- Barry Mason
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
The reason that I call my gongs ELEMENTAL
I have played percussion for all of my adult life. Cymbals and gongs have always had a hierarchy of alloys as they increase in price and quality. Basic ones are brass (an alloy of copper and zinc), more expensive are bronze (an alloy of copper and tin and sometimes nickel) In the past I have made conventional gongs in these traditional materials, plus a few experimental pieces in stainless steel.
A few years ago I purchased a large sheet from a scrapyard. I thought I was buying a really dirty sheet of brass, but when I cleaned it up in the workshop it turned out to be pure copper. However it proved to be surprisingly hard when tested. (It had been heat treated to become what is called “half hard”).
Rather than cutting my losses I decided to go ahead work it into gongs. Conventional wisdom would suggest that this was a folly, but in fact the sheet yielded 3 large gongs and a number of smaller pieces, each one of which holds its own when played alongside conventional gongs using traditional alloys.
Pure copper is of course an element, and not an alloy.
Then, just before the first Covid lockdown, I was fortunate to be able to hear and play a hand picked selection of fine gongs from many top commercial makers. Then, alongside these, I heard a titanium gong made by Martin Blase that was just so much better on several levels. Not only was the sound richer, deeper and more complex, but it was also a really beautiful object.
The following day I just followed my instincts, found and ordered a sheet of titanium on ebay.
Wow, that first experience of working titanium was a fast learning curve!… Hardly any of my conventional tools would work with it, and every process took far longer than my previous work would have suggested.
However I persevered, and learned a huge amount from the experience.
I then found a regular supplier of titanium, and although still expensive, was cheaper than I had found on ebay.
I have now made 8 gongs for sale, ranging in diameter from 32 to 48 inches in pure (grade 1) titanium as well as 3 from pure copper; hence the name “ELEMENTAL"