A SELECTIVE NARRATIVE HISTORY of gamelan pacifica TO 1997
Gamelan Pacifica was formed in the spring of 1980 in Seattle, growing out of an instrument building workshop at Cornish College of the Arts led by composer Daniel Schmidt, director of the Berkeley Gamelan. An ensemble was created from members of the Cornish College community and the Seattle community at large under the direction of Stanley Hoffman. The first permanent director of the ensemble was composer and then Cornish College faculty member Paul Dresher.
While the ensemble based its instrumentation and performance practice on the gamelan styles of Central Java, from the very beginning it took an interest in the creation of new music for the gamelan. For example, in the fall of 1981 the group performed renowned American composer Lou Harrison's Scenes From Cavafy , a three-movement work for American gamelan, tenor, and male chorus, during a week-long residency by the composer.
In the spring of 1982 the ensemble traveled to Vancouver, B.C. to perform as a part of the Vancouver New Music Society series. In that same year the ensemble participated in the American Society of University Composers national conference held at the University of Washington performing works by several American composers, including Vincent McDermott and Lou Harrison, the keynote speaker for the event. The summer of 1982 also marked the first of many appearances by Gamelan Pacifica at Seattle's major arts festival, the Bumbershoot Festival.
In 1983 Gamelan Pacifica performed two concerts that focused solely on new works for American gamelan. These new works were made possible by a Consortium Commissioning Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and included commissions from the famous Javanese composer Ki Wasitodiningrat, as well as American composers Ingram Marshall, David Mahler, Barbara Benary, Daniel Goode, and Philip Corner.
In the spring of 1983 the composer Jarrad Powell replaced Paul Dresher as director of the ensemble and began to lead Gamelan Pacifica toward its present position in the music community. Under Powell's leadership the ensemble has performed extensively throughout the Northwest. Noteworthy appearances include performances at the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Town Hall, University of Washington, Evergreen State College, Western Washington University, Peninsula College, New Music Across America, the Bumbershoot Festival, On the Boards, Soundwork, Cornish College of the Arts, Pacific Arts Center, Pacific Science Center, Seattle Folk Life Festival, Olympia Fringe Festival, and many more. Often, in addition to performing, workshops have been presented by the ensemble.
In 1985 Gamelan Pacifica presented a four-hour shadow play, Wayang Purwa, an American adaptation of a Javanese wayang , created by Kent Devereaux and Deborah Zick, at On the Boards in Seattle. In August of 1986 Gamelan Pacifica was invited by the Indonesian government to perform at the Indonesian Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, B.C. as part of the first International Gamelan Festival. The gamelan presented new works by American composers and was joined by noted new music soprano Thomasa Eckert and the Chinese erhu virtuoso Warren Chang.
By 1987 Gamelan Pacifica had incorporated as a 501 c(3) non-profit organization and had become known as one of the most important ensembles performing new music in the Seattle area. Gamelan director Powell, with help from then Fulbright Scholar to Indonesia, Kent Devereaux, commissioned the building of a new gamelan to expand the instrumentation of the ensemble. The new gamelan was a full slendro/pelog set in Central Javanese court style. Subsequently, a gamelan in the Cirebon style was purchased from Endo Suanda, then a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington and one of Cirebon's most noted topeng dancers and musicians. During Suanda's tenure in Seattle he formed a close relationship with the ensemble that resulted in a number of performances, including a featured performance at Seattle's historic Nippon Kan Theater for the Third Annual Conference of the Regional Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies.
In 1991 Gamelan Pacifica was selected by the Festival of Indonesia and the American Gamelan Institute as one of three sites for a creative residency by a visiting Indonesian composer. Antonius W. Sutrisna was artist-in-residence with Gamelan Pacifica for six weeks in the fall of 1991. For this residency Sutrisna created a new work, Meeting , which was premiered by Gamelan Pacifica in November 1991 and then recorded for the CD Interaction, New Music for Gamelan , Leonardo Music Journal CD Series Volume Two.
In 1992 Gamelan Pacifica performed several collaborative concerts with Philandros of the Seattle Men's Chorus, featuring performances of a new work,Home, for chorus and gamelan by the American composer Janice Giteck. The piece was subsequently recorded by Philandros and Gamelan Pacifica for the CD Home (revisited ) for New Albion Records. Also in 1992 Gamelan Pacifica, along with the New Performance Group and Cornish College of the Arts, sponsored a joint week-long residency by the American composers Lou Harrison and John Cage. Three concerts of the composers work were presented, including the Northwest premier of Cage's gamelan piece Haikai, as well as pieces for violin and gamelan and chorus and gamelan by Lou Harrison.
In March of 1994 Gamelan Pacifica sponsored a joint residency by the Indonesian musicians Sri Djoko Rahardja and Tony Prabowo, resulting in two concerts for the Cornish Series. In June of 1994 Gamelan Pacifica presentedComposer/Choreographer, a concert of new dance works with live gamelan/percussion accompaniment and featuring four new collaborative works commissioned from Seattle composer/choreographer teams.
Also in 1994 Gamelan Pacifica created the new music theater piece Visible Religion . This new work was a result of a collaboration between Indonesian artists Sri Djoko Rahardjo, I Made Sidia, and Tony Prabowo and American artists Kent Devereaux, Jarrad Powell, and John Boesche. Visible Religion was co-commissioned by Seattle's On the Boards, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and Performing Arts Chicago in conjunction with Steppenwolf Theatre and featured new music by Tony Prabowo and Jarrad Powell performed by Gamelan Pacifica and soprano Thomasa Eckert. This piece was performed to sold-out houses in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Chicago in September and October of 1994. While in Minneapolis the composers gave a workshop on gamelan music and composing for gamelan sponsored by the Schubert Club and Minnesota Composer's Forum.
1994 also saw the release of Gamelan Pacifica's first compact disc, Trance Gong, on What Next? Recordings (now available on O.O Discs). The disc features new works for gamelan and percussion by American composers Jarrad Powell, Jeff Morris, Jon Keliehor, Signy Jakobsdottir, and John Cage. Recently the ensemble has been featured on National Public Radio and in numerous articles and reviews, including a featured article on the group in Tower Pulse .
More recent work includes Burning Spirit, the closing event for Seattle's 1995 Bumbershoot Festival. This featured a dramatic ceremony culminating in the burning of a thirty-foot-high sculpture created specifically for the occasion by two Balinese artists in conjunction with the Seattle artist Beliz Brother. Composers Jarrad Powell and Jon Keliehor created new music especially for the occasion. In the spring of 1996 Gamelan Pacifica joined with the Esoterics to give the Northwest premier of La Koro Sutro, the remarkable work for chorus and percussion by Lou Harrison. In the fall of 1996 Gamelan Pacifica and On the Boards co-sponsored an international collaborative residency funded by the INROADS Program of Arts International, which brought together three Indonesian and three American generative artists to lay the groundwork for a significant new collaborative piece.
Gamelan Pacifica maintains an active performance schedule, appearing regularly at many venues in the Puget Sound Area. Recent appearances include the Cornish Series at Cornish College of the Arts, the Woodinville Library concert series, and the Seattle Asian Arts Museum. In addition to performing, the organization takes an active interest in music education and sponsored the Pacifica Children's Choirs, with over one hundred children in three choirs, as well as children's and adult gamelan classes. Most recently Gamelan Pacifica has provided the organizational support for the Seattle Creative Orchestra, a 45-member chamber orchestra that had its inaugural concert in January of 1997.
Gamelan Pacifica has been the recipient of numerous grants, including support from Arts International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copeland Fund for Music, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Seattle Arts Commission, the King County Arts Commission, and the Washington State Arts Commission. Gamelan Pacifica is currently a professional ensemble in residence at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.