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Kundalini or the Gong: Which Came First?

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The Kundalini ConnectionThe Gong as a healing and meditative instrument has become extremely popular over the past few years. In fact, there's been a literal explosion of people playing Gongs. It's clear that for many, Yogi Bhajan and Kundalini Yoga have been their introduction to the Gong. Many others have been introduced to it by Don Conreaux, who was a student of Yogi Bhajan at one time. This has lead to many interesting conversations on FaceBook and elsewhere as to the origins of the Gong Bath™/Gong Meditation/etc.

Yes, Yogi Bhajan did a lot to introduce the USA to the Gong as a meditative device, but he is not the only one, or the only path. I have played Gongs for over 40 years, and up until a few years ago, my only knowledge of Yogi Bhajan was as the smiling face on my box of tea. I had no knowledge of his use of the Gong. And even though I've followed the career and writings of Don Conreaux for for 20 or 30 years, I had no real direct knowledge of his Gong connectio…

I Don't Give Out Certificates

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I teach. 

Definition of teach
: to cause or help (someone) to learn about a subject by giving lessons
: to give lessons about (a particular subject) to a person or group
: to cause or help (a person or animal) to learn how to do something by giving lessons, showing how it is done, etc.
I teach music, percussion, and Gongs/Bowls/Bells. 
I teach technique and all the things surrounding technique. 
I teach the intangibles, the things that fall between the cracks, the things that most people don't think about, or ask about. 
I teach about the air and the spaces in between the sounds we make. 
I teach about the spaces in our heads and how to access them. 
I teach about other realms available to us. 
I teach about the history and the mystery of what we do as musicians.
I teach about experiencing your own inner pulses and those of the world around you.
I teach about lineage and where we came from.
I teach about where we're going.

But even then, teach is not the right word. I'm more of a guide

Mail Call: Beginning the Way, Planet Gongs, 432Hz

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A recent comment had multiple questions that I'd like to address here:


Is 432Hz a good "healing" frequency?I wrote about my thoughts on the 432Hz tuning controversy here: 432Hz. There is nothing wrong with 432Hz, or any other tuning for healing. All frequencies can have positive affects. What is as important as anything is intention. Intention is a big part of anything we do. To get anything done, we need to have the intent to do it, to finish it. So too with healing/therapy/meditation. If you are drawn to the 432Hz tuning, then use it, work with it. If you are drawn to other frequencies, then use them, work with them.
Are Planetary Gongs good?Planetary Gongs, like all instruments we may use, are neither good nor bad—they just are. The idea of good or bad again has everything to do with intent. Like I wrote above, if you have a Planetary Gong that resonates with you, and you have good/positive intention to use it, then it is good.
How do you start with the Gongs, and what i…

Performance as Spiritual Practice

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From stillness and silence, rises sound. 

When we put mallet to Gong, Bell, Bowl, we reenact the creation myth. We bring forth something out of nothing. There is a movement of air molecules that we sense as both vibration and sound. And for many of us, this is something we deeply feel. Feel in the non-physical sense. Feel as a Spiritual practice.

And so, we can be as monks, devoting ourselves to the sound, the vibrations we bring forth. But how do we get past ourselves and our own innate fascination with the sound? How do we get past the distractions that are both around us, and in us?

John Cage, perhaps the greatest composer of the last 100 years, was also a great philosopher. As much as he thought about his music, he thought about all things around his music. He also thought about music being all around him, as all sounds were equally musical in his eyes/ears. He was a great practitioner of Zen and its principles. These words, which he wrote on painting (Cage was also a keen artist), a…

The Results of Putting Your Time In

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First, my apologies to those of you who follow this blog for my prolonged absence. Life has sent a number of difficult distractions my way, but I'm ready to resume things here.

I had a recording session today which shows the importance of putting your time in, doing the work, and knowing your sounds. I was asked to play some Gongs and bells to a track for an upcoming art installation. I arrived at the studio on time, brought my gear in and set it up. Then I went into the control room where I listened to the 10 minute track. After hearing it, I asked what sort of sounds they were looking for. We talked about a base track of big Gongs and then overdubbing some bells.


In the studio… (photo by Meg Mullaney Vartanian)
I went into the studio, got set, and they hit record. I played the big Gongs, matching pitches here, adding a counter point there, just flowing with the music. When it was done, I felt good about it. I went back into the control room for a listen. We played it back once and …

The Danger of Too Much Information

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This is a companion piece to last week's blog, The Myth of 432Hz Tuning.

Today, we are inundated with  more information than we can possibly handle. With the advent of the World Wide Web, we now have an almost unlimited resource of information at our fingertips. And this resource keeps growing exponentially. We are literally buried in information. The problem is, a lot of that information is wrong/false/erroneous/made up and even just outright lies.




It used to be we got most of our information from books. We would either go to a book store, or a library, and get the books we needed to learn about what we were interested in. The great thing about books in the past is, they had to come from publishers who did their best to make sure everything was correct and factual. Publishers had a reputation to keep, so they could not afford to willfully release anything that could be seen as misleading or false. If you couldn't believe one book from a publisher, then could you believe any of …

The Myth of 432Hz Tuning

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There has been a lot of focus recently on how A=432Hz is some sort of magical, mystical, natural tuning that we need to get back to. 




 Here is a link to some of the expert articles that speak at length about the virtues of 432Hz. Please read them before continuing:

Here is Why You Should Consider Converting Your Music To A=432Hz

Here is another article: What is 432 Hz tuning?

Ok, now that you've read those, let's take a look at some ideas about tuning. Tuning has been all over the place throughout history, and even today. I listen to a lot of Gong/Gamelan music, and the instrument makers over in Asia don't tune to any one universal tuning. They have family tunings, which are tunings that have been handed down by the instrument makers families for generations. Now this means that in an ensemble, like a Gamelan, the whole ensemble of instruments is made and tuned together to be played as a family. Thus you can not use another Gong makers instruments in the ensemble, because they…

The Importance of Pitch Awareness

I play my Gongs/Bowls/Bells in various musical situations. I do Meditation Sessions, solo concerts, and I also work in improvisational groups. In all situations, I have found it extremely important to know the sounds/pitches that my instruments can create, and to know how to produce those sounds/pitches whenever I want/need them.

For the most part, none of my instruments are tuned to specific notes of the western 12-note scale. That is to say, to notes based on an A=440 or 442 tuning. But this doesn't mean that I don't have notes/pitches, as all of my instruments are capable of producing specific notes. It's just that those notes might be flat or sharp from Western tuning, or they may be right on.

For most musicians, learning your notes and how to produce them is an easy thing. The piano has 88 keys all laid out in order and is easily learned as to which key produces which note. The same for a guitar's strings and frets. You can easily learn the fingerings for woodwinds …

The Path of Devotion

Today's post goes along with my last post, Chado, The Way of Tea. 

We live in a global culture that is all about instant gratification. We have instant food, instant communication, and the media likes to portray that we can have instant fame, and even fortune. All the young kids have been lead to think they can get on some sort of TV show or media contest and be discovered. They can become instant stars without putting in any work.

If you've tried to master something—like sports, music, art, or even coding or video gaming—then you know it takes much more than wishful thinking and halfhearted effort to achieve your goals. 

It takes work.

It takes devotion. 

Devotion. The path of devotion is a rocky one. But any obstacles we come across and get by help make us better for it. 

Devotion can be defined as a profound dedication. That means that whether it's sunny or rainy, hot or cold, early or late, near or far, that we do the work and not just talk about doing the work.

Too many peop…

Chado, The Way of Tea

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Playing the Gong has much in common with the Japanese art of tea. While many of us are used to just grabbing a coffee from Starbucks, to the Japanese, tea is an all encompassing experience. Tea is much more than the drink itself, it is the preparation, the setting, the atmosphere. Anyone can make a cup of tea, but to carefully think about making a cup of tea and be mindfully involved in the making, that is an altogether different experience.

“Chado 茶道, the Way of Tea, is the practice of preparing, serving, and drinking Tea. Since the 15th century, it has been a study in preparing a bowl of powdered green tea (matcha 抹茶) as well as incorporating many of the arts of Japan. This elegant yet simple practice reflects the philosophy of the four principles of Tea: Harmony (Wa 和), Respect (Kei 敬), Purity (Sei 清), and Tranquility (Jaku 寂).”– From Chado: The Way of the Tea by Wakai Dokokai
In the same sense, I find and emphasize great importance in setting up for my sessions. I prefer to arrive a…