Department of Music

Dr Nick Gray

Key information

Roles
Department of Music Research Associate Academic Staff, Centre of South East Asian Studies
Department
Department of Music
Qualifications
PhD (London)
Email address
ng18@soas.ac.uk

Biography

Nick Gray is a composer and a performer of gendér wayang, the small group of metallophones that accompanies the Balinese shadow play. He also composes for various genres including rock and experimental music. Nick is author of Improvisation and composition in Balinese gendér wayang (Ashgate 2011) as well as numerous articles on gendér wayang. His music groups include ‘Segara Madu’ (Balinese gendér wayang) and ‘My Tricksy Spirit’ (psychedelic gamelan trip hop). Nick is interested in the nature of composition and performance, collaborative artistic practices, music in the context of theatre, music and religion, and altered states of consciousness. He teaches on many aspects of South East Asian music, as well as performance and composition. Recent projects include “Ardhanariswara” for string quartet and dance, “The Birth of Kala” and “The Watchers by the Well” with storyteller and movement artist Tim Jones, “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih” with choreographer and dancer Ni Made Pujawati, and an album ‘My Tricksy Spirit’ with producer Rob Shipster and bassist/guitarist Charlie Cawood. Current projects include a film “Calonarang Transformed”, a second album for ‘My Tricksy Spirit’, and a new folk/gamelan duo, ‘Insect Trainers’, with Victoria Major. 

Research interests

My research includes both written and creative composition, which I have used as a path towards practice research. My ethnomusicological work includes a book and articles on Balinese gendér wayang, the quartet of metallophones that accompanies the Balinese shadow play, which I studied with the late I Wayan Loceng of Sukawati, Bali. My composition work includes works for string quartet, violin and mixed ensembles including gamelan instruments (see publications). My theoretical interests explore the relationship between composition and improvisation as well as concepts of transformation and change, in Bali and elsewhere. My interest in the power of music to bring about therapeutic transformation has led to recent engagement with special needs education and support. 

I am currently engaged with a project called “Matemahan”. Matemahan means “transformation” in Balinese. This recent project is an exploration of fluidity and transformation in Balinese music and thought, using a combination of Balinese and other instruments together with electronics, dance and narration. This is a collaborative practice-based project with choreographer and dancer Ni Madé Pujawati and anthropologist Prof Mark Hobart, together with Lila Bhawa Indonesian dance troupe.  It examines how Balinese ideas of body, self, cosmology and transformation can impact on contemporary musical creation and performance. A website brings together elements of this work. The result of this project is a film, “Calonarang Transformed”, which explores these issues through a re-reading of a Balinese tale of witchcraft and transformation.  

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Mr Patrick Allen Excellence and Inclusion in Music Education: Working with Chagossian Teenagers in an English Comprehensive School
James Anthony Gardner The Course of the Hand: Formulas, Creativity and Processes of "Improvisation" in Mande Kora Music
Emily Sayers Cognitive Aspects of North Indian Classical Music: How Children Learn to Compose and Improvise in an Oral Tradition

Publications

Contact Nick