney said.

Weiss arranged for the gamelan's purchase with the help of anthropology Professor James Peacock. He recruited David Pardue, a member of the University's Board of Trustees, to provide funding for two-thirds of the $15,000 cost. The College of Arts and Sciences paid the other third, and the University Center for International Studies paid $5,000 for shipping.

Weiss has been hunting for a new home for the gamelan since midsummer, when the Chapel Hill Museum told her the instrument had to move. The gamelan's requirements are simple: enough room for the ensemble to play and a reasonable level of security.

Weiss has searched for a home for the gamelan at the Ackland Art Museum, the Carolina Union and the Carrboro Century Center. None have been able to offer an appropriate space.

"We're basically stuffed to the gills as it is right now," said Andy Berner, the Ackland's communications director.

Weiss plans to keep searching, in other University facilities and local churches. "I'm sure there are places we could store it on campus, but we need a place we can actually play," she said.

If Weiss can't find such a space, the gamelan will have to be put in storage.

The ensemble -- which includes faculty, UNC students and community members -- will hold a concert at 8 p.m. Jan. 18 in Hill Hall.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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