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Rehearsal Gong 2018 Iwan Gunawan-Aafke de Jong-pictures Connie Forndran-16_edited_edited_e

Social music

As mentioned before, composer Simeon ten Holt thought the social aspect of his music was important. According to him, there is a task that lies not only with the performers, but also with the audience. As an audience, therefore, you should not passively undergo his music. Instead, Canto Ostinato is an invitation to actively participate as a listener. People could, as it were, wander around in it and allow themselves to be touched. In our heart, but also in our body. Body and mind are not separate. This view also fits seamlessly with one of the most important goals of gamelan music in Indonesia, where it is used as part of rituals to get in touch with 'the higher', the universe, or perhaps the 'divine' in yourself.

Canto Ostinato proves time and again to be able to open your heart. It may even call to something. To seeing new possibilities perhaps? In these complicated times of recurring wars and polarization, art and culture can give hope and show what really matters. How beautiful and comforting it is then to have Ten Holt's work performed by musicians and instruments from a different culture - or perhaps not so very different at all?


There is currently increasing attention, both politically and socially, to the shared colonial past of Indonesia and the Netherlands. We cannot and will not ignore this 'momentum'. It exposes many pain points that have long remained undiscussed. It is precisely through the universal language of music and dance that we can also create a positive experience. In the past, there have been many successful collaborative projects between Indonesian and Dutch artists that have shown in inspiring ways that true connection is quite possible.

The performances of Canto Ostinato by a gamelan orchestra will also contribute to the awareness of Simeon ten Holt's work in parts of the world where this is less the case, such as Indonesia. Our project may additionally inspire composers and musicians from other disciplines and cultures to break new ground. Iwan Gunawan, like no other, is able to bridge cultural and musical differences. De Jong as a choreographer also pursues diversity in her work. Not as a goal in itself, but as a logical condition.

Good art is never truly finished

Canto Ostinato has been performed frequently around the world for decades in various settings and orchestrations. So why now also a performance by a gamelan orchestra? Given all the similarities mentioned under Background, we are surprised that an interpretation of Canto Ostinato for a gamelan has not been heard before.

The music performed by a gamelan ensemble will thus initially add to the diversity of performances of Canto Ostinato itself, which has become increasingly rich and varied in recent years. Most of the performances, however, have been realized on Western instruments (such as piano, string quartet, harp). A small portion has been performed on less obvious instruments, such as guitar, marimba, synthesizer and also vocals. An interpretation for gamelan is of a very different order and can thus contribute to a new perspective on the piece of music. The spaciousness of gamelan, the range, the sustained sound of gongs and metallophones, will accentuate the already present sense of infinity that Canto Ostinato evokes again and again. The wide variety of special sounds of a gamelan orchestra - ranging from velvety smooth through bright staccatos in the higher regions to the penetrating vibrating deep bass of the gongs - will shed new light on the beauty of the work.


The mere sight of the instruments, which are relatively unknown to the average Westerner but look very impressive, is guaranteed to make such a performance resonate with the audience for a long time. The five dancers form the bridge, making sound visible and tangible.

Gamelan underlines the cosmic aspect of Canto Ostinato, especially in terms of atmosphere and experience. In these times where our reason is mainly appealed to, it is more necessary than ever that we enter a realm within ourselves beyond our logic and beyond reason. As human beings, we are more than just our heads. Ten Holt wanted to tap into a deeper layer within ourselves in which the mental, physical and emotional become one. Music and dance are capable of occasionally making us feel healed again, connected to our environment, to nature. With each other.

Good art is never really finished, as art critic John Ruskin already noted in the mid-19th century. Canto Ostinato is never finished either. Even long after the death of Simeon ten Holt his work is still constantly reinventing itself. Through the space left to the performers, but also through the many different interpretations that have emerged over time and hopefully will continue to emerge!

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