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Hat Head Heaven

Or What is Ethnomusicology?

On the first weekend in December, a gamelan gathering took place at Hat Head, north of Kempsey in the NSW Mid-North Coast. Gamelan groups from Newcastle and Armidale got together to practice, share, jam and compose new music for gamelan, as well as hang out at the beach, eat, fish and generally enjoy a beautiful, peaceful and inspiring weekend at Hat Head. Mike Burns brought his Banyuwangi Angklung Orchestra from Newcastle while David Goldsworthy brought the gamelan degung from UNE with him. The groups included some students and graduates of ethnomusicology. Judy Shelley interviewed Anne, a post-graduate student in Ethnomusicology at the University of New England, for Suara Indonesia Radio Show, 2BayFM 99.9.

Judy: Hi there, what have you been doing this weekend?

Anne: We've been here at Hat Head playing gamelan.

Judy: And which groups have been playing gamelan this weekend?

Anne: A group from Newcastle and a group from Armidale called Swara Naga and I'm with the Swara Naga group.

Judy: How did you get involved with Swara Naga?

Anne: I attend uni up at Armidale as an external student and I live in Sydney. So once a term we go up there for gamelan playing and music.

Judy: So, you've come all the way up here from Sydney just to play gamelan-

Anne: Well its very hectic in Sydney, with all the hustle and bustle....its nice to get away and play some music..

Judy: How long have you been palying gamelan and do you play in Sydney as well?

Anne: I have been playing gamelan about 2 years and I play with a group called Langen Suka. We rehearse at Sydney Uni on Thursday evenings.

Judy: And what style of gamelan is that?

Anne: Central Javanese, as opposed to this which is Sundanese.

Judy: Right - so which style do you like the best...

Anne: I don't have a favourite but I play most often the Central Javanese style, so I'm more familiar with that than any of the others.

Judy: Do you think you will continue learning and playing gamelan in the future? Do you have plans to continue studying or to travel to Indonesia...

Anne: Oh definitely. I would love to go to Indonesia to study and hopefully it will be within the next 6 months.

Judy:Right- and whereabouts do you think you'll go over there?

Anne: Either Solo, or somewhere round there, because that's the style of gamelan that I've been doing in Sydney.

Judy: And why do you love gamelan so much?

Anne: Oh the sound - it just floats on the breeze... its just a beautiful, soothing, calming sound, its wonderful.

Judy: And have you ever played music before...

Anne: Oh yes, I play piano.

Judy: What sort of degree have you been doing?

Anne: I've got a Bachellor in Music Education and this is a Post-Graduate Diploma in Humanities with a major in Ethnomusicology.

Judy: And how's the course been?

Anne: Very full-on, very busy and very interesting.

Judy: The ethnomusicology part?

Anne: Yes, I'm really, really enjoying it.

Judy: Is David your lecturer?

Anne: Yes he is, but I also have Andrew Alter as well.

Judy: So, what sort of things do you do in Ethnomusicology besides gamelan? Do you do other types of music or do you mainly play gamelan.

Anne: We did Japanese and Chinese, and Indian and I intend to do Pacific Island music in the near future.

Judy: Fantastic! It sounds absolutely wonderful, learning all those different types of music... so when you are studying all these different styles, do you actually learn how to play all the instruments?

Anne: Yes, that's right.

Judy: So what did you learn when you studied Japanese and Chinese music? What sorts of instruments and styles did you do?

Anne: We did the koto and the shamisen, that was really interesting. And when we were doing Indian music, we had lessons in tabla and sitar - it was great fun!

Judy: This course sounds absolutely amazing, cos you're getting such an amazing experience of all these different instruments that are so beautiful, fascinating and different. So, studying ethnomusicology, are you intending to continue on with teaching music or are you just doing it out of interest?

Anne: I intend to teach it, yes.

Judy: So that will become part of your course...as part of the music course you will teach ethnomusicology at a high school or whereever you may be-

Anne: Hopefully yes, when I eventually go into teaching.

Judy: Depends on the instruments available and things like that...

Anne: Yes, unfortunately in a lot of schools there is not the equipment to encourage the kids to play.

Judy: Well, put it this way, if the instruments aren't there - its a matter of finding them, isn't it? and trying to get some, raise money, buy some...There's probably funds around. Some people don't realise there is a fund available called Access Asia - which is a program developed especially to do things like buy resources and create programs that bring the students a greater awareness of Asia. Schools utilize it for a whole lot of different things, but one area that it would be really good to use it for is buying instruments like Indonesian, Japanese - different types of musical instruments. A lot of schools are quite impoverished in their range of instruments, that's something to think about...

Anyway, it sounds like a really interesting course and it sounds like you've been having a wonderful time this weekend at Hat Head. The music's been fantastic and I suppose also meeting people from all over the place... Have you met many of the people from Newcastle before?

Anne: I haven't met any of them before.

Judy: So now everybody's been getting to know each other and playing music together.

Yes, its been great! and a great oppotunity to meet lots of friendly people.

Fantasic, yeah its been a great atmosphere here - I'll say goodbye and thanks for talking with us Anne, on this 1st of December weekend at Hat Head.

Judy Shelley
Email: indoartsalliance@hotmail.com

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