cd cover The Roots Of Gamelan: The First Recordings
Bali, 1928 New York, 1941
World Arbiter (

The Balinese gamelan orchestra has become a familiar sound to westerners, through both massive amounts of field recording and via the compositions of new music composers like Lou Harrison, Steve Reich, and earlier, Colin McPhee and Benjamin Britten. It is McPhee who archived the recordings on this set, made by the Odeon, Parlophone and Beka labels in 1928, and the only known commercial recordings made of the music before World War II. They chronicle a music undergoing great changes, as the cultural world began to shrink and art and folklore began to mix and often clash.

Listen! The track heard here is "Seléndro," an example of gender wayang, a quartet of metallophones that often accompanied shadow puppet performances.

Also on the recording are performances of five transcriptions of Balinese music McPhee made for two pianos, recorded in 1941 by McPhee and Benjamin Britten, as well as two tracks for piano and flute by McPhee and Georges Barrère.

These are archival recordings made from the old commercial discs, and they have suffered from age. Hiss is prevalent, the thump of the machinery and the spin of the discs is noticable in places. But the performances are extraordinary. – CF

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