Sumarsam // March 3, 2020

Epistemology, Lights, and Power in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play

Sumarsam, Tue. March 3, 2-3pm. 220 York Street room 001

Integrated with gamelan, dance, and visual arts, and its endemic to socioreligious life, Javanese wayang puppet play commands deep aesthetic, religious, and emotional adherence. However, since the 1980s wayang performance has gone through radical transformation, involving the adaptation of Western technology and theatrical idioms. The tendency to spectacularize the play—the use of bright electric light sources (sometimes with many colors) and elaborate amplification systems with large speakers, the featuring of several female singers and stand-up comedians, the incorporation of Indonesianized Western pop music and Western instruments, and so forth—has brought about pro and con discussion of the present and future wayang.

Sumarsam has played Javanese gamelan since childhood. He was also trained as puppeteer. He holds a BA from Indonesia music academy, MA from Wesleyan, and PhD from Cornell. Currently, he holds the status of Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan. His research on the history, theory, and performance practice of gamelan and wayang, and on Indonesia-Western encounter theme has resulted the publication of numerous articles and two books: Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java (1995) and Javanese Gamelan and the West (2013). Sumarsam’s recent research focuses on the intersections between religion and performing arts. He is the recipient of a number of fellowship grants and awards, including the NEH and the ACLS fellowship, and Indonesian Bintang Satyalencana Cultural Award. He was recently named the 2018 honorary membership of the Society for Ethnomusicology. This year, he is a Yale ISM Fellow.

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