So Short The Life

year: 1989    instrumentation: Javanese gamelan   

After many years of playing gamelan, this is my first attempt to try to write for the ensemble. There are few specific references to traditional gamelan composition. Instead, I have tried to focus on the nature of the instruments themselves, the attack and decay of the tones, and most especially the rich spectrum of overtones within each sound. As the piece progresses, the fundamental tones are deliberately suppressed, while the upper partials are reinforced - a journey into the interior of the sounds.

The text is adapted from Chaucer who was quoting Hippocrates: "So short the life, so long the craft to learn." " Ars longa, vita brevis".

Click on the image above to view a documentary about Victoria University of Wellington's Gamelan Padhang Moncar, in which Jack discusses this work and an excerpt is performed.