Pipilan: gamelan composition in real-time
Pipilan is a program developed in Max for composing with gamelan and electronics (more information and downloadable version here). The software uses a simplified set of rules to emulate traditional gamelan performance, allowing users to enter a basic sequence of notes and hear a virtual ensemble respond in real-time. A granular synthesiser part extends and elaborates upon the sounds of the instruments, generating sequences from the same information.
In April 2015 Pipilan was presented as an installation at the invitation of KUG (the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz). This version was customised to use samples recorded as part of KUG’s own Virtual Gamelan project, and the two approaches were displayed side by side. An additional “tweet” button presented the option of sharing compositions on the internet, creating notation readable either by players or a downloadable version of the software.
The installation was also presented as a larger scale version in the György-Ligeti-Saal, with audience members collaborating to create a half-hour long piece played over the sound system and projected onto a big screen. Each of the notes of the ensemble was allocated to a different part of the hall using an Ambisonic speaker array, expanding traditional playing techniques to incorporate spatial movement. This formed the end of a performance of traditional and contemporary music with the Southbank Gamelan Players, and some of the musicians were inspired to play along.
Thanks to Professor Gerd Grupe and KUG for the invitation to share the space with the Virtual Gamelan Graz project, and for providing access to samples of the gamelan. This project was originally developed as part of a PhD research project at Middlesex University (link) with the help of funding from the AHRC.