Dissertation Index

Author: Perlman, Marc A.

Title: Unplayed Melodies: Music Theory in Postcolonial Java

Institution: Wesleyan University

Begun: January 1984

Completed: August 1993


This is a study of the evolution of indigenous music theory in Central Java, Indonesia. It concerns _karawitan_ (the music of the Javanese _gamelan_ ensemble), especially that of the Surakarta tradition. My overall goal is to elucidate three Javanese ideas of unplayed melody--what I call implicit-melody concepts. I wish to situate them against a background of musical representations, practical strategies, and discursive traditions.

The rich melodic texture of _karawitan_ is produced by the flexible, quasi-improvisational realization and elaboration of a pregiven melody (called the _balungan_, which I gloss as "skeletal melody"). Musicians have various unformalized habits, analytical strategies, and rules of thumb to guide this activity of realization (called _garap_, "interpretation").

Some of these practical strategies involve the reduction of ornate melody to hypothetically prior forms. Some musicians use this strategy informally, as a teaching device. It was not applied in formal theorizing until 1964, when for the first time, a traditionally-trained musician was asked to lecture on music theory at the state conservatory. His _garap_-based approach to theory stimulated two of his students to formulate concepts of unplayed melody.

In this "ethnography of music theory" I examine the melodic texture of _karawitan_, Javanese ideas of melody and interpretation, controversies over the nature of the skeletal melody, and the difficulties encountered by implicit-melody theories, to show how theoretical ideas grow out of musicians' everyday practical strategies.

Keywords: gamelan, interpretation, history, perception, reduction, heterophony, Indonesia, institutionalization, formalization


I. Introductory. 1) Theoretical Preliminaries. 2) Historical Trends in the Discourse of Karawitan. II. The Melodic Texture of Karawitan. 3) Interpart Relations. 4) Two Melodic Focal Points. 5) Garap: Interpretation and Flexibility. 6) Ideas of (and Uses for) Melody. 7) Characterizing the Balungan. III. Organizing Karawitan. 8) Representations in Context. 9) Perceiving Patterns. 10) Strategies of Organization. IV. Implicit-Melody Concepts. 11) Implicit-Melody Concepts. 12) Conclusion. Appendix 1: Lexicographical Notes on Selected Terms. Appendix 2: An Inventory of Discourse Styles. Appendix 3: Biographical Information


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