If There Be Rivers, All Will Blossom – This piece, composed by Sasha Bogdanowitsch for Pusaka Sunda, calls to mind the importance of keeping faith in life, and maintaining creativity in hardship. This work differs from traditional Sundanese degung pieces in a number of ways: simultaneous use of two Sundanese tunings (pelog and sorog), separate tunings for each instrument, unique gong structures, chordal relationships between parts, and “through-composed” orientation. Rivers also features haunting melodic interplay between clarinet and suling melodies.
Seler Degung – This piece was first composed and performed by the gamelan degung group at Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) in Bandung in the late 1960’s. Its driving pace, irregular phrase structure, and tight ensemble work combine to create a sense of urgency and direction. Jeruk Manis – Jeruk Manis, or “Sweet Oranges,” is a lyric piece with simple construction and an expansiveness which provides a perfect setting for beautiful suling improvisations. Although traditionally performed with voice, Pusaka Sunda’s arrangement is purely instrumental.
Gagak Lumayang – This piece, “Soaring Eagle,” evokes the image of an eagle floating over a sunset. Composed by Burhan Sukarma in 1996, it features the interplay of two sulings, an unusual combination in Sundanese degung.
Ladrak – Ladrak is a piece in the classical degung style. It starts with a traditional degung pankat, or introduction, and features simple drumming with a heterophonic melodic line punctuated by larger gongs. The two sulings play in unison for most of Ladrak, following the melodic line much as a chorus would in West Java.
Jalir Jangji – This song, translated as “Broken Promises,” was composed in the 1980’s for the singer Euis Komariah and appeared on her recording Muntang Ngeumbing. Burhan Sukarma, who played suling on the original recording, has created a new arrangement for Pusaka Sunda which includes a violin in place of the vocalist. While musicians in West Java have played the violin (or “biola” in Sundanese) ever since its introduction by the Dutch in the 1800’s, it is still unusual to hear the violin performed with gamelan. In this arrangment, the suling responds to the violin line throughout, resulting in a dynamic interplay between the two instruments.
Lutung Bingung – Dermayon – Gamelan degung often performs suites of pieces, starting with one piece with a specific mood and moving to another, shorter work with a more contemplative ambiance. This combination provides emotional, rhythmic, and structural contrast Lutung Bingung is a lively degung piece which was recorded in West Java during the 1970’s and 1980’s. This is followed by Dermanyon, a panambih or rhythmic piece. Dermayon’s spaciousness allows for elaborate suling and drum improvisations.
Samagaha – The title of this new work, literally “eclipse,” is a Sundanese metaphor for emotional confusion. In this piece, Burhan Sukarma employs a common Indonesian compositional strategy: recombining and recontextualizing motifs and segments of other pieces. He creates meaning in the work by juxtaposing the associations and expectations that listeners have tof each musical component, manipulating each item as a poet manipulates words or phrases to create a new whole. Samagaha features extensive suling solos which contrast with lively ensemble playing.
Burhan Sukarma's style of playing the suling (Sundanese bamboo flute) has influenced several generations of players in West Java. Through his exemplary as the staff suling player at RRI Bandung (Radio Republik Indonesia, the Indonesian government-sponsored radio station), as well as countless recordings on the Jugala, Dian, and Hidayat labels in the '70s and '80s, he became and remains the standard by which other suling players are judged. Burhan came to the attention of Western listeners when the perenially popular album Sangkala was released in the US in the mid '80s. Since relocating to the United States in 1988, Burhan has experimented with ways to transplant and transform his art in this new context. Burhan has appeared all over the United States and internationally. Pusaka Sunda, which Burhan founded in 1988, provides a voice for Burhan's own compositions as well as a means for promulgating the traditional music of West Java.
Undang Sumarna learned Sundanese music in the old-fashioned way. As a young boy in a family of famous musicians, he absorbed the intricacies of Sundanese gamelan music by following his grandfather (noted musician Abah Kayat) and uncles to performances, learning to play the gamelan instruments, one by one, first by watching, then by doing, on stage. His grandfather recognized a talent for dance drumming and taught Undang the dances and their drum accmpaniments. In 1976 Undang began teaching at University of California, Santa Cruz. During his long tenure at UC Santa Cruz, he has introduced thousands of American college students to Sundanese gamelan music and dance. He has performed all over the United States as well as in Canada, and has led groups of his students in performances in his native West Java as well.
James Freeman, Clarinetist, is a member of the New Music Works Ensemble, and Consortmusik. As a chamber musician, he has been guest artist with the Westbrook and Fidelio String Quartets, the Hampton/Schwartz Duo, Pusaka Sunda, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and the Clubfoot Orchestra.
Members of Pusaka Sunda performing on this recording are: Andrew Bouchard, Naomi Gunther, Daniel Kelley, Laura McColm, Kenneth Miller, Heidi Renteria, Henry Spiller, Rae Anne Stahl, Burhan Sukarma, Undang Sumarna, Stefan Tomic, and Linda Wegner
All material © Pusaka Sunda
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