The complex notion of rasa as understood by Javanese musicians refers to a combination of various qualities, including taste, feeling, affect, mood, sense, inner meaning, the faculty of knowing intuitively, and deep understanding. This leads to a number of questions: Who or what has rasa, and what sorts of musical, psychological, perceptual, and sociological distinctions enter into this determination? How is rasa expressed musically? How is the vocabulary of rasa structured, and what does this tell us about traditional Javanese music and aesthetics?
In this first book-length study of the concept, Rasa provides an entry into Javanese music as it is conceived by the people who know the tradition best: the musicians themselves. In one of the most thorough explorations of local aesthetics to date, author Marc Benamou argues that musical meaning is above all connotative and hence not only learned, but learnable. Following several years performing and researching Javanese music in the regional cultural center of Solo, Indonesia, Benamou untangles the many meanings of rasa as an aesthetic criterion in central Javanese musical practice.While acknowledging that universal psychological tendencies may inform musical experience, Rasa demonstrates just how culturally specific musical meanings can be.