- Barry Mason
three years forward
Cymaglyph of TI 11 gong fundamental Courtesy of John Stuart Reid
It is exactly 3 years since I heard my first titanium gong, and decided that I just had to have a go at making one!
My partner Lina and myself heard a beautiful Martin Blaise gong at our friend Jonathan Bartletts house. Jonathan runs “Soundtravels” and has bought and sold hundreds if not thousands of quality gongs over the years. He treated us to a demonstration of his own private collection of his own hand picked instruments. All the big names were there, including Paiste, Meinl, as well as traditional gongs from Wuhan China etc.
However when Jonathan played Martins gong, we both spontaneously agreed that this gong was directly affecting us on some deeper and visceral level, and that it had power that was not evident in the others. We both wonder if this is due to some lower and higher subsonic and ultrasonic frequencies that titanium produces?
I ordered a big sheet of pure titanium from Ebay the following day… and began my journey.
(I had previously made a few gongs on brass and stainless steel, as well as singing bowls from bronze with the wonderful Heather and Gabriella, who run Resounding Earth. But titanium was a completely new experience and I had to learn everything as if I was a complete beginner! )
Fortunately this encounter coincided exactly with the Covid epidemic and lockdown. I was also furloughed from my part time teaching job. As a result I had both time, a small income, and a studio workshop with no near neighbours in which I could develop my skills.
The result - 20 gongs created in 36 months, not working full time, because of my teaching and other musical commitments, but certainly on average around 20 hours of studio time a week.
Each gong is unique, and each one builds on the experience gained from all the ones before. There has been so much to learn, and no doubt this learning will continue, hopefully well into the future.
One important discovery, only made possible by having several gongs hung up in the studio, is that they mature with time. It is easy to visualise that wood, for example, needs to be seasoned before it is worked. More difficult though, to visualise that metal, on a molecular level, may also need time to re-crystallise after being traumatised with the hammer.
As a result I now take as long as possible between finishing a new gong and recording it, as I know that it will sound far better after a few months hanging in the studio and being regularly played.
The early gongs relied on quite a bit of “hit and miss” technology, and I have been up a couple of dead ends when I have experimented with new techniques. This has cost months of time and frustration. But now the mistakes are less frequent and the quality is far more consistent.
I love both the creation process and the opportunities that we now have to play the gongs in a therapeutic context.
Lina and myself were early adopters of the PanArt hang, and have been gigging and running workshops together for nearly 15 years. We perform as HANGHANG DUO, and have a website at hanghang.co.uk Over that time we have made many musical friends and contacts. We now incorporate our hangs and other handpans into our sound journey performances, and are also regularly joined by our great friend the cellist JULILA (Julia Palmer Price), who is a brilliant musician and performer in her own right. DO check out julila.co.uk !
We currently offer around 4 sound journeys a year in support of the TRINITY ROOMS COMMUNITY HUB in Stroud, and these are always well attended. So far, the total raised by ticket sales and donations over the last year is well over £40,000. We are also being booked to play at several festivals this Summer, including THE BIG RETREAT in Wales, THE STROUD SACRED MUSIC FESTIVAL, SUN AND MOON GATHERING , THE WORLD MUSIC WORKSHOP FESTIVAL (Drumcamp!), and the HANGOUT, I will also be performing at TARTAN HEART in Scotland.