This piece was written in 1975 when Allan Thomas first brought his Cirebon gamelan to Victoria University. I encouraged a composition class to join in learning how to play the various instruments involved, and then to write something of their own as an exercise in modal composition. Also to see if they could come up with something that worked in a non-traditional-Javanese way. Having a go at doing such a piece myself was part of the encouragement. In the end, only one student and I finished our pieces!
My Ostinato, while taking into account the gamelan instruments and their colours, is a sort of “process” piece that could also be adapted for other timbres. Basically the process is a shrinking canon. The theme, first played by the kenong, is imitated six beats later by the bonang. With each repeat of this the theme gets louder and the canonic imitation a beat closer until at the climax they play together. The other gamelan instruments provide background ostinati throughout, and at the end join in the final echo cadence.