Author Topic: Wonderful World of Gamelan  (Read 7883 times)

9dragons

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Wonderful World of Gamelan
« on: April 03, 2008, 03:12:34 PM »
Any Gamelan music fans out there who have checked out this epic series of albums called Gamelan of Central Java (I think it is up to 9 volumes now) from the Felmay (Dunya) label in Italy:

http://www.felmay.it/main.php?ricerca=gamelan

I have a fair amount of Gamelan cds, but this one is special, from the recording quality to the musicians chosen. They are quite expensive due to the import cost, but the best price I have found is at Timbuktunes, great world music shop in Porland, OR:

http://www.timbuktunes.com/cd/cd-list.php?text=gamelan

I'm quite ignorant of different systems of Gamelan, and how Javanese compares to Balinese, and when I try to read the liner notes I become intrigued but confused. I do know that Gamelan is one of the most mind blowing musics the world has to offer, a realm all its own. I've been enjoying this series immensely because it seems so focus, and has that glow of stumbling upon golden secrets, the real heart of the music. And each volume focuses on a differnt aspect of the music, while still keeping the focus on central Java...I like that kind of thoroughness...

Check it out, or if you have any other thoughts on Gamelan, post them. I've been into this music for a long time, but haven't dedicated a really long stretch of my listening time to really digging deep into it. For some reason, at this time, I just feel like loading up the 5 changer with all gamelan for weeks on end...would be quite a consciouness altering expedition...




hdibrell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2008, 09:10:41 PM »
I,too, am ignorant of different systems of gamelan. I do enjoy it when I hear it, though. It is definitely a music to get lost in. This week I have been listening a lot to Loren Nerell's "Lilin Dewa" release. I know it isn't "pure" gamelan, but enjoyable just the same. Hopefully, Loren and others will weigh in on this subject with some recommendations.    Harry
Never regret money spent on old books, old dogs or old friends.

LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2008, 11:06:11 PM »
I just feel like loading up the 5 changer with all gamelan for weeks on end...would be quite a consciouness altering expedition...


Been there done that many times.  ;D

Seriously their are many different styles of gamelan, the Central Java style of those CDs being just one of the more well known ones. I have hundreds of hours of CDs, cassettes, LPs, and recordings of my own that I have made, and all that just touches the surface. Basically Central Jave style gamelan is the original heavy metal music, as in iron and bronze. While balinese gamelan is the original speed metal.  ;D I'll try to write a more serious reply to the questions about different styles tomorrow, in the meanwhile here's some links to some videos of the balinese gamelan group that I play with here in LA, this might give you a bit of an idea:



Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Undershadow

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2008, 12:27:07 AM »
[...] Loren Nerell's "Lilin Dewa" release. I know it isn't "pure" gamelan, but enjoyable just the same. [...]


On the subject of 'impure' derivations, there are two recordings I have from the mid-to-late 90s, that draw on some of the sound of gamelan. Both still sound good. These are: Paul Schütze’s The Rapture of Metals and Jon Iverson’s Alternesia. I still enjoy the Schütze (one for the “where are they now?” thread?), as it’s more like one of his albums with the gamelan influence given more ‘voice’. The Iverson is rather more like an appropriation exercise, but still, as the review makes clear, captures the sound wonderfully. Reviews grabbed from the net and below:

Paul Schütze
The Rapture of Metals
(SDV 028 CD) CD 63 minutes

Intended as a companion volume to New Maps of Hell, this is my favourite album from an always fine musician. The six Raptures contained on this release all explore a variety of Fourth World textures, existing on the same frontier between ambient music and ethnic music as Jon Hassell or Jeff Greinke. It's not always obvious just how much is electronic and how much isn't, but in the case of this excellent album it hardly seems to matter. The metallic tones and timbres often evoke the sound of the gamelan; Schütze's music effortlessly provides an otherworldly serenity without falling prey to clichés. [SDV-Tonträger, Zimmerstraße 5, D-4000 Düsseldorf, Germany]
(Brian Duguid -  http://media.hyperreal.org/zines/est/reviews/revs5nt.html)


Jon Iverson
Alternesia
MA Recordings (www.marecordings.com)

Multi-instrumentalist Jon Iverson is a Balinese music fanatic. So smitten was he upon initial contact with that culture that he added a personal collection of Balinese instruments to an existing arsenal of global soundmakers at his "recording camp" in California. Then, using only a 16-track analog recorder, meticulously assembled an album of Balinese-like music. Iverson keeps excellent time throughout these 8 tracks, none over 8 minutes, and opens a window on the dark timbral hues of the infamous southeast Asian soundworld. He has admitted that the end result is not anything close to being traditional Balinese gamelan, nor could it ever be. While deeply layered and flawlessly performed, his compositions do lack the complexity and sophistication of true gamelan: there are no abrupt silences or brief, unexplainable accelerations or decelerations, or any other conspicuously eccentric divisions of the beat. The typical piece flows undisturbed without any sense of time reordering itself in the way that ordinarily might fling a listener into cosmic trance. Instead they oscillate predictably between degrees of density. Ambient musician Robert Rich contributes some non-traditional bamboo flute to track 7 - "Gambuh Ikat", thereby lifting it above the others. What makes this record memorable however is the production, it's a recording triumph. One almost never encounters the textures of these metallophones, gongs, drums and cymbals so sumptuously preserved as they are here: in immaculately tactile highs and earthily rounded lows. Nor anchored so solidly in space. Though wanting of the ritual mystery from which it has been derived, Alternesia is nonetheless exotic, gorgeous-sounding, handsomely packaged and not quite like anything else from 1999.
- Steve Taylor (http://www.hollowear.com/reviews/iverson.html)


9dragons

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2008, 09:51:55 AM »
I'm enjoying the clips you posted, Loren. A few questions: Is this Balinese style? Why is are the musicians divided across the room? I notice there are also women playing, in Gamelan are women traditionally allowed to play? Is Javanese Gamelan strictly Muslim (would these kinds of dancers be allowed to perform, etc...) How did Gamelan adjust to Indonesia becoming Muslim, was there an attempt made to eradicate it? I am assuming it was just too ingrained in Indonesian life for that to ever happen. Do some Middle Eastern music forms or influences play a role in the Javanese Gamelan...for that matter, have any outside musics been influential on Gamelan in history, because Gamelan strikes me as a wholly insular and completely native type of music - there is just nothing out there that sounds like it at all...it is as if aliens came down to ancient Indonesia and left this music behind...

Sorry for all the questions!

GordonDanis

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2008, 11:15:38 AM »
It is true that there is nothing quite like gamelan, and that gamelan from Java tends to be spacy and langorous, while Balinese gamelan is
"the original speed metal" in the words of Loren Nerell, who has forgotten more about gamelan than I'll never know, and who has created both excellent gamelan, and gamelan-related works (my favorite is Taksu, which is gamelan-related.)

A good starting point are the four Javanese gamelan CDs reissued by Nonesuch Explorer a few years ago.  While these are field recordings, they hold up quite well-in fact, gamelan in a studio almost sounds sterile in comparison.  There is also a CD of Balinese gamelan on Nonesuch Explorer, coupled with the famous "monkey chant" (which was sampled by Jade Warrior on their Floating World CD-if you listened to 'Star's End' about 30 years ago, you couldn't have missed it.)
-gd

LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2008, 04:16:31 PM »
I'm enjoying the clips you posted, Loren. A few questions: Is this Balinese style? Why is are the musicians divided across the room?


Yes it is Baliese style. The musicians are divided to allow room for the dancers, music and dance are very much together and the dancers need to be close to communicate with the musicans.

I notice there are also women playing, in Gamelan are women traditionally allowed to play?


Well that is an interesting question and requires a complicated answer, but I will try to be short. In Bali the answer has mostly been no, but that is changing as more women have become interested in playing. Most people seem to think this has happened because of Western gamelan groups going to Bali and performing with mixed gender.  When I first started going to Bali I never saw women involved in gamelan music expect as dancers. Then about ten years ago I started seeing all women groups at temple festivals playing older styles of temple music. I've heard now their are some mixed groups so its changing. In Java women have traditionally performed but usually as singers or on specific instruments. I think that is also changing and I have seen some all women groups but not as many as in Bali.

Is Javanese Gamelan strictly Muslim (would these kinds of dancers be allowed to perform, etc...) How did Gamelan adjust to Indonesia becoming Muslim, was there an attempt made to eradicate it? I am assuming it was just too ingrained in Indonesian life for that to ever happen.


Yes you are correct, gamelan predates Islam in Indonesia by several hundred years. As far as I know no one tried to eradicate it as part of some strict muslim code, instead what actually happened was gamelan music was used to bring people to Islam. The story I was told was a very large in size version of a gamelan called Sektan Gamelan was made to be played inside the Mosque, people wanted to see the gamelan but where told they could only enter the Mosque if they were Muslim, so many people converted to Islam just to see the gamelan. That gamelan now plays outside the main Mosque for one week a year, I was fortunate enough to make some recordings of it back in 1994. I have some pictures of it on my website which you can see here:

http://www.lorennerell.com/java.html

Do some Middle Eastern music forms or influences play a role in the Javanese Gamelan...


Not that I am aware of, the only exception might be the rebab (2 string fiddle) which came from the Middle East and is part of the gamelan.

for that matter, have any outside musics been influential on Gamelan in history, because Gamelan strikes me as a wholly insular and completely native type of music


Some people have spectulated on several outside influences, ranging from African drumming to Beethoven! But none have really been proven. Its hard to prove because their are very few written records and the few that do exist are mostly recent or hardly make reference to origins of gamelan. Probably the oldest records of music in Indonesia are carvings of musicians on the Bororbudur, the worlds largest Budda stupa which was built in the 9th century. Most of those instruments appear to be string/harp like with only a few percussion instruments appearing in the carvings.

there is just nothing out there that sounds like it at all...it is as if aliens came down to ancient Indonesia and left this music behind...


Yes this is generally true of most royal court music from Asia, and a great deal of gamelan music comes from that tradition. In fact most of the Central Java gamelan music you have been listening to is actually from the royal courts. Their are four royal courts in Central Java, after the Dutch took over the courts were not allowed to fight each other and were mostly disarmed. So, the theory goes they turned to the arts to conduct their battles, and the arts then took off and produced most of the classic central Java gamelan music and dance that we now know. This took place in the 14th/15th century.

As for other CDs of gamelan music. As Gordon mentioned the Nonsuch recordings are a good source. Their are three CDs of music from the four royal courts of Central Java (a fourth recording was made but never released). These were recording by my mentor Dr. Robert Brown, made mostly back in the 1960s/70s. Back in the 1990s King Records in Japan had a very interesting series of CDs which is worth looking for. JVC also released quite a few CDs of gamelan music back in the 1980s  along with some videos.

I'll talk about Balinese gamelan in more detail at a later date.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

9dragons

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2008, 09:13:13 PM »
Thanks for the detailed answers, it is fascinating! I have one of the King Records cds, but haven't given it a listen in a while. From Nonesuch, I have 'The Jasmine Isle' (Java), 'Gamelan of the Love God' (Bali) and a big comp by David Lewiston called 'Bali'. I have an interesting one of all wooden Gamelan (is the wooden stuff technically Gamelan?) called 'Between Heaven and Earth' which seems to be of the more speed metal Bali variety. But the wood is an amazing twist, quite enjoyable. Other than that I have the first six volumes in the Gamelan of Central Java series. I think Volume II, 'Ceremonial Music' might be the Sektan Gamelan you mentioned. It is very deep and powered with intensely hypnotic drumming, and it seems from the background noise that it is a festival atmosphere...quite a wonderful and trance inducing recording. Also wanted to mention, was listening to Volume V of the series and on the first track there is an exquisitely beautiful passage where a distant tropical bird begins to sing, and it seems that this bird is working along with the music. Later, more birds join in, and maybe I am hallucinating, or it is wishful thinking, but it feels like the Gamelan is playing along with their cries, or vice versa! Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?

Forgot to ask if you have heard this Gamelan of Central Java series...and if so, what do you think of it?

9dragons

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2008, 01:31:15 AM »
Looks like this thread got lost in the fray, leaving these burning questions floating in mid air...

Loren, where are you?

Any Gamelan fans out there whiling away the summer heat with some of these liquid sounds? The wooden Gamelan is sounding very good to me these days, dispels the stagnant heat...

LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2008, 11:46:38 AM »
Looks like this thread got lost in the fray, leaving these burning questions floating in mid air...

Loren, where are you?

I'm here.  :) I thought this thread got lost in the last forum meltdown, glad it didn't. And good to see one of Gordon's last posts, I had forgotten he had participated in this thread.

Quote from: 9dragons
Forgot to ask if you have heard this Gamelan of Central Java series...and if so, what do you think of it?

I have a few of these discs from this series, I seem to remember volume 2 & 4, and maybe volume 3. I'm not at home right now so I can't tell you which ones. Its been a while since I have listened to them but I seem to remember that they were pretty good.

Quote from: 9dragons
I have an interesting one of all wooden Gamelan (is the wooden stuff technically Gamelan?) called 'Between Heaven and Earth' which seems to be of the more speed metal Bali variety. But the wood is an amazing twist, quite enjoyable.

I have that recording although I don't remember much about it (I probably have hundreds of gamelan CDs) Its not wood but bamboo, and yes it is considered gamelan, its probably an ensemble called Jegog. I will check this when I get home.

Quote from: 9dragons
From Nonesuch, I have 'The Jasmine Isle' (Java), 'Gamelan of the Love God' (Bali) and a big comp by David Lewiston called 'Bali'.

David and Bob Brown were to two main guys recording music in Indonesia for Nonesuch back in the day. Since you like central Java gamelan so much you should pick up Bob's three recordings of royal court music of Java. All three are on Nonesuch, hopefully one of these days Nonesuch will release the 4th volume that Bob recorded, they've been sitting on it for 30 years now. Bob also recorded a couple of Balinese gamelan albums for Nonesuch which are worth having, actually 'Gamelan of the Love God' is one of Bob's.

David has one other CD you might want to pick up, its called Trance 2 and was released on Ellipsis Arts back in the mid 1990s. It comes in a CD-sized 64-page hardcover book.

Quote from: 9dragons
I think Volume II, 'Ceremonial Music' might be the Sektan Gamelan you mentioned. It is very deep and powered with intensely hypnotic drumming, and it seems from the background noise that it is a festival atmosphere...quite a wonderful and trance inducing recording.

Hmm, not sure if its Sektan from your discription. Their is only one drum in Sektan and its used only occationally. I'll dig that CD out when I get home and give it a listen. The background noise sounds right, when I recorded them their was a big festival going on all around, in my recordings you can hear these snaps that occur, which were whips that people were demonstrating. I just remembered their is a small example of Sektan on my CD Indonesian Soundscapes. The track is called Maulud Nabi Festival. If I remember its only a modal introduction as an entire piece would have been too long for that CD.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2008, 04:02:09 PM by LNerell »
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

9dragons

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2008, 04:52:03 PM »
Thanks for all the detailed responses Loren, very much appreciated! I am glad this thread is going again. It is good to see Gordon's message up there...

About the last question I asked  up there, about the birds chirping, what do you think?

"Also wanted to mention, was listening to Volume V of the series and on the first track there is an exquisitely beautiful passage where a distant tropical bird begins to sing, and it seems that this bird is working along with the music. Later, more birds join in, and maybe I am hallucinating, or it is wishful thinking, but it feels like the Gamelan is playing along with their cries, or vice versa! Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?"
« Last Edit: August 06, 2008, 04:53:43 PM by 9dragons »

LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2008, 05:34:31 PM »
About the last question I asked  up there, about the birds chirping, what do you think?

"Also wanted to mention, was listening to Volume V of the series and on the first track there is an exquisitely beautiful passage where a distant tropical bird begins to sing, and it seems that this bird is working along with the music. Later, more birds join in, and maybe I am hallucinating, or it is wishful thinking, but it feels like the Gamelan is playing along with their cries, or vice versa! Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?"


Sorry I thought it was a rhetorical question. I haven't heard this CD but my feeling is you are hallucinating.  ;D  In a very tropical place like Java its hard to get away from the sounds of nature, especially where a gamelan is recorded. It's done in a special building called a pendopo, its open on three sides, usually made of marble, stone or other hard objects and has very high ceilings and gives it that kind of watery sound quality. Because of its openness birds, frogs and insects tend to use it as much as anyone else so they tend to become part of the sound fabric of these recordings. Here's a picture of a pendopo in one of the royal courts:



Of course this reminds me of some stories I have heard about the beginnings of gamelan. One being an early version of gamelan actually mimicked the sound of frogs. You can kind of get the idea if you listen to frogs in Java how this might be the case.

Years ago I made a recording at the Mangkunegaran royal court which from your discription has a simlar quality. Their were birds flying in and out of the pendopo during this performance and upon listening to the recording later on it added to the whole of the sound. Of course it has special meaning to me having been there at the time. As I type this I am in the process of dubbing all my field recordings that I did back in the 1990s from the original dat tapes they are on and putting them into my computer. I'll have to make sure I add that recording to my list of dubs for tomorrow. :)
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

jim02

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2008, 05:11:49 AM »
hello Loren, 9Dragons, i also share an certain interest in the indonesian gamelan music. in the past i visited several performances overthere and that sound really took me from that moment..
i own some gamelan/gamelan-influenced cd's like Loren's music, Kenneth Newby, Paul schutze, Jon Iverson, the Gamelan Madu Sari collaboration, Shadow Music of Java & Gamelan of Central Java (VI. Kraton Surakarta). All are fascinating in its own way.

i'd like to ask you, just to widen my 'gamelan' horizon :-) to recommend me some real stand-out cd's, while there's so much of it which doesn't say much to me. i also like that typical chanting you can occasionally hear on some of those cd's.

looking forward to explore more on this. thanks!

9dragons

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2008, 04:47:25 PM »
Greetings Jim02! I highly recommend the Gameland of Central Java series, which I mention above, from the Felmay label. Exceptional examples of this music, but I especiall recommend Volume II, Ceremonial Music, which is very deep and trance inducing. The other albums have some very interesting and perhaps "modern" stylings" (or rather different from other gamelan recordings I have heard), with some wonderful vocalizations.

Check it out here:

http://www.felmay.it/main.php?ricerca=gamelan

A good place to buy the albums is Timbuktunes mailorder:

http://www.timbuktunes.com/cd/cd-list.php?text=gamelan

And Loren, that picture you posted is quite inspiring! What a wonderful place...I am going to listen to Volume V again, and figure out whether those birds are singing along or not...either way though, it sounds so cool alongside the music. That is one of the beauties of gamelan to me, the openness of the music and its blending with outside sounds.

jim02

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2008, 11:45:41 PM »
Thanks 9Dragons, i've been checking out the Gamelan of Central Java volumes in the last few days, i think 6 and 2 are interesting to start with..

now it's a matter to find a good cheap resource for them, i wish there should be an ebay auction with all 9 volumes, wouldn't that be cool -in case now one is watching it except for me :-)

thanks again, if any suggestions, please let me know

LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2008, 01:03:21 PM »
Here are a few gamelan CDs I would recommend:

Central Java
Court Music of Kraton Surakarta[King Record Co. KICC 5151/KICW1015]
Court Music of Kraton Surakarta II [King Record Co. KICC 5193]
Gendhing Bonang, Court Music of Surakarta III [King Record Co. KICC 5238/KICW1077]
Music of Mangkunegaran Solo I [King Record Co. KICC 5184/KICW1075]
Langendriyan, Music of Mangkunegaran Solo II [King Record Co. KICC 5194]
BTW, "Solo" is short for Surakarta, the city in which this court is located.

Java: Palais Royal de Yogyakarta: Vol. 1, Les danses de cour/Court dances [Ocora/Radio France C560067]
Java: Palais Royal de Yogyakarta: Vol. 2, La musique instrumentale/Instrumental music [Ocora/Radio France C560068]
Java: Palais Royal de Yogyakarta: Vol. 3, Le spirituel et le sacré/Spiritual and sacred [Ocora/Radio France C560069]
Java: Palais Royal de Yogyakarta: Vol. 4, La musique de concert/Concert music [Ocora/Radio France C560087]

Javanese Court Gamelan [Vol. I], Pura Pakualaman, Jogjakarta [Elektra Nonesuch 79719-2]
Javanese Court Gamelan Vol. II, Mangkunegaran, Solo [Elektra Nonesuch 79721-2]
Javanese Court Gamelan Vol. III, Kraton Yogya [Elektra Nonesuch 79722-2]

Yogyakarta: Gamelan of the Kraton [Celestial Harmonies 13161-2]
I haven't heard this recording but I included it because David Parsons made this recording.


Bali

The Bali Sessions: a Definitive Collection of Balinese Gamelan [Rykodisc]
Recordings on mostly rare and older forms of gamelan from Bali.
Bali: Music from the Morning of the World[Nonesuch]
CUDAMANI: The Seven-Tone Gamelan Orchestra of Pengosekan, Bali[Vital (City Hall)]
I have to confess these guys are friends of mine but its a great CD which demonstrates what's going on in Bali today.
Gamelan Music of Bali [King Record Co.]
Gamelan Semar Pegulingan Saih Pitu: The Heavenly Orchestra of Bali[King Record Co.]
Wonderful seven-tone gamelan that's different then the Cudamani gamelan, originally courtly music that almost died out, now making a bit of a come back.
Bali: Music for the Gong Gede[Ocora France]
Rare ceremonal ensemble, only a few exist.
Clash of the Gongs[Long Distance France]
One of my favorites, recordings of mostly new compositions.


I think that will do for now.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

jim02

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2008, 01:29:04 PM »
holy moly, that's quite a list to dig myself in. ;D
i definately check out the latter to start with Loren!

i appreciate you took the time making up a list like this, thanks so much!
with google as my personal assistent, i will chasing for more info and samples on these titles.

cheers! 8)


LNerell

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Re: Wonderful World of Gamelan
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2008, 03:43:53 PM »
I should have pointed out that most of the King Record CDs are out-of-print, which is a shame as they are quite good. The others I am not sure of with the exception of the Nonesuch releases which I know are in print. Basically I put these out so you know if you run into one of them then just grab it.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell