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Why Gongs Are So Expensive | So Expensive

the unmistakable sound of the gong

has held spiritual significance in

southeast asia for centuries

hand beaten from sheep materials the

labour intensive shaping

and delicate paintwork result in

beautiful percussive instruments

souvenir gongs can be bought for just a

few dollars but large

finely tuned gongs made from the best

materials can fetch tens of thousands of

dollars

so what are gongs actually used for and

why are they so expensive

this is thailand's gong highway a 21

mile stretch of road that is home to

more than 50 family-owned gong companies

who collectively produce roughly seven

thousand gongs each year

in the heart of the gong highway is

bunrak

has workshop as a third generation gong

maker

bunlak has been studying and practicing

gong making for almost

50 years

later

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the process begins by cutting the sheet

material into a circle

no materials go to waste here even the

offcuts are used to make the largest

shape

possible it's at this early stage

where the eventual cost of each gong is

determined

today

once the edges have been smoothed a

welder attaches the sides

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this flat dish is then ready to be

hammered into shape

the gongs made here in thailand are the

bost variety

where a center knob is surrounded by

smaller nipples

this design is stenciled on the back of

the gong with a homemade compass

and bangers begin to hammer out the

shape

the bangers use templates engraved into

tree stumps that allow the knob and

nipples to be hammered out fully

and evenly

then comes the hardest part the tuning

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tuners observe and train for years to

master their skill

he strikes the gong in different places

and listens for acoustic imperfections

using a mallet to make slight

alterations he continues this process

hoping to reduce dissonance in the sound

frequencies emitted from the goal

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once satisfied with the sound the gong

is coated in enamel

ready for intricate artworks to be

hand-painted

bunlax workshop produces gongs of all

different shapes and designs

including specially made gongs which can

sell for up to one million baht

or around 33.000

this way the cultural significance of

gongs is clear to see in uban ratchatani

a major city at one end of the gong

highway where the world's largest gong

towers stand proudly next to the watam

kua sawan temple

the use of gongs is deeply ingrained in

buddhism and according to the tourism

authority of thailand

the gong highway is responsible for

supplying most of the country's 30

000 buddhist temples with their gongs

so what about the rest of the world in

the west gongs have become commonplace

not only in popular culture but also in

meditation studios

and symphony orchestras the largest

non-asian gong manufacturer is paiste

based in germany it's been producing

gong since 1906

and its largest gong an 80 inch

symphonic model

retails for around 27 000.

this type of flat face gong sometimes

referred to as a tam tam

gives more of a crash sound which is

different from the tuned tones of a

bossed gong

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paiste's method for producing gongs are

more scientific than those on the gong

highway

with acoustic testing equipment used to

evaluate the gong's frequency

but the quality and traditional

craftsmanship at bunlax workshop is

clear

to sea and the historical importance of

the gong is felt throughout southeast

asia

now

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