Robert Macht



Innova 537


This collection of pieces is for Javanese Gamelan and various other instruments.  All the compositions were recorded at my home studio in Baltimore.  I’m playing most of the instruments, however, on many of the tracks I wrote parts for other performers as well.  Tuned bronze gong of various sizes, along with bar mallet instruments and hand drums make up the gamelan ensemble on this recoding.  This assimilation of the synthesizer and the guest instruments into the gamelan allows for the exploration of tone colors and rhythmic ideas not usually associated with the Javanese Gamelan. 



After an introduction on the Gender ( a bronzed bar instrument played with soft mallets) the rest of the gamelan enters along with Hyunah Yu singing in the old Javanese language of Kawi.  The text is about a queen instructing her young son on the proper way for a prince to behave.  Jon Seligman performs on an Arabic frame drum called the Rik.


Ikan Kuning

Is the Javanese scale of Slendro.  Evenly spaced intervals of between a major second and a minor third make up this pentatonic (five tone) tuning.  Since there is no leading tone the melodies ten to “float” and create a soothing feeling.  “Ikan Kuning” means goldfish in Indonesian.  In the middle development section ech one of the slendro modes is briefly landed on before returning to the orignal mode of “Pathet Manyra,” which uses a note very close to Bb as the tonic.  This composition is in the “Sundanese” or West Javense style.     



Kaida are similar to Indian Drum rudiments.  I based the first and last sections of this piece on one such tabla rhythmic exercise.  The gender states this theme while the voice and table (performed by the virtuoso Indian percussionist Sandip Burman) play variations.  The vocal syllables are loosely based on old Javanese, but in the first and last sections have no meaning.


Ketawang Quoniam

Is a fusion of a Javanese structure known as ketawang and a setting of the Quoniam of the 39th Psalm by the renaissance composer Orlando Di Lasso.  I used the harmonic patterns of the Quoniam to devise the melody of the gamelan.  The 32-measure cantus firmus is stated twice in a fast tempo, and then the tempo slows down.  Once in the slow section, each of the melodic tones essentially becomes a harmonic marker, while the flute and zheng create variations.  If you listen closely, you can hear a synthesizer, which is realizing the vocal setting of the 39ht psalm.  Of course, the mode has been changed to a pentatonic scale, which forced me to alter many of the notes from the original setting by Orlando di Lasso.


Larasatie Arab

I was at my friend Barry Dove’s house and he showed me some of the frame drums from his instrument collection.  We tried some out; it was fun; and I thought they might sound interesting with gamelan.  Therefore, we got his group, Global Percussion, together and I wrote something for them to play on three different size frame drums.  The gamelan is playing an arrangement of a traditional piece called Larasati, but I’ve transformed it into ¾ time and added a vocal.  The text is in old Javanese and the meaning has been lost over centuries.


Yatai Gambang

Is based on the Japanese Folk rhythm “Yatai Bayashi” The Taiko drums of Japan are imitated on toms.  The wooden mallet instrument, which is part of the traditional Javanese Gamelan, si called a Gambang; this particular instrument was homemade in America and is an octave higher than the traditional instrument.  The Chinese Zheng, a plucked string instrument, also plays an important role in this lighthearted musical exertion.  I tuned the Zheng to the Slendro scale and used a bending technique on the strings for humorous effect.  I am accompanied by the trio “Global Percussion”.



Was commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company for a very short section of the Robert Wilson ballet “Snow on the Mesa.”  “Pelawak” means “clowns.”” The dancers move in fast robotic motions, almost like puppets.  This piece was also inspired by the gamelan compositions of Lou Harrison.  This composition is in the Javanese scale of Pelog.  Pelog consists of large and small intervals.  The mode is Pathet Barang, with the following approximate pitches, Eb, F, A, Bb, and C.

Anjing Ngantuk

Means “Dozing Dog.” A dog is starting to doze.  As the bird sounds fade, he falls asleep.  When the flute enters, he is on a dram adventure.  On his travels through the forest, he spots a squirrel.  As the drums enter, in the Ghanain, 12/8 rhythm of “Agbekor,” he gives chase.  He almost gets the squirrel, but he wakes up.  As he is waking up, he hears the birds again.


Bembe Pelog

I was playing a Gamelan instrument with the Kimberly Mackin Dance Company, when I met a group of musicians who were performing Afro-Cuban rhythms on the same program.  We started playing together and we both enjoyed the jam.  This piece came out of that experience.  I use two Afro-Cuban rhythms, Bembe and Songo, combined with an original gamelan melody and structure.


Gahu Slendro

Hyunah Yu is singing in Indonesian.  She is essential encouraging the listener to dance, and praising the melodies inspired by the Javanese gamelan and the rhythms inspired by the drumming ensemble from Ghana gahu is a traditional “high life” rhythm from the African nation of Ghana.  This insistent low heartbeat pulse from the African drums is combined with te singing quality of the bronze gamelan to cerate a full percussion ensemble effect.  The synthesizer adds counter melodies and long tones.



Is about a girl walking along the beach in Bali.  While she walks, a young man comes along beside her and begins to hassle her.  He becomes increasingly insistent by asking her where she’s going and inviting her back to his room.  Finally, she demands that he leaver her alone.  Various size frame drums from North Africa are used in this piece to create a menacing quality.


Hyunah Yu

Hyunah Yu, lyric-coloratura soprano, is a native of Seoul, Korea.  At the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore she has earned a Bachelor of Music degree, a Master’s degree, and Graduate performce Diploma.  Currently, wh is in the Peabody Artist’s Diploma program wit ha full scholarship unde Dr. Stanley Cornet.


Global Percussion

Global Percussion was founded in 1994 by Barry Dove with the interest of exploring world percussion music along with colleagues Jon Seligman and Laurence Reese.  The trio has performed at the Kennedy Center for the performing Arts, the Baltimore Book Festival, the Whitbread Festival, the Chevy Chase Concert Series, and has been performing programs for Young Audiences of Maryland for the past four years.


John  Wubbenhorst

Mr. Wubbenhorst has studied extensively in India under the guidance of musical guru, Hariprasad Chaurasia, master of Bansuri flute.  He has toured the U.S. giving concerts in east/west music, and has appeared on several popular recordings including “Blue incarnation” by Sanjay Mishra with Jerry Garcia, and “Sounds of Silence” by Pundit Hariprasad Chaurasia.  In 1998, Mr. Wubbenhorst released his own recoding.  “Facing East”


Sandip Burman

Sandip Burman, a native of Durgapur, India is an accomplished Tabla player.  His love and dedication for tabla began at age six when Pandit Shyamal Bose of Calcutta, one of India’s most distinguished table maestros, accepted him as his disciple.  Mr. Burman has performed with several of the foremost Indian classical musicians., including Pandit Ravi Shankar, and with western musicians Glen Velez and Bela Fleck. he performs extensively around the world while maintaining a visiting faculty position at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Holland.


Robert Macht

Composer Rober Macht was born in Baltimore in 1958.  he studied composition with Henry Brant and acoustics with Gunnar Schonbeck at Bennington College.  He spent a year in Java, Indonesia studying gamelan a southeast Asian percussion ensemble.


Among Mach’s compositions are his “Brass Quintet No. 1”, “Percussion Concertos 1 & 2” the musical play “ Circles in the Sand,” “Kreasi Baru” for gamelan and orchestra, and various chamber works.

Macht has composed for several dance companies including the Martha Graham Dance Company., the Path Dance Company., the Naked Feet Dance Co., and the Kimberley Mackin Dance Company.

The works for which he was awarded the 1997 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant in Music Composition, formed his first CD, “Suite for Javanese Gamelan and Synthesizer.”  That album was released on the Dorian Discovery label in 1998.  Mr. Macht received a 1999 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Music Composition for his work on “Vishnu”