Geographic Region: Southeast Asia
Country of origin: Indonesia
Climatic type: Tropical
Is an Ensemble?: No
Related Instruments: Gamelan
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The celempung is a type of plucked-zither that is set on four legs with the front legs higher than the two rear legs; hence, the instrument slopes downward toward the player. The celempung has thirteen pairs of strings, which are stretched between the tuning pins at the higher and lower ends of the instrument. The strings rest on the bridge that is placed across the sound board (body of the instrument). The celempung is played with thumbnails, while the fingers damp the sound of the strings.
Although evidence of its existence can be found in the early period of
Javanese history, plucked-zither type instruments have never had wide distribution in Java. It seems that this instrument never achieved an important position in the development of Javanese music. The limited use of celempung in today¿s full gamelan ensemble supports this assertion.
Role in the gamelan ensemble
Celempung is a dispensable instrument in the ensemble. If the celempung player is absent, the ensemble can perform without it. In any event, the sound of celempung enriches the total sound of the ensemble. It is most suitable to be played in smaller gamelan ensemble. There is a small ensemble that primarily consists of two or three celempung, supported by kendhang and gong. Commonly, this ensemble is made up of itinerant musicians.
Written with editorial assistance from Jennifer Caputo.
© 2003 Wesleyan University