Title: demo: Sundanese goong. Format: DAT.

Title: demo: Sundanese goong. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The goöng is a metal gong idiophone of the Sundanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is the largest and lowest-pitched instrument in many types of Sundanese gamelans (see Gamelan Prunggu (Bronze) from West Java for tuning and register information for the instruments in the Grinnell set; see the second gallery image for a photo of a second slightly smaller goöng in this ensemble). Sundanese gamelan instruments in general, but the goöng in particular, are remarkable products of highly skilled craftsmen. The transformation, with the aid of fire, of raw materials from the earth into physical objects of sound production is seen by many Sundanese to be fraught with supernatural dangers. In earlier times, gongsmiths were viewed as possessing priestly like powers and would take on the names of mythological characters as forms of protection in their craft.


This bronze gong was forged by a team of hammer-wielding smiths who gradually transformed a disc of bronze into the shape seen in the picture. This involved numerous cycles of heating the bronze until white-hot followed by a few minutes of hammering. The finished product is an integral vessel with a turned-in flange and a raised central boss/knob. The contouring of the face of the gong is essential to achieving a definite pitch. The goöng is hung vertically from a wooden rack with synthetic rope the ends of which run through holes punched out of the gong's flange. A heavily padded wooden stick beater is used to strike the boss of the gong.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A single player performs the instrument by striking its knob/boss with the padded beater; any competent gamelan musician can play the instrument. It is a punctuating instrument that contributes to the articulation of the underlying cyclical formal structure of a piece by being sounded at the end of each repetition of that structure. A deep, sonorous sound with a soft attack and very long decay is produced. The sound has a definite pitch and usually a slow vibrato. It is played at a single dynamic level.


It is very likely that tuned gongs and the technology to produce them were developed first outside of Indonesia. When and by whom they were introduced to Java is not known. Kunst gives the earliest mention of gong-type instruments in Indonesia to be the 9th century, although how close those gongs were to the contemporary goöng in size and shape is unclear. Mostly small, and one medium-sized, gongs are seen in reliefs on the 14th century Javanese Panataran temple, constituting the earliest depiction in Java of this instrument type. It is safe to say that even the most ancient extant gamelans include gongs (some of these sets are comprised almost entirely of this type of instrument), although dating these sets almost always involves speculation. Some goöng in extant archaic gamelans could be argued to have been manufactured in the 17th century or earlier, but just how much earlier is not possible to say with certainty.

Bibliographic Citations

Becker, Judith. 1988. "Earth, Fire, Sakti, and the Javanese Gamelan," Ethnomusicology 32/3: 385-391.

Kunst, Jaap. 1968. Hindu-Javanese Musical Instruments. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

________. 1973. Music in Java. 3rd ed. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Spiller, Henry. 2004. Gamelan: The Traditional Sounds of Indonesia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Sundanese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.11 idiophone--bossed percussion vessel gong, flat gong (with flange), and intermediate types

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with folded-over rim

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick with padded ball end

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


30.5 in. diameter 8.5 in. height

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter