Colotomy is a term coined by the ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst[1] to describe the rhythmic patterns of the gamelan. It refers to the use of specific instruments to mark off nested time intervals, or the process of dividing rhythmic time into such nested cycles. In the gamelan, this is usually done by gongs of various sizes: the kempyang, ketuk, kempul, kenong, gong suwukan, and gong ageng. The fast-playing instruments, kempyang and ketuk, keep a regular beat. The larger gongs group together these hits into larger groupings, playing once per each grouping. The largest gong, the gong ageng, represents the largest time cycle and generally indicates that that section will be repeated, or the piece will move on to a new section.

The details of the rhythmic patterns depend on the colotomic structure (Javanese: bentuk ), also known as gendhing structure. There are a number of different structures, which differ greatly in length and complexity; however, all of them have some colotomic characteristics.

In the gamelan, the instruments which articulate this structure are sometimes called the colotomic instruments (also interpunctuating instruments or structural instruments). In the system of cipher gamelan notation (kepatihan notation), the colotomic parts are notated as diacritical marks on the numbers used to show the core melody (balungan).

Although the term "colotomic" was derived from Indonesian music theory, it can be applied to other musical traditions as well. In particular, it has been used to describe Japanese gagaku and Thai piphat.[2]


Example of a colotomic structure

The lancaran is a cycle of 16 beats (keteg) in the following order:


where T indicates the strike of the ketuk, P the kempul, N the kenong, and G the simultaneous stroke of the gong and kenong. The W indicates the wela, the pause where the kempul is omitted. Thus, the gong plays once, the kenong divides that into four parts, the kempul divides each of those in two, and the ketuk divides each of those further in two. Note that except for the kenong playing on the gong, the instruments do not play when the next one plays. (Remember that the gatras of gamelan music have the strong beat (seleh) at the end, not at the beginning as in Western music. Thus the more important structural instruments coincide with the stressed beats.)

Colotomic structures occur on even larger scales in most gamelan pieces as well. For example, a typical lancaran has four gongs, at the end of which the larger gong ageng is played. Groupings of four are most common at all levels of structure, although there are numerous exceptions at larger levels.

The colotomic structure of a piece is the length of the cycle and how the interpunctuating instruments play during that cycle, but they are also musical forms which are associated with specific structural patterns on a larger scale than the colotomic cycle, and guidelines for what tempi and irama may be used.

Colotomic structures in Javanese gamelan

Most gendhing in Javanese music conform to one of these structures, except for some special ceremonial pieces and experimental new compositions.

From wayang

From the wayang repertoire, there are three common structures, listed here from shortest to longest:

Because wayang was originally performed exclusively in sléndro, pélog compositions in these structures are usually adaptations. These were originally written for wayang, but now appear in concert pieces.

General repertoire

There are four basic structures, listed from shortest to longest:

Note that gendhing can also mean gamelan pieces in general, but also has the specific meaning of a long structure. A single piece will often transition to other forms, especially to a shorter form. It is not unusual to perform a gendhing, a ladrang, a ketawang, and a lancaran, in that order, as a single piece, as long as they are in the same pathet.

See also


  1. ^ William P. Malm. Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977. Page 43.
  2. ^ Malm, 123 and 194-195.

External links

Instruments and vocals used in Javanese gamelan

Colotomic instruments:
Balungan instruments:
Panerusan instruments:
Unpitched instruments:
Vocals and clapping:


Kempyang and ketuk | Kempul | Kenong | Gong
Saron panerus | Saron barung | Demung | Slenthem | Slentho
Bonang | Gendér | Gambang | Siter | Celempung | Suling | Rebab
Kendang | Bedug | Kecer | Kemanak | Kepyak
Gerong | Sindhen | Alok | Senggakan | Keplok

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Colotomy — Co*lot o*my, n. [Gr. ko lon colon + tomh cutting.] (Surg.) An operation for opening the colon [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • colotomy — /keuh lot euh mee/, n., pl. colotomies. Surg. incision or opening of the colon. [1865 70; COLO + TOMY] * * * …   Universalium

  • colotomy — Incision into the colon. [colo + G. tome, incision] * * * co·lot·o·my kə lät ə mē n, pl mies surgical incision of the colon compare COLOSTOMY * * * co·lot·o·my (ko lotґə me) [ …   Medical dictionary

  • colotomy — n. incision made to open the colon (main part of the large intestine) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • colotomy — co·lot·o·my …   English syllables

  • colotomy — I. /kəˈlɒtəmi/ (say kuh lotuhmee) noun Medicine a surgical procedure involving an incision into the colon. {colo(n)2 + tomy} –colotomic, adjective II. /kəˈlɒtəmi/ (say kuh lotuhmee) noun …   Australian English dictionary

  • colotomy —   n. surgical incision into colon …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • colotomy — n. (pl. ies) Surgery an incision in the colon. Etymology: as COLON(2) + TOMY …   Useful english dictionary

  • Cycle (music) — A music cycle is when a section of a song/music is repeated. In music a cycle is a section which is repeated or repeatable indefinitely, with the end of a preceding repetition leading to the beginning of a succeeding repetition. Cycles may be… …   Wikipedia

  • Caesar Hawkins — For other people named Caesar Hawkins, see Caesar Hawkins (disambiguation). Caesar H. Hawkins Caesar (or Cæsar) Henry Hawkins FRS (19 September 1798 – 20 July 1884) was a British surgeon. Life He was the son of the Rev. E. Hawkins and grandson of …   Wikipedia

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