HomeBlogs Balungan The balungan (Javanese: skeleton, frame) is sometimes called the "core
melody" of a Javanese gamelan composition. This corresponds to the view
that gamelan music is heterophonic: the balungan is then the melody
which is being elaborated.
The group of instruments which play
the closest to the balungan are sometimes also called the balungan, or
balungan instruments. These are the saron family and the slenthem. In
many pieces, they play the balungan. However, they can also elaborate on
the parts in a variety of techniques. It is possible that there is no
instrument playing the balungan, although many musicians claim that the
balungan is still.
The term has been a source of some
controversy, as various writers may define it differently. Sometimes it
is identified with the melody played on the saron (whose range is
limilted to an octave), but sometimes it is identified with a wider
tessitura that is implied by the patterns on other instruments. This
multi-octave melody is the one given in kepatihan notation, the cipher
notation used for gamelan pieces.
Lagu is a related term, which
is used by Sumarsam and is sometimes translated as "inner melody." It
can mean the multi-octave balungan, or a more implicit melody. There is
no consensus on the use of either term, and they may be used differently
by different writers or in different contexts.