Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Pelog scales can and do vary widely from island to island, province to province, and even town to town (Bali is a good example of where this happens). There is disagreement among musicologists about what exactly makes a pelog scale a pelog scale. It has been only fairly recently that attempts have been made to characterize the scale in terms of its physical pitch values. Moreover, a complete understanding of the pelog scale cannot result merely from an accurate physical characterization; perhaps even more important is an understanding of the function of this scale in the music, and in the culture in which the music is performed.
A full pelog scales is seven tones. However, many instruments only have five tones. Even when instruments have all seven tones, more often than not only five of the tones will be used in a scale. In this respect the pentatonic pelog scale can be thought of as a mode.
The Pelog scale in some parts of Java can be constructed in the same way as the Western diatonic scale, as a chain of perfect fourths, except with very wide, out-of-tune fourths, between 515 and 535 cents. This is at the very extreme of the range of intervals that can be perceived as a fourth, and rapid beating between the upper harmonics (actually inharmonic overtones in the case of the metallophones which form the bulk of the gamelan orchestra) contributes to the unique shimmering sound of the gamelan. The full pelog scale has seven distinct tones (a stack of six fourths), but normally a composition would be written in a five-tone subset of the full scale. The seven tones of the pelog scale, in circle-of-fourths order, are called "barang", "dada", "nem", "gulu", "lima", "bem", and "pelog" (the latter note bears the same name as the scale as a whole). Therefore, the tones of the scale in ascending order, with the two different kinds of step interval labeled L and S, are: gulu-S-dada-L-pelog-S-lima-S-nem-S-barang-L-bem-S-gulu. In this case S is about 110-150 cents and L is 250-300 cents.
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