(Image: Saron from the gamelan orchestra at the Indonesian Embassy in Australia. Taken by fir0002 |
(Image: Saron from the gamelan orchestra at the Indonesian Embassy in Australia. Taken by fir0002 |

Today’s edition of At Water’s Edge features gamelan music ( as its foundation. The sounds of gamelan originate in Indonesia, especially Java and Bali, and have had incredible influence on Western Classical music.

We’ll be featuring in particular music of Loren Nerell ( today. He has a new album out called Slow Dream, which we’ll hear in its broadcast premiere in the second half of the show. We’ll also hear the critically acclaimed Lilin Dewa, as well as a few shorter individual works.

In addition, we have other music inspired by gamelan from Lex van Someren, Vidna Obmana, Maximinus, Team Metlay and Tone Ghost Ether.


1. Loren Nerell – Sekar Jepun (6:37)

2. Lex van Someren – Balinea (part 1) (15:42)
(BaliNeA, Jamendo, 2010)

3. Vidna Obmana – Primary (Gamelan 3) (7:10)
(Twilight of Perception, Relic, 1995)

Loren Nerell: Lilin Dewa

Lilin Dewa was in many ways a breakthrough album for me. It was my first CD release, and it was my last album where I used analog tape to record most of the pieces. It was my first album that I used a computer to control and edit most of the sounds, and it was the first album in which I used recordings I had made from Bali and Java.

Many of us who do media production understand this, especially if we’ve been around for a while. Analog tape is great fun for certain things, but editing on a computer is much easier. If you want to edit a recording on tape, you get out your splicing block and a razor blade and start cutting. With a computer, you just point and click. Suddenly the tools become much easier to use, opening up entirely new worlds.

He goes on:

With Lilin Dewa I was basically living and breathing gamelan music. I was playing it all the time in various groups, taking graduate courses to understand it better, was doing my first visits and fieldwork to Indonesia. When I was first introduced to gamelan music I was just drawn to it; it offered a lot of things that interested me.

So he was doing a lot of playing around with the forms or types of compositional elements from that part of the world; he used field recordings and played lots of instruments from there.

The titles are more direct than we’ll hear on Slow Dream, such as Borbudur 4 AM, which was the time and place where the ambient field recording was made for that composition.

The CD is available for purchase here:

You can read reviews here:

4. Loren Nerell – Irama (10:51)
5. Loren Nerell – Galungan (18:03)
6. Loren Nerell – Bamboo, Iron, Resin, Bronze (6:21)
7. Loren Nerell – Hiasan (Ornament) (20:03)
8. Loren Nerell – Borobudur (15:51)

9. Forrest Fang – Chaos Gamelan (4:29)
(Gongland, Projekt, 2000)

10. Maximinus – Java Sunset (7:48)
(Planet Earth, Akashic, 2010)

Loren Nerell: Slow Dream

Slow Dream started out as a conversation between Loren Nerell and Steve Roach. They were talking about hypnogogic states and trying to write music for them. Loren started work on the album back around 2007, finished most of it but was not happy with parts of it (we know that story, don’t we, stillstream composers?). A little later he started working with a local dance troupe doing music for a combo art installation and dance performance. The dancers were dancing in the art installation during the art opening so he did some music for that project…which then ended up on this release. Most of the titles are taken from a paper Loren read on hypnogogic states. He “stole” (well, okay, borrowed) the better ones for the album.

The sounds themselves are created from a variety of sources. Some are field recordings he made in Bali and Java that he then processed beyond the point where you can tell what they are. So it’s not as obvious in some places, but there is still a bit of gamelan inside the album; he just didn’t want it to be overwhelming this case.

Loren describes the processing like this:

I take the recordings and put them in my computer, then using some dedicated software I do things like put the sounds backward, add reverb, filter and in this case do some extreme slowing down of the material. I took one recording of a rare gamelan ensemble that was about 20 minutes long, and slowed it down to about 6 hours, then took the most interesting bits and used them, layered them, added other sounds, and so on.

The CD is available here, along with some more notes and reviews:

11. Loren Nerell – Mentation (28:40)
12. Loren Nerell – Slow Dream (10:29)
13. Loren Nerell – A Sense Of Presence (19:28)
14. Loren Nerell – Persistence Of Dream Imagery (8:30)

About the effect gamelan music had on him, Loren Nerell told me:

It sounds different, it looks different, beautiful and haunting and alien and exotic…

Yes all those things and more: like how it is ingrained in the society; it’s a living breathing art form that changes over time. And there are hundreds of styles, depending upon where you are: lots of local regional styles, and many older classical ones as well

15. Team Metlay – rethink Pemungkah (4:02)
(Beneath Stars, Atomic City, 2002)

16. Tone Ghost Ether – Gamelan Moon Landing (Rhythmic) (22:46)
(Guard Lock Skin, Earth Mantra, 2008)

Tone Ghost Ether is a three way improvisational collaboration between Kit Watkins, Brad Allen, and John Tlusty, where all the music was invented, composed and performed live in real time. In this particular album, the three artists pursued a totally unique fusion between world, ambient, and electronic traditions. There are two versions of this track, one ambient, and this one, which is longer and more rhythmic. You can find both at Earth Mantra (

17. Loren Nerell – Excerpt from “Dark Horizon” (3:29)
(The Venerable Dark Cloud, limited release, 2000)

The opening track from The Venerable Dark Cloud (which is a rough translation of the name of a gamelan ensemble at UCLA), which was a 3″ CD released on Amplexus back around 2000, now out of print. Exciting news about this one:  Loren is actually working on an extended version of that album with all the old tracks plus some out takes and a new track or two.

If you want to learn more about gamelan music, here are some interesting links:


(Image: Saron from the gamelan orchestra at the Indonesian Embassy in Australia. Taken by fir0002 |

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