Gamelan Son of Lion

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Naked We Stand (1986) - David Simons


Based upon a Philippine Kulintang concept of shared melody, each of the three sections is composed of three interlocking parts, each with its own pitch and rhythm. The title refers to the process of adding and subtracting the parts. They play separately, in pairs, and all together. Sometimes they “stand naked”, which is like seeing a house with only the roof shingles, or only the roof and windows. []


She (really) Had To Go (2006) - John Morton


This piece combines the composer’s fascination with building and taking apart music boxes, and his work with electronic music programs. Here is a recycling of a familiar tune after it has been digitally remasticated by Max/MSP, and through the jaws of chaos, accompanied by gamelan.


Jigalullaby (2006) - Barbara Benary

voices: Anna Dembska, Lisa Karrer;

violin: Barbara Benary


Four traditional Scottish lullabies from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia sung by vocal duo in Gaelic, turn into a set of slip jigs (in 9/8) played in Cape Breton Fiddle style. The gamelan adds increasing layers of elaboration according to a sequence
derived from all possible combinations of four parts. The songs are:

(1) Cha Bhi Mi ‘Gad Thaladh, (2) Cha Tig Mor,

(3) Cadal Cha Dean Mi,  (4) Griogal Cridhe.



Music Box (2003) - Jody Kruskal


Fantasy for gamelan and a quartet of suling (flutes) and violins. Music Box has developed over the years from a simple melody and rhythmic idea, to a more complex, almost orchestral work. The original idea is still there, based on a childhood memory of playing with the shifting tempos possible in a hand cranked music box mechanism.


Bang On A Tin Can (1998) - Laura Liben


I was inspired to write this piece after attending a “Bang On A Can Marathon Festival” in which I noticed no actual cans were played. The piece is based on an additive rhythm pattern from music of the Pygmies. The rhythm cycle is comprised of 40 rapid pulses divided as: 2+2+3,  2+2+2+2+3,  2+2+2+3,  2+2+2+2+2+3. Various permutations of this cycle are juxtaposed simultaneously. And it does use real cans along with the gamelan. My thanks to David Simons, from whom I learned the above rhythm.



River Kotekan (2005) - Lisa Karrer (music, lyrics)

Marija Ilic and Joseph Kubera/pianos,

Anna Dembska and Lisa Karrer/voices, Bill Ruyle and
David Simons/drums


Kotekan is the Balinese term for “interlocking elaborating parts”. Two players each have two-note melodies that, when combined, create a third melody. In this composition pianos and vocalists share one kotekan, while drummers and gamelan each play their own interlocking parts. The lyrics describe sublime canoe trips down the East Branch of the Delaware river. []


The river flows in the way that it always goes 

you can watch where it goes and how it flows

It’s clear and cold and its bed houses many fish

and they live just beneath the river stones


The river will flow until it comes to the sea         

it cuts a winding path through many different lands          

If you row a boat along its green grassy banks 

the current will bring you past many lovely scenes


The current changes according to the river’s depth

and to each different cycle of the seasons 

White water in spring because the rains flood the banks

making the river rush taking the fish along


Blue herons nest in the cradles of leafy trees       

wild geese go fishing and bathe in the shallow pools

The beaver swims in the deep waters where he lives

hard at work making sure his lodge is dammed up 

ka deena doom dah mah key ta na moe sey teh

mayh coodi tanna bome ti naa te mahnah ney  

ki kerri coo ka kay  ki kerri coo ka key  

too diddi monnie poe see da dee conylow


Flowing with the currents of the river

We will see fantastic sights

Let the waters surround you

The beauty will astound you



Telling Time - for gamelan and glass (2008) - Miguel Frasconi


A composition in unison tempo is then repeated in “telling time,” where each individual performer uses fluctuations in tempo to express a personal narrative about the experience of time and memory. Each gamelan player doubles on one glass instrument while one performer plays tuned glass exclusively. []








9-11: A Memorial Suite (2002) -

Barbara Benary, Laura Liben, Daniel Goode,
David Simons and David Demnitz

voices - Lisa Karrer, Jody Kruskal and chorus

America be wise in time of war.

Rush not forth in fear,

nor close your eyes.

Heed your own heart’s call:

Don’t trade the freedoms once held dear

though the towers fall.


Barbara Benary wrote this brief song in
reponse to the World Trade Center disaster, and in particular to our government’s hasty moves to curtail liberties in the name of protection. In the spirit of drawing together, she invited the group to write a set of short pieces which would either be based on this song, or make a deliberate and complimentary contrast. In addition to her own variations (a) at the head of the suite, two composers responded with variations on the song, and two with contrasting material and moods.


Laura Liben’s contrasting section (b) reflects the “beautiful, sunny day” that began 9-11 with a
contrapuntal melody in pentatonic slendro tuning. It is first set in a rhythm of 9 beats to a measure.


Daniel Goode’s first variation (c), without words, is set for strident high octaves of clarinet and violin; the gamelan plays two chords, letting the dissonances fall where they may.


David Simons’ stark section (d) reflects the minds of the suicide hijackers: the cold,
calculated, methodically planned journey, the
takeover of their minds by indoctrination, the long months (or years) of preparation, the shaving of all their body hair (!) the night before.
Focused on the hereafter, their reward in death, and the purity of their evil.


David Demnitz’s variation (e) uses a quodlibet approach, combining the “America Be Wise” song with the traditional elegiac plainsong “Dies Irae” symbolizing habit and sentimentalism, and with Edward Elgar’s tune “Pomp and Circumstance” standing for America’s hand-me-down imperialism.


Liben’s piece reappears (f) stretched to 11 beats to the measure, followed by 9/4 and 11/4 played simultaneously. Dissonant chords in pelog tuning gradually overtake the melody.


Goode’s second variation on the song (g), ends the suite in a  a resigned, soulful, even sorrowful mood with the clarinet in its lowest octave, all five slendro notes on each melody note, and a gentle tremolo.  


Kacapi (2003) - Lisa Karrer; from

“Woman’s Song: The Story of Roro Mendut”

Text excerpted from poetry by Sitor Situmorang, with permission of the author


Based on the Sundanese musical form from
western Java; hypnotic looped melody featuring David Simons/zheng, Barbara Benary/erhu, viola, Lisa Karrer/voice, Daniel Goode/clarinet, and Laura Liben/bass recorder, supported by metallophones and gongs.


Demikianlah kisah cinta kami 

(This is the story of our love)

Yang bermula di pekan kembang 

(Which began in the flower market)

                                                                                                                                    kini  (and the room glowed)

ternyata masih menyala

(with the brightness of your body)


Bila semua dah lupa berduka 

(When all have forgotten how to mourn)

Serakhan pada jendela terbuka 

(Surrender to the open window)


Di mana aku berada kau ada  

(I used to think that like my shadow)

Bayangan satu-satunya, demikian kurasa 

(You would always be with me)


Descarga Elizabeth (2006) - David Demnitz


Descarga Elizabeth is a paean to my soul mate, Elizabeth Herbert.  A Descarga, developed by
Israel (Cachao) Lopez, is a simple Afro Cuban head arrangement which encourages uninhibited
improvisation. The clave is a mode of son clave, and is the same played backwards and forwards – symmetriclave.  The collective improvisation suggests the patience, accommodation and
acceptance which are part of a loving, long-term relationship.  []


Traffic (1980) - Laura Liben


“Traffic” starts with suling flute, “in the country, travelling a wide open road.” The rest of the piece is the traffic part, based on overlapping rhythms, starting with a rhythm in thirteen beats per measure (13/8), gradually winding down to two beats per measure (2/8), then returning individually back to 13/8.  In the coda, all the rhythms play simultaneously, perhaps reminding us that traffic is something we can never fully escape.


Gamelan Around (2006) - Denman Maroney


Gamelan Around is a 7-voice rhythmic canon. The rhythmic figure (3+2+3) is played at seven different speeds. The figure is mapped onto a 4-note melody (Pelog 4567) and ends when all seven voices reach the end point together.



Sad/Happy (2006) - Daniel Goode


Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, Opus 115, was an
inspiration for me to study clarinet seriously, and later to study composition. In the “B” section of the slow movement Brahms gets about as close as he ever did to the slow, intense, quasi-improvised music of the Gypsies (Roma). The doina style is also found in Turkish and Jewish music.

I fantasized that if Brahms were a folk musician or
living in today’s post-modern world, he might have ended with a klezmer freylekh—or happy ending. So I did that. []


GAMELAN SON OF LION is a new music repertory ensemble and composers’ collective based in downtown New York City, specializing in contemporary pieces written for the instruments of the Javanese gamelan percussion orchestra. Our instruments are built in Indonesian village style using steel keys, cans, hubcaps, etc. along with traditional drums and gongs, and are tuned in the traditional slendro and pelog scales. Gamelan Son of Lion has been performing and presenting new music in the greater New York area since 1976.


Gamelan Son of Lion performers:

Barbara Benary, David Demnitz, Miguel Frasconi, Daniel Goode, Patrick Grant, Lisa Karrer, Jody Kruskal, Laura Liben, Denman Maroney, John Morton, David Simons, with guests Anna Dembska (voice), Marija Ilic (piano), Joseph Kubera (piano) and Bill Ruyle (drums).


Engineered and Mastered by Paul Geluso.

“Bang On A Tin Can” and “Traffic” were recorded by Brian Koonin at Rockland Recording

“Telling Time” was recorded by Robert E Anderson

“Sad/Happy” was recorded by Ben Manley

All other pieces recorded by Paul Geluso with David Simons at Hungry Hollow Studio.

Designed by Lyra Silverstein

©2008 Gamelan Son of Lion, All Rights Reserved.


Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Supported in part by a grant from the New York State Music Fund established by the

New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.