Iwan Gunawan, born in 1973, is considered one of the most important contemporary composers in the West Javanese cultural sphere today. He began to play traditional gamelan music as early as the age of six. During his study of composition and music for schools at UPI (Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia) in Bandung, he concentrated in particular on his own musical tradition, but also on Western conventions. Iwan Gunawan is one of those rare artists who has been able to preserve his own roots while at the same time gaining a professional status in Western musical cultures. Contemporary techniques of composition, the use of live electronics and computers, are a part of Iwan Gunawan’s everyday repertoire.
His works are usually succinct and highly concentrated, shaped primarily by rhythmic processes stemming not only from his own musical tradition, but also from Balinese music. The key elements in his music are additive and subtractive rhythmic sequences, similar to those used by the Minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Nevertheless, Iwan Gunawan has found his own form of musical expression and his music does not belong to this style. Gamelan instruments and piano are his preferred instruments.
“Gamelan music is often described as static and traditional. This is incorrect, for gamelan music merely describes a certain collection of instruments; the music itself constantly evolves.” Iwan Gunawan