My endorsement for INDO2002! Getting inside the Pendopo, playing gamelan and finding out about various aspects of Indonesian culture has been the stand-out experience of my BEd/BA so far.  It is very likely that this will be the only encounter that I will have with studying an Asian culture at Flinders and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any prospective students.  Learning to play the instruments of the gamelan has been challenging, fun and has actually had a range of spin-off benefits in other areas of study.  For instance, I feel my memory has improved throughout the semester and I really put that down to gamelan.  

The non-language Indonesian courses offered here have allowed me to develop a curiosity and find out more about Indonesian culture despite the lack of personal connection with the topic though. For example, in the Indonesian music topic originally addressed here, I have started to understand and appreciate the more traditional side of Indonesian music, not easily visible in a world where YouTube is filled with more modern pop-style music. Many things, like the origins and purpose of the Gamelan, to the cultural influences brought in by the various settlers of the archipelago, to the evolution of traditional music have been discussed in class. This helps me as a student of Indonesian come to a deeper understanding of the culture, consolidating previous knowledge (like the spread of Islam into Indonesia, which can be felt in the evolution of Indonesia's traditional music and the complimenting of the previous native/Indic influences).

From the music side though, it's helped me appreciate the music itself, and the effort, energy and dedication required to pull off the characteristic sound of a gamelan orchestra. It's even aided from a philosophical point of view, showing the order behind the chaotic sound.

From a point of view not focussed on efficiency though, and based on the principle of learning about the world around us, I have really enjoyed learning something new and alien about the world, and being able to experience a cultural aspect I wouldn't normally be able to take part in.

I hope I have not been too long-winded and lost anyone, but I shall close this by stating that this is only my personal opinion and probably not of great worth towards giving a more scientific overview of the course and its benefits, but regardless would like to thank the university and the Indonesian Department for having such a great and enjoyable (set of) course(s) that have helped me with my studies in Indonesian.

I have found the Gamelan topic so valuable; both the tutorial presentations and the gamelan classes. Having worked at Flinders University for over 30 years as a professional academic librarian I can remember the day the Pendopo was opened at Flinders and the first gamelan performances in the 80s and 90s. Ever since I first heard the gamelan in Indonesia 40 years ago I have been enchanted by its music and the peaceful state that it leads to, so once the gamelan arrived in Flinders I had always wanted to play it and was always quite jealous of those who had the time to do so. Many lunch times I would sit outside the Pendopo eating my sandwich listening to the birds and looking at the statues around the building. I would always peek in the window and have a look at the instruments. I also attended functions in the Pendopo when I was Asian Studies Librarian and always found them very beautiful and friendly times. I have heard our gamelan played at Womad, the Adelaide Festival of Arts and the OzAsia Festival and it seemed to me that this was a very valuable way to bring the life of Flinders out into the wider community as well as introducing the public to the culture of Indonesia. Now that I am retired I am able to study and explore the other side of the University and learn some of the things I did not have time for when I was working full-time. Indonesian and the gamelan had to come first and I have not been disappointed. I have been interested to see the diverse background of the students enrolled in the course: they come not only from Humanities, but also Social Sciences, the Sciences and Law proving that there is both a need and an interest in Asian culture in this university wider than Indonesian Studies. In this time in history I believe that students and the wider community in general need more than ever to be exposed to the richness of other cultures and especially to those of Indonesia because we have such a long and shared history of interaction. The gamelan orchestra and the classes taught at Flinders are one way the university can help to encourage a more compassionate and culturally rich society in South Australia.

Why learning how to play gamelan has turned out to be one of the best decisions in my academic career? Well, I have many answers to this question. First of all, I would like to introduce myself: Hi, my name is Noëmi, and I am an international student from Switzerland who is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of International Studies, third year. I have chosen the topic “Musical Cultures and Identities” as part of my Diploma in Language and have certainly not regretted it so far. As mentioned, this topic has turned out to be one of the best choices I have made in my academic career, here at Flinders. Yes, I am having a ball learning how to play this wonderful musical orchestra ensemble. Did you know that up to 35 players can be involved in a gamelan performance? I certainly didn’t. Through the weekly readings I have greatly enhanced my understandings of Indonesian culture and society. Foremost, I would like to point out that to my great surprise I have even gained further knowledge on my own cultural identity through the research I had to do for one of the presentations in class. This has been an experience of unimaginable personal value. I can tell you something: this is not a chill-pill topic. It is actually much more work than I had anticipated. Our lectures and practices are quite intense and require a lot of concentration. Because playing gamelan is a community activity, everybody needs to be engaged so as to advance the group’s overall performance together. Often, I find that our rehearsals give us the bare foundations and ideas of how to play and interpret a piece. Once lessons have finished it is entirely up to us to practice and learn how to handle all the different instruments. Regular practices are definitely a must. Apart from all the hard work, playing gamelan to me has also a spiritual quality. I love rocking up at 9 o’clock a.m. at the Pendopo to start my day with some inspirational tones. While it is still very challenging this topic, it turns out to be the perfect balance to my otherwise fairly dry International Relations topics. With its beautiful surroundings the Pendopo is a truly unique cultural treasure to the Flinders University campus and I am a little bit proud of the fact being a part of the crew keeping the “Flinders Asian culture” alive.
In terms of my expectations of this topic, I hope to travel to Indonesia one day to be able to play in some local community over there. I could imagine that being able to play gamelan could be a valuable asset in performing in the field of International Studies, adding to the little bit extra when it comes down to building friendly relations between two important neighbours in the Pacific. Until I will be able to apply my skills in any gamelan ensemble around the world, I’ll have to practice a lot!