The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 25th

Indonesian Gamelan Finds New Home

The gamelan, an instrument from the island of Central Java, will be permanently housed in UNC's Person Hall.

Needing to relocate after 13 months in the Chapel Hill Museum, the gamelan -- an enormous ensemble of 68 instruments that takes up 460 square feet while in use -- found a new home in Person Hall.

The move meets the deadline set by the museum: the UNC-based Gamelan Nyai Saraswati group's performance at 8 p.m. today in the Hill Hall Auditorium.

A large, percussion-heavy ensemble of bronze instruments from the Indonesian island of Central Java, the gamelan is leaving the museum to make way for a new exhibit.

The gamelan was purchased by several University departments and found temporary lodging at the museum. After the performance, the gamelan moved to a more permanent home in Person Hall.

With the gamelan's immediate fate decided, Sarah Weiss, an assistant professor of music and the group's director, has time to focus on her original goals -- bringing Indonesian music to UNC.

"Due to the fact that there was no other Indonesian music anywhere in the Triangle area, or even North Carolina, this seemed like a place where it could take hold," she said. "Seeing as the gamelan was something I already knew how to do, I thought I should get it going."

Getting it going was difficult at first for Weiss. She was the founding director of another Java-based gamelan group on the island itself. But in a country that's generally unfamiliar with the gamelan, the experience has been different, yet successful.

"This group is very good. They've been really quick and nobody but another idiot like myself could ask a beginning group to play the piece that we're playing," she said with a laugh.

The 23-member ensemble trained at an easy pace, learning scales and simple tunes. They also rotated from instrument to instrument so everyone could figure out which they most enjoyed.

During tonight's concert, this knowledge will be tested since performers must listen for cues from the other instruments.

As for the gamelan, it must undergo the tests of time and tolerance. If the sizable ensemble begins to encroach on the choirs that rehearse in Person Hall, the gamelan could become homeless again, Weiss said.

"If they feel that they just can't work around it, then we'll have to leave," she said. "I'm pretty sure that we'll be able to work it out. I'm pretty confident."

Tickets for tonight's concert are $12 for the general public and $5 for students.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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