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Unplayed Melodies

Javanese Gamelan and the Genesis of Music Theory

Marc Perlman (Author)

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The gamelan music of Central Java is one of the world's great orchestral traditions. Its rich sonic texture is not based on Western-style harmony or counterpoint, but revolves around a single melody. The nature of that melody, however, is puzzling. In this book, Marc Perlman uses this puzzle as a key to both the art of the gamelan and the nature of musical knowledge in general.

Some Javanese musicians have suggested that the gamelan’s central melody is inaudible, an implicit or "inner" melody. Yet even musicians who agree on its existence may disagree about its shape. Drawing on the insights of Java’s most respected musicians, Perlman shows how irregularities in the relationships between the melodic parts have suggested the existence of "unplayed melodies." To clarify the differences between these implicit-melody concepts, Unplayed Melodies tells the stories behind their formulation, identifying each as the creative contribution of an individual musician in a postcolonial context (sometimes in response to Western ethnomusicological theories). But these stories also contain evidence of the general cognitive processes through which musicians find new ways to conceptualize their music. Perlman’s inquiry into these processes illuminates not only the gamelan’s polyphonic art, but also the very sources of creative thinking about music.
List of Illustrations
Conventions of Transcription and Orthography

1. Cognitive Preliminaries: The Nature of Musical Knowledge and the Processes of Creative Thinking
2. A Brief Introduction to Karawitan
3. Karawitan as a Multipart Music: The Relations between the Melodic Parts
4. The Balungan as Melodic Guide
5. Theorizing Melodic Guidance: The Social and Historical Context of Javanese Music Theory
6. Three Concepts of Unplayed Melody
7. Implicit-Melody Concepts in Perspective
8. Patterns of Conceptual Innovation in Music Theory: A Comparative Approach

References Cited
Marc Perlman is Associate Professor of Music at Brown University.
"The ethnomusicology community has been anticipating this book for some time, and it soars above expectations. Perlman's scope and erudition are broad; readers are offered a rich and integrated educational tour."—Michael Tenzer, author of Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of 20th Century Balinese Music

"Among other things, Perlman offers a fascinating metatheoretical analysis of the nature of Western music-theoretical discourse. His view of 'conceptual innovation' in music theory is insightful and important, and it demonstrates the value of an informed outsider's viewpoint, especially that of someone so adept in ethnography and conceptual history. This book will provide a fresh boost to the continuing study of the history of Western music theory."—Scott Burnham, author of Beethoven Hero

"This is a major achievement. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is a truly seminal work, one which all future studies of Javanese music will have to address and cite extensively and to which all future studies of musical cognition ought to refer as well."—R. Anderson Sutton, author of Traditions of Gamelan Music in Java

Alan Merriam Award, Society for Ethnomusicology

The Wallace Berry Award, Society for Music Theory

Lewis Lockwood Award, American Musicological Society

ASCAP - Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers

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