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Showing posts from April, 2014

Subtle Shades of Sound

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So, after the sort of speed bump distraction of the past week, let's get back to the Heart of things…

If you work with Singing Bowls and/or Gongs, I highly suggest that you buy and read Frank Perry's wonderful book, Himalayan Sound Revelations. While it's about mainly Singing Bowls, there is much that can also be applied to Gongs. I'm only half way through it, and it's already made a big impact on my approach to Sound and my instruments.



Inspired by Frank's research into the tunings and harmonics of his Singing Bowls, I downloaded a couple of  different chromatic tuner apps on my iPhone. I have now been going through my collection of Gongs, Bells, Bowls, and Sound Plates finding out their various pitches and harmonics. This has become a rather involved process, where I am taking readings on each instrument with multiple mallets, with each one bringing out different tones.There are some subtle differences in harmonics when using different mallets. It's also a …

Chiron - The Wounded Healer vs The Cosmic Octave Marine

I had put this whole matter behind me, but was asked once again by Jens Zygar to contribute my thoughts to the very long (129 posts as of writing this) web dialog on the Chiron Gong tuning as a sort of "official summary." (BTW, if you don't know of Jens, he is an amazing musician and worked with Hans Coustou in developing the original Planet Gong Series for Paiste. Please check out: jens zygar and soundcloud). I have the utmost love & respect for Jens. Now I'm not sure what sort of summary I can bring to this, but I will try.
For those of you who missed the previous post, please check it out here as an introduction to what this post is all about.
I had spent a lot of time writing this very long post here, detailing a lot of things, but in the end, it really doesn't matter. So I will save you all from it and keep this fairly short with a few quotes and facts.


Those of you who play Gongs know that they are about healing and unity. We use the vibrations to help mak…

Chiron - The Wounded Healer vs The Gong Police

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It's been an interesting week. I've been involved in what has become a rather massive and involved internet discussion on the new Meinl Chiron Gong (and also the Paiste Chiron) with certain people upset that the Gong is apparently made to resonate at the wrong frequency. The Gong is made to resonate at 151,27 Hz, D2#. Some people are saying this is wrong and should be changed to (what they say is the correct Chiron pitch) 171.8 Hz. 




Amazingly, tempers flared and threats were made by those insisting that Meinl has a duty to change the Gong to the correct pitch! For those of you who don't know, Planet Gongs are tuned, through a mathematical formula devised by Swiss mathematician Hans Coustou, to the frequency of their orbital rotation around the Sun. These Gongs are widly used in sound therapy, believing that certain tunings/frequencies affect the human body & energy systems in various ways.
I was asked, by someone I have great respect for, to contribute my opinion on th…

Chop Wood | Carry Water | Play Gongs - Part 2

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“This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ~ Alan Watts


In playing the Gong, it's often easy to get caught up in everything but being present. If you travel a lot, like I do, it's easy to complain to yourself about having to drive, then carrying the Gongs, carrying the stands, carrying the mallets and other tools you use. Yes, things can be bulky and heavy —you might have to go up stairs—but there is a joyous aspect of being able to do this. 


The mundane leads to the profound. ~ Singal Rinpoche
When we can find the joy in the everyday, the mundane activities, it will lead us to even greater joys. Be open to these possibilities. 

There is also letting monkey mind take over, with us worrying about both the past and the future, while forgetting about the present. When we live in the present, there is no past, no future, just the moment. And by doing that, we are able t…

Chop Wood | Carry Water | Play Gongs - Part 1

Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment chop wood, carry water. - Zen Proverb
A simple proverb with a profound message: even after becoming enlightened, life goes on. This means the mundane, everyday tasks, such as chopping wood and carrying water. For even when we are enlightened, the wood will not chop itself, and the water will not carry itself.

So too with the Gong. We may play 10, 20, even 50 years, but are we ever a Gong Master? Does it ever become so that the Gong plays itself? No. And we must still approach and play the Gong, surrendering ourself, surrenduring our ego to the sound. For we are never a Master, only a student of the Gong. As soon as we think we know something, know enough, the Gong will show us more. It is always this way, like an ever opening Lotus flower, the Gong reveals more each time we play it.


Enlightenment is not a one time event. We must seek to become enlightened everyday. ~ Singal Rinpoche
~MB Chop Wood | Carry Water | Play Gongs

The Gong as Community and Family

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If we go to South East Asia, we find that the Gong is still an integral part of the community. In much the same way as 20th century America found a sense of community in the home, with the piano and/or guitar, the SE Asian tribal traditions were centered around the Gong. In America, holiday times and special gatherings often found people gathered around someone playing both popular and traditional songs on a piano or guitar. People would listen, or sing along, evoking a sense of community, or tribe.


If we look across SE Asia, we see the Gong as an important part of tribal and social life. 


The gong performances are always closely tied to community cultural rituals and ceremonies of the ethnic groups in [Vietnam's] Central Highlands. Many researchers have classified gongs as ceremonial musical instrument and the gong sounds as a means to communicate with deities and gods. (1)
Many families have Gongs and they are also an important status object. A wealthier person/family will have mor…