gamelan tuning and restoration

Over the past 25 years, I’ve become experienced in the tuning and restoration of Balinese gamelan instrumen, a skill rarely attained even in Bali. This came to me partly as the result of necessity — it’s not easy to invite a gongsmith from Bali to tune instruments — and partly out of my own fascination with this metallic art: I had studied historical Western temperaments with my fortepiano teacher, Macolm Bilson, as an undergrad at Cornell; and could see that the Balinese system was both equally complex and completely differrent. (Though I’ve discovered, in recent research, that there are curious underlying similarities.)

This work has taken me to unexpected places: I’ve been invited to tune gamelan instruments in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Leiden), Germany (Freiburg), Switzerland (Basel), Canada (Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary), more than twenty cities throughout the U.S., and in Bali. I’ve had the honor of tuning gamelans used in the annual gamelan competitions… kinda like being a famous race car driver’s mechanic.

Often I undertake gamelan tuning and repair as a workshop, involving players and students to jump into the fray. The hope is that they’ll take away not only a bit of satisfaction and pleasure, but also a bit of knowledge about a unique approach to pitch, scales, acoustics, and sonority.

If you’d like to know more about my tuning work and research, please contact me.