“The Lanang Is the Bus Driver”: Intersections of Ethnography and Music Analysis in a Study of Balinese Arja Drumming

  • Leslie TilleyEmail author
Part of the Current Research in Systematic Musicology book series (CRSM, volume 5)


This chapter presents an ethnographically informed analysis of the improvised Balinese drumming practice kendang arja, blending a personal and sometimes informal ethnographic writing style with close musical analysis. In this paired drumming tradition, two musicians, without formal music theory to guide them, somehow create the tightly interlocking rhythms so characteristic of Balinese music through continuous and simultaneous improvisation. No surprise these are among Bali’s most respected musicians. By examining the improvisations of various master drummers via the lens of their informal oral music theory, this chapter seeks to make explicit several relatively implicit guidelines and techniques for kendang arja improvising. It thus offers insight into the ways these musicians create mutually compatible patterns in the course of performance, while simultaneously demonstrating the value of ethnographic fieldwork to the analysis of improvised musics.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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