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The gamelan music of Central Java is one of the world's great orchestral traditions. Its rich sonic texture is not based on Western-style harmony or counterpoint but revolves around a single melody. The nature of that melody, however, is puzzling. In this book, Marc Perlman uses this puzzle as a key both to the art of the gamelan and to the nature of musical knowledge in general. Drawing on the insights of Java's most respected musicians, Perlman shows how irregularities in the relationships between the melodic parts have suggested the existence of "unplayed melodies." To clarify the differences between these implicit-melody concepts, Unplayed Melodies tells the stories behind their formulation, identifying each as the creative contribution of an individual musician in a postcolonial context.
Marc Perlman is Associate Professor of Music at Brown University.