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E. Asian instruments arrive at Qns. College

E. Asian instruments arrive at Qns. College
Edward Smaldone (second l.), director of Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, assists student Ben Arendsen (l.) as Putu Saptanyana (r.) shows students (l. to r.) Derek Kwan, Mike Kirchhofer, Sean Kelly and Sarah Mullins how to play the gamelan. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

Queens College took possession last week of about 20 pieces of Balinese instruments known as a gamelan that the college said would enhance its music program and help its students appreciate an obscure culture.

The Indonesian percussion instruments, which were acquired by Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, are said to have great spiritual power.

Most of the instruments resemble xylophones and emit similar sounds, although some of the pieces were a type of drum.

Pak Nyoman Saptanyana, a gamelan teacher, arranged for the sale of the pieces with Queens College music professor Michael Lipsey, who traveled to Bali together last summer.

The blessing ceremony featured Saptanyana blessing the instruments using incense, a flower and water that he sprinkled onto the pieces.

In Balinese culture, the gamelan is named as you would name a baby, with Saptanyana choosing Yowana Sari, or “young flower,” for Queens College’s collection.

“It’s a good name for this group,” Saptanyana said.

About a dozen Queens College students, all of them music majors and most of them percussionists, then played the gamelan for the first time.

Lipsey said he stumbled upon the Balinese instruments a few years ago in Manhattan and started taking lessons from Saptanyana.

“It was just interesting how cool the music sounded,” he said.

Lipsey said Queens College’s gamelan is one of the few collections of the instruments on the Eastern Seaboard.

Edward Smaldone, director of the Aaron Copland School of Music, said the $24,000 purchase of the gamelan “is something that will touch every student in the School of Music.”

“It broadens the perspective of everyone that hears it or plays it,” Smaldone said of the gamelan. “It’s part of the world culture of music.”

Queens College will be holding a gamelan class in the upcoming semester Tuesday nights between 6:30 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. in Room 270 of the School of Music.

The class may be open to members of the community, Smaldone said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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