Tuesday, January 26, 2010

27 / Goodbye To Bali

It's just today, two days after arriving in Hong Kong, that I feel I have finally left Bali. The main reason, I think, is that I have only now finished reading A House In Bali, by Colin McPhee, an affecting book by the person perhaps most responsible for awakening the West to Balinese gamelan music.

McPhee lived in Bali for about ten years, beginning in the 1930's. His book paints a picture of the last years of the colonial era in Bali, as World War II approaches, and it casts a profoundly nostalgic spell.

The beautiful creations of human culture are fragile and impermanent, appearing and disappearing from history not unlike the musical "flowers" that appear and disappear so suddenly in the musical compositions of the gamelan orchestras. These musical "flowers" were captured by McPhee in his transliteration of unwritten gamelan music to Western musical notation, and A House In Bali similarly preserves, in "pressed flower" form, a time now almost wholly past, but the resonance of which still remains in the Balinese air.

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