What are they?:
Simply put, a gong is a metallic musical instrument that is played by striking with a mallet. There are two main types of gongs. The suspended gong is generally a flat sheet of metal (bronze, typically) that is hung in the air vertically. It is not tuned to a specific pitch, and thus makes a loud, multi-toned "crash" when played. The bossed or button gong is common in gamelan
ensembles, among other places. Button gongs have a raised center point and are tuned to a specific note. They are usually played horizontally. Gongs can range in size from just a few inches to several feet in diameter.
Where do they come from?:
Gongs are traditionally found throughout East and Southeast Asia, most prominently in China and throughout Indonesia
The significance of the gong:
Gongs are used both for religious ceremonial purposes and for making music throughout Asia. They play an important role in the aforementioned gamelan orchestra, as well as Chinese opera
, and they are commonly used in Taoist and Buddhist Meditation
, among other religions, and gongs are used to call the Gods in some animist tradditions. Some cultures believe that the instruments themselves harbor spirits. Gongs also serve a practical purpose, and are used to sound arrivals, signal celebrations, call people to gather, mark certain hours of a day, and myriad other occasions in which a loud noise could prove useful.
The most common type of gong, from a Western perspective, is the loud, crashing Chinese tam-tam or chau gong
. The tam-tam is a standard part of the percussion section of a Western classical symphony orchestra
, and is also well-known to game show fans from the Chuck Barris-hosted program The Gong Show
. The gong has been used as a sound effect and a musical element in a number of movies, TV shows, and musical recordings, as well.
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