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Gamelan

The gamelan on which beginning and advanced students play at Cornell is on long term loan to the university from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. It is a complete Javanese set, made in the 1950s in Surakarta, Central Java, that was brought to the United States in 1964 to be housed and played, along with about a dozen other gamelans from Java and Bali, in the Indonesian pavilion at the second Flushing Meadow Worlds’ Fair.

When Indonesia pulled out of the fair in 1965, the instruments were bought by Carroll Bratman (a prominent New York City percussionist) for his company, Carroll Music, the largest percussion rental company in the East. In 1977, the Bratmans donated the gamelan to the Metropolitan Museum. Realizing that the gamelan was a fine working set, worthy to be played upon and not simply to be exhibited as a silent work of art, the museum offered it on long-term loan to Cornell’s Department of Music, and it has been here ever since.

In the 1980s a few more instruments were purchased for the ensemble in order to provide opportunities for more players. There are now about 50 instruments in this gamelan, providing spaces for 20 to 25 players and singers. The instruments are mostly bronze metallophones, pot-gongs, and hanging gongs, in both the slendro and pelog tuning systems, but there are also xylophones, bamboo flutes, bowed lutes, plucked zythers, and variously sized strapped and pegged-head barrel drums. The gamelan resides in a beautiful, two-story, purpose-built room in Lincoln Hall, from which it is moved from time to time for both indoor and outdoor concerts.