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Indonesian Culture, Music and Religion Essay

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Throughout the year we have delved into the culture of various different countries and we have learned their ways and their religion. We went about this, however, in a completely different way than what is normally done when examining and studying other cultures; we learned an amazing amount of information about these cultures simply by looking at their music. This semester I have learned about fascinating cultures from different cultures such as Indonesia, India, and Africa, and I have learned how exactly these countries have expressed their cultures through their music. It really has been an interesting semester that has taught me much.
Indonesia was the first culture we examined in class. Compared to the other cultures we examined later on in the semester, this was the most peculiar culture, at least in my opinion. This culture’s most unique style of music is definitely gamelan. Gamelan is possibly the most interesting style of music I have ever experienced. This style of music is not even written down or even rehearsed, from what I understood in the videos that were shown in class. The music “revolves” around a basic gong cycle, which serves as the music’s foundation and it is almost entirely improvised. One musicians group will do their own thing, and another section of musicians in charge of different instruments follows and begins to play, following the rhythm the other group had begun and adding to it. This is done many times, until there is a variety of interlocking rhythms that come together and form a calming but fascinating sound. Apart from its peculiar sound and style, gamelan is very symbolic and religious. For example, the interlocking texture of the kilitan telu rhythmic patterns is a musical symbol of communal i...


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...comprised of. Things such as Improvisation, complex polyphonic textures, and layered ostinatos all are elements found in the drum-dominated music of the African culture.
All of the different musics studied this semester were rich in information and provided a symbolic way in which to express their respective culture. Although they shared this in common, all of them had their own unique style and personality. The interlocking rhythms of the Indonesian gamelan, the raga and tala of the Hindu Karnatak and Hindustani traditions, and the drum dominated music of the African culture. This class has really taught me to analyze and look beyond simply how music sounds but instead to also look at the history and symbolic nature of the music as well, and it has really paid off, it has taught me a great deal about all these different cultures and I am really grateful for that.



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