Answering Questions, Questioning Answers: Understanding Tradisi and Moderen in the Intellectual Process of Balinese New Music Creations


  • I Wayan Sudirana Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar, Sumerta, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia



creativity, innovation, intellectuality, moderen, new music, tradisi


In Bali, compositional process in music was traditionally more intuitive than conceptual. The recreation of beauty in nature through musical expression and melodic ideas was and is still thought to be sufficient for many to form a musical repertoire. However, these examples may be perceived as naïve, straightforward, or simplistic expressions in comparison to newer styles of Balinese musical composition. This article discusses how the terms ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ are understood by academic and non-academic Balinese artists (both musicians and composers alike), and the extent to which they influence the aesthetics of Balinese composers’ musical creations. Initially, I examine the historical dimension of Balinese compositions with all of its challenges, considering the terms ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ as important to the understanding of the development of Balinese musical creations. I explore some new works for gamelan by Balinese composers, and further address some of the problems that arise in the development of Balinese music. Senior Balinese musicians/composers believe that local wisdom provides the foundation of Balinese music while the assimilation of global culture allows young musicians to innovate and develop their music without abandoning their indigenous identity. Younger Balinese composers are not only accepting, recreating, and changing established traditional/older music and ideas, but are now developing deeper, more intellectual methods of composition, expanding possibilities, and individual creativity to new levels. Older music is part of a new musical construction tailored to the way that composers create their works.


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Author Biography

I Wayan Sudirana, Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar, Sumerta, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

I Wayan Sudirana, born in Ubud, Bali, is one of Bali’s most renown musicians and composer. He teaches and performs across Bali and internationally. He is a professor at the Indonesia Institute of the Arts in Denpasar. After graduating from the Indonesian Arts Institute, Denpasar, he studied at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where he received his MA and PhD in Ethnomusicology. He was commissioned by the Canadian government to perform at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. He also performed at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games held in Jakarta in August 2018 and Carnegie Hall, New York in 2008. He has published a book about the future of Balinese sacred ensemble (2019), and recently produced three CDs of his new works for Gamelan with Gamelan Yuganada (2019 and 2020). His current research is focused on the development of new music in Bali. 


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How to Cite

Sudirana, I. W. (2020). Answering Questions, Questioning Answers: Understanding Tradisi and Moderen in the Intellectual Process of Balinese New Music Creations. Malaysian Journal of Music, 9, 1–16.

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