When you are dealing with a certain type of group organization, essentially characterized by the old tribal order of society you see human beings who are linked together by a common Great Ancestor, a common ideal of unity in the past. This is the root power which brings them together, which gives them their unity. They live in a common land, have a common tradition, a common language, a common religion; the god of that religion is the spiritual Ancestor, the Soul of the tribe. You have there a type of organization where unity is back of you, in the past. The One is becoming the Many; the one Ancestor has many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on -- all of the same common type.
When, on the other hand you consider people with entirely different cultural background (language, religion and social temperament) who come together in order to reach a common purpose to reach a unity which is ahead of them, to develop a sense of working together, of co-operation individuals dedicated to something which is ahead of them, in the future -- a totally different situation is encountered. You are starting with individuals who are different; then somehow those differences are becoming harmonized by a common purpose, a common decision, a common will to achieve something which is of value to all and which they all consciously recognize as individual persons.
As you all know, I have recently been to see Hans Dulfer play at Café Alto.
The best jazz I've heard, once again--the skinny guy was there, but playing differently this time, and he had his hair jelled up in some spikes maybe--the pianist looked a bit balder, but five years or more have passed since I first walked into Café Alto to find--yes!--exactly the same musicians playing exactly as well five years later--a small beer costs two euros fifty.
Here's the skinny guy, on the left. He's great at playing the sax and doesn't seem so skinny these days.
Hans is on the right, his eyes blazing red as the demons of jazz leap through him and out of his horn...
At certain moments--when the drummer was bashing some outrageous rhythm from his kit, or when the bassist was channelling Jimi again--Hans would howl like an Amerindian and encourage us to howl too. We howled!
So anyway, the thing is, I needed a gong.
"I need a gong. In fact, I need two gongs." I had said this many times to many people in the weeks before our trip. But a guy walked into our local percussion shop a month ago and bought all the gongs; the shop still hadn't re-ordered.
Amsterdam. Gongs. It's gotta be, right?
Right. We arrived on Wednesday and, after dinner and before watching the majesty of Hans Dulfer's band, we went for a wander in the old centre where we passed two (!) shops with gongs in the windows. The first shop was a large boutique just off Dam square and near the Golden Chopsticks eaterie.
The other shop was a Chinese supermarket halfway down Zeedijk.
So the next morning we went gong hunting.
First, the supermarket.
"Can I try that gong, the one in the window?"
Of course! Move move, shunt shift, heave ho, here it is. Here's the beater. GONNNNNNG! GONNNNNNNNG!
Hmmm. Choosing a gong. It has to have the right tone for you, "you" in my case being someone else--who was with me--so GONNNG! GONNNNG!
"Do you like it?" I said.
"Hmmm. I'm not sure."
So the gong went back in the window and I fished out a pair of hand cymbals.
I tapped them together. Multitones!
"How do you play these?" I said to the woman who had come over to see who was making all this racket. She took them from me and bashed them together.
CRASH CRASH CRASH CRASH!
She smiled and then said. "You buy?"
They were priced by the centimetre, so someone went to find a tape measure and ho hum, crash, brush, hmmm.
"Forty five euros."
"For both of them?"
(Oh yes, I is that dim--they were joined by thick string but you never know...well, I never know...)
"Yes. Forty five euros. You want mask?"
There were huge masks hanging from the ceiling.
But no gong.
Wander wander up past Ze Cocaine Hotel (I mean, 'twas the only place where someone muttered, "Cocaine"?) and round the corner to...
In we went.
"Can I try that gong in the window?"
"Yes, of course."
But she couldn't get to the window display so she opened up a box and gave me a new gong. I hit it a few times. Hmmm. Were the tones right?
"Have you got any others?"
"Yes, come with me."
Up some stairs we went. They had four large gongs. I tried each one, leaving the largest to last. It was HUGE. When I gave it a whack it went GOOOOOOOWONONONONONONONONONONGGGGG! Too huge to carry, four hundred euros.
So....was it there or somewhere else that we asked if there were any music shops around? Turns out there was one near Munttower
...and what a pretty tune it played as we passed, getting ever more dissonant towards the end.
"I wonder if they could get it to play one of Bach's partitas," I said, only I probably said "sonata" and I probably said, "I wonder if it's playing one of Bach's sonatas," what with the dissonance. Or was it a broken bell? Somewhere in Dam square I heard a similar tune with similar dissonance towards the end.
So..to the music store.
"Do you have any gongs?"
They had just the one, which they hired out. BASH CRASH! it went when the woman in the shop hit it.
"Do you know of any percussion shops which might have gongs?" I said.
Turns out they did. The shop was in Raadhuisstraat.
I knew where that was and yes, there was a percussion store.
We went inside.
"Do you have any gongs?"
"Yes, come with me."
I was led behind the counter and to a staircase, upon the wall of which, oh lordie!, were hanging oh so many gongs! Gong heaven!
The man disappeared for a moment, then reappeared with a large fluffy beater.
"Thanks," I said, and then I hit all the gongs (every last one) and found--yes!--the gong which had the right tone.
I gave it to the guy.
"You want a plastic bag?" he said.
"Maybe you need a carrying case?"
"Ah, yes. What an excellent idea!"
"And this beater is very expensive. I should let you try a cheaper one."
I tried the cheaper one.
"I'll have the expensive one," I said.
A gong, a beater, and a carrying case.
And all the other pleasures of Amsterdam including the zoo, where we saw a baby gorilla as the hippo sang to us....
The planetarium show was in Dutch and didn't have as much swooping as I'd hoped for. In the penguin enclosure I saw my new favourite bird.
The penguins looked the worse for wear.
And it was the afternoon, so every animal was s l o w--and I suppose I'd go slow if my life was confined to an enclosure 50m square or less.
We saw a huge crocodile. Armoured eyes!
So thank you for that, Nomad. It was a good trip and the zoo is the size it is. The poor old Orang Utan, though...huge hairy fella he was...
And anyway, the whole point of this pre-amble was to bring you to an understanding of why at seven o'clock last Saturday morning I was standing in a queue at Schiphol airport waiting to have my baggage X-rayed while carrying a twenty inch gong in its case.
"Will it fit through the machine?" I asked.
Of course! Put it on the conveyor along with your money and keys, mate.
Then I was beckoned forward into a machine, where I stood, arms raised, as part of the machine whizzed around and magically removed my clothes for the benefit of someone in a room in another building (the info. said)...and then a quick check of my belt and...okay...where's the gong?
Just the other side of the machine of course, next to a woman staring at the X ray of the contents of the bag--and frowning. The guy next to her mimics hitting a gong. Ah ha! They have seen the beater in the bag!
"A gong," I said, smiling.
The woman stood up and brought me the bag.
"It's a gong," I said.
"Can you play it?"
"I can if you want."
"Yes, I want to hear it."
"Are you sure?" I said, unzipping the bag.
"You're sure?" I said, holding it up and taking a fairly large backswing.
Man, they jumped! All of them, everyone, including the woman who asked me to hit the gong. Imagine it, you're standing in the queue to be X-rayed (terrorists!); you're handing over your metal objects (they might put you in a room and body search you!) and next thing you know GONNNNNNNNNNGGGGGG!
My gig at Schiphol ended abruptly. The woman put her hand on the gong, damping the sound. "You play this for music?" she said.
Gongmeister that I am!
Yes they all jumped, but then they felt calmed by the ancient warmth of the microtones and the overall deep tone which we had tested so many gongs to find.
If you have different people coming together in a group -- people of different countries, habits, and temperaments -- it is very important that you space them right, that they have enough space to live their own life. They should come together at certain times in a certain way. They should join in some kind of ritual which helps to build the harmony of the whole. If they are too close together, they begin to rub against each other and conflicts arise -- discords instead of a dissonant harmony.
Much hammering is needed to produce a greatly resonant metal gong, to change a long-held habit of the mind or emotions, or to break down the psychic hold of an ego built on a foundation of insecurity, frustration, and fear.
Next Step: Learning to play your gong.