Friday, 13 May 2011

The Angklung

Last Saturday I arrived at the Musical Museum for my reception shift and spotted a copy of the Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments (Anthony C. Baines) whilst making a quick cup of tea in the office. Its A-Z dictionary-style format and organology subject-matter appealed to me as a bit of light reading (compared to the copy of the Gormenghast Trilogy I've been wading through for the last few months) to dip into should I find myself twiddling my thumbs once the mailing list envelopes were stuffed and afternoon's tea dance got underway, so I picked it up.

Starting at the beginning, I flicked through, browsing for entries that caught my interest. I had a good start with the very first entry, Accordion, which includes not one, but
two nice diagrams; felt satisfyingly aggrieved by a western classical-centric entry on the Clarinet in C, which states that it was 'much used in the past where the orchestral key is C or G', but doesn't mention, for example, its widespread use in klezmer; and had a nice foray into various types of lute.

The entry which really caught my interest, though, was the Angklung, an 'Indonesian instrument of swinging bamboo tubes suspended in a light upright frame with a wide bamboo forming the base'.

Angklung Players
Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I liked that it produces sound in both a percussive (the swinging tubes strike prongs in the base) and free aerophone (the tongue-shaped top to the tubes causes the internal air column to vibrate as the instrument is swung) manner, and found its intricate design beautiful.

M0ffia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Further rooting-about has unearthed this lovely documentary on the angklung's role in daily life at the high school in Cikondang village in Cianjur, West Java...

...This rather dry demonstration of the instrument...

...An angklung performance by children at an unspecified orphanage...

...And this impressive rendition an Rihanna's Umbrella.

All quotes from the Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments

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