A master instrumentalist and composer whose musical reach extends far beyond his home of Kansas City, Patrick Alonzo Conway is one busy man. Currently the director of the KC-based Balinese Gamelan Semaradana community ensemble Gamelan Gentra Kasturi, Conway has also for decades been involved in many different projects as composer and/or performer with a focus on creating a fusion of music from Western, Asian and African elements. We are honored to share an interview with Patrick Alonzo Conway on Listen Local.
Please introduce yourself. What is Gamelan Gentra Kasturi? What role do you play?
My name is Patrick Alonzo Conway. I am a freelance musician/composer who has been working in Kansas City professionally since 1986 in a variety of guises including classical bassoonist, folkloric percussionist specializing in AfroCuban music and Balinese Gamelan, and conguero in salsa bands and world beat/funk bands. I also have dabbled in the world of saxophones mainly in avant garde ensembles.
Gamelan Genta Kasturi is a community gamelan ensemble performing on a Balinese Semaradana gamelan set that was built for, and still owned by, UMKC. When UMKC received the set in January of 2003, they also brought a Balinese teacher, I Ketút Gedé Asnawa and his family, from Bali to teach courses at UMKC and start a community ensemble. This type of gamelan was created in the mid 1980's and allows for the playing of differing styles of Balinese gamelan that would normally require totally different sets of instruments. I have been director of the ensemble since Mr. Asnawa completed his stay at UMKC in May of 2006 and moved to University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he currently resides with his family and teaches. I conduct rehearsals and produce performances with the group.
Gamelan Genta Kasturi performs both traditional Balinese gamelan music and your own original work. How is the new work created? What is the nature of the collaborative process with the group’s music?
I have created new works in different ways depending on the time/context. Initially, I wrote gamelan works that fused other world musics (AfroCuban) with western instruments and gamelan, which is tricky due to the tuning of the gamelan. I initially would trade sections between the gamelan and western instrument consorts (AmeriCuBali 2004 & Sekar Purwa Pascima 2006). I did expand Sekar Purwa Pascima in 2007 to include woodwinds in combination with gamelan and expanded the modal palette in the woodwinds. My next step was to try to write in Balinese style just for gamelan, but with an extended palette that included harmony (Masked Dance 2010) and full 7 tone applications (Blossoming Dance 2010). Another fusion experiment of mine occured in 2012 with gamelan/big band combination created for our group and Black House Collective.
Tell us about the collaborations GGK has done with other musicians, dancers and visual artists.
2011 was a big project entitled Angels & Demons at Play that combined projected visual imagery, original choreography/dance based on Balinese dance styles , poetry of Sun Ran with original music created by myself that incorporated gamelan pieces and other sections/arrangements of Sun Ra for non-gamelan instruments.
Other collaborations have included a combo with CSF visiting artists Nagual (Sycamore House series) in fall of 2013 and Quadrigarum in spring of 2014. These pieces were based on improv structures created collectively with our group members and the two other groups.
We also combined my Blossoming Dance with shadow imagery by Nihan Yesil in 2013 for our tenth anniversary concert.
What projects are in the works for GGK?
We possibly will collaborate with sound/visual artist Dwight Frizzell (KCAI faculty) this fall on a piece entitled The Bridge, which may be site specific and incorporate live gamelan with amplifications of sound emanating from the bridge crossing the MO River on Highway 291 on the east side of Independence, MO.
Also, we have been discussing doing a series of fun drive in style Monster Movie themed puppet shows with live gamelan accompaniment in collaboration with Mesner Puppet Theater, though this is a longer range project that may be a couple of year away.
My primary focus is producing a series of main spring concerts featuring our founder/teacher I Ketút Gedé Asnawa and his family for the next 4-5 years while they still reside in the States. I am currently transcribing a famous piece of his, Lansing Tuban, that was a seminal work of the mid 1970s that took a very esoteric Gambuh style gamelan work and reformatted it into Semar Pegulingan style, expanding the modal content.
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Gamelan of Central Java VIII: Court Music Treasures by STSI Conservatory of Surakarta
The Shape Of Jazz To Come by Ornette Coleman