From The Mailbag: Are Your Planets Really Aligned?

This is a long piece I wrote in response to a Facebook question a few weeks ago asking about the Planetary tunings that are currently popular with Gongs, tuning forks, and other small bells, like trigons. It has been edited and expanded a bit because I've had more time to think about it. 


The following is MY OPINION based on MY OWN EXPERIENCES. With all due respect to my friends and colleagues who work extensively with the Planetary Tunings, it just isn't my thing. So you readers may feel otherwise and have a different sort of experience. If it works for you, then great. Run with it.

Star Light, Star Bright

First, he biggest problem I find here is that the Planetary Tunings are not based on any sound that the planets, sun, or moon actually make! They are based on the rotation on their axis, or revolution around the Sun of these bodies in space. The calculations are based more on time than anything, and then the resulting calculations are somehow transferred over to become frequencies of sound. These frequencies are so low that they need to be multiplied many, many times to bring them up into the human hearing range.

While I admire the mathematics behind this, I just don’t see it as valid. I mean, I could arbitrarily pick out a group of objects (sports balls, vegetables, buildings, etc.), find a commonality between them, then devise a formula to turn that into frequencies, and finally transpose those frequencies into the human hearing range.

For example: I could use the density of different grades of maple syrup. I could measure the density of each grade and numerically associate that to a frequency. A little mathematical sleight-of-hand, and I would have Maple Syrup Tunings. I'm sure this would be big in Canada.

The Planet Jupiter

You Attributes Are Showing

The other problem with the Planetary Tunings is the association of Planetary Attributes to the Gongs/tuning forks, etc. For example: 

“The Jupiter gong resonates at the approximate musical note of F#. Jupiter represents expansion, abundance, optimism, and evokes the benevolent father.
Zodiacal Rulership: Sagittarius
Jupiter Qualities: Joy, optimism, generosity, expansion
Jupiter Therapeutics: Addresses hip disorders and liver issues
Jupiter in Ceremony: Used for the realization of spiritual aspirations, for embracing the inner teacher, and for pushing boundaries”
[taken from acutonics]

And this from Hans Cousto, the person behind the Planetary Tunings:
Tone:             183.58 Hz = F#    a1 = 436.6 Hz / 440 Hz - 13.3 cent)
Tempo:          86.05 / 172.1 bpm
Color:            red
Effect:            supports creative power and continous [sic] construction
Jupiter has a rotation time of a little less than 12 years and oscillates in the 36th octave with F# of 183.58 Hz. The corresponding colour is a red with a wavelength of about 740 Nanometers. Juiter [sic] is the largest of all planets and is situated right in the middle of the presenty [sic] known planets. Jupiter is traditionally associated with Sagittarius.
Generosity, continuity, magnanimity and joviality are characteristic of Jupiter. It stands for philosophical and material creativity.”
[Taken from Hans Cousto, who invented the Planetary Tunings]

Experience As Teacher

I have a Jupiter Gong. I love it. I love its sound. But it’s just a piece of metal that’s been heated, then hammered into shape. And as much as I have used it every session since I bought it 15 years ago, I have yet to have a person come up to me after a session and tell me that they experienced “Joy, optimism, generosity, expansion” when I played it, or that their hip or liver felt better when I played it. [Maybe I'm doing something wrong, or I just don't have the right attitude or intent.]

The Jupiter Planet Gong
I love the Planet Gongs, but they are just beautiful sounding Gongs. 
That said, I have friends who work extensively with the Planetary Tunings with Gongs/tuning forks, and other instruments, and the associated attributes. They work a lot and also have a lot of followers who are very happy. So this idea apparently works for them. I am glad it does and I am genuinely happy for all of them. For me. Not. So. Much. I don’t work with this Planetary idea at all, and the people I have played for haven’t complained that I don’t. So who knows??? [A future blog will explore what I do work with]

Running Rings Around The Sun
What sort of conclusion can we reach from all of this? I would say, find something you believe in and go with it. I think the intent is more important than anything else. If what you do, and how you do it, helps people, then great!
There is no one-size-fits-all method to playing Gongs/bowls/forks/etc. Each of us must find and walk our own path. I know that my way is not the only way.

In addition, I do reserve the right to change my mind about all of this in the face of new empirical evidence and/or personal experience. I believe we all need to be open to possibilities beyond what we are currently working with.

I have changed my approach, and how I work with the Gongs at various times, when either what I was doing just wasn't working anymore; or when new evidence pointed me in a new direction. I also have changed things because what I do is a living, evolving sort of experience. As I learn more and go deeper into everything, it can't help but change, or I'm not really paying attention. The Universe is fluid and ever changing. It's my job to find the flow and ride it.

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™

I am always open for discussion on this subject and in fact have spent many hours with various people discussing it. Feel free to discuss it respectfully in the comments. Thanks.


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