1996, 32' for Balinese gamelan gong kebyar, cello or double bass, percussion aampler & keyboard aampler

Commissioned by ReadersDigest/Meet the Composer, for Gamelan Galak Tika and Basso Bongo (Robert Black, bass, and Amy Knoles, percussion)

First performance: May 10, 1997, Kresge Auditorium, Cambridge, MA - Gamelan Galak Tika and Basso Bongo

Recording: Gamelan Galak Tika (New World) 2000 - Gamelan Galak Tika, Evan Ziporyn, director; Robert Black, bass; Dan Schmidt, keyboard sampler


  • Amplified Cello (or Double Bass) w/real-time distortion, delay & harmonizer
  • Amplified Keyboard sampler (88-key, touch sensitive) w/real-time delay
  • Amplified Percussion sampler (12-pad, touch sensitive) w/real-time delay
  • Balinese gamelan gong kebyar in saih selisir (5-tone pelog) tuning
                3-6 suling
                4 reong
                1 ugal
                4 pemade
                4 kantil
                2 jublag (+ 2 optional penyecah)
                2 jegogan
                1-2 kendang
                1 ceng-ceng
                1 kempli
                1 gong (agung-kempur-kemong)


Amok! is in six movements – 1-3 segue without a break; 4-6 all begin after slight pauses.  The length of the pauses to be determined by the performers, but short enough to allow for a direct sense of continuity. The score includes extensives notes and technical information on tuning, samples, processing techniques, etc. Issues of pitch aside, ‘standard’ notation (i.e., metric & linear, following the conventions of western music) is used in 1,2, 3, 4 & 5.  The score to Amok 6 is a set of directions.  Throughout, a variety of non-standard notational practices are used to deal with the unique nature of the instrumentation and the idiosyncrasies of the harmonic, rhythmic and formal language. 


Amok! is one of the few common English language words taken directly from Malay/Indonesian. The others are 'ketchup' (soy sauce) and 'orangutan (forest person), and neither seemed to suit this piece. When I wrote it, in 1996, real-time processing and nimble sample manipulation were just coming into their own, and I sought to explore the contrast between the endless possibilities of electronics - where any sound is possible if you can only figure out how to make it - and the 'rooted in the real'-ness of the gamelan - its finite 5-toned scale emitting an infinity of overtones and sonic richness . This contrast governs the piece, with the sampler using only the sounds of the gamelan, transposed and uprooted to create new melodic and harmonic possibilities. A melody starts in a pentatonic gamelan and winds up somewhere else; a rhythm moves to the bass and is then overlaid with digital effects - delays and harmonizations - to create something else entirely, each element recontextualizing the other.