This learning sequence provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss with students the key elements of angklung performance, develop their cultural understanding and their musicianship.
Musicianship can be seen as a set of skills, techniques, understandings, attitudes and dispositions that allows students to engage in all forms of music making and interaction, and which underpins a person's musical identity. One structure for inquiry learning in music is to equip students with a set of elements of music. This allows them to access, make and think about music with a set of concepts that describe different parts of the music.
There are many theories as to what the elements of music might be, and below is a list that may assist in the enquiry learning of this module:
- duration refers to the relative length of sounds and silences in music – rhythm, beat, pulse, tempo
- expressive devices are ways of influencing mood and character of music – dynamics, louds and softs, contrast
- pitch is the relative frequency of sound – melody, harmony, tonality
- structure is the form and design of music – repetition, variety
- texture is the density of sound – layers of sound, melody versus accompaniment
- timbre is the characteristic quality of sound sources or tone colour – instrument combinations, brightness, mellowness.
Music elements are non-hierarchical, and not every piece of music will have every music element in it.
Activity 1: Exploring various elements of angklung music
At the beginning of the activity, find out what students know about Indonesia and its music. You may also wish to find out what they know about the traditional arts of Indonesia.
As students begin their exploration of angklung performance, introduce the key music elements and discuss how they relate to this form of music. Students could research and make notes on angklung music that reflect their level of understanding. You may wish to liaise with library staff to assist students with their research.
Activity 2: Bengawan Solo music and song
In this activity students explore the Indonesian and Western notation of the song Bengawan Solo. Teachers should provide paper copies of the music so that students can notate them where appropriate. If angklung instruments are not available, the song can be sung or played using school instruments such as recorders or electronic keyboards.
Activity 3: How to play and notate angklung music
This activity provides an opportunity for students to explore the notation used for Indonesian angklung music. It is important during this activity to compare and contrast Indonesian music notation with Western conventions and discuss students' responses to the differences. Students should be encouraged to experiment with a fusion of sounds to create their own musical works.
Activity 4: Reflection
It is important that students have the opportunity to reflect on their work and the elements of angklung performance. The creation of a class album with an accompanying booklet should be prefaced with discussion about their learning process.
About angklung and gamelan
The traditional arts of Indonesia are extremely diverse, often interrelated and characterised by regional individuality. While this learning sequence focuses on the angklung, this is only a small part of Indonesian music and the other arts.
This is probably the best known of Indonesian music ensembles – an iconic part of Indonesian culture. A gamelan is an ensemble of musicians playing gongs, metallophones, xylophones, cymbals chimes and bamboo instruments such as flutes. The term 'gamelan' is also used to refer to the group of instruments themselves. Each group of instruments is built to work together, and they are tuned to the same pitches.
In contemporary music, gamelan sounds may be sampled and fused with other instruments or electronica. The hypnotic effect of the traditional ensemble reflects many contemporary techniques such as riffs, and styles such as trance. Gamelan music is traditionally not notated and relies on an oral tradition, in the same way as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music is non-written.
In many ways, the gamelan itself is a work of art, often with brilliant carving and decoration, and craftsmanship in the construction of bronze, steel, bamboo and wood instruments, and in the costumes of the performers which may or may not represent a region's groups.
Gamelan music has a hypnotic, shimmering and unforgettable sound. Its unique structure and brilliant sound has influenced many classical music composers since the time Claude Debussy heard gamelan music at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.
Both angklung and gamelan can be a part of performances which include dance, singing, puppetry, drama and other arts.
Background notes have been adapted from Access Asia Primary Teaching and Learning Units (pp. 68–75) and the Wikipedia gamelan entry.