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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Javanese gamelan drums up new students

Javanese Gamelan
Roger Vetter, music, demonstrates Gamelan technique as ensemble members learn and practice Tuesday - Sophie Fajardo

Sitting in Room 257 in Bucksbaum, where instrument-lined walls tell the story of music from every land, the members of Javanese Gamelan Ensemble are tapping, smacking, beating and swaying to the most alternative music west of the Mississippi. As first-years carefully concentrate on their mallets, the more experienced members confidently lay down heavy beats. The tapping gets louder as more players join in. The entire room starts moving. Suddenly, Roger Vetter, music, leaps into the air as the abstract sounds come together.

“You are playing too Western,” Vetter says.

He does not mean in the country music sense. Unlike the Western eight-note octave scales , the gamelan has a seven-note range. This melodic construction creates an experience unlike anything playing on the radio.
Vetter began with more typical musical training, studying the trombone. He first encountered the gamelan as an undergraduate in Hawaii.

“I was on the track to be a high school band teacher,” Vetter said. “But somehow I lost my way and ended up here.”

In the 36 years since, he has spent a career collecting, making and learning to play foreign musical instruments with his wife, Dean of Students Val Vetter.

Since Vetter’s arrival on campus in 1986—along with his instrument collection—the club has had over 25 years worth of gamelan players, including National Public Radio reporter Amy Scott. Like students of the past, current students are attracted by its stress-relieving value.

“I was walking back to French House from class when I stumbled on this group,” said Carol Lin ’11. “I really needed a way to artistically vent my anger. It’s been a great stress relief.”

The ensemble meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. and performs one concert every semester. Vetter emphasized that every student is invited to join. No musical experience is necessary.
Whether you are looking for lessons in ethnomusicology, trying to increase your flexibility, or are just seeking out a means for wholesome stress relief, the Gamelan Ensemble is the place to be..

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