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about

Heavy Metal represents a new kind of fusion, multi-dimensional, making connections across cultures acoustic and electronic, western and eastern, high and low, human and machine. The piece was written for Gamelan Galak Tika, a Balinese gamelan in residence at MIT that has worked with electric instruments many times in the past, but this is certainly the first time a traditional Balinese gamelan has shared the stage with robotic instruments. In other ways, though, there is something very natural about these combinations: they reflect the way we all experience music in the 21st century. It could also be argued that this is simply an extension of the way music has always progressed and changed, as Chinese shawms morphed into oboes, and exotic middle eastern percussion instruments, like the cymbal and triangle, worked their way into the symphony orchestra. Heavy Metal engages the full force of two ensembles, Galak Tika and Ensemble Robot, as well as a living history of electroacoustic instruments, from the vintage lyricon to the Whirlybot. The sounds implicit in both senses of the title find their way into new combinations of struck bronze and excitable circuitry.

Heavy Metal is based on American hard rock music from the late 1970’s through the early 1990s. The idea started as a pun, because the keys of many Balinese gamelan instruments are made of metal, but when I began studying the melodic ideas and rhythms in heavy metal music, I found that they leant themselves very well to gamelan. The problem was that a gamelan has a very specific sound and limited timbral variation, the sounds of hit metal and skin. I feel that the sounds of the gamelan become much more interesting when combined with string sounds. Also, the gamelan uses a pentatonic scale so I am using western instruments and robots to expand the sound universe to a full spectrum.

In this piece, the gamelan and the western/robotic instruments play separately – rhythmically they are together, and they are working through the same material at the same time, but the western instruments and robots do not play the 5 notes that the gamelan plays, and more often than not they stay out of that key (a variation of E Major, the gamelan tuning being C#, D#, E, G, and A) altogether. This creates a sense of two harmonic worlds co-existing and cooperating, the West and our technology with Bali and their technology, much more primitive but very powerful nonetheless.

-Christine Southworth

Heavy Metal was Commissioned by the Boston Museum of Science with the support of NEFA and Meet the Composer.

credits

from Gamelan Galak Tika: Bronze Age Space Age, track released May 1, 2009
Shaw Pong Liu, violin
Blake Newman, bass
Erik Nugent, EWI
Charles Whalen, electric guitar

Gamelan Galak Tika

Larisa Berger
Lina Bird
Jarad Brown
Mark David Buckles
Thomas Carr
Ramon Castillo
Katheryn French
Elizabeth Johansen
Shane Leonard
Sean Mannion
Midori Matsuo
Erin McCoy
Michelle Merrill
Steve Merrill
Beth Mullins
Sachi Sato
Sam Schmetterer
Christine Southworth
Julie Strand
Mark Stewart
Megan Tsai
Po-Chun Wang
Jacques Weissgerber
Evan Ziporyn



Ensemble Robot

The Heliphon & The Whirlybot

Recorded by Joel Gordon and David Corcoran
Mixed and Mastered by Rob Friedman

Gamelan Galak Tika is America's most innovative Balinese Gamelan. Led by composer Evan Ziporyn, Galak Tika has performed groundbreaking music at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, two Bang on a Can Marathons, at colleges all over New England and New York, and throughout Bali, Indonesia. Galak Tika was formed in 1993 and is dedicated to commissioning and performing new works by Balinese and American composers, for gamelan and mixed ensembles of gamelan and Western instruments, as well as performing traditional Balinese music and dance.

ENSEMBLE ROBOT is a collective of artists, musicians, engineers, and programmers working together to make robotic musical instruments. Founded by Christine Southworth and Leila Hasan in 2003, the group has commissioned over a dozen new works for humans and robots, and performed throughout the northeast at venues and festivals including The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, EMPAC and Wired Magazine NextFest.



ROBOTS: The Bot(i)Cello, The Blobot, The Whirlybot, The Heliphon

HUMANS: Andy Cavatorta (engineer), Chyle Crossley (engineer), Giles Hall (programmer), Leila Hasan (co-founder), Erik Nugent (fine metal &woodwork), Christine Southworth (artistic director, co-founder), Bill Tremblay (engineer)

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Christine Southworth Lexington, Massachusetts

Christine Southworth is a composer and video artist dedicated to creating art born from a cross-pollination of sonic and visual ideas. Inspired by intersections of technology & art, nature & machines, and musics from cultures around the world, her music employs sounds from man and nature, from Van de Graaff Generators to honeybees, Balinese gamelan to seismic data from volcanoes. ... more

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