To achieve the rich sonic complexity and subtlety of Balinese music-without a notational system-requires long hours of rehearsal.
Depending on the orchestra, rehearsals are held as infrequently as once every six months or as often as five days a week. In preparation for an upcoming festival, temple anniversary, or to provide music for a dance troupe, incessant rehearsals take place.
You have an excellent chance of happening upon a gamelan rehearsal, usually after sunset when villagers gather around the 'bale banjar' where the orchestra is kept. Follow your ears-you can't miss the metallic, jangle energy and deep, reverberating gongs. Sit near the musicians so you can feel the power of the music.
Rehearsals are casual, open-air affairs with dogs prancing across the dance floor, old men playing flutes in the background, and babies falling asleep amidst the clashing of drums, gongs, and cymbals.
If not preparing for a performance a musician might even hand over his mallets to a spectator during a session. Entry is free. The instruments remain in the 'bale banjar' for anyone who wishes to practice.
Training starts at a very early age; when the musicians take a break, a mob of little boys descend on the instruments (it's almost impossible to damage them) and start improvising a melody, often quite deftly. They learn the various parts of the composition by imitation.
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