• Theta Space

Sound Lore: The Gong

The gong is a percussion instrument and idiophone capable of producing harmonic tones from its fundamentally tuned note. It dates back to the Bronze Age, more than five thousand years back, found in ancient Asian civilisations, such as Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilisation. It is believed that sacred gongs included pieces of meteorites that fell from the heavens. The oldest known gongs are over five thousand years old. It is one of the oldest and most important musical instrument in South East Asia.

Tai loi inscribed on a gong. Image:

Since 600BC, the Chinese inscribed their gongs with the characters "泰来" (tai loi). It is a blessing that translates directly into "happiness has arrived", bringing light in by sweeping the darkness away.

Scientific and archaeological research showed that the four main gong manufacturing hubs of the ancient world were located in Burma, China, Java and Annam. In Asia, the gong is used in rites, celebrations, funerals, spiritual initiations and meditation. It is believed that touching a gong brings fortune and strength. The gong retains its special significance in modern day Asia. Today, gongs are still used to communicate, make music, accompany life's events, meditate and heal.

The vibrational energy of a gong bath can recharge, open and clear the body, mind and spirit. On a physical level, the gong induces a state of deep relaxation, which aids physical recovery as it triggers the body's rest and digest mode. On a mental level, the vibrations and tones of the gong can promote mental clarity and stress reduction. On a spiritual level, the gong is a light portal that facilitates our connection with the infinite higher self.

Many Asian cultures have the gong featured prominently in their history, from the chau and tam tam gongs of China, to the gamelan ensemble of Indonesia. Paiste, a percussion instrument company based in Germany, is the largest non-Asian gong manufacturer.

The gong creation process. Image:

Paiste took reference from the traditional gong designs of the East and improved the design, construction and tuning of the gongs. The gongs are made of a bronze. nickel and silver alloy, and tuned to create a harmonious blend of sustained resonance.

"The Gong maker begins with a round disc of bronze alloy containing a sound potency which is as of yet still resting within itself; it can be shaped into frequency ranges and expressions of sound." - Paiste Gongs

Paiste manufactures different types of gongs. Symphonic gongs have a universal and harmonious sound structure. According to Paiste, the fundamental note of the gong is balanced with the instrument's complex overtones. The planet gongs are tuned to the orbital properties of each planet as calculated by Hans Cousto. Each planet gong have their unique sound profiles, resonating in harmony with the cycles of the planets. Their tones come across as extremely mysterious and conveying an unusual, unfathomable atmosphere.

Compared to the Tibetan singing bowls, the sound of the gong is more intense and powerful yet brings similar vibroacoustic benefits of physical relaxation and mental clarity. It engages the relaxation response and inhibits our stress and pain response.