Compositions by Bill Alves

Information about Slendro Suite

Javanese gender barung, gender panerus, cello, gong.

Duration: c. 15:00

Slendro Suite for cello and Indonesian percussion instruments was begun in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where I was teaching as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 1993-94. Besides teaching Western music there, I had the wonderful opportunity to extensively study the traditional music of Java and Bali and participate in musical ensembles. In particular, I studied gender (pronounced with a hard "g"), the wonderfully mellow and versatile Javanese metallophone. Though I am barely a beginner by Javanese standards, I immediately began composing music for the instrument, and I commissioned a local instrument maker to build me one. While the gender is tuned to slendro, the general class of five-tone tuning systems found in Java, I specified the exact tuning to the instrument maker. In particular, it is tuned to just intonation, that is, a tuning based on "pure" intervals from the natural harmonic series. However, these intervals (based mostly on the seventh natural harmonic) are quite a bit different from the intervals found on a piano keyboard, necessitating very difficult adjustments on the cello. This work is dedicated to my wife Lynn, who, because of my Indonesian adventure, had the difficult task of raising our new son Spencer alone for two months.

Score distributed through the American Gamelan Institute.

Major Performances:

Here are some excerpts from the score. The score is in quasi-conventional Western notation, with each pitch notated as its closest equally tempered counterpart. The top staff is the (approximate) actual sound of the cello, while the staff below is the cello part in scordatura. The other staves, from top to bottom, are gender panerus (not in the excerpt from the third movement shown), gender barung, and gong.

Excerpt from movement 2 of Slendro Suite.

Excerpt from movement 3 of Slendro Suite.

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Updated on January 1, 1996 by Bill Alves (