The Alchemy and the Ecstasy



nounplural alchemies for 2, 3.

a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life. 
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. 
any seemingly magical process of transforming or combining elements into something new.


For me it's a ritual. I play these sounds, these vibrations—and I try to transform them into something else, something more. I also try to use them to transform my surroundings. This idea of transformation is really central to working with sound, as sound is a very strong and transformative force. Think about how you feel when you listen to your favorite song or composition. What does it do to you, to your state of mind, your feelings? 

Think of chanting, singing together in a church or temple, singing together at a social or community event—these are transformative events. The music/vibrations both change us, and bring us together.

Live Metal Alchemy

There Is No Time Like The Present

One of the things I'm most interested in, is the idea of time. If you strive to live in the moment, in the present; then time doesn't actually exist, because you are always here. There is no past. No future. Just now

But for most of us, that's a difficult concept to actually live, let alone wrap your head around, so I try to use sound to bend time and slow it down to a point where we have no awareness of it. If you slow it down enough, it disappears and everything becomes the moment, the now. But again, that's not easy, especially in a large room full of people with differing ideas, and differing senses of time. 

I've always had this weird sense of time. It's caused some difficulty, especially when working with other musicians, because my experience of the time that is happening may be different from theirs. I don't always think in downbeats, or counting, or a sense of repetition that loops around. I feel it on a much broader scale and in a more linear fashion. I think more in pulse than rhythm. And this pulse is fluid, able to ebb and flow, where as most Western music is built around precision, with everything lining up and repeatable.

Even when I compose, I naturally fall into a linear sense, where things don't repeat as much as move on. As much as I love listening to pop music—and its verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/repeat mode—I don't feel it naturally when I'm playing my own music, or improvising in a group. 

Personal Alchemy

The other part of Alchemy is Personal Alchemy. This is where through various mediums—like Yoga, meditation, running, dance, music, etc.—you change yourself. This self change can be physical, mental, or spiritual; or all three together. You may call it enlightenment. It's a sense of moving, progressing from where you are, to a new sense of being and realization. But like everything important in our lives, it takes work. That is why I'm always talking about the practice

You have to spend your time working with these amazing instruments in order to understand them and, to have them understand you. It's a symbiotic relationship where both parties learn how to react to each other. So again, if you are serious about playing Gongs/Bowls/Bells, you need to put some time and effort in. You just can't show up once in a while and expect to create deep and wonderful sounds.

How do you use your sounds to change your surroundings, others, or yourself?

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™


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