Concert for Fifty Windgongs

deutsche Version

Concert for fifty wind gongs and small ensemble, 2010, Hellerau – European Center for the Arts

Violin, Violoncell, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet, 2 Percussionists (Mallets and Gongs).

In its origin the project is about playing ensemble music in a room with no center. It’s about the gong as an instrument that creates structure and melody[1], a new instrument and its possibilities. And it’s about exhibition principles of visual art applied to acoustic art.

Hellerau – Grand Auditorium

That new instrument is made of fifty individually selected wind gongs from Wuhan, China, where gongs are being similarly manufactured since two thousand years.

They will be installed in a special order that divides the room into a floating structure. The gongs resonate to sound. A chinese legend wants that some monks were able to arouse a gong’s vibration by only singing at them until they would sound like a barking dragon. But it’s a fact that instruments are being echoed with their exact timbre in those bronze cymbals.


Each gong has its dominant frequency. So the material for the composition has been developped in a first step by analyzing the selected gongs. The gongs are being played directly, in a more or less classical manner, with soft and hard mallets, with bows and other materials. Because of their broad bandwith of frequencies a lot of harmonic beats can be created by playing several gongs at the same time. Indirectly they enlargen the acoustic room even when not played at all.

Hellerau Windgong II

The ensemble is spread across the room, communicating by listening. The topic of the room without center was first dealt with in the dance piece „Jerusalem Syndrom“ in 2003. Later I expanded the theme in my concert „Babylonian Loop“ for the spinning restaurant in the Berlin TV tower at Alexanderplatz, produced by Berliner Festspiele, Maerzmusik 2007. Twenty musicians were placed around the „bagel-shaped“ room, as one critique called it, 207 meters above Berlin. The audience sitting at the tables would slowly pass the musicians individually. The concert, performed by KNM Berlin, takes 60 minutes, which equals two rounds of 360° by the audience.

[1] The practice of combining small gongs according to their pitches for music playing began way back in ancient China. For instance, Chinese gong chimes images were featured in paintings from the Song Dynasty. In the Yuan Dynasty, Chinese gong chimes were not only popular among ordinary people, but also used in banquet music in the imperial court and religious music. There appeared 10, 13 and 14-note gong chimes.

Chinese gong chimes are widely popular across China, mainly used in age-old trumpet music, wind and percussion music as well as in Buddhist and Taoist music etc. Shifan drum music (string and wind instruments plus a drum, clapper and gong chime) and Shanxi drum music are two typical examples featuring the gong chimes.