Hang - Sound Sculpture - The Book/CD (and First Thoughts on the PANArt Gubal).

Note - This post contains nothing more than the individual thoughts, opinions, and tastes of HandPans Magazine.  Yours may well differ, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing... (* the music in the background of the attached brief unboxing video is unfortunately not from the accompanying Gubal CD, due to copyright).

So today (10/07/2013), like many others, after a week or so wait, we received the much anticipated volume (and accompanying Gubal CD), titled, ‘Hang - Sound Sculpture’.  For the purposes of this post, we’re going to treat the book and the CD as separate entities, and discuss them individually, as to our mind, each serves a very different purpose.

The Book

Like many, when we first learned of this book being offered by PANArt, we were both surprised (the PANArt domain www.hang.ch had been inactive for around ten years previous), intensely curious, and also a little put-out, both by what initially seemed like a fairly expensive price for what was advertised as a 44 page volume, and also by the fact that PANArt had decided that charging $ was the best way to announce the coming of their new creation, the ‘Gubal’, when the information, and sound samples could have been uploaded to the net for free, giving those with the means to purchase the package being offered by PANArt, and those without, the opportunity to enjoy the coming of the Gubal equally.

With this said though, and treating the CD, and the book as two separate entities, the book itself is a very nice looking volume, aesthetically pleasing, though as was already known prior to purchase, not particularly substantial, in number of pages.  However, what you do find within those pages, should prove to be interesting enough to justify the price, for anyone with more than a passing fascination with what makes PANArt tick, and their path from pan, to the Hang, and now to the Gubal.  

Hang - Sound Sculpture, is essentially what we expected it to be, a keepsake to celebrate twenty years of PANArt, with a strong focus on the Hang years, the developments that led to the creation of the Hang, and rare glimpses of how PANArt perceived the global rise of the Hang, from the inside looking out (the exact opposite of what you’ll usually find littered around the internet, including on this website).  And we’d like to hope, that this PANArt released volume will go some way towards helping those who have found PANArt’s ways confusing (including ourselves - this website was essentially started out of annoyance at PANArt, due to being unable to obtain a Hang, leading us to explore alternatives) to understand why they operate in the ways that they've chosen to.

We don’t want to give too much away concerning the actual contents of the book, but overall we very much enjoyed the read.  We’re not likely to convert to becoming what are sometimes known as ‘PANArt Purists’ any-time soon.  But there is no arguing with the fact that none of us would be here if it weren't for PANArt, and this little purple book is something of a treasure.  Those who were hoping for any solid information on the Gubal will find these pages somewhat lacking - despite the accompanying CD, for that is not really its purpose.  And there were several passages that didn't entirely ring true, with what we have either experienced personally, or have read about on-line, in particular the sentence, ‘we decided not to waste ourselves in quarrels with counterfeiters...’, when it is known that at least one lengthy legal battle took place.  And the open sharing of information by PANArt discussed in the chapter titled, ‘Resonance in the world’, appears to be more of a historical reference, with PANArt seemingly being far more guarded in recent years (we were ourselves contacted and accused of giving away Hang-making secrets in this post).  With that said though, in this instance, we can happily endure a little ‘history to the victors’, considering PANArt’s huge contribution to the art. And would strongly recommend the purchase (as mentioned above) to anybody with more than a passing interest in all things Hang, and HandPan.  And it has been stated that while the price may initially seem fairly high for such a small volume, prices in Switzerland are high in general, and the price of PANArt’s book is said to be comparable with the cost of a standard audio CD purchased there, which makes the price of CHF 39.00 (roughly forty odd dollars) seem far more reasonable for such an insightful, and well-written little gem.

How long this book will be available from PANArt, we do not know, but at the time of writing, you can purchase your copy: HERE.

The Gubal CD - First Thoughts on the Sound of the Gubal

If you don't know what the 'Gubal' is, the Gubal is a new instrument being offered by PANArt from 2013 (more info).

The CD that accompanies the book is an eight track offering, made up primarily of solo Gubal performances, but also containing several duets, both double Gubal, and with instruments such as a soprano saxophone.

When I first stumbled across the design patents for the Gubal, and got a first look at what presumably the Gubal looks like (at the time of writing we still can’t be totally sure), I wondered whether the instrument was different enough, structurally, from the Hang, other than a bit protruding here, and a bit added there, to be classed as a completely new and separate instrument, rather than simply Hang Mk.5.  Listening to the sounds of the Gubal though, it’s clear that this is a very different beast.  Within the book, the Gubal is described as having its roots in the ‘groove’, and the closing chapter is titled, ‘Lets Dance!’ Both of which seem to be very fitting.

For a while now PANArt have appeared to be moving more and more away from the concept of an ‘instrument’, with the Hang.  Preferring for the Hang to be considered as a ‘sound sculpture’, and in many ways a ‘meditative device’, and a mirror to the soul of the player.  The Gubal, on the other hand, to our mind, appears to be something of a U-Turn in this regard, with its dominating rhythmic flow, and strong Ghatam-like percussive qualities. And if we’re understanding correctly, a return to more conventional tuning, to make the Gubal compatible with other instruments. Could be seen as a small step back towards where earlier generation of Hanghang left off (prior to the Free Integral Hang).

The sound of the Gubal is interesting, and even on the solo tracks it does sound like there is a lot going on, in the sense that it sounds like there is more than a single instrument being played at once.  It’s a pretty sexy, exotic sounding instrument.  However, prior to falling in love with the Hang, and HandPan in turn, I was not personally, particularly ‘into’ percussion.  And my early thoughts on the sound (for what they’re worth) is that the Gubal is not going to be an instrument that I would personally be interested in obtaining.  The choir of Angels has been replaced with something different, not necessarily worse, or better, just different. And I suspect that Hang/HandPan players with a percussive background, will be drooling over the idea of getting their hands on one of these Hang/Ghatam hybrids.  And credit where credit is due, you have to give full props to PANArt for continuing to push their art, in new and exciting ways.  And as always, we can’t wait to hear more, knowing that, as in many ways it was with the Hang, the sound of the Gubal may only reveal its true beauty, once they have found their way into the hands of players who explore, master, and push the boundaries of what the Gubal is capable of, beyond even PANArt's own vision for the instrument...

Once again, the book/CD can be purchased: HERE, if you'd like the opportunity to get an early listen to the PANArt Gubal yourself, to make up your own mind.

[Update] You can now watch a video of the PANArt Gubal being played by its makers themselves: HERE

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