Geographic Region: Southeast Asia
Country of origin: Indonesia
Climatic type: Tropical
Time period: Latter part of the 1st millennium CE or the early part of the 2nd.
Definition: Metallophone with bronze keys, each suspended by strings, over individual resonators, in a wooden frame.
SvH No.: 111.2
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The gender is a metallophone with bronze keys suspended by cords in a wooden frame, over individual tube resonators for each key.
Historical evidence suggests that a metallophone with keys suspended with a cord existed around the 10th century, perhaps under the name of salunding. It had less fewer keys than the contemporary gender. Such an instrument had an important role for accompanying a wayang. In Bali, only a set of gender, one pair in the medium to low registers and another pair in high to medium register, accompanies wayang performance. In Java, although a wayang is accompanied by a full ensemble, gender is still the most important instrument for accompanying a wayang performance. It plays in a gendhing, accompanies the song of the puppeteers, and plays as background music while the puppeteer narrates a scene or recites the dialogue. Because of the demand of the performance style, the register of gender became wider, expanding to two and one and half octaves.
It is played with two padded disc type mallets. The player holds the mallets differently between the left and right hand, which requires a certain kind of finger positioning. The playing technique of the gender requires the dampening of the keys with the fingers. Depending on the rhythmic duration, the key is dampened slightly after or at the same time that the next key is struck. In rapid passages, the player may have to dampen two keys simultaneously.
Role in the Gamelan ensemble
The gender is one of the leading instruments in the ensemble, especially in the soft style of gendhing. Played with two mallets in a "contrapuntal" style, the gender creates the fullness and sonority of the ensemble. Within the limitations of its melodic range, the gender plays melodies in fragmented way: the melodies are presented in a series of melodic patterns commonly called cengkok. The cengkok are closely associated with the musical unit of four notes (gatra) of balungan.
Last Modified: 05-Sep-2008TOP