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Showing posts from December, 2016

The Importance of Ritual

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ritual
noun rit·u·al
1:  the established form for a ceremony; specifically:  the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
2a:  ritual observance; specifically:  a system of rites  b:  a ceremonial act or action  c:  an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner
(from Merriam-Webster)

Ritual. We see them all around us, some conspicuous, some slightly obscured. We see them in our religions, in our businesses, in our clubs and sports. Some of us may even have rituals that we do. 

A good example of a ritual is in sports. A lot of athletes go through some sort of pre-game ritual. Maybe they listen to their favorite inspiring music, or meditate, or have talisman/lucky charms with them. They may get dressed in exactly the same way each time, for example, always put the left sock on first, keeping things in the same order.

We may look at these rituals as outsiders and think they are silly or meaningless. We might also snarkly refer to them as voodoo or su…

The Essence and Power of Tradition

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The instruments we play—Gongs, Bowls, Bells—come with deep lineage and and long lasting traditions. There is power there. There is magic. There is superstition. And there is also a lot of bull shit.

It's almost 2017, and as modern and developed as mankind has become, it has also lost touch with so much rich and varied tradition handed down over the ages. In many ways we have become so blind in our quest for the future, that we have forgotten the past.

Philippine Gong tradition
Here's a test:
Go out in your neighborhood, or your local park. How many tree species can you actually identify and name, besides oaks and maples? The same thing goes for both flowers and weeds. It wasn't that long ago that people were much more connected with their surroundings and could identify them. In many cases it was a life of death matter to know your plants: which ones are safe to eat, which ones will kill you.Do you know that there are a lot of city kids who have never seen a live animal beside…

It's A Gong World After All

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I remember when I first started playing Gongs, other than Paiste, there wasn't much available. Zildjian made a few Turkish style ones. UFIP, in Italy, made some, but they were often difficult to find. And China was still an enemy of the USA, so real Chinese Gongs were practically nonexistent. For most Asian Gongs, you had to know someone who knew someone; or you had to know an Asian American who had connections back in the mother country. And if you were fortunate enough to live on the West Coast, where Asian immigrants imported a lot of musical instruments from their homelands; or to be a scholar/researcher/word traveler who could go to Asia, you could pick them up yourself.

40 years ago I was buying buying bells at Pier One stores, because they actually carried a nice selection of bells from India. Then World Market (before they became just a food/wine/furniture retailer) came around and they had drums, bells, Gongs, and ethnic percussion. I got some of my 1st Gongs from Carroll …

How Should You Face?

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Today's blog comes fromthis week's mail box. A question was asked, 
“Although I originally learned and observe others playing the gong with their back to receivers, gong facing them, I've changed that so that I can occasionally look up to check on my students. What is your opinion?”What way to face? I usually have my Gongs behind me and face away from the people. As a drummer, this just evolved out of having my Gongs behind my drum set years ago. I still set up that way today, partly out of habit, partly out of practicality, especially in a concert situation. 


Circa 1980: drums in front, Gongs in back.

Circa 2015: drum in front, Gongs in back.
So naturally, in a Gong Meditation Session, I usually have the Gongs in the back, with Bells and Bowls in the front. It's more of a circular set up where I move around and face different ways, depending on what instruments I'm playing. But if I'm working with a Yoga teacher, or something similar, I will usually be behi…