The Balinese Musical Text Embodied in Time and Space

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Paper presented at the International Project on Musical Signification's international conference in Bologna Italy, November 14-16 1996.

(i) Abstract
(ii) Complete Paper

The Balinese Musical Text embodied in Time and Space
abstract for a paper by Zachar Laskewicz

The nature of Balinese performances can be compared to that of a text in a broad conception of this term, in the sense emerging from the Latin word textus involving a 'weave' of elements which combine to create a cultural whole: Balinese musical texts weave their way in out of the lives of the Balinese, simultaneously creating and perpetuating Balinese culture. These 'musical' texts are indeed cultural texts that are inextricably intertwined with the life of the Balinese, involved in such a way that it is impossible to disentangle them from their social and ritual context. The analysis of texts embedded in a such a complex 'multi-medial' context is logically the first problem encountered within the paper. On closer examination, one quickly realises that 'musical' performances on Bali, even those that are not used for particular ritual functions, involve a complex matrix of events and actions that play an important role in understanding the meaning-based function of musical elements in performance. Traditional forms of musical analysis designed for Western formal music are clearly inadequate for understanding these 'living' musical performances, and the problematic nature of Western analysis forms an important point of discussion within the paper.

Our particular forms for music analysis have evolved from a literary consciousness in which music is seen as existing in permanent 'iconicized' units of knowledge [scores] whose performance become simply a second place event of lesser importance: we raise the iconic essence of the score high above the incomplete form of the performance or interpretation. Musical perfection is reached in our minds by existing firstly on paper, the performance is reduced of sensual meaning and becomes simply an imitation of the permanency inscribed on paper. We have turned music into an analytical langue, divorced from the synthetic totality of langage. We have reduced our music of time and space, both elements important in understanding the Balinese performance.

The Balinese musical text is one which is deeply inscribed in the memories and the bodies of the Balinese people, and it is only through their performance that the knowledge inherent in them is transmitted. Unlike our own musical texts which we have turned into objectified sources for performance, the Balinese musical text is alive, and is only meaningful in the context of its performance. With this realisation, a theoretical approach demands a sensuous and experiential assessment. It is through the performance itself that 'knowledge' is transmitted, and with such a realisation it becomes clear that a phenomenological methodology is the only possible path to take.
By using a combination of Peirce's sign trilogy (icon, symbol and index) and the habitus of Pierre Bourdieu, a new model is created for examining the cultural force of the music which allows the indexical element of the performance to be brought to the fore. Such an approach demands a transferal of the emphasis to the indexicality of the performance. Through a sensuous actualisation of ancient icons, Balinese musical texts become a powerful deictical pointing arrow: they act to direct the attention of the audience and the gods to the symbolic actions which occur, making them through their performance a part of the observer's reality. The music makes the reality tangible, experiencable and sensuous.

Major references

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Jakobson, R. and Pomorska, K. (1980) Dialogues, Flammarion, Paris.

Kersenboom, S. (1995) Word, Sound, Image: The Life of the Tamil Text , Berg Publishers Limited, Oxford.

The Balinese Musical Sign Embodied in Time and Space
by Zachar Laskewicz

Time and change seem to be two words that have an intimate connection with one another. No matter how we may like to prevent time from bringing irrevocable change into our world, we don't seem to be able to prevent it. Even the theories we create to gain a deeper insight into reality seem to be sensitive to the changing force of time, despite the fact that we often see them as being transcendent of the natural world. Theoretical models are designed to give a fitting insight into the surrounding reality, and although the 'reality' itself does not actually change in any large way, our method of interpreting it does, and this results in a gradual transferal to new theoretical models based on new needs. Such changes have resulted in us interpreting our world in radically different ways. The philosophy of Charles Peirce has offered contemporary 'science' with the possibility of a new theoretical paradigm, one based in a non-essentialist approach to interpreting reality, but applicable in general to all human understanding. Peirce was reacting against the prevailing Cartesian/Kantian essentialist paradigm which was based in a transcendent view of knowledge. Through his innovative theories, he suggested that 'reality' could only be understood by means of signs: signs act to 'mediate' between the 'true' reality and our perception of it. By using signs, we can approach the 'reality' we never actually have direct contact with. Peirce tried to create a phenomenological theory of signs which would create new ways of understanding human knowledge, although his ultimate dream became the creation of a theory of signs in which the objectified rules of logic would determine how the sign is experienced and cognised by individuals. This would be a new logic which would give an insight into the (real) 'reality', a new language for contemporary science. Because of Peirce's epistemological horizon, we can expect that his new scientific language would ultimately be connected to a rather static model of human understanding, despite the potential inherent in his earlier philosophical work. Peirce, trapped in his quest to find an iconic language to encompass all human cognition, ended up creating an approach which "reduced the role of signs to being blind vehicles for communication" (Parmentier, 1985). He had created an approach to reality based in the objectification which he was initially trying to transcend, and unfortunately in using Peirce in its pure form we are in many ways subscribing to a reductive paradigm. The current dissatisfaction with contemporary theory demands a rethinking of Peirce's approach to the sign, one based in the physical embodiment of experience and not in a quest for objectified, transcendent knowledge.

Unfortunately, an objectified approach is still an implicit given in our current 'scientific' disciplines, and is so deeply embedded in our way of thinking that it is difficult if not impossible for many to consider that there might be other-equally valid-ways for understanding 'knowledge', whatever that may be. The theories we use to come to a better understanding of reality seem to be based in the belief that through improving our existing scientific theories, we can come closer to understanding that real reality which through the existing theories still escapes us (although only just). It seems amazing now that Roman Jakobson wrote the following in 1919: "the overcoming of statics, the expulsion of the absolute - here is the essential turn for the new era, the burning question of today" (Jakobson, 1990, pg. 165). This is surprising because it is precisely this 'overcoming of statics' which we are still grappling with in contemporary fields of research: despite much 'evidence' which would suggest the contrary, it is difficult to accept that our way of understanding knowledge is only one of many different ways, and therefore that so-called 'scientific' approaches to interpretation is the product of a particular western paradigm. New winds of change are beginning to blow away the debris of the past, which can be strongly felt in fields such as linguistics, psychology, sociology and anthropology. In these fields, one can observe a movement against static 'idealised' or 'objectified' models of meaning grounded in a Descartian/Kantian approach to meaning. This new approach is based in the realisation that it is only through semiotic 'mediation' that we come closer to an essentially 'unfathomable' reality, and that every culture has its own filtering system for translating that knowledge into a culturally understandable system of signs. Many that turned to Peirce soon after he was rediscovered are rethinking his work, taking a second look because of newer developments. 'Science' as we understand it in the western world is finally being seen as the particular way we have in our culture of filtering information, of creating a sign system.

Many other disciplines, however, remain untouched by the new developments. The objectified paradigm remains strongly present and doesn't seem about to change: these disciplines are still grounded in the quest for a sort of transcendental scientific 'truth', one which in the Descartian sense is both real and pure. This approach, embedded in staticity and a search for the absolute, has to be overcome, and I feel that it is through radicalisation in the field of semiotics that this can occur. Musicology, the discipline which seems always to lag years behind the others, is still waiting in the calm period before the storm: theoreticians are still embedded in an objectified approach to 'musical' reality, one which seems to be searching for universally applicable knowledge, a pure musical truth. In this paper, we will be looking at influencing factors from fields as diverse as cognition and psycholinguistics to bring to musicology something that is reflecting a general paradigm change in other disciplines.

So what have the winds of change brought to contemporary theory? We are ushering in a new age in semiotics in which the 'sign' is being analysed in a completely new manner. Influenced by developments in different fields, the previously static image of the sign is receding and a newer dynamic 'sign' is emerging. We are no longer interested in the sign itself, viewed as an abstracted entity that is 'interpreted' by an anonymous human individual, but we are looking at the complex context in which the sign is created, in which the semiosis occurs. This involves a multimedial approach to the sign, one which recognises the physicality involved in a human understanding of meaning. In this paper we will be discussing a new approach to the musical sign based on the concept of 'embodiment'. Going against the prevailing 'scientific' approach to musical meaning which still sees itself searching for some kind of universal musical 'truth', our new model for musical meaning is grounded in understanding the sign within an embedded cultural situation, which means taking account of the so-called 'subjectified' way the individual has of understanding the sign. The main point here is that signs are 'embodied' in physical acts and the physicality of the human body, and are realised in the form of cultural performance within the parameters of time and space. In this paper, I will be trying to bring back three essential elements that are necessary in understanding the Balinese musical sign, elements which have been lost in our 'objectified' approach to musical meaning: time, space and embodiment. For the Balinese, it is difficult to talk abstractedly about musical signification outside the context of the performance. It is only in the performance that the knowledge is transferred, and talking about it outside this context seems a futile endeavour. The existing theoretical models, involved in a purely sound based approach to the musical sign, are entirely out of place in a Balinese context. New theoretical models based on a realisation of the essential 'physicality' of the musical sign are necessary.

In order to take the first steps towards such a theoretical model, a basis for the 'embodied' musical sign will be formed by rethinking the paradigm in which many areas of science (including musicology) are still embedded. This includes discussing the philosophical repercussions of 'embodied' meaning. The static approach to western musicology will then be discussed, and a new model for the 'embodied' musical sign will be presented in which the individual becomes empowered in the sign's creation and the sign itself is moved from a central position. Finally, embodiment as a new approach to the sign is related to Balinese 'musicality'. As time and space are such important elements which go into understanding the Balinese musical sign, alternative notions of these parameters which are unique to the Balinese culture are also brought into the discussion. Before concluding, the essential 'embodiment' of the Balinese musical sign is discussed by demonstrating particular examples from contemporary Balinese performance.

We will begin by questioning the general acceptance of an 'objectified' approach to meaning in contemporary western scientific disciplines, one which is also present in contemporary musicology, musical semiotics, and musical cognition (cybernetics). The traditional approach involves a quest for highly objectified knowledge: in the case of musicology, it involves an analysis of 'sound' objects abstracted from their performance and through this the creation of a 'universally applicable' theory for the human understanding of musical sound. According to Johnson, the theoretician responsible for a book involved with the essential 'embodied' nature of human meaning, this view on the objectified nature of meaning and rationality "has been held for centuries by philosophers in the Western tradition." He goes on to say that such an approach has come to define the only dominant research program in a number of related disciplines in the last several decades (Johnson, 1974, pg. x-xi). An objectified approach to meaning is based in the assumption that "science", by creating theories, moves continuously closer towards the (one and only) correct description of 'reality'. And, according to Johnson, "even though we will never achieve the final complete account, it is believed that genuine empirical knowledge involves universal logical structures of inference whose results can be tested against theory-neutral 'objective' data" (Johnson, pg. xiii). This view is currently perpetuated in western science and in western education-we all remember the objective purity of the Cartesian plane, one which exists in an objectified, mathematical space. Here Descartes was attempting to demonstrate that the 'method' used for attaining certain knowledge is a "universal mathematics" which would allow us to trace out all the possible connections among our ideas in an orderly and complete fashion (Johnson, pg. xxvii). This Cartesian legacy was handed down by Kant to his successors, and has resulted in the current crisis in Western theory. What has been accepted for so long as a basic given in science, is now being being realised in the context of its history, a necessity bourn out of western philosophical needs. The central theme of this legacy, according to Johnson, was that "human rationality consists of the formal element of cognition, distinct from any particular material content or sensation, any set of images, any emotions, or any bodily processes.[...] In short, Kant reinforces an unbridgeable gap between reason and bodily experience." Johnson goes on to say that these Cartesian and Kantian themes have reinforced a recurring set of ontological, epistemological, and logical dichotomies that have been profoundly influential on western ways of thinking; and that these rigid dichotomies have made it extremely difficult to bring 'embodiment' back into a model for human meaning as 'meaning' is generally considered to be transcendent of the human body (Johnson, pg. xxix). With semiotics, Peirce attempted to overthrow this objectified way of looking at human meaning, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Transcending this paradigm was also the goal of his French counterpart, De Saussure, who attempted the same in his quest to understand the subjective complexity of langage. Unfortunately, he got caught in a static quest for the purity of langue-an objectified image of communication, an abstract system of understandings that all humans share. In reaction to this prevailing scientific paradigm, changes are taking place which are emphasising the importance of the 'body' in understanding human meaning. Here the sign is observed within the context of its enactment in physical space and real time, and in this paper we will be trying to bring 'embodiment' back to the musical sign.

This static approach to meaning which is essentially transcendent of the human body is inherently present in western musicology. Our primary unit for musical analysis is the 'score', an objectified form which through notation has become 'disembedded' from its context and its performance. By using the score as a basis for musical analysis, we are immediately taking a transcendent view of musical meaning: for us the music exists in its most pure form on paper, and it is only in this secure zone that 'real' analysis can take place. Here we form part of the general western quest for a pure, homogeneous method for interpreting meaning, one distant from the dangerous subjectivity of the performance. The very fact that we consider that we can find meaning in music outside of its performance because it exists in the more permanent form of a score seems to me dangerously reductive, and certainly inapplicable to other cultures whose 'musical knowledge' is never represented in the form of notation. Moreover, if the score is taken as the basic form of representation, three important elements are removed without which signification could not take place: time, space and sound. Still, we attempt to apply our objectified notions of musical experience as a universal given, although it remains a philosophical product of western society.

An 'embodied' approach to musical meaning rejects the score as a basic means for understanding musical experience, and brings performance back to the analysis. This can be seen as being a move from product-the idolisation of 'works' of individual geniuses, abstracted from their embedded contexts-to process-realisation that music is an embodiment in performance of a multi-levelled embedded context. Firstly I would like to demonstrate the pervasiveness of a product-based approach to musical meaning in western thought. Nattiez, in his important volume concerning music and discourse, states that "we would not know how to speak of music without referring to sonority, even when the reference is only implied." He then goes on to say that "sound is a minimal condition of the musical fact." (Nattiez, pg. 42-43). This basic accepted 'given' of western musicology is highly problematic, and from the perspective of the 'embodied' musical sign is rejected outright. It is based in the assumption that the musical 'product' is more important than the 'process' in understanding musical meaning, that 'meaning' can be taken from the objectified form of the 'product', which in terms of 'embodied' meaning is reduced of importance. A sound-based product approach to the musical sign assumes that although different cultures enjoy as part of their definition of music quite different conceptions, if we cut away all the surrounding layers which add to the cultural signification in a performance setting (for example dance, movement, language, text, images, costumes, even hallucinatory drugs), then we end up with a pure state of sound in all cases, even it is is only implied. The Balinese consider 'musical experience' to be something far broader than simply the sound, and reducing music in the way we like to do is therefore a dangerous reduction, although such an approach is the basic goal of western musicology. A non-objectified, embodied method for looking at the musical sign must, therefore, become the "essential turn for a new era, the burning question of today."

A movement from 'product' to 'process' is involved with a realisation that the musical sign becomes 'embodied' in real time performances. Johnson, in his important volume concerning the embodied nature of human meaning, attempts to demonstrate that our notion of meaning and rationality is closely involved with the physicality of our bodies. The relationship of the human body with space, and its interaction with the world, plays a highly important role in our understanding of 'meaning': human meaning is very much 'embodied' in human practice. According to Johnson, the body has been ignored by objectivism because is has been thought to introduce subjective elements alleged to be irrelevant to the objective nature of meaning (Johnson, pg. xiv). Objectivism assumes that reason is transcendent, not tied to any aspect of human understanding. In reaction to this dangerously reductive paradigm, new waves of thinking are beginning to bring the 'body' back as an essential element in signification. Johnson implies that as humans "our consciousness and rationality are tied to our bodily orientations and interaction in and with our environment. Our embodiment is essential to who we are, to what meaning is, and to our ability to draw rational inferences and to be creative" (Johnson, pg. xxxviii). It is from this interpretation of human meaning that we can begin to build the basic elements of the 'embodied' sign, one based on a 'non-objectivist' theory of meaning. Here, understanding is treated as a "historically and culturally embedded, humanly embodied, imaginatively structured event" (Johnson, pg. 175-176).

In order to approach the 'embodied' musical sign, we have to take the emphasis off the sign itself and empower the individual who is the party responsible for 'embodying' the sound in performance. Traditional notions of music and the 'musical work' have to be rethought in light of this, and I would like you to consider the following: as composers, performers and also simply as listeners, we create the musical meaning. When we experience 'music' in any form we aren't the passive listeners, but the active creators "thinking the music in ourselves." My main point here is that music has meaning because we assign meaning to it: we create it. It is only through taking this perspective that the importance of embodiment can be understood. Such an approach has also been implied in contemporary musicological thought. To demonstrate this I would like to discuss again Nattiez's theories, who in discussing the work of Molino presents a dynamic theoretical structure for understanding music as a 'symbolic form'.

"Three dimensions of this symbolic phenomenon thus emerge: (a) The poietic dimensions: [...] the symbolic form results from a process of creation that may be described or reconstituted. (b) The esthesic dimension: 'receivers', when confronted by a symbolic form, assign one or many meanings to the form. [...] (c) The trace: the symbolic form is embodied physically and materially in the form of a trace accessible to the five senses."
(Nattiez, pg. 11-12).

In this model, the individuals involved in the creation of the 'symbolic form' are empowered in the fact that they are considered as the parties who 'create' the meaning. The sign evolves dynamically from the individual in the form of a poietic process, which is then dynamically reconstructed into meaning by the interpreter in a process known as the esthesic. The third division, the trace, is also referred to by Nattiez as the material reality of the work, the analysis of the work's immanent configurations or as the neutral level. This level of understanding music is a direct link with the objectified approach already discussed, and unfortunately it is the basis for contemporary musicology which is grounded in the belief that any 'meaning' inherent in the work can be achieved by analysing this 'product' (trace). Many consider this to be amply provided for by the score, abstracted from the dynamics of the poietic or the esthesic processes inherent in the performance. In my opinion this approach hasn't been very successful because in such a perspective 'music' is totally lost in the process of objectification. General developments in other disciplines are, however, forcing musicology to takes its emphasis off the level of the product or trace, and create a more dynamic image for the musical sign as is represented by a recognition of embodiment.

Before we discuss in further detail implications associated with an embodied sign, I would like to further empower the individual in the emergence of the sign by bringing in the work of an important theoretician working in the fields of cognition and literacy studies, Frank Smith. In his article discussing a new approach to the way the brain processes information, Smith presented a model in which the brain was seen as an 'artist', actively involved in the creation of a 'theory of the world in the head', a theory which is continuously tested against the constant stream of new information. This theory shapes both the way we look at past experience, and the way we look at the future. In his perspective, the individual is seen as being an active force in the internalisation of knowledge. The brain is not simply a 'data-base' churning and processing information in a preset format, but is creatively constructing reality.

"My metaphor pictures the brain as an artist [...] What is it that we have in the brain that enables us to make sense of the world, to interpret signals and makes sense of information? I have argued elsewhere that the brain contains nothing less than a theory of the world, a theory that is an interpreted summary of all past experience [...] that is the basis not only of our present understanding of the world but more importantly of our predictions of the future."
(Smith, pg. 199)

Our theory of what the world is like provides us with a set of expectations. When our ongoing experience fits our expectations, everything is fine; the new experience makes sense, we comprehend it. But when the new experience is out of line with our expectations, we are forced to modify those expectation to make room for the new experience. The individual is, therefore, empowered: he/she is not seen as the passive being which simply takes in and classifies information, but as the party actively involved in creating the world in a dynamic and continually changing process, a non-static image for human meaning.

"The world in the head is dynamic, constantly changing, both in the course of its own enterprises and it its interactions with the world. [...] Fantasy is not reality manipulated; reality is a fantasy constrained by the objective world [...] reality is fantasy that works."
(Smith, pg. 200)

Such a non-objectified image for understanding human cognition has affected other scientific disciplines, most particularly psycholinguistics, which is involved with the study of language acquisition in children. The prevailing model for language acquisition, one presented by Chomsky which is an elaboration of an essentially static view of human meaning, sees language acquisition as an inevitable process in which the child follows a 'preset' course for learning language over which the child has no control. The new theoretical paradigm has led to irrevocable theoretical and practical changes within this field: now the child is seen as being an 'active' party, involved in 'creatively constructing' language by doing it, by purposefully interacting with the world.
"'Creative construction' characterises children's activity in language learning as one of active sense making. The child participates in a social world and out of diverse experience-linguistic and nonlinguistic-the child constructs, builds, sense."
(Lindfors, pg. 158)

For an 'embodied' perspective on the musical sign, such a practical approach to understanding meaning is highly important: in this example, meaning is understood as being related to its physical performance by the individual: sense is literally 'built' by the child. Contemporary psycholinguistic research has suggested that the sign is closely involved with the physicality of our human bodies, certainly as has been clearly demonstrated in relation to language acquisition: as children our whole notion of meaning is bonded to our physical connection with the world as we act creatively to construct the reality that surrounds us.

"What does the one to two-year old notice particularly? What he acts on physically. A child acts on hats, shoes, and socks, but a diaper is something that is done to him, in a sense; he 'gets diapered.' Keys can be grasped, jangled, shaken, and bitten, but what can a child do to a table or crib? Tables and cribs are just there."
(Lindfors, pg. 166-167).

Contrary to popular belief, we are not passively building reality around us in a pre-fashioned form, which Chomsky's work on language acquisition would have us believe. Through contemporary psycholinguistic research, we are now beginning to see the linguistic sign as being connected to a far more complex process of physical expression: a child is no longer seen as the 'passive party' in an inevitable process of language acquisition, but rather as an active and inventive participant. In this sense, we realise that our sense of meaning is intimately connected to the performance of an action. Here we view the sign as being something created and experienced in real time and space and through our bodies, 'embodied' in the physicality of the individual. Here we approach the dynamic nature of 'embodied' meaning.

So what can we learn from these alternative perspectives? Firstly, that meaning is based in the physicality of the human body. Secondly, that we form a theory for understanding the world by interacting with that world in a temporal and spatial context. Thirdly, that the sign emerges in the dynamic context of its creation, as a tool for understanding the world. Although Johnson is relating his ideas of embodied meaning to a world of linguistic science, Frank Smith his dynamic recognition of the brain as an 'artist' to literacy studies, and Lindfors her ideas of the 'creative construction' of meaning to language acquisition, these new currents in thought seem to me to be highly significant for looking at 'musical' meaning, which is very much involved with the dynamism of performance. An embodied approach recognises that musical experience can not only 'express' itself in multimedial forms, but that we, as humans, are 'multimedial' beings, that we can understand and express musicality in more forms than simply sound. A process-based approach recognises, in turn, that the meaning is not inherent in the work itself, but that we create the meaning ourselves by using the five senses. Here, the notion of 'musicality' is seen as being a cognitive function, a way of experiencing and interpreting reality, a way of perceiving the world. Musicality is something that may become expressed in certain culturally accepted forms-which is very often sound (although not always)-although an embodied, multimedial approach recognises that the 'trace' is of lesser importance when compared to the dynamics involved in the sign's emergence. We, as performers, listeners and composers, are empowered. This image for human meaning, where the individual is seen as an active party in his/her creation of the world, is an exciting one, far distant from an objectified approach which sees meaning as being transcendent of the individual and the subjectivity of the performance. I would like to posit that our brain actively forms its image of the world based on what it experiences as suggested above, and that music plays an important role in this formation. When we experience 'music', in any form, we aren't the passive listeners, but the active creators, or artists , creating the musical meaning and using it to help adjust our 'theories of the world'.

We now come closer to the embodied sign itself. How can we define such an entity? The embodied musical sign is one which is realised as an act in performance, one in which any 'signification' from the sign is involved directly in the dynamics of its performance. Here, the individual is brought back into the model by recognising the individual as an 'artist' (in Smith's sense) who expresses in the form of a cultural performance symbolic potentialities or choices which give the sign its richness: here the act of listening and performing are considered to be important creative 'acts' involved with musical semiosis, and the 'trace' itself, the (sound-based) material reality of the performance, is considered to be of lesser importance. The semiosis of the 'embodied' musical sign is one involved with the parameters of space and time, parameters which are removed in an objectified approach to musical meaning, an approach which is unfortunately still pervasive in contemporary western musicology. Without these important elements, the 'embodied' musical sign cannot exist, and as it will be revealed in this paper it is impossible to view the Balinese sign in any other way, because it is very much embodied in the now of the performance. The embodied sign is enacted in an embedded cultural context, and as such cannot be disembedded from it.

The musical sign, then, is embedded in organic and sensuous reality and is realised in performance. It is through such a 'personal embodiment' that we are able to understand the musical sign. We can recognise now that it is in this embodiment, this sensuous firstness, that the musical sign receives its 'meaning', that the musical sign transmits its 'knowledge'. The degree to which the Balinese surround themselves with abstract 'musical' symbolism was quite influential in helping me to form this image of musical experience. Balinese life is unthinkable without 'music' which is used constantly in the form of both ritual and secular performances. It is difficult not to suggest that this plays an important role in the formation of the Balinese perception of the world. Music, therefore, is far more than the 'sound it makes', but is a way of experiencing reality, of interfacing between the world and our perception of it, helping to form our theory of the world in the head. The individual expresses music in the dynamic act of performance, which helps to perpetuate the culture. Music is therefore not simply a reflection of a cultural situation: it is a direct means of cultural perpetuation.

The essential physicality of Balinese music is impossible to avoid. In every musical piece, there is a dynamic physicality associated with all musical sounds, and the dance is referred to in the same context. Music and dance are considered within Balinese culture to be natural correlates of one another, and as such cannot be separated in analysis. According to Sanger (1989, pg. 57) "there is no word in Balinese which means the same as the English word 'music'." In fact, the Indonesian word musik, which approximates to the English term, is actually a product of western influence brought about during the colonial period. Any meaningful research into Balinese 'music' must consider dance as an essential element. Music and dance are both dynamic realisations of the human body and the environment in performance, and this 'embodiment' is therefore essential to Balinese musical signification. The Balinese begin to learn to play music and to dance from a very young age. In Bali, music is a pervasive cultural entity which is so closely intertwined with other forms of Balinese 'education' that it inevitably forms an incredibly important part of their understanding of the world. Through the Balinese musical performances, 'knowledge' is transmitted. Their 'theories of the world' are continually tested and retested in performance, and if the communication potential begins to decrease, the performances are quickly changed to suit new circumstances. Dramatic changes on Bali during the last 150 years have brought about the necessity for Balinese music to change and adapt itself to an altered world: the results have been remarkable. Despite the romantic associations which would suggest otherwise, the needs of the Balinese people are not satisfied by the 'continual repetition of age-old traditions', but are vital and changing. This is a direct reflection of the 'dynamic' notion of the sign as related to an 'embodied' concept of meaning. The Balinese musical sign can only be understood in this context.

Since it is evidently highly important to consider the parameters of space and time to understand the Balinese 'embodied' musical sign, it will be necessary to have a look at alternative notions of these concepts which are ingrained in the way the Balinese relate to the world. Firstly, it is important to note that the very Balinese sense of rationality is based on alternative spatial and temporal notions. According to Eiseman, "one of the first things a careful investigator learns is the principle of desa kala patra [terms taken from Sanskrit]: that whatever one learns in Bali is largely determined by where he is, when he is there, and the circumstances under which the learning occurs" (Eiseman, pg. xiv). Their whole notion of 'truth', therefore is based on particular temporal and spatial circumstances: what is 'true' one day, could be entirely different at another time or place, which can sometimes prove frustrating to a western visitor who has embedded in his/her sense of rationality a more strict notion about the interpretation of reality and truth, the permanency of knowledge which is embedded in a western scientific approach. This is an important beginning point, and explains the necessity of being aware of alternative 'filtering systems' which help affect the way our 'theory of the world in the head' is formed.

On Bali the concept of 'spatiality' has far wider reaching implications because of its multi-levelled symbolic nature, penetrating physical and religious space in a remarkable manner:

"In Bali, a direction describes a vector not just in physical space, but in cultural, religious, and social 'space' as well. As a result, every Balinese seems to possess a built-in sense of direction. And if for some reason this feeling is lacking, the individual is visibly uncomfortable and disoriented." (Eiseman, pg. 3).

The importance of spatiality to the Balinese can be related to the Hindu religion adopted by the Balinese, one involved with maintaining a sense of balance by keeping the forces of 'good' and 'evil' at bay by constant religious practice. The terms kaja and kelod are important here. Kaja refers to the direction of the mountains, and kelod to the direction of the sea, and therefore have essentially physical-spatial references. The sea is the dangerous lurking-place for demons, and the mountains are the abode of the gods, so although the terms kaja and kelod are often used for horizontal vectors (i.e. North/South), they also have a vertical connotation. The analogy here is obvious: what is 'up' is associated with the heavens, whereas what is down is associated with the netherworld. It is the greatest Balinese insult, for example, to point your shoe in someone's direction because the foot has direct contact with the ground. These vectors have more than simply spatial connotations. They have also complex ritual significance which transcend any notion of physical space as we understand it, dictating, for example, where in a room a person will sleep, in which part of the house offerings will be made, the way buildings will be built and ultimately the structure of the village itself. These vectors represent a basic spatially-orientated understanding of the spiritual self. This plays an inevitable role in the way signification occurs in Balinese performances. If performers, for example, are disoriented or lose their sense of direction, they are not able to dance or play music and need to orient themselves to the direction of the mountain and the sea before being able to perform again.

"Unless a Balinese can orient himself properly in this universe of balance, dictated by kaja and kelod, up and down, he feels uncomfortable and lost because he is not in harmony with his environment and the forces of good and evil within it."
(Eiseman, pg. 5).

Time is also an important parameter in the Balinese interpretation of reality. The Balinese Hindu concept of circular time relates quite closely to the Indian Hindu notion, where one human life span is considered as only one stage in a continual series of births and rebirths (samsara - reincarnation) inherent in a cyclical conception of time, working towards moksa, the final union with god. In Balinese culture, however, this circular notion of time is so strong, that the cyclicality speaks literally 'up' the generations. When a father has a child, he is renamed as 'the father of. . .', where each new generation sees the return of ancestors awaiting rebirth. The complex Balinese calender also plays an important role. Although the Balinese calender system involves the interfacing of three different calenders, including the Hindu lunar calender and the Western calender accepted nationally within Indonesia, the ritual events are largely involved with an ancient Balinese calender. Firstly, coherent with the Hindu cyclical conception of time, the years are not progressive. They do not 'count' them as they pass by: a given year is not differentiated from one that has already passed. They do not, therefore, see themselves on a road towards the future, awaiting ever newer and brighter developments which our culture cherishes in the form of 'progress'. In this respect, ethnomusicology has often attempted to make a connection between the Hindu cyclical nature of time and the colotomic structure of the music which sees the constant return of the same musical pattern, interspersed by a pervasive 'gong structure'. The musical performance itself does not have a 'beginning' or an 'end' in the traditional sense, but is considered simply to 'manifest itself during the performance.' Tenzer suggests that "the periodic and regenerative structures of gamelan melodies make an apt metaphor for the life, death, and reincarnation cycles so central to Balinese Hindu belief." (Tenzer, pg. 21).

The Balinese calender is highly complicated because it is made up essentially of a number of different weeks each of a different length (for example a one day week, a two day week, a three day week and so on), which all run concurrently and are connected together in an extremely complex fashion. When the first days of two or a number of weeks fall on the same day, this is usually considered to be an auspicious day for a temple celebration of some kind. Considering the number of weeks, and the logical result of first days falling concurrently, it is obvious that temple celebrations occur very often. The system is in fact so complicated, that the Balinese often have to consult with a priest to see which day would be the most auspicious to perform certain rituals. Musical performances are necessitated so often by religious events that it seems to the observer that the Balinese involve themselves in other chores as an unpleasant interruption to one long temple festival.

"Music is ubiquitous in Bali; its abundance is far out of proportion to the dimensions of the island. The Hindu-Balinese religion requires gamelan for the successful completion of most of the tens of thousands of ceremonies undertaken yearly. At a plethora of traditionally mandated religious events, the gods descend in numbers to inhabit their designated shrines for the length of the festivities, awaiting the lavish musical entertainments that their village hosts are expected to provide. For the procession of offerings into the temple, there is music; for the spilling of cremated souls' ashes into the sea, there is music; for the exorcism of evil spirits, there is music; and for the ritual filing of teeth, there is music" (Tenzer, pg.12)

In a religious context, the performance of music and dance directs the attention of the audience and the gods to the action which occurs. The music is seen as being inevitable and eternal, but at the same time changes regularly to suit the changing context in which it occurs. Music makes reality tangible, experiencable and sensuous. Music is not purely used in the context of religious performances. In addition to the complex array of performances which are necessary for the Balinese religions, there is also another array of performances-not including tourist performances-which are considered a necessary part of Balinese life:

"The Balinese embellish this rigorous schedule of sacred musical events with a wide range of more worldly occasions in which gamelan also assumes a crucial role. There are flirtatious street dances, frenzied bull races, and gamelan performances for guests and dignitaries. A regular cycle of gamelan competitions and festivals provides a forum for people to demonstrate their pride in their musical abilities and their dedication to the cultivation of a priceless cultural heritage for its own sake, independent of the ritual needs that it fills."
(Tenzer, pg. 13)

Musical performance, then, is evidently a necessary element of Balinese life, and it plays an important role in the perpetuation of Balinese culture. Now it is important to look a little closer at individual performance events and how important a role time, space and 'embodiment' play in their signification. A primary level of 'embodiment' in Balinese performance can be expressed by the importance of dance in structuring the music in ritual performances. In older ritual compositions which are still often used at temple festivals, such as the 'baris' or the 'barong', the dancer communicates directly with the drummer who in turn communicates the musical structure expressed by the movements of the dancer to the musicians. The whole structure of the music is based on the embodiment of the dancer's movements, and this is certainly a factor which affects the way the sign emerges in performance. There is a complete connection between music and dance structure, and the dancers and the musicians even share an abstract 'language' which they use to refer to the sounds and movements.

"In Bali these two art forms are wedded in spirit, nuance, structure and even terminology. Balinese choreography, in its purest interpretation, is a detailed and subtle, physical embodiment of the music that accompanies it. Music and dance together are a mutually reflective duet-two realizations of the same abstract beauty, each clothed in the attributes of its form. For the gods, dance is as important a part of their visits to the earthly plane as is music. For the Balinese people these two arts are an inexorable combination, and to participate in the performance of either is a coveted privilege." (Tenzer, pg. 12-13).
This situation where the development of the music is completely dependent on the dance is, however, not so common in contemporary Balinese music. As has already been mentioned, Balinese performance is not the 'repetition of age-old traditions', but a dynamically developing and changing musical form. In 1915 in North Bali, when Indonesia was still under Dutch control, a new form of gamelan emerged which came to be known as gamelan gong kebyar. This gamelan was a "radical modernisation" of the standard temple orchestra, and was to spread right across Bali in the coming generations. Here, music and dance became more 'equal' in that they were merged together so that the changes in dynamics, the number of repetitions, and alternations in speed were fixed for both the musician and the dancer (Sanger, pg. 61). The word 'keybar' actually means the striking of a match, which evokes the essential brashness of kebyar performance: explosive changes in dynamics and extreme virtuosity.

Performance of gong kebyar, be it with or without the accompaniment of dance, is very much a physical realisation of space. This awareness of space is an important element within the performance and is directly represented in the positioning of the instruments. The preset positioning of the instruments reflects basic Balinese musical structures: rhythmic patterns played by different instruments which combine to form a whole, becoming through this unique interlocking more than simply a combination of the parts. This is a unique type of musical unity created by the division of melodies reminiscent of the mediaeval form of hocketting, although much more highly decorated and essential to the structure of the entire composition. This musical structuring is known as kotekan, and is structured by two different musical parts, one known as polos and the other as sangsih. In the diagram overleaf, the 'interlocking' of these two musical parts is demonstrated. The important fact here is the necessity of the realisation of kotekan in a physical, spatial situation. The basic melody is decorated using the kotekan form by a group of usually 8 instruments known as the gangsa. They are arranged in a particular geometrically symmetrical way so that a polos performer is sitting always next to a sangsih performer, just as the polos performer always sits in front of someone playing sangsih and vice versa. The spatial arrangement of the musical structure is demonstrated also in the diagram overleaf. Although a western ear would hear this as 'one melody', and would be inclined to interpret it as such, the dynamics of the unity involved in the musical performance force us to realise that the the spatial dynamics of kotekan certainly affect the signification of the Balinese music in a performance setting, affecting both the performers and the listeners who are aware of the physical realisation of kotekan. Here the embodiment of a purely musical structure is seen in relation to its realisation of space and its embodiment in a physical action.

Another performance form which involves a special realisation of space is known as Baleganjur. Evolving from a form of processional performance used in ritual gamelan, in the recent past this music has developed into an incredibly popular form outside of the context of the ritual event. Performers holding drums (kendang), gongs and cymbals (ceng-ceng) proceed in a procession along the street. The cymbal players are divided into two groups, each which play a kotekan-like rhythmic structure (also divided into polos and sangsih). In this musical form, signification is intimately connected to the motion of the performers in space and in relation to one another. Weekly street performances and competitions of Baleganjur have become regular events in Balinese life.

Even in performances of gong kebyar, the Balinese have a unique physical relationship with their instruments which involves a very florid, almost dance-like approach to instrumental performance. The players spin their mallets and decorate their movements before connecting the mallet to the instrument in a dynamic session of kotekan. The ambiguity between the physicality of 'musical' performance and the musicality of 'physical' performance is taken to its extreme in the last performance form we are going to discuss: Kebyar Trompong or Kebyar Duduk. This is a dance form which became enormously popular soon after the emergence of gamelan gong kebyar in the 1920s. It was essentially a dance form based entirely on the movements involved in playing an instrument. The name refers firstly to the gamelan instruments (kebyar) and secondly to the 'sitting position' involved in the performance of the movements (duduk). The dance itself evolved from the physical process required to play the trompong, where the length of the instrument itself necessitated the player to move from one end to the other, and as such was usually played by two or more performers. The originator of this dance form, known as Mario, wanted to play this instrument alone and thus invented a large number of stylised movements that would allow him to reach from one end to the other. This performance become independent of the instrument and recognised as a dance form in its own right, although the dancer in Kebyar Duduk can still be seen as "an instrument, not as a person." (De Zoete,1970). In addition to the Kebyar Duduk form, where the instrument mallets have been replaced by fans, there is also a form known as Kebyar Trompong in which the instrument itself is situated in the centre of the stage, and the dancer actually spends much of his time moving up and down the instrument while playing it. He moves from holding the fans to holding the mallets, as well as from moving to a position behind to a position in front of the instrument during the performance. This unique combination of dance and music combined is a clear demonstration of the 'embodied' complexity of Balinese musical thinking.

For the Balinese, music and dance are tangible and cogent realisations of space and the environment embedded in the present. Embedded in time and space and becoming in every performance 're-embodied' in a new physicality, the Balinese musical performance is an important element in the perpetuation of Balinese culture. It is through the rediscovery of ancient forms of movement and sound that are continuously given contemporary meaning in the dynamics of the performance that signification occurs, and it is only in this 'embodied' context which musical experience is considered significant. There is no doubt in my mind that the factors of embodiment and the realisation of the performance in a spatial and temporal context are incredibly important to the signification of the Balinese performance event, and I hope you will agree that a western 'sound-based' and 'objectified' approach to musical meaning is not only insufficient but irrelevant to Balinese performance. The signification involved with the realisation of the physicality of the human body within the contexts of space and time have been robbed of us by developments within western philosophy and science. I think, however, that we can learn something about the sensuousness of musicality from the physical dynamism of the Balinese performance, and can apply it to our own diverse forms of 'musical' communication. As much as our objectified models for looking at human meaning would like to prevent it, time continues to play irrevocable havoc on human epistemologies, and I feel sure that the winds of change will bring embodiment also to musicology.

Major References

Covarrubias, M. (1988) Island of Bali, Oxford: OUP.

De Zoete, B. and Spies, W. (1970) "Dance and Drama in Bali" in Traditional Balinese Culture, Jane Belo (ed.), Columbia University Press.

Eiseman, F. (1989) "Kaja and Kelod: Spatial and Spiritual Orientation" in Bali, Sekala and Niskala, Volume I: Essays on Religion, Ritual, and Art, Berkeley: Periplus Editions.

Jakobson, R. (1990) On Language, ed. Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Johnson, M. (1974) The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Kersenboom, S. (1995) Word, Sound, Image: The Life of the Tamil Text, Oxford: Berg Publishers Ltd.

Lindfors, J. (1991) Children's Language and Learning, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Nattiez, J. (1990) Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Parmentier, R. (1985) "Signs' Place in Medias Res: Peirce's Concept of Semiotic Mediation" in Semiotic Mediation, E. Mertz, R. Parmentier (eds.), Orlando: Academic Press.

Sanger, A. (1989) "Music and Musicians, Dance and Dancers: socio-musical interrelationships in Balinese Performance" in Yearbook for Traditional Music, 3(b).

Smith, F. (1985), 'A metaphor for literacy: creating worlds or shunting information?'. In D.R. Olson, N. Torrance and A. Hildyard (eds.), Literacy, Language and Learning: The Nature and Consequences of Reading and Writing, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 195-213.

Tenzer, M. (1991) Balinese Music, Singapore: Periplus Editions.





May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)*
Send mail to zachar@nachtschimmen.eu with questions or comments about this website.

September 27 2013.



Major Writings