Concert for Fifty Windgongs

Concert for fifty wind gongs and small ensemble

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]. It’s about exhibition principles of visual art applied to acoustic art. It’s mainly about a new instrument and its possibilities.


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

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copper swarf in a manufacture for cymbals

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.

DSC02982DSC02984DSC02986Each gong has its dominant frequency. So the material for the composition will be developped in a first step by analyzing the selected gongs. The gongs will also be 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.

DSC02989The ensemble is spread across the room, communicating by listening. The audience will change positions in the labyrinth during the concert and decide about the acoustical perspective of the concert individually.Hellerau Windgong III first dealt with the topic of the room without center 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, 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.