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Mugiyono + Talujon + Nick premiere December 2 at Bennington College

A years-long collaboration with Indonesian choreographer Mugiyono Kasido and percussion sextet Talujon will come to fruition on DECEMBER 2, with a workshop performance at Bennington College. The piece, a commission from New Music USA, has involved overseas trips, a brilliant choreographer, and yards of spring steel.

The piece will premiere at 8 PM at Martha Hill Dance Theater on the Bennington campus.

the attaché case gamelan

The show, called “pocket gamelan”, is a series of new works inspired by Indonesian music and dance, but reimagining the gamelan as a dynamic, makeshift instrumentarium. My new work fits six entire gamelans into traveling attachés, with Mugiyono Kasido joining in an intricate, contraptive choreography, in the New Music USA Commission. A kaleidoscopic new piece by Balinese composer Dewa Alit will be premiered, orchestrated for tuned portable tubes as in a traveling gamelan baleganjur. Drummer Glenn Kotche (Wilco)’s work Traveling Turtle is also reimagined for new instruments, alongside a classic duo by gamelan mavericks Lou Harrison and John Cage. Other works by Mugiyono round out the visual/choreographic side of the program, in an archipelago of works integrating choreography and percussion.

The Traps attaché case demonstration on vimeo.

Mugiyono Kasido was trained in the court palaces of Solo, Central Java from a young age, and quickly came to perform both traditional dances from the court repertoire as well as new creations. His work was last seen in the States at an acclaimed solo show at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2005. Mugiyono’s work is unique in melding modern and traditional Javanese dance, and is known for its humour and physical virtuosity, as well as its wry societal and political commentary.

Talujon is one of the premiere percussion ensembles in the U.S., described by the New York Times as possessing an “edgy, unflagging energy.” Talujon has commissioned dozens of new works for percussion, and premiered works from Carnegie Hall to BAM Next Wave. They have collaborated with Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, and Alvin Lucier among many others.

Mugiyono and Nick at Pucangan, February 2013

Mugiyono and Nick at Pucangan, February 2013

My new 30-minute piece of music has been created through visits to Mugiyono in Central Java, as well as a MacDowell Colony fellowship this summer. I constructed “attaché case gamelans”, an orchestra in a box, each tuned to one of the 6 modalities of central Javanese gamelan, and using a battery of bells, glass gongs, thumb pianos, and homebuilt devices. The orchestration is inspired by the “traps”, boxes used for silent film sound effects, as well as the Javanese dhalang tradition, where knockers held by the hands and toes create a makeshift foley. Though Javanese music is only somewhat audible here, the piece’s form takes a cue from the sampak, the fastest structure in gamelan, used for fight scenes in the shadow puppet plays. In tempo with Mugiyono’s breakneck shifts, the music is built on gestures that repeat compulsively, break, then re-form into unheard-of textures. Mugiyono writes about the new work: “Orang takut untuk berhenti, waktu selalu berjalan dan kehidupan tidak bisa ditebak” (“People are afraid to stop, time always passes, and life is inscrutable”). Working from material developed in high-energy improvisations last year, Mugiyono and I have created a work that explores a frenetic addiction to change and meditating on the culture of the “cut”.

The workshop performance will take place on December 2 at 8 PM at the beautiful Martha Hill Dance Theater, one of the largest sprung wood floors in the northeast. The event is free and unticketed. Directions to Bennington, a 3+hour drive from NYC, are at bennington.edu.

This workshop/performance is part of an evening-length performance to be fully premiered in 2015.