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The Sound Of Silence Is Never Silent

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“There is no such thing as empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we can not.” John Cage, from his book, Silence: Lectures & Writings
Silence. Much has been said about it, but little of it has really been understood. John Cage knew, and he took advantage of it, using it as a compositional tool. In fact, his most talked about composition, 4'33", is all about silence—or rather, the lack of silence (for further insight on Cage and 4'33", read Kyle Gann's wonderful book, No Such Thing As Silence). For those working with Gongs/Bowls/Bells in a meditative or therapeutic setting, I think it's important to realize that there is no silence. Try as we might, outside sounds always creep into our silent sessions.


Silence is an illusion…
Here are a few examples: one place I regularly do sessions is located next to some railroad tracks. There is almost always a train or 2 passing by duri…

I Don't Do Cosmic

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There tends to be a lot of cosmic woo-woo around the Gongs and Bowls. That may be fine for others, but I just don't get into that. In fact, I find it more distracting than anything. Maybe it's my background as a trained percussionist that makes me more pragmatic. This is not to say that I don't have a spiritual side. In fact, I'm very spiritual, and have spent the past 40 years studying different aspects of spirituality, Shamanism, Ancient Mystery Schools, and other esoteric aspects. But I also balance that out with with healthy doses of science and practical exploration through empirical evidence.


Michael Paiste Volcano Gong - A portal to other realms
Another part of this is that when you come to my sessions, I don't want to impose my own thoughts and beliefs upon you. We all have our own highly personal beliefs. What I am, is a facilitator, opening a portal to the energy and vibrations of the Gongs/Bowls/Bells. I am here to open the way to yourself. It is up to you…

YouTube Is A Dangerous Place

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YouTube, it's become ubiquitous to modern life. You can find almost anything thing there. When I need to fix something around the house, or with my car, I know that I can find a video there showing me how to do it. So YouTube is a great resource. 

There are also a lot of great music videos, including instructional ones. But there's also a danger there. A danger because many of the instructional ones are either so poorly done, by someone with little actual knowledge of what they are doing; or, the information that is being presented is completely wrong! This especially goes for Gong and Singing Bowl videos. I've been posting both performance & instructional videos for over 7 years now (60 videos). I hope that you would see a progression of improvement in both the quality, and the content. And in that time I've seen hundreds, if not thousands, of others posted. Now I'm not saying that I'm an expert in everything, or that what I present is the only way to do th…

A Meeting of Minds & Metal: Don Conreaux and I

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After following his exploits for the past 20 or so years, and reading probably every word he has written on Gongs and Holistic Resonance, I finally had the chance to meet Gongmaster Don Conreaux this weekend. Not only that, but I was able to play with his Mysterious Tremendum in both Milwaukee and Chicago. It was a meeting of minds, metal, and differing philosophies. 


2 Gongolier
I was contacted months ago about possibly hosting an event here in Milwaukee. Since Don is now 80 years old, I felt like it was necessary to be a part of this. I first encountered Don somewhere around 1985 when I was doing research on Gongs. I probably found him on the internet during its early days. I remember reading his theories on sound, and ordering some of his CDs and a video tape that was from a cable access TV show in NYC (do you remember all those old cable access shows?). I found him to be an interesting character. We exchanged a few e-mails and I kept up to date with his activities. Coming from a per…

Finding Your Path

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“There's nothing you can do that is more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your personal myth.”
Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss
Follow your own path… 
What are you looking for? What takes you deeper into both yourself, and everything else? What happens when you surrender to the sound and the silence? They are everything. If you would stop and be still for a moment—forget about all your multitasking, forget about rushing around, never taking a breath. Just stop, pause, and listen. 


What do you hear?  What do you feel?  What do you experience?
Be still and connect with the Universe around you. Strike your Gong/Bowl/Bell/Fork and listen. What is the sound telling you? We can only hear  the answers when we stop and listen, not when we strike, yet keep moving, keep thinking, keep projecting into the future. Be still. Be in the moment. Listen. You will hear.


~ MB


Chop Wood |…

The Myth Of The 2 Week Master - Redux

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I had a whole different post ready to go, when this great article came across my wavelength this week. It really addresses what I was saying in the 2 previous posts on The Myth Of The 2 Week Master. Please read the article first:

Selling the Sacred: Get Your Master's in Native American Shamanism?


What is important here is respect. Respect for the native/tribal/indigenous traditions. And in today's society, respect has often been thrown away. You can't just read a book, or take a course, and become certified in any sort of tradition. Yes, you can learn some things, but that's only skimming the surface. And by doing that, “It’s cultural trespassing.”



A Crow sweat lodge—Museum of the American Indian
The other side of things is that it takes years and years to apprentice and learn these things. “Practicing ceremonies without understanding is dangerous,” she said [Swift Hawk]. “We see so many deaths.” And there have been deaths, like in sweat lodges (New Age Guru Guilty in Swe…

Into The Silence…

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Trust. Trust is important, but not always easy. It takes years of both work and practice, to reach a point where you trust yourself, trust your instruments, trust the sounds. We live in a society that values both instant gratification, and constant change. In dealing with the Gongs/Bowls/Bells, that sort of attitude is against what I do. There is a learning curve that needs to be followed.

Silence. It used to be a way of life. You lived off the land, out in the middle of the country, and the sounds you heard were the wind blowing through the trees, birds and animals, the water of a river or lake moving, thunder and storms. Much of the time there was very little sound, or at least very quiet, minimal background noises. Today, things are so much different. There is a constant barrage of sounds, mostly from our devices. They beep, hum, ring, and create all types of sounds. We hear the ongoing traffic, the AC, the TV & radio, all of our appliances. Even when we sleep, there are still m…

The Virtue Of Patience

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After last night's Gong Session, someone said to me, “I like how you were patient with the sounds.” I liked that. At another recent session, my son Aiden, also said something similar. It wasn't always that way. I remember how I used to move from sound to sound, keeping things going, sort of like those acrobats who are always spinning plates, keeping each one spinning, lest one should fall. I used to feel that I had to keep the sounds going, or the people would become bored and restless. I was wrong.

It's all a matter of both maturity and trust. I've learned to trust the people, trust that I can go deeper into the experience and they will go along with me. They will trust me. It's also trusting the sounds, and the silence. Trusting that I can let the sound fully evaporate into the air before I bring forth another one. And in doing so, we all move deeper into the experience. 

I've learned to pace myself, to create a very slow pulse. This was not easy. After 30+ yea…

Walking the Path Further

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The Myth of the Two Week Master - Part 5 - Walking the Path Further

Remember, the path you walk is your own, and each one of us walks a different path. You may borrow ideas or inspiration from others, but ultimately, you will do it in your own way. While I can write about my path here, yours will be your own.

I'm fortunate, in that besides being a percussionist for over 40 years, I've also had a 30+ year career as a music journalist. So I've been able to interview some of the greatest drummers & percussionists of that time span. Many of them use Gongs, Bells, and other metal percussion in an expanded set up. I've had the good fortune to interview almost all of my percussive heroes & influences. Rather than ask, "What kind of drums do you play," I've focused more on finding out how they think, what drives them, why they worked on certain projects or bands, etc. Anyone can buy the same gear as someone else, but you can't get the same sort of knowl…

Walking The Path, Experiencing the Path

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The Myth of the Two Week Master - Part 4 - Walking The Path
I was watching a video by the late, great philosopher, Alan Watts, on Mahayana Buddhism, and he really speaks to the heart of what I've been writing about here. Watts was amazingly well versed in the many Oriental religions and philosophies. Now you don't have to be into Buddhism or any sort of Oriental philosophy to get something out of what Watts was saying. I'm going to quote something I got out of the video:
“There is a theory in Mahayana Buddhism that is called, the doctrine of mind only. And this isn't quite like Western ideas that we call subjective idealism, the idea that the whole world is something that exists only in your own mind. And there isn't any outside there at all. […] The important point to understand—this was contained in the Buddha's original teaching—is that the whole of our worldly experience is an experience of pure pattern. […] A pattern of form, constantly rippling and changing…