The Virtue Of Patience

After last night's Gong Session, someone said to me, “I like how you were patient with the sounds.” I liked that. At another recent session, my son Aiden, also said something similar. It wasn't always that way. I remember how I used to move from sound to sound, keeping things going, sort of like those acrobats who are always spinning plates, keeping each one spinning, lest one should fall. I used to feel that I had to keep the sounds going, or the people would become bored and restless. I was wrong.

It's all a matter of both maturity and trust. I've learned to trust the people, trust that I can go deeper into the experience and they will go along with me. They will trust me. It's also trusting the sounds, and the silence. Trusting that I can let the sound fully evaporate into the air before I bring forth another one. And in doing so, we all move deeper into the experience. 

I've learned to pace myself, to create a very slow pulse. This was not easy. After 30+ years of playing in bands, my natural instinct was to always keep things moving. Keep things moving forward in time. Don't stop, just keep things moving. And this is what playing drums in a rock, pop, jazz band is all about: forward motion. But playing Gongs/Bowls/Bells is a completely different thing. It's about stillness. It's about holding onto time, letting each sound linger until it decides it's been here long enough. 

“I love sounds. Just as they are. And I have no need for them to be anything more than what they are.” - John Cage

And it's also about trusting myself. Trusting that my intuition will be right, that I can just let the sounds be “as they are.” But this takes practice to develop. You need to play your instruments and get to know them. You need to understand how they sound and what different sounds they can produce. You need to develop a relationship with them. And then you need to play them in front of others so you can gain that self trust.

Wave forms from a live session—poetry in motion

Above is a wave form graph that I copied from an audio mastering program I have. It's part of a live session I did.  You can see the progression of sounds: 4 double hits on 2 different Gongs, leading into a building series of hits on a 3rd Gong. Notice how even everything is, with each hit fading away before the next one enters. This is the result of years of practice leading to trust & maturity in my playing.

The trust to wait…

Above is another example of patience. The wave graph shows a build up on the 32" Symphonic leading to a climax on all the Gongs. This graph covers 8 1/2 minutes of time. You can see a very slow build up leading to a slight crescendo, then back down a little and building up into a big climax, before letting it all fade away. Trust & patience in action.

How have you learned to trust?

~ MB

Chop Wood | Carry Water | Play Gongs


  1. “There is a way between voice and presence, where information flows.
    In disciplined silence it opens; with wandering talk it closes.”

    ― Rumi


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