is sometimes called the "core melody" of a Javanese gamelan
A gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java, featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included....
composition. This corresponds to the view that gamelan music is heterophonic: the balungan is then the melody which is being elaborated.
The group of instruments which play the closest to the balungan are sometimes also called the balungan
, or balungan instruments
. These are the saron
The saron is a musical instrument of Indonesia, which is used in the gamelan. It typically consists of seven bronze bars placed on top of a resonating frame . It is usually about 20 cm high, and is played on the floor by a seated performer...
family and the slenthem
The slenthem is a Javanese metallophone which makes up part of a gamelan orchestra.The slenthem is part of the gendér family. It consists of a set of bronze keys comprising a single octave: there are six keys when playing the slendro scale and seven when playing the pelog...
. In many pieces, they play the balungan. However, they can also elaborate on the parts in a variety of techniques. It is possible that there is no instrument playing the balungan, although many musicians claim that the balungan is still.
The term has been a source of some controversy, as various writers may define it differently. Sometimes it is identified with the melody played on the saron (whose range is limilted to an octave), but sometimes it is identified with a wider tessitura
In music, the term tessitura generally describes the most musically acceptable and comfortable range for a given singer or, less frequently, musical instrument; the range in which a given type of voice presents its best-sounding texture or timbre...
that is implied by the patterns on other instruments. This multi-octave melody is the one given in kepatihan notation, the cipher notation used for gamelan pieces.
is a related term, which is used by Sumarsam
Sumarsam is a Javanese musician and scholar of the gamelan.-Life:Sumarsam was born in Dander, Bojonegoro, East Java, Indonesia. He first performed gamelan at the age of seven. He began his formal gamelan education in 1961 at the Konservatori Karawitan Indonesia in Surakarta...
and is sometimes translated as "inner melody." It can mean the multi-octave balungan, or a more implicit melody. There is no consensus on the use of either term, and they may be used differently by different writers or in different contexts.
is also the name of the Journal of the American Gamelan Institute
The is an organization devoted to promoting and documenting all forms of gamelan, the performing arts of Indonesia, and their international counterparts....
- Hood, Mantle
Mantle Hood was an American ethnomusicologist. Among other areas, he specialized in studying gamelan music from Indonesia. Hood pioneered, in the 1950s and 1960s, a new approach to the study of music, and the creation at UCLA of the first American university program devoted to ethnomusicology...
. The Nuclear Theme as a Determinant of Patet in Javanese Music. Groningen and Jakarta: JB Walters, 1954.
- Kunst, Jaap
Jaap Kunst was a Dutch ethnomusicologist, particularly associated with the study of gamelan music of Indonesia...
. Music in Java: Its History, its Theory and its Technique. 2 vols, 3d ed enlarged. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973.
- Perlman, Marc. Unplayed Melodies: Javanese Gamelan and the Genesis of Music Theory. University of California Press, 2004.
- Supanggah, Rahaya. Trans. Marc Perlman. "Balungan." In Balungan, October 1988.