Alves Got Gamelan and, Maybe, a Grammy

November 1, 2013

Come January, Harvey Mudd College Gamelan founder and music Professor Bill Alves may be headed for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. His piece, “Concerto for Violin and Gamelan” has been nominated for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.”

“I’m not breaking out the tux yet, but I’m happy to be on the list,” said Alves, chair of the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts. “I’m also excited that the Harvey Mudd American Gamelan and its talented student members are getting recognition, too.”

Formed by Alves in 2000, the Harvey Mudd American Gamelan is an ensemble that uses traditional Javanese instruments to play Western music. Instruments include those found in a traditional Indonesian orchestra, or gamelan, such as gongs and metallophones, which are similar to the xylophone and are struck with a mallet. The gamelan performs regularly at MicroFest, a concert series devoted to non-standard tunings and held in venues throughout Southern California.

MicroFest Records submitted Alves’ composition to the Grammy committee shortly after the April 25, 2013 release of his album Mystic Canyon. The album and its nominated piece feature violinist Susan Jensen and the Harvey Mudd American Gamelan, which includes Alves, Sun Hwi Bang ’14, John Choi ’12, Anne Clark  ’13, Mark Ellis ’12, Andrew Ho ’12, John Robinson ’11, Julie Simon SCR ’76 , political science and environmental policy Professor Paul Steinberg, Carling Sugarman ’14, Jonathan Williams ’14 and math Professor Darryl Yong ’96.

“It’s all very beautiful stuff, and well-recorded so that the richness of Susan’s tone and the various resonating percussion instruments generate some very intense and varied tone colors throughout the spectrum of human hearing,” wrote musician and music blogger Andrew Meronek in his Sept. 24, 2013 review of Mystic Canyon.

Alves joined the Harvey Mudd faculty in 1995. A composer, writer and video artist, he has written extensively for conventional acoustic instruments, non-Western instruments—especially Indonesian gamelan—and electronic media, often integrating his compositions with abstract video animations. His audio works include Mystic CanyonThe Terrain of Possibilities and Imbal-Imbalan. His book Music of the Peoples of the World was published by Cengage/Schirmer in 2006, and his video collection, Celestial Dance, has been released by Kinetica Video Library.

“Concerto for Violin and Gamelan” now resides on the Grammy committee’s long list for the classical composition category. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences members will review and vote on the list, paring it down to the four to five nominees “short list” that viewers see on television. The winner will be announced at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles.