Which Is A Very Important Element Of Early Twentieth-Century Music A Brief History of Gongs

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A Brief History of Gongs

The gong is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world. Archaeologists have uncovered gongs built nearly four thousand years ago. No wonder when we hear gong we feel touched in our soul.

The earliest written mention of the gong was in China in the 6th century. In these ancient documents the Chinese claim that another culture from Central Asia introduced them to them. While we cannot be sure which culture created the gong, it is safe to say that the sound resonated with the Chinese and they made the gong their own.

The Chinese used the gong for many ceremonial functions. They were beaten to announce when the emperor or other important political and religious figures arrived. Military leaders also used the gong to rally men for battle.

The gong and its music then migrated from China to Java – the term gong is actually Javanese in origin – and established itself in Indonesia in the 9th century.

The Javanese made their gongs in a new way that was much different from the large flat Chinese gongs; They used deep inverted rims with a raised handle in the center. The Indonesians also developed a style of playing many of their gongs at once, in a percussion orchestra known as a gamelan. In gamelan, the gongs are usually of different sizes, each tuned to a different specific pitch.

Gongs migrated slowly from Asia to Africa – they didn’t have the internet and airplanes to speed things up then – and finally reached Europe in the eighteenth century.

The gong style that Europeans first saw and heard was the large Chinese gong of indeterminate pitch that you probably saw at the back of orchestras.

Although now a regular part of the percussion section in Western orchestras, the first symphony to include one was Mirabeau, written by French composer Francois Gusquet, in 1791. Debussy became the first major composer to incorporate the sounds into his symphonies.

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