Slendro Suite

Cello, gender, and gong

Duration: 15 min.

Slendro Suite, for cello and Indonesian percussion instruments, was begun in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar. 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 génder (pronounced with a hard "g"), the wonderfully mellow and versatile Javanese metallophone. I commissioned the instrument maker Suhirdjan to construct a génder tuned to my specifications. While the gender is in slendro, the general class of five-tone tuning systems found in Java, it is tuned to just intonation, that is, a tuning based on 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 adjustments on the cello.