Boring, Boring Rock Arsenal: The Gong



Gongs started appearing in the annals of Chinese history around 500 AD; the Northern Wei dynasty, in an act of Sinicization, used the gong in their dealings with their northern Manchurian neighbors to let them know that they were not at all talented and to get off the stage.


Gongs of different types were parallel developed all over Eastern Asia by their societies’ spiritual leaders.  The crafters of metal in early China, Burma, and Java felt that the skill necessary to make a proper gong called for wisdom, strength, and intervention from the gods.

The crafters of metal in Britain often called on Helsinki to scream for them, frequently asking them if if they were ready to rock tonight.
The crafters of metal in Britain often called on Helsinki to scream for them, frequently asking them if if they were ready to rock tonight.

What and How?

There are two types of gongs, and the one addressed in this post is the suspended gong, or tam-tam(the nipple gong will not be discussed here because that is too easy of a joke).  Gongs are large, flat disks, usually with a turned edge and hung vertically(the fact that noted gong player, Tommy Lee, is “hung vertically” is also too easy of a joke).  The face of the gong usually has imperfections or grooves to make the gong ring in multiple tones, giving a “crash”-type sound; the larger the disk and longer the turned edge, the deeper the overall “tone” of the gong.  Gongs can be struck with hard sticks, made of metal or bamboo(likely on fire, because you are stuck behind that kit throughout the whole damn show and those loose ladies out there need to be directed to your whiskey dick with flaming drumsticks like an air-traffic controller), but are traditionally played with a mallet to facilitate rolls and sustained ringing.  To get the best “bloom” from the instrument, a gong must be nearly-silently struck before the note is meant to be articulated, starting the vibrations early; not warming one up before a large note could, at the least, make the sound arrive late and without a deep richness, or at the worst make the gong break.


The gong’s timbre, when not coupled with pentatonic chords in an attempt at full-blown aural racism, is mysterious; the sound grows, blooms and develops as the volume increases.  Its detuned nature keeps it from being lost in the other notes of the band.  And, like in the courts of early Asia, the gong is used as a musical punctuation.   Some music just needs that extra bit of mystery:

Some music needs that extra punctuation, like the explanation point at the end of the sentence, “Hey, I’m an eye-rolling nonsense-pants of a barf bag!”, like so:

And some music needs to say “gong” instead of “teenage clitoris”, because “gong” is easier to rhyme:

So celebrate the gong this week by adding mystery to your life!  With a bacon cheeseburger and a diamond star halo!


Suggested Viewing:

Gong: Camembert Electrique

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