Geographic Region: Southeast Asia
Country of origin: Indonesia
Climatic type: Tropical
SvH No.: 111.212
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Physical description and technique
The gambang is a wooden xylophone with seventeen to twenty-one keys with the range of two octaves or more. The keys rest on a wooden box that also functions as resonator. The gambang is played with two disc-type beaters that have long, somewhat flexible horn handles. Most of the time, the gambang plays in octaves (gembyang). Only occasionally a few ornamentational styles of playing may be employed, such as playing kempyung (playing two notes separated by two keys).
Evidence of a gambang type instrument, with either wood or bamboo bars, can be found in the drawings on the walls of old temples, such as in the 9th century Buddhist Borobudur monument in Central Java and the 14th century Panataran temple in East Java. The variety and wide distribution of this type of instrument in Java (and all of Indonesia, for that matter) indicate its popularity. The melodic range of these instruments varies, spanning from one octave to more than two-octaves. The choice of a multi-octave gambang to be incorporated into a full set of gamelan may be because of its suitability to accommodate a wider melodic range of gendhing.
Role in the gamelan ensemble
The gambang is one of the two instruments that have the widest melodic range (rebab is the other); hence, the melody of gambang can encompass the full melodic range of any composition. Because of this fact and the elaborate and high speed of the gambang playing style, this instrument is considered one of the important instruments in the ensemble.
Written with editorial assistance from Jennifer Caputo.
Last Modified: 05-May-2005TOP