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March 14, 2013 By Andy Ross

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That extraordinary link between music and weaving

After last week’s digest, one of our friends and readers got in touch to tell me a little story about the gamelan in the South Bank Centre in London and the links that the designer saw between gamelan music and weaving. I don’t know what happened eventually but I will find out when we sit down and chat, probably over a couple of glasses of wine!

Gamelan is an amazing tradition across Indonesia. The gamelan orchestra is percussive mainly ie lots of drums, cymbals and the like, and the overall effect of the instruments playing together is hypnotic and rather wonderful. I was very lucky to be able to attend some gamelan sessions in the South Bank and to play some of the instruments; I can recall the silvery sounds that the cymbals made and the very solid rhythm that ran through the pieces. The Smithsonian archive has some interesting recordings. I like this one.

If you like Benjamin Britten and you enjoy gamelan, listen to this. Although I don’t know exactly what it is, I think it may be the first recording of piano transcriptions of Balinese gamelan by Britten. We would be very grateful if anyone can tell us.

The gamelan is, of course, not the only tradition of note in the islands. We were fascinated by the weaving we saw in Borneo and managed to buy some interesting ikat pieces. Try this website for some interesting cloths. The pieces are displayed in the studio in Yell, and we welcome visitors to come and see them.

So what is the link between gamelan music and weaving? Any ideas? Drop us a line and let us know what you think. For me, the interplay of textures and colours can be found in both, and the ways in which weavers and composers approach their art seem to me to be very similar. The feelings that a beautifully created piece of cloth bring are the same as those that a wonderfully crafted piece of music can foster, and our language reflects the common links.

Another piece of this jigsaw fell into place today with the arrival of Songlines magazine. It features theRainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak and talks about both the music of Borneo and the textiles of the area. There is something in the air methinks….