August 2nd, 2013
|01:25 am - last one, honest.
I must start this essay by admitting that in the time allotted, I had too many work and social committments to address that I had no time to go to a museum, so my work here is based on my own history rather than a recent event. I apologize in advance, but with only a week to work with, I couldn't find the time to go.
That being stated, I have a long history with Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History; they have an extensive collection of folk artifact's from all over the world. One corridor in the collections has a blank wall on one side, and a glass one on the other. Overhead are several speakers. Behind the glass wall is a full collection of an Indonesian gamelan orchestra spread out throughout the room on the floor, just as they would be were players present. The speakers constantly play gamelan music to give the viewers an idea of how such an orchestra sounds.
What makes this particular display so interesting takes a bit of explanation. When last we lived in Chicago, we were friends with a woman whose husband was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Indonesian Studies. They were also members of the Field Museum. At one point, members were told that an orchestra leader from Indonesia would be spending a sabbatical at the Field Museum, and as part of his time there, would be teaching a leading a group of interested members in playing gamelan music. She had spent several months learning pieces with a couple dozen others, and she invited us to a recital of their work. Of course, we went!
First of all, they played the instruments in place, in the room devoted to them. Secondly, the audience wasn't crammed into the little corridor outside, but was allowed to be seated on the floor in the orchestra's room. In this way, we experienced the music not only aurally, but vibrationally as well. It was delightful. The experience was one that would be understandable to anyone; the instructor not only taught the players, but spoke clearly to the audience about what would be played, and its meaning.
I would recommend to anyone a trip to the Field Museum, if visiting Chicago, Illinois, and I'm sure that the gamelan instruments would still be on display. It is a world-class museum with many more items of archaeologic interest that is well-worth the time and effort to visit.