/ sound scape of Bali /



Uninterrupted sound for 72:44 minutes

Every time I enter Bali I have to relearn what's happening? How are things evolving? How people are living? Gossip is high culture in Bali. By watching everything from everyday life to the privileged moments of a ritual, I have understood better. You are not an individual in Bali you are part of a group.Like a thread in a cloth, you are a part of the fabric. Caught in this weave are the spiritual elements of Balinese society.

I tried to understand the details, but I got lost. Like trying to analyze a crowd person by person, I was quickly overwhelmed. Like those incredibly intricate Balinese paintings, Balinese ceremonies are full simultaneous activities, there is always something going on somewhere and you always feel like you have missed something. There is always a vague scenario, but an infinite number of events can modify it. This is improvised ritual.

For the longest time I could not make a work from my experiences in Bali. All my documents, photos and videos were in a mess. What could I do with this material? I don't want to freeze it in a static artwork, but I want to show it, and get others to understand.

Sound is odd. Each sound can have a individual presence, it can exist on its own, yet sounds always intertwine.

Don't listen to this CD immobile before your stereo like at the concert hall, rather go about your business and let the CD mix with your daily life. The most charming sounds are unexpected.

Did you hear it?


Time outline


00:00 before day break


This CD starts with an ending. This is dawn of the last day of a five day long ceremony attended by thirteen villages. To guard the precious ceremonial masks, most of the monks have spent the night awake in the Temple. To pass the time they sang.

At 6am the sky in the east is white and everyone is preparing for the journey home. The morning gamelan is listless, it is just the background noise for a large festival with a sleepy head trying to chase away the silence of night.

Until 1998, the spirit Ratu Agung would come down to speak with the oldest monk. This monk could then tell the villagers how to prepare the daily offerings until the next ceremony. However in 1999, this monk died, and everyone is waiting for the spirits to choose their next interlocutor


04:07 morning parting


The return home. Everyone has an parcel of masks or other ceremonial objects on their head or in their arms. First they walk in a circle around the interior sacred space of the temple. So that they will not go hungry on the trip home, they touch a large wok which contains food for the gods. A cheer ends this ritual and everybody moves outside.

The procession climbs a small hill in the rice field and advances to the crossing in front of the market. I am at the end of a long procession of thirteen villages, a small migration. The crossing is the last parting place. A small ritual is held there also.

From the top of the hill I can see the central mass of people around the crossing, their white robes shining in the early morning sun. Each village is playing five or six portable gongs or bells from its gamelan. As each of the roots leaves to go its separate way, the sounds dissipate with the villages. The most beautiful sight in five days.


07:15 cock fighting


In Bali, gambling and cock fighting are only allowed during the high festivals, the Odalan. Blood letting is supposed to be an essential part of a ceremony, an offering to the hungry evil spirits, but, I feel that this is just an excuse for the men to enjoy a favorite pastime.

The crowd is dense of men carrying their fighting cocks, often stroking them with extreme tenderness. They have spent months stroking and tending to the birds. A wining cock is money and good fortune. As women are forbidden here, I have to act like a tourist with my video camera.

The men place their bets by calling "right, right, right" and "left, left, left" making a rhythm similar to the familiar kecak song.

I used to wonder how the birds knew what to do, or that they should fight. Now listening just to the sound I understand, the crowd tells them what to do.


15:03 dance before the arrival of Barong


Barong (the good character) advances towards the gate gnashing his teeth. Small bells are attached to the ankles of the two men who control this large puppet. The sound of the bells is harsh on my ears. Outside the temple the gamelan players play waiting music.

After the dance the Barong returns to the temple. The small bells enter my silence.

Outside, Rangda (the evil character) howls.


31:25 village children practice gamelan


Proud adults have circled around the gamelan. Their children are performing.

"You see that's my son," says a man. "Can you take a picture?"

The players age from 3 to 12 or 13. This music is in their blood. They were listening to it even before they we born.


37:49 prayer


The fat monk is seated on earthen ground. He rings a small bell on the end of a short stick, like one you might use to summon a waiter.

The sound of the bell runs along the ground feeling its way through the people, courses through the offerings and mixes with the chilled morning air.


40:57 adil in a trance


You can feel the trance by its sound. The insistent regularity of the gamelan tells you it is coming. Adil is younger than the other trancers, everytime he trances very deeply. The monks protect him and also control the timing of the trance.

As usual the spirits have come to Adil, and he cannot wait until the end of the Calonrang performance. Shouting, his body explodes with energy. In this hyper-stimulation he makes a dash to attack the character of Randa (the evil spirit), and then he enacts the Tudun, when he repeatedly takes a large knife to his chest and shows that it does not pierce his skin. After having proven to the population that the spirits have arrived, the monks carry Adil into the temple so that they can communicate with those who are inhabiting his body.

In the silent foreground you can hear a young bird sing. Its neck will be cut as an offering to the spirits. In this silence, the monks communicate with the spirits. The most important part of this 5 day ceremony is not the trance itself, but the communication. And that everyone sees this reality.

Despite such elaborate preparations, the Balinese spirits are very common. If they haven't received enough offerings they are angry, they usually only ever suggest small details for everyday life. These spirits aren't distant or even particularly holy, but are a physical presence, normal characters who play a role in everyday life.


59:21 dance of two young girls inhabited by spirits


I heard from a man in a rundown tobacco shop about this tiny isolated village near the Kintamani Mt. where I could see the Sanghyang Dedari dance, My heart beat hard at the thought of being able to see this rare dance where the spirits inhabit the bodies of two pre-pubescent girls. That is why I find myself in this tiny village, the most remote and untouched place I have visited in Bali.

As usual I had to wait a very long time for the dance to start. To my surprise it is held in almost complete darkness as there are no street lights here, and only a few houses have light. There are so many stars I feel they are falling on my head.

Two girls dance in the temple with their eyes closed. They are already inhabited and synchronized. They sway back and forth, with their arms outstretched. Only their legs move back and forth as their stiff upper-bodies tilt for balance. The gamelan sounds hollow and monotone. It makes me think of the sound of Japanese wooden 'geta' sandals.


63:25 arrival of the spirits


preparation for the dance of two young girls

As their feet can't touch the ground, the two girls were brought into the temple on shoulders of men. Now they sit side-by-side on small stools with their eyes closed. An woman attends to each of these inhabited children. Each shakes a stick with small bells in front of the girls. I too feel hypnotized by these dual trembling bells.

In fact, opposite from my impressions, this remote village is well know by researchers. There have even been several television crews who each paid the villagers about $100 to put on this dance. Now I understand why this poor place has managed to maintain its traditional festivals.



The sounds on this CD were recorded

From 1993 to 1999, I went to Bali twice a year to film the Tamagantur Temple Odalan. It is a five day ceremony which reunites thirteen villages, whose mythologies are completely intertwined. The first day each village makes the trip to the temple in a long procession. By night-fall each has been greeted by a dance and ceremony performed by the monks of Tamagantur. It is a busy day for these monks.

From the second to the fourth day, mainly at night, theatrical productions and dances are performed for the spirits. On the fifth day in the morning, each village returns home.

On this CD 15:03 was recorded the third day, 40:57 is from the fourth day, 00:00 and 04:07 are from the fifth day. 07:15 the cock fighting, takes place outside the temple during the days.

The last two recordings are from Kayukapas, the only time I have seen the Sanghyang Dedari. This dance left such an impression that I had to include a trace of it.

This CD is released in a limited edition of 100 signed copies. For more information see: http://miwa.metm.org



audio recording/photo/text Miwa Koizumi
project concept Miwa Koizumi,Marco Scoffier
special thanks to Toshiharu ito and Yuko Fukatu
translation Marco Scoffier



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