Gong adjustment, Unique skill of music evaluation of the Highland ethnic minority people

Gong music of the highland people quietly contains masterpieces of human values, it does not only have a special appealing power thanks to the skilled performance technique but also reflects the skill of subtle music evaluation of the children living in the majestic central highlands.

if the gong is out of tune, it means that the “soul” of the gong has flown away

Residents of the ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands did not make gongs themselves They bought or bartered gongs from other places because of this, they must adjust the sound of the gongs so they can reach appropriate rhythms and nuances, characteristic of their tribes. Additionally, the sets of gongs, beaten too often or left for long days without use, usually went out of tune, so they need adjusting according to the standard prescribed for each gong in the set of gongs. Highland people often conceive: if the gong is out of tune, it means that the “soul” of the gong has flown away. In the set of gongs, if just one is out of tune, the sound will not be accepted by Yang. Therefore, in the villages there are always people who know how to “Evoke gong’s soul these are special artisans who can adjust gong musical tunes.

gong adjustmen

gong adjustmen

Those who can “evoke gong’s soul”

Gong adjustment is a very difficult job, not everyone who knows to strike the gong can adjust it Gong-adjusting artisans must not only be capable of performing the gong, but also really understand the”gong’ soul” of their tribe, and remember many ancient gong music songs. Particularly, they must have delicate evaluation ears and a passionate love for music, along with skillful hands through each percussion, each grinding trace so they can properly recall “gong’s soul” to their tribe.

A “valuable heirloom” to recall “gong’s soul”

Depending on each gong of different needs, artisans use “valuable heirloom” appropriately. For the distorted gong sounds, their “valuable heirloom” is just a small hammer with a short wooden handle or a circular wooden bar used to strike and a few small stones for grinding. For gongs of uneven thickness, artisans use a string of curved wire or a small stone for grinding… But how to strike or grind the gong so that its tones become higher or lower, more resonant to best suit the gongs’sounds in the set, depends on the “secret” of the artisans.

The secret for “evoking the gong’s soul”

Every tribe in the Central Highlands has the secret to “evoke the gong’s soul” n their own way, but no one could ignore the process of sound probing That is, before adjusting gongs, the artisans must beat some ancient music songs or strike the face in a circular path on the various points around the center of each gong, searching the place that needs to be adjusted and mark it, then embark on the adjustment. For the internal gong is usually divided into 12 different small rings. Each ring has a specific function and has a place to lock to prevent the sound from being out of tune. To adjust high pitch, vibration, as well as a major echoes, Ma people usually grind small-diameter circles, at the center point and vice versa if they want the gong to have smaller echoes they grind the large diameter circles bordering the gong. For the K’ho, rather than grinding they use a wooden stick or hammer to hit the various circles of the gongs and depending on whether the gongs need high or low pitch, they adjust the intensity and location of the percussion properly.

children with gong

children with gong

After finishing adjustment, the gong’s sounds must be tested to ensure meeting the standard of traditional scales. Normally, it takes about 2-3 people to try and compare sounds. First, they choose a standard gong as a basis, then beat the adjusted gongs and compare the sounds. Then, they continue to compare with other gongs of the gong that time the gong-beating team will go around in a circle, while the artisans often have to stand in a central location, so they can hear each sound of gongs more accurately, because at equal distance they can hear more proper sounds than when they line up horizontally

In order to maintain forever “the gong’s soul” in the central highlands

With very rudimentary tools, along with delicate evaluation ears and skilled hands, the gong adjusting artisans have brought vitality, echoes to thousands of almost discarded gong sets and make them the village treasures. They are really live treasures, carefully kept and preserved. In recent years, in honor of gong adjusting art and skilled artisans, the Ministry of Culture-Sports and Tourism has awarded the title People’s Artist and Excellent Artisan to famous people with special gong- adjusting skills In addition, Training courses are opened to disseminate experiences in gong adjustments at the villages. Hopefully, the “gong’s soul” will resound forever among the wideness of the majestic Central Highlands.

By Thanh Binh

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