Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, is the author of Javanese Gamelan and the West, published by the University of Rochester Press on July 1.
In Javanese Gamelan, Sumarsam examines the meaning, forms and traditions of the Javanese performing arts as they developed and changed through their contact with Western culture. The book traces the adaptations in gamelan art as a result of Western colonialism in 19th century Java, showing how Western musical and dramatic practices were domesticated by Javanese performers creating hybrid Javanese-Western art forms, such as with the introduction of brass bands in gendhing mares court music and West Javanese tanjidor, and Western theatrical idioms in contemporary wayang puppet plays.
The book also examines the presentation of Javanese gamelan to the West, detailing performances in World’s Fairs and American academia and considering its influence on Western performing arts and musical and performance studies. The end result is a comprehensive treatment of the formation of modern Javanese gamelan and a fascinating look at how an art form dramatizes changes and developments in a culture.
As a gamelan musician and a keen amateur dhalang/ (puppeteer) of Javanese wayang puppet play, Sumarsam performs, conducts workshops, and lectures throughout the U.S., Australia, Europe and Asia.