Barbara Benary: Mother of Lion

A conversation at Daniel Goode’s loft with Frank J. Oteri
January 4, 2011—2 p.m.
Transcribed by Julia Lu
Edited by Frank J. Oteri, Alexandra Gardner, and John Lydon
Audio/video presentation and photography by Molly Sheridan

The following description of the relationship between a composer and a composition, which appears in Kyle Gann’s booklet notes for Barbara Benary’s New World CD, Sun on Snow, was written by Benary nearly forty years ago:

The piece is a child
It is also a vehicle of communication
The child is an idea in the parents’ mind
They give it life, try to shape it to their imagined end.
Other things shape it too.
Other people, life’s happenings and the growing plan from within.
The good parent knows when the shaping is done.
Lets go.
Has no fear of the diverse possibilities into which the child may grow.

While the passage of time has seen Benary’s compositional aesthetics evolve from post-Cagean conceptualism to minimalism (she was an early member of the Philip Glass Ensemble) to an eclectic polystylism, her comparison of making music to parenthood remains apt not only for her own compositions but everything she has engendered in the new music community.

Benary built the instruments for Gamelan Son of Lion (GSOL) and together with fellow composers Philip Corner and Daniel Goode made GSOL a model for composers’ collectives everywhere. While the ensemble is named after her (Benary in Hebrew means “son of lion”), she hardly thinks of it as “her” ensemble. For her, being part of something much larger is far more meaningful:

Although I imagine I have as much of an ego as many composers do, it’s not that important to me that I be in the forefront of the experience.

After devoting years to the study of ethnomusicology, Benary has a much broader view of the cultural context for music than our contemporary Western society’s typical parsing of the world into composers, performers, and listeners. Benary finds joy not only in playing her own and others’ music in Gamelan Son of Lion but also in reading through string quartets with a group of amateur musicians. For her own amusement, she has even written several novels (one of which, Princess Without a Nose, you can read here).

Yet Benary remains ever self-effacing and is rarely the center of attention. But for founding and maintaining this seminal new music organization, as well as for her own extraordinary compositions which surreally blend Indonesian sonorities and musical traditions as diverse as Baroque passacaglias, Scottish fiddle tunes, and Karnatic kritis (as well as occasional hints of jazz and rock), she should be.

—FJO


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Frank J. Oteri: Walking around Manhattan, I keep seeing photos everywhere of The Beatles because they recently allowed their music to be released on iTunes. To the general public, even though they established separate identities as songwriters and performers, everybody still thinks of them collectively as The Beatles because The Beatles as a group were more successful than any of them ever were individually. The notion of a collective identity is a rare thing in—for lack of a better term—contemporary classical music. And it was even rarer when Gamelan Son of Lion first came into existence; this was more than a decade before Bang on a Can. And with Bang on a Can, more people know that name than know Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and David Lang, although that’s been changing to some extent. But I would posit to say more people know Gamelan Son of Lion than know Barbara Benary.

Barbara Benary: It could be true. But I think in a way the separate people in Gamelan Son of Lion also have had pretty strong, independent lives and what we do is different from each other. We’re not going to be like The Beatles. We’re not going to all produce the same kind of thing separately that we do together. And that together changes identity all the time because people join the group, and people leave the group. Daniel [Goode] and I have been in there for 30 years, but nobody else has. There are several other people who have been in there 20 years. Some were only there for two years. It changes. And I think the collective nature of our music has changed accordingly. We were into heavy minimalism in our first decade. Now it’s more involved with multimedia. I don’t want to say maximalist, but it is music that is full of different ideas, more dramatic and, within a piece, much more changing happening.

FJO: From the very beginning, even though Son of Lion is an English translation of your Hebrew last name, Benary, it was never your ensemble. It has always been about thinking collectively and having a collective voice. To make a very significant portion of your life’s work this thing that is ultimately not about you seems extraordinarily selfless and almost goes against the grain of composing, which is, after all, an egotistical activity to some extent.

BB: I’m not a soloist kind of personality. And although I imagine I have as much of an ego as many composers do, it’s not that important to me that I be in the forefront of the experience. I play violin, but I don’t like to play solos. I like to play string quartets. That’s the kind of person I am. So the gamelan is my adult continuation of the string quartets I played as a teenager.

Gamelan Son of Lion
Concert at Washington Square Chamber Music series

When I’m playing in the gamelan, it rarely occurs to me that we’re doing my piece or we’re doing someone else’s piece. Even if I didn’t write it, I feel pretty close to it, as if I wrote it. The line between performer and composer is a pretty thin one, since most composers are performers. So every time I do somebody else’s piece, it enters into my own collective experience of everything I’ve heard and played. And some of it gets reflected back into my music. As a group I think we have borrowed from each other on numerous occasions.

FJO: There have been some pieces over the years that have been collaboratively composed, pieces like Gamelan NEA and the 9/11 Suite.

BB: Those are fun. But those two pieces in particular are built on small, interlocking sections, so each composer wrote their section entirely according to what they wanted to do. But the form was determined pretty much by the players, by the other people who were not the composer. So that was basically a really, very nice collective input of getting everybody to be the composer in the sense of setting up the structure. There’s a third piece that we did collectively which was called Gamelan Round Robin, which we only did for one season. That was based on the idea of a round robin letter or exquisite corpse. I set up the parameters for us. It was an instruction piece. My instructions were first of all, that your section has to be no longer than two minutes and that you have to not make it up ahead of time, which is sort of like the joke about trying not to think of a monkey because everybody right away had something in their head. We drew lots and came up with an order, so the first person will write the first thing. After we played it, then the second composer should make up the second thing. And it should either relate to it, or deliberately not relate to it. Plus we had some people in there doing things who were actually not ordinarily composers. But they could do it because they were just reacting to the former pieces. And that was kind of fun, too.

FJO: I wonder if those collaborative pieces somehow have influenced you when you go back to write pieces by yourself. Pieces like Jigalullaby, which combines gamelan and Scottish folk songs.

BB: The one with the Scottish songs worked because basically the gamelan was doing gamelan patterns and the strings were doing the melodies. And I didn’t try to reverse that. So that was basically two different things going on at once.

FJO: Even in a piece like Downtown Steel, there are multiple stylistic layers that somehow coexist. You said that in the beginning you were all doing minimalist stuff and then everybody started doing other things. You’ve been a fixture throughout this history, so that means that you’ve changed as a composer, too.

BB: I hope so.

FJO: And before minimalism became the predominant stylistic language for the group, there were a lot of conceptual pieces that seem to be coming out of a post-Cage compositional aesthetic. Your earliest pieces, too, before you started Gamelan Son of Lion.

BB: That’s probably true. I have a whole bunch of early pieces that I published called system pieces. There’s potential to turn any of them into a gamelan piece quite easily, except for the ones that require sustained sound, because that wouldn’t work so well. That’s an idea. I hadn’t thought of going back to those old things, but everything’s there somewhere in the clutter of my room.

FJO: So how does somebody join Gamelan Son of Lion?

BB: Primarily I would say it’s been that we meet interesting musicians, and they say, “Hey, could I play with your group?” That’s one way. In fact, most people have drifted in that way. The other is, “Hey, would you like to come play with us? You’re a new person. What you do would be very interesting to us.” So, we invite people to join. Those are mostly the way it happens.

FJO: So you don’t need to have prior knowledge of how to play gamelan instruments?

BB: Oh no. When I brought the gamelan to Rutgers, the other two co-founders had never played gamelan. They probably intellectually had heard of it, of course, and had listened to it perhaps, but had not played it. Philip Corner had written many, many pieces for gamelan before he finally got together with Jody Diamond in California and took some lessons. I actually studied Indonesian gamelan a lot. Some members of the group here have had some prior experience in some other gamelan group somewhere else or in their college. But I feel like I’m the main teacher of Indonesian music to a lot of people in the group. And that’s kind of frightening since I know so little compared to the people who have devoted their lifetime to it. But what we’re doing is not really Indonesian music. What we’re doing is whatever we can make the gamelan instruments do. And if we can make it do things that come from our world, that’s good. And if it doesn’t work, then that’s kind of interesting, too, like when you try to get Western tunes to come out on these instruments which are tuned in a non-diatonic, non-harmonic scheme. If you try to play a Western tune, it comes out a little wacky. And that’s kind of good sometimes, and people take advantage of that.

FJO: Is everybody who’s in Gamelan Son of Lion a composer?

BB: Not always. And we also have had people who were in the group who are composers, but not necessarily doing pieces for gamelan. For instance, we have one person in the group named John Morton who’s an interesting musician, and I think quite a lot of his connection is social. He’s written one terrific piece for us and is about to write another, but he’s not in a hurry to keep throwing out pieces. He’s kind of enjoying the experience. I’m trying to think how long non-composers have stayed in the group. Some have stayed in the group for a few years, but none for very long.

FJO: But repertoire for the group is chosen from among all of you, and sometimes you’ll even do music of an outside composer. I’m curious about how that happens.

BB: I guess I’m the big pusher for that, because I feel we can get awfully insular if every program seems to have the same composers doing different pieces. Some people are very happy to do the same thing over and over. I’m not. So I like to get in new people and new ideas. So in the last four years or so, I’ve tried to make it a point of inviting a guest composer or two every year. If we have regular, reliable funding, we could do that in a better way with commissions and things like that. Instead we’ve initiated what we call the Bupkis Commissions. Bupkis means nothing. So the nothing commission is basically that we’ll do your piece and we’ll even try to record it for you. And if I can scare up a few hundred bucks, we’ll do that. And of course we pay the composer for performing if they’re performing with us. And most of our composers do in fact perform.

Gamelan Son of Lion
Concert at the Noguchi Museum

FJO: You are nominally the artistic director, but you seem to be somebody who’s very reticent to be a leader in that sense. So who makes the artistic decisions about choosing composers and finding repertoire?

BB: Well I’m reminded of the story about the Indian chief when the white person asks him, “Why can’t you do this; you’re the chief? Why can’t you just tell them what to do?” And he says, “I’m only the chief if they care to think so.” In Indian culture the chief might have one opinion, but it’s probably the committee of grandmas that makes the decision about whether we go to war.

FJO: So who’s the committee of grandmas in Gamelan Son of Lion?

BB: Oh, I guess I’m a grandma. [laughs] No, I don’t know. Basically, what happens is at the beginning of each year, we sit around and we say, “O.K., who wants to do what this year?” And somebody will say, “Well, I have this idea I want to develop.” And then we use it as an open workshop. Other people come in and say, “O.K., my piece is ready; here’s the entire thing.” And they have everything worked out before we even play a note. And it’s kind of fun to get to play between these two kinds of people. And we try to do everything. Sometimes somebody in the process of working something out will find it’s not working too well. And, like 95 percent [of the time], the composer will make the decision not to do it. I’ve never really had to say we don’t want to do your piece.

FJO: You say that you don’t ever like to do the same thing over again. You like to constantly do new things. That can be very difficult to pull off.

BB: I think if you follow our repertoire for any year, I’d say you can only introduce so many new pieces and do them well in a given amount of time. So if we do between four and six or seven pieces that are new in a year, that’s plenty. That’s a lot. We’ve got ten composers in the group, and people like to be represented. That’s their payback for being a member of the group: You get your pieces done.

If a piece goes over very well, we certainly do it through the whole season, and sometimes we carry it over to the next season. So every piece that we do, that ends up being do-able, we do at least three times. After that it becomes a matter of necessity and the programming. Depending on where we’re performing, if we’re performing in a kind of situation where the sponsor, let’s say, wants to have some representative of this, some of that. We’ll look at this back repertoire which is very large now and say, “O.K., what can we do with these people?” Our personnel is not always the same for every concert, so we drag out old pieces that fit. Some of them, like one piece of Dan’s called Eine Kleine Gamelan Music, we’ve been dragging out for a long, long time. It’s a great piece. And it’s easy to prepare. We can bring new people into it in one rehearsal. Other pieces are more difficult. They require practice. They require a lot of ensemble work, and those generally only get done during the first season, when we have a fixed bunch of people who know how to do it.

FJO: I wanted to get back to what you were saying about being the principal gamelan teacher for everybody and feeling a little uncomfortable in that role. Why gamelan? What made you embark on this in the first place?

BB: Well, I have two graduate degrees in ethnomusicology, and my work was primarily with music of India and Indonesia. All my scholarly work was in India, but I played gamelan the whole time I was in graduate school and—when I interviewed for my job at Rutgers—that was sort of my shoe in the door. I said, “I can make you a gamelan; I can start a gamelan program.” At that time it was very difficult to get gamelan instruments. They were very expensive. So the fact that I could make them was very helpful. And that’s where the Gamelan Son of Lion group started, Rutgers.

Why gamelan? Because although I had really loved Indian music, and I was very influenced by India in terms of structure, the fact is it’s hard to become a good Indian musician in a short amount of time. And I also had no particular motivation to mix it with new music, which is something I had been doing since way back. However, I discovered since it’s fairly easy to teach gamelan on a simple level to anybody, that became the easier thing to sell, and also the easier thing to open to composers. And that’s where Philip Corner and Dan Goode were a huge help, because we just got this idea to do things with them. Dan was playing a piece of his called Circular Thoughts on the clarinet, and he was playing it while we were rehearsing one day. And I think one of us said to him, “Why don’t we make a gamelan version of that?” And he did. He wrote his first gamelan piece, which is wonderful. That’s something we could pull out of the can and do again any time. And Philip Corner was writing these sort of indeterminate pieces, the sounds out of silence spaces pieces. And he was very attracted to the idea of percussion as just-found sound, and so he had a lot of fun trying to apply these to the gamelan. I had some indeterminate pieces and some process pieces I had written for sort of a mixed group of instruments or vocalists. I had been doing that for a few years before I went to Rutgers. And so I adapted one of them to the gamelan, and then another, and then it just picked up and went.

FJO: It’s interesting that composing and ethnomusicology were initially in two different places for you but then they somehow got fused together. I’d like to take it back even further. I’ve read that you were composing music from the time you were four years old and you were playing violin. You mentioned that you played gamelan when you were in graduate school, at Wesleyan. You were there when Dennis Murphy was building the very first gamelan made in America.

BB: Dennis Murphy was a wonderful person. He passed away just a few weeks ago. I must have met him when I was at Wesleyan. He was a graduate student, but not living there. He came by and visited. One of the things he told me about was that he was making instruments. He made a gamelan out of metal and junk, but I didn’t actually play on his instruments. It was quite a while before I actually saw them, I think. The one I was playing was an Indonesian set of instruments that came over to the World’s Fair.

But the idea that came to me was that I could continue to play gamelan if I made one, because I certainly didn’t have the money to buy one and import it from Java. Nowadays, you can do that because things have changed a lot. A lot of iron gamelans are being made at a much, much lower cost. And there’s one gamelan maker whose wife has a whole import/export business. Universities in this country buy instruments, and she sends them out. That kind of thing didn’t happen before.

FJO: This has been an amazing cultural transformation over the past 40 years. There are now over 100 universities in North America that have gamelans. But all this didn’t start happening until after you started doing this. And you’re part of the first generation that took these instruments and said let’s make something else using them—let’s make it an American music ensemble.

BB: I must say that I’m not the only person who did that, because I got in touch with people in California, including Jody Diamond, and Daniel Schmidt, and Lou Harrison, and Bill Colvig. Bill was making instruments for Lou Harrison. It was a different technology than Dennis Murphy’s, because Bill was working with aluminum. Murphy worked with iron.

And here I should mention that there’s this whole business of traditionalism. Nobody can be more hard-nosed about it than a new convert. We had people who studied gamelan and who really got very fixed ideas that this is sacred and you can’t mess with it. I think I spent the first 15 years or so of my gamelan career trying to justify what I was doing. But if you made the instruments, they weren’t that sacrosanct any more. When I was in California, at the ASEA summer school, American Society for Eastern Arts, Lou Harrison was there. There was a Javanese gamelan there and a little Balinese gamelan. And there were a whole bunch of composers. And Lou Harrison got the idea of getting these kids to write pieces. He was a wonderful man that way. He was always very generous and non-competitive and encouraging. So four or five of us who were taking a class with him said, “Oh, that would be fun.” And he said, “Why don’t we do a concert of new music that Americans wrote?” But of course there was this problem. If we played them on the traditional instruments, people might get their feathers ruffled. So he brought in this set of instruments that Bill Colvig had made, which he just called American Gamelan. It was a whole set. And we all adapted pieces that we knew for this set of instruments and did a little concert. And what’s interesting is every one of those composers in that group went on and started their own gamelan.

FJO: The accusation of cultural appropriation is somewhat disingenuous in 21st-century America. Almost none of the instruments or the roots of those instruments used in any of the music we make on them belong to us per se. The gamelan might not have been conceived to play American music, but neither was the cello or the piano or even the guitar. As an ethnomusicologist, you probably find it somewhat odd that there are people who put Western music in this weird frame claiming it’s universal. We elevate it in a way that keeps it away from its cultural context. But other music we’ll say is Indian music or Indonesian music or African music. And if you’re not from that culture, you’re somehow a plunderer of it if you start using it in your own music.

BB: That idea’s been around for a long time. It’s just nonsense. That’s all I can say. Lou Harrison said it very eloquently in some of the articles he wrote that say it’s a whole world of sound out there, and we’re a part of the world so it’s also part of us. Every classical composer has borrowed from lots around them. Everybody borrows from everybody, but that doesn’t mean that they are trying to injure anybody thereby. It’s just what it is.

FJO: To bring this back to you, before you were ever involved with ethnomusicology, you were a composer. But you decided not to pursue a degree in composition.

BB: I suppose what happened was that when I look back on it, my first two influential composition teachers were a set designer and a musicologist who gave lectures for the New York Philharmonic. They were both great composition teachers because they weren’t trying to put themselves forward as an example of anything. They would say, “Write something.” And I would write something. The one who was the music historian would say, this reminds me of so-and-so. And then he would teach me about someone. And he said, “This is what that composer did with that. Not that you have to do it. But what would you think about doing something like that?” And the one who was the set designer was a theater person, and he would say, “This is the play. And these are the kinds of music it reminds me of.” And he would pull out examples from this record or that record and say, “That’s the flavor that I’m after.” And he would assign me to write something that fit that, and fit the play. And I wrote theater music for him for more than four years. He was very influential, but he never told me a single note of what to write. He’d just push me forward and say, “Keep going, just keep doing it.” And that was great.

In a way the gamelan’s collective of composers have been my teachers. Having a group to play things is the best lesson you could get. You can have this wonderful idea. You put it down in front of real people, and they try to realize it, and then you have to clean up your act. So I think that was very good for me.

FJO: So you never had the experience of studying composition and being told that what you were doing stylistically—like conceptualism or minimalism—was somehow not right?

BB: Oh no. I avoided all of that [laughs].

FJO: In terms of how have taught others how to play gamelan music, I was curious about musical notation. Not everyone would agree, but I think Western notation is usually a very efficient means of dissemination. But it’s very specific to Western music, even though for better or worse it has become the de facto way all music is notated, because now we have computer software that we can easily rattle stuff off by using. It’s become a language into itself. But it’s an imperfect language, because it’s very specific to the music it was designed to notate.

BB: Of the three composers who were in this group [initially], we basically didn’t use staff notation until we started having pieces for which it was appropriate. But I should say at the far of end it, at the present, almost all the pieces that come through Gamelan Son of Lion are Finale notated because this awful thing happened: the band became Finale literate. They all learned how to do it. However, we understand that the staff does not sound the same as these [instruments] do. So basically we’re using number notation also.

I have a translation system up on our Gamelan Son of Lion’s website. It shows how you get an equivalency. For each note, there are 10 different pitches in the two combined scales. For each of those 10 pitches, there’s the closest equivalent staff note. And that’s what we use with the understanding that that’s what it sounds like, which is fine, except if you get Western instruments or singers with you, they have to adjust. Basically we write it out in this regular staff system, but underneath we write the numbers instead of where lyrics would be. We write the number that goes with each note. Some people just simply read the numbers and ignore the staff. Some people read the staff and ignore the numbers. And there’s the third language which is where you just have a word score like Philip Corner would do. Just words to explain what happens. This happens first. This happens next. This is how it ends. He also used graphic designs a lot. It’s nice to be able to mix these all up.

Gamelan Son of Lion
Cymbals in Balaganju parade

FJO: Of course the other factor in composing and notating music for gamelan is that each gamelan is completely unique in terms of its overall tuning. So specificity is problematic if you want this to be playable by multiple groups, and if you only want it done on one set of instruments, they’re not particularly portable. How is the consideration of specificity or lack thereof an important issue in composing practical music for gamelan?

BB: It is, and it’s actually an interesting possibility. When this group went to Java in 1996, we had a repertoire we were going to play. Of course I told people not to write pieces that are pitch specific because it’s not going to be the same pitches over there. You’re going to have only an approximation of the intervals. Well, some people listened to me and some people didn’t. And some people said, “Well, this is my piece, and I just want to do it.” Then we got over there, and it took a lot of adjusting, because we were rehearsing on one set of instruments, performing on a second set of instruments, and then we went touring. We went to about three other places where the instruments were tuned totally differently. And some things were pretty difficult.

It depends if you’re thinking in terms of melody or not. If you’re thinking in terms of something that’s process based, it’s easy to do. But if you want to do something that has a specific tune, you’re running into trouble if you expect it to stay the same. I wrote a piece that was a ragtime for only four pitches to do over there [in Java]. We ended up having to transpose it from the four notes here, to four other notes to make it work. And it was an interesting and challenging thing to do. But if you’re dealing with Javanese tunes, basically they’re written in the numbers and they will sound somewhat different on different gamelans. I think of it in terms of taste or flavor. It’ll definitely have a different flavor, but it will be recognizable. Maybe there aren’t that many pieces that all composers do that can withstand that kind of interpretational change.

FJO: So how does this open-ended aesthetic play out when you compose music for Western instruments? You’ve mentioned writing for string quartet—do you expect them to play intervals that are like the intervals in gamelan music? Do you write specific pitches that are meant to be played the same way every time? Or is it as malleable as your gamelan music?

BB: When I play the violin with the gamelan, which I do frequently, I can actually play the scales, because they’ve just been in my ears for 30 years, so I can just do it. But it involves stretching or, in some instances, retuning the instrument. What really works for me is if you just move the entire pitch up so many cents or down so many cents. I can cope with that. But I haven’t found it easy to actually change it so that the intervals between the open strings aren’t fifths any more. I can’t cope with that.

I did an arrangement with the gamelan of Scottish songs for harp that I had learned in Cape Breton. It was called Gallic Weaving. I actually took a weaving class up there. I love things having to do with numbers and number permutations, and the instructions for weaving a pattern are in fact number permutations. So I decided to throw those into a gamelan piece. And then the gamelan was doing all these number permutations. And then I had the strings doing the actual songs, mostly in canon, because canons are a form of interweaving. It was a compromise. It was either have the string players try to match the gamelan’s intonation or not. I was writing as close to staff notes as it really could be. But it did involve either tuning instruments up a little bit, or just moving your hand and reorienting.

But [when I write for just a] string quartet, I don’t try to mess with the intonation. I’m not an intonation freak. I never really got into the Partch idea of infinite fractions and ratios and stuff like that. I guess I’m kind of a reactionary. I just have the same pitches be what they’re supposed to be. I think I’ve made them non-standard in other ways, but not pitch.

FJO: You’ve written operas, too, but you did those with the gamelan.

BB: That’s kind of a different line. I started writing opera stuff when I was an undergraduate. The two pieces that were done, one toured New Jersey with a dance company, and the other toured around Europe with the La MaMa Company. But then I didn’t really do anything else of this sort at all until much later when, while studying everything about Java, I got very involved with Wayang Kulit, which is shadow puppet theatre. And I just got the idea to write an opera using the puppets as the medium of actors. I didn’t really have any preconceptions of how the music would be, but I wanted to do it on the gamelan. In the first opera, Karna, I ended up using gamelan forms. But I did use a kind of stratified polyphony; if there was a melody, the other parts kind of wrote themselves by the process by which they do that. But I must say that 10 years later when I did Wayang Esther, I was not really doing very much that was Javanese-form-derived in there. It was mostly stuff I was just making up, probably more from my Western background than anything Indonesian.

FJO: Your sound world is malleable from piece to piece to make things work for each piece.

BB: Absolutely. It’s not like I’m setting up the image of myself as this kind of composer, and then I’ll do 50 more pieces of this kind. That just doesn’t seem to work for the modern world to me.

FJO: One of your most unusual pieces is Aural Shoehorning, which I find particularly fascinating because it puts things together that wouldn’t necessarily fit together—a group of Western instruments and a group of gamelan instruments—and purposely maximizes their incompatibility: Both are in different tunings, and so when one group plays material that the other group has played, it really clashes.

BB: The assignment from the Schubert Club people was to write a piece for this ensemble, Zeitgeist, and gamelan, so that it can be played by any gamelan. So I thought O.K., this has got to be a heterophonic piece. And so that was kind of fun. It established a structure for me. O.K., this is what it’s going to be, and it’s got to work. So I just started with what gamelan notes are the same as diatonic notes. There were only two or three notes that were the same. And so O.K., those were starting points, and then the piece will go off, away from them, which was very easy to do. So it was kind of fun to take advantage of that possibility.

FJO: And they frequently share material, but as a result it becomes different material.

BB: That’s all of what it’s about.