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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pupuh gambang : manuscript, melody, and music Adams, Jonathan Stuart


This dissertation sheds light on music connecting over one hundred gambang ensembles on the island of Bali today. Although the people, communities, and ideas that these ensembles are entangled with are as diverse as they are many, the melodies they perform connect in a rich and vibrant musical past. Drawing on a combination of epigraphical, archaeological, ethnographic, and musicological data, as well as earlier scholarship, this study advances our understanding of gambang music and brings attention to features often neglected in discourses that underestimate its role in Bali’s past. This involves engaging earlier studies, juxtaposing them, and then weighing the results against my own experiences, data collected during fieldwork, and careful analyses. At the center of this effort are notated melodies played by gambang ensembles that exhibit signs of a former entanglement with indigenous Javano-Balinese poetry called kidung. Evidence suggests these melodies, called pupuh gambang, emerged from interactions between literary pursuits, singing, and instrumental music several centuries ago. It also suggests they were created by literati associated with Balinese nobility. Earlier attempts to situate this music within a broader pan-Balinese music history and shed light on its relationship with kidung prosody have been hindered by misdirected speculations, variation in notated melodies across manuscripts, and presumptions about the melodic contours the notation prescribes. Based on a four-year field study and subsequent analyses of recordings and notation, this dissertation critically engages prior scholarship, providing nuance to earlier characterizations of gambang music that have inhibited deeper inquiries into its origins and relationship with indigenous poetry and singing.

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