Saturday, April 5, 2014
Gamelan With My Friend Peter
My friend Peter just turned 40 for the third time. He had a piano player at his house for the party and there was a list of songs from which to choose. His mom chose "Book of Love", but it wasn't the "Book of Love" you'd think. At least not the one I thought or she thought. With great aplomb she sang the old too wop classic a cappella. I sang "Psycho Killer" and it helped me vent my party nerves, my feeling that everything that came out of my mouth was a deflated beige beach ball that some fat kid had thrown up on. Sorry fat kid.
I met Peter and his wife Heather through my old friend and bandmate Diana Froley when we were dating. Peter and Heather could make an enchanted kingdom inside a dank Newark, New Jersey warehouse space and wherever they live they find intimate, magic things to do in hidden places that seem to always be waiting for them.
Peter took me with him to the Indonesian Embassy one day to play their gamelan. This happens once a week on Mondays. I expected we'd go there, walk around the instruments, marvel, tinker a bit. Instead a wired Indonesian conductor who seemed very excited to see us, but grew perhaps increasingly, delicately frustrated with a few us, immediately assigned us a part of the gamelan and then explained in broken english a numerical notation song system that he would write up on the chalkboard.
The first song was rather easy and I was filled with glee and warm confidence. The songs splintered as we went along and grew various segments that he would go back and forth to. My eyes frequently met with one of Peter's other friends who was there and had played at least once before.
Various people drifted in as songs were hammered on the dozens of differently sized and toned gongs and it made me incredibly happy to know that this was going on weekly. One man who came late and was assigned to the largest, deepest gong, had been coming to play in the gamelan group for 40 years.