The kethuk and kempyang span are colotomic or structure-marking instruments in the Javanese gamelan ensemble. The parts are not melodious or even particularly challenging to play. However, the kethuk and kempyang are helpful in defining the beat and keeping the ensemble playing together.
Both the kethuk and kempyang are horizontal gongs much like the kenong or bonang. Frequently, both instruments will be played by one musician.
The kethuk is a single kettle-gong of definite pitch (the kethuk of the Kyai Telaga Rukmi ensemble is a pitch 2; see pages about the Javanese scales and cipher notation for more information.) It is played in one of two ways depending upon the irama (speed) of the piece. In a fast irama the musician strikes the button or knob of the instrument without letting the stick rebound or the note ring. The sound of the kethuk is a dry "Thuk" (the name of the instrument mirrors its sound). In a slower irama the kethuk is played in a kind of "dribbling" pattern somewhat like "Thuk thuk thuk thuk thuk".
The kempyang consists of two kettle-gongs of higher pitch than that of the kethuk. Either one or both kempyang kettles may be stuck and allowed to ring with a "Pyang" sound. The two kettles are pitched about a note apart, so it can be a very disonant sound when they are struck together.
More Javanese gamelan instruments.Author: Bern Jordan.