Tap into your playful essence and Follow The Sound
September 28, 2020
Ross Barrable is a folk artist. Of course, the term “artist” can mean so many things. So, in Ross’s case, he also meets the criteria of designer, engineer, musician, and carpenter. And let’s not forget business owner. When it comes to building sound sculptures, a venture that he began more than four decades ago, you might say that Ross is an “old hand” in the classic sense - he’s been doing it a long time and he’s very good at it.
His journey into building sound sculptures and instruments began with the folk harp. Throughout that endeavor, which he did full time for 20 years and still does today, he learned how to listen to sound and harmonics.
“With the harp, you put the strings on and then you tune it,” Ross said. “You stretch the strings out, you listen, you tune, you listen, you tune.”
Ross's journey into building instruments and sound sculptures began four decades ago.
From that process he began to appreciate harmonics. It led him to a deeper understanding of harmony and resonating chambers and how to create certain sounds; knowledge gained from building literally hundreds of folk harps. Eventually, he evolved into building wind harps out of metals.
“I actually have a real resident affinity with titanium as a result of an auto accident,” he said. “The reconstructive surgery involved having some titanium placed in my forehead. So, as a result of that experience, I decided to investigate titanium and started building wind harps out of titanium and found them to be extremely resonant sound structures.” Today, you can find those wind harps all over the world.
Working with titanium to build wind harps was ultimately how Ross got introduced to the gong community.
“This is a global phenomenon that's growing exponentially,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed learning about the gong. It's an instrument that anybody can play as long as you are able to really listen and play with your heart.”
There’s something beautiful about that very concept - building an instrument that anybody can play. No prior experience is necessary. The sound therapy community has really embraced this instrument.
“I’m just delighted to make musical instruments in the form of gongs out of titanium,” Ross said.
The gong an instrument that anybody can play as long as you are able to really listen and play with your heart.
The name CrysTanium Gongs is derived from the extremely crystalline tone emitted by the titanium gongs Ross builds. The titanium gong is designed to vibrate the cranium. It has an extremely long sustain, which gives them a really beautiful sound. They are also the perfect sound healing instruments for those who practice and are working in music therapy.
One is not better than the other. They’re simply different. But we’re no longer in the Bronze Age; we now live in the Space Age. Titanium is the metal that humanity is using to send people into outer space. And as it becomes more available to the public, it’s the perfect metal in which to create instruments that have a resonance with the times - the vibration of the time that we have to embrace.
Titanium is a very lightweight metal. It’s half the weight of steel and twice the strength and gives off a totally different vibration.
“When I play the titanium gong, I can get lost in its music for 20 minutes or so,” Ross said. “I just close my eyes and follow with the sound, travel with it. Everybody plays the gong differently. That’s what is so cool about it. There’s immediate feedback to where I can focus and concentrate my attention on the sound. It’s totally immersive. And I get to reap the benefits immediately. That’s pretty powerful.”
Another really cool thing about titanium is that we can anodize it. This is a process where we put the gong in a conductive solution and use direct current at different voltages. A layer of titanium oxide is formed on the outer surface on the gong and when we take it out of the solution, that transparent layer determines the frequency of light that is refracted as the sun hits and bounces off the surface.
When you look at one of our gongs and see different colors, what you’re actually witnessing is different frequencies of light. It’s not a pigment or a paint; anodizing is a permanent process that lasts forever. It’s UV stable. Ross is able to get any color in the spectrum on these titanium gongs.
“It's just amazing the artwork that you can create with anodizing titanium,” Ross said. “The colors are absolutely brilliant. And really, we're just scratching the surface on what we can do regarding the art work on these gongs. It’s pretty exciting.”
This is a subject we speak on often. Playing the gong is a form of musical expression that you’d only get from other instruments through years of practice. With the gong, it’s immediate. Like a conversation with an old friend.
“For me, it helps collect all my sensory currents, scattered energies, thoughts, and feelings and redirects them to a singular place,” Ross said. “As I’m playing the gong, that's the only thing I’m doing in that moment. I’m listening to the sound and what that does for me is it helps me to practice being right here, right now, in this moment right now, without any thoughts distracting or diffusing my attention.”
When Ross set out to build titanium gongs, it was clear to him that this metal has a totally different vibration and a real resonant affinity with the human body that you won’t find elsewhere. While he has no interest in duplicating anything that’s out there in the gong world, he’s creating something new. Something that, from his point of view, resonates with the 21st Century human being.
“Since the beginning of time there was sound,” Ross said. “Also in the beginning was vibration. The vibration of love. In my reality what that means is, the law of vibration states that everything in existence vibrates from animate to inanimate objects. If it exists, it's vibrating.”
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