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The Enigma of Von Kessels

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Sometime around 2000, a mysterious and enigmatic figure, Von Kessels, commissioned the Gao Jiahe Gong Factory in Wuhan, China, to make him a 56” Wind Gong, which he would name Big Boi. The Gong became legendary in certain circles. He then took this Gong, and others in his collection, into a high tech digital studio and recorded what is likely the most amazing Gong album you will ever hear, Requiem (2003). They put mics just inches off the  surface of the Gongs, recording the very subtle, very deep tones. Von Kessels played the Gongs with bows and special friction mallets that were meticulously designed and hand carved to elicit the deepest notes from this massive Gong. The sounds they captured are like nothing you have ever heard before. They even included a warning on the CD that “the extremely low frequencies could damage your speakers, so adjust your volume accordingly!”


My prized copy of Requiem
I had the good fortune to speak with Von Kessels over the phone numerous times. While we…

An Important Update

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You might be asking yourself (or maybe not), “We're in this quarantine and Michael isn't gigging, so why haven't there been any blog posts? He's got plenty of time to write something.” 

That's a legitimate question. All 3 of my blogs have been sitting quietly for a bit, while so many other people have jumped into producing blogs, podcasts, and general video mayhem. The internet's bandwidth is choked with everyone going online, because they can't do anything live. So what have I been doing?

Well, I did make 1 YouTube video, more as an experiment than anything. I've slowly been rebuilding my home studio after having gear sitting in boxes for months because I was always gone off somewhere gigging. I'm planning on doing more videos and some teaching online soon.



Right, here's my latest video. I was improvising  with new instruments and some electronics.
Another aspect of this is that by letting everyone else jump into producing things for the web, they&#…

Finding Your Own Voice

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There are literally thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of Gong players out there today. What makes you stand out from all of them? Really. What makes what you so different from the masses playing around the world everyday?

These are very important questions to ask yourself. I see so many people who just do indiscriminate banging on their Gongs and think they are doing something amazing. Well, they are not. And they are not any different than thousands of other people doing the same thing at the same level of mediocre competence and creativity.




A short Quiz

List you 3 favorite musicians/singers/bands. Then ask yourself why you like them and what makes them musicallystand out to you above all the similar artists. Go ahead and do this. I'll wait.

A Short Answer

Whether they are megastars filling arenas, or hometown musicians filling bars & clubs, they most likely have what Bowie called sound & vision. Along their career path, they developed a musical vocabulary, which they m…

From the Mailbag: Should I Set Up In The Center, Or Near A Wall?

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From this week's mailbag: “Should I set up in the center of the room, or near a wall?”

There's no easy answer here, as everything depends on the room you are playing in. I have set up in all types of places in all types of rooms. I have always chosen my set up place in order to maximize the sound potential of the room, and in some cases to also maximize the seating potential of the people attending. But in a lot of situations, the room itself dictates where to set up.

Different Rooms, Different Acoustics

Let's take a look at various situations and also look at some of the acoustical problems presented by different rooms. While I have set up in the middle of a room onmany occasions, I prefer to set up near a wall. Part of this is my own personal preference for sound and how it works against a wall. Another part is how to fit everyone in the room. And there is also the acoustics of the room and how things will sound vs set up placement.

In a long rectangular room, I prefer to se…

More Gongs or More Mallets?

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Today is another blog post inspired by a Facebook forum thread (Facebook is actually good for some things besides cat videos, like ideas and inspiration). 
Part 1
The first part of today's blog looks at the question: 

How many Gongs should I have? Or to be more specific, do I need to get more Gongs?
There's no easy answer to this. Good Gongs are expensive, so having the money to buy more may be a factor in building up your collection. But even if you are rich, should you just buy more Gongs? My answer would be, no. Yes, I know that I own what many people would say is way too many Gongs, so why would I say this? Let me explain.
As a drummer, I've had this same discussion about having a large drum set vs a small 4-piece one. My answer is the same: 
What is the concept that you have in your mind for the music you are making?
This is important. Each of us is different and we approach the music we make in our own way. I know that for me, I always have a concept for whatever musical pr…