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NGA JIWA was a performing ensemble that used microtonal constructed instruments and found percussion objects. A sort of music-based performance art, each event was a costumed tribal ritual inspired by gamelon, Harry Partch, industrial music, and Tibetan sky burial. Using micro-tonal pitch structures, and rhythms at times based on odd numbers of beats, the music was both primitive and experimental.

NGA JIWA was essentially Scott Harris' project, but many of his players were drawn from some of the more interesting bands in Chicago Punk. Harris would spend more than 18 months between performances constructing all of the instruments and composing the music. Along with strictly composed sections performances also had structured improvisational sections.


Harris built instruments using micro-tonal voicing in a number of forms. Examples include:

  • Hammered Dulcimer-like instruments, played with hand carved wooden beaters or picks
  • A xylophone made of carefully cut industrial iron tubing, played with orchestra mallets
  • A vertical rack of many small tuned drums, played with standard drum sticks
  • Horns 15 feet or more in length, played like a bugle
  • Finely made concert-marimba-like instrument with robustly tuned resonators.
  • Various stringed instruments

But there were more industrial instruments as well such as;

  • "Tank Drums" - 40 gallon fuel tanks suspended with bun-gee cables on a large metal frame, played with tympani beaters, metal posts and metal rods.
  • "Sheet Gong" - a single 7' by 4' piece of steel plate similarly mounted n a frame, again played with tympani beaters, metal posts and metal rods.
  • "Water Drum" - where a larger tub is half filled with water, and then a smaller upside down plastic tub is floated on the water, and pressed into the water with varying depth. While playing a single stick rhythm with one hand, the submerging motion can be modulated to make the drum "talk". Near the end of a performance two drummers could play fast rolls on the outer tub without the top drum, and the water would spray upward. This was a nice visual effect, especially in the limited lighting (all by candle).

All of the equipment was either constructed or found by Harris.

Earlier Harris was a visual artist, and his skills in this regard were evident in the finely designed event posters he made. There were only 2 different pieces, with one performance of the first piece, and two performances of the second piece on one day. Both events took place at Links Hall. The dates noted here are from the actual posters for the events as well as a web page maintained by Michael Zerang, Founder and Artistic Director of the Links Hall Performance Series.

First Performance

11/23/85 - Advertised by Links Hall as Nga Giwa Sextet (Invented Instrument Ensemble) - note spelling error on the part of Links Hall

As noted above this project was lead by builder/composer Scott Harris (AKA Mousetrap and formerly of Terminal Beach and A Mason in Ur) . While Scott built all the instruments and composed the music, many Chicago punk band players participated at one time or another. Bands drawn from include: Da. Terminal Beach, Silent Language, Monads, and others.

(This list of performers is tentative and subject to change)

Second Performance

9/26/87 - Advertised by Links Hall as Nga Jiwa Ensemble Plays The New Musical Instruments of Lang Darma

The program for this performance read "ISU TEH BAKAN HNORI" and then "A creation myth in seven parts". The seven parts are:

  • coming of the thunder spirit
  • the flood
  • rise of the seven eyes clan
  • war of evil spirits
  • head-takers dance
  • the second flood
  • prayer wheels

(This list of performers is tentative and subject to change)

External Links