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Compositions —

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New Digs

2018 • 23 minutes • for gamelan degung

Gamelan degung: Suling, Peking, Panerus, Bonang, Gambang, Jennglong, Slenthem, Kacapi with soundfiles

I On the Horizon

II Tahlequah

III Out of the Cage


The colloquial expression “new digs” refers to a new residence or home for someone. In the case of my piece, it refers both to a move I made from central Canada to the west coast and to my first experience trying to find a “home” in the sounds of the Sundanese degung, an Indonesian gamelan orchestra with roots in West Java. The work was written for the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, the first Indonesian gamelan based in Canada and a group dedicated through its 35-year history to exploring new sounds for this combination of instruments.


While acknowledging the tremendous history and repertoire for this ensemble, my piece connects it to contemporary Western percussion practice, including through the inclusion of non-traditional instruments such as tin-cans and salad bowls and non-traditional performance practices such as “prepared percussion” – standard fare for Western percussionists since John Cage (influenced by Indonesian music) began regularly including them in percussion works in the 1940s. 


The second movement is a lament for the Tahlequah, the mother orca whale who carried her deceased infant above water for 17 days in the west coast Salish Sea off Vancouver Island in what could be easily read as an urgent plea to the human world to bring attention to the plight of the orca population’s suffering due to global warming and under-sea noise pollution. 

New Digs was commissioned by Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan as part of their 35th anniversary celebrations.

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