Lancaran Manyar Sewu

As part of my ongoing process of digitizing gamelan notation, I would like to present Lancaran Manyar Sewu (“One thousand weaver birds”). This is one of the most commonly played lancaran in Central Java, often used as an ‘ending tag’ to ladrang or ketawang. Although it appears simple, Manyar Sewu has some special structural properties. Consider the notation below, in laras slendro pathet manyura:

manyar sewu manyura

 

The entire form can be condensed into two primary cadences, 6532 and 1653. These are seen most clearly in the 2nd half of the 2nd and 4th lines of the Ompak. Condensed even further, we could conceive of the entire form as one linear, descending motive: 65321653. This is exactly the case if we look at only the last gatra of each line. The 3216 cadence in the 3rd line can be interpreted as 65321653; it is a sort of ‘average’ of 6532 and 1653, both prolonging and preparing the transition between the primary cadences.

 

Cadences within cadences within cadences. Lancaran Manyar Sewu is a perfect example of the melodic ‘nesting’ that characterizes many gamelan compositions. But wait, there’s more! Manyar Sewu can also be played in laras slendro patet sanga. Normally, the way to convert a composition from pathet manyura to pathet sanga is to transpose the entire thing down one step. Not so, for Manyar Sewu.

manyar sewu sanga

Rather than being transposed, the form is rotated. The 2nd line of the pathet manyura version becomes the 4th line of the pathet sanga one, with the other lines following suite. The actual sequence of notes stays the same; only the position of gong ageng has shifted.

However, the gong ageng and its preceding gong siyem are one step lower than in the pathet manyura version, as if they were in fact transposed (2 and 5 versus 3 and 6) Presumably, this is what creates the feeling of pathet sanga in what is essentially a pathet manyura composition.

It seems that in practice, the pathet manyura version is performed most often. Perhaps this is because is feels more direct or definite with its 65321653 movement towards gong ageng. The pathet sanga version’s overall contour is disjointed by comparison: 1653-5-6532.

Here is a group playing a basic Lancaran Manyar Sewu, laras slendro pathet manyura: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMYOTu8xQt8&nohtml5=False

(EDIT: The buka of the pathet sanga version should read .6.5 .6.5 2.2G, and is a direct transposition from the pathet manyura)

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