Arturas Bumšteinas – Gamelan Descending a Staircase


CD – Cronica

From the Portuguese label Cronica comes the latest work by Arturas Bumšteinas, Gamelan Descending a Staircase, a composition of over fifty minutes whose instrumental sound materials were recorded in summer 2013 during a research visit at the Museum Dahlem Ethnologisches. On first listen the work seems to be the result of a free form ensemble – a feeling that is expertly articulated – but in reality a wide variety of Indonesian gamelan orchestral instruments were recorded specially for the occasion and later assembled into one surround sound composition that was then performed live along with three trumpets as additional improvisational components. We imagine the Duchampian title of the work is intended to reflect on the investigation of new linguistic structures – here referring to the admonition “it sounds like a gamelan orchestra falling down the stairs” and the beautiful abstract image it has conjured in turn. Many of the traditional gamelan elements are here: the timbre, tuning, polyphonic layering and rhythmic structure. The gamelan may be thought of as a percussion orchestra and its instruments are mostly metallophones struck with mallets of various sizes, shapes, and materials: more than enough for an experienced composer and sound artist like Bumšteinas to use to rethink traditional structures and build a free form sound collage. The result is really fascinating and the complex rhythmic geometry of the work completely surrounds listeners, immersing them in timeless dreamlike atmospheres.


Arturas Bumšteinas: Gamelan Descending a Staircase