Letter from Hangbauhaus – Bern, End of March, 2007

Authors: Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer
© Copyright by the authors – All rights reserved
Published on www.hangblog.org: Oktober 18th, 2010
Languages: German and English
Zur deutschen Version dieses Dokuments

In spring 2007 PANArt sent this letter by e-mail to people who had contacted the hang makers to ask for a Hang. It contained a short history of the development of the Hang, introduced the second generation of Hanghang and explained how the Hang was distributed in the year 2007.

Letter from Hangbauhaus
Bern, End of March, 2007

From Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner, Hangmakers

We thank you for your interest in our instrument and for your patience. In our Hanghaus lie the fruits of our winter’s work, and they are waiting to meet their new owners.

There are very, very many who have written us. Heartfelt letters have reached us from all parts of the world. We especially thank those, who along with their compliments have also asked us to proceed with this gift with great care. This we will do.

Please read the following lines through slowly, and try to understand in which sense and spirit we are thinking of passing on the instruments we have made.

A Short History of the Development of the Hang.

The new instrument known as the Hang was born in January of the year 2000 in Hanghaus in Bern. Responding to the impulse of a ghatam player we formed a great sphere out of a couple of raw forms for Steelpans that were lying around the workshop, which had in them a number of concave tone fields. At the time, no one recognized what this was to mean, and no one could play it, either.

However, this gave us, the Hangmakers, a unique possibility to make further progress in the art of tuning metal. Our understanding of the physics of various musical instruments of the world now flowed into this new thing. A new musical dimension was now opened for human hands, and this new thing was named the Hang, which signifies hand in the dialect of Bern.

In the years that followed we tuned these “resonance bodies” with all sorts of scales, eavesdropping on the particularities of the scales of the world: Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese. The journey went clear around the world, always keeping in mind the tuning of the new instruments. We sent these instruments to all continents and received music in return. It was a productive time!

It appeared more and more that this instrument was not just a percussion instrument, but something that raised new questions regarding the very nature of music. Hang players reported amazing experiences with the instrument, for themselves and also for their listeners.

Now we are proceeding to make the Hang even closer to people: The sound is becoming softer, deeper, and clearer. We found the courage to leave behind the world of scales. In the spring of 2006 we presented a new generation of Hanghang (Hanghang is the plural form of Hang), which pleased people right from the start. Each instrument was unique in sound and tuning, and received a soft upper surface of annealed brass, with a ring of brass around the circumference, covering the formerly sharp rim.

Because the worldwide demand for ever more instruments could not be met, we decided to end all distribution through music shops. Interested people came in the summer and fall of 2006 to Bern, where they could find their instrument at their ease – or, to phrase it differently, where their Hang could find them.

Spring of 2007.

The Hanghang that came out of this winter look like those of last year. Yet, when seen up close, you will notice that the placement of the tone fields has changed. This innovation has led to a clearer sound that radiates outwards with more strength.

The harmonic fifths combine and produce a charming overtone music, which, in a manner of speaking, appears in the acoustical space above the playing. While with the Trinidadian Steel Pan the octave of the fundamental is the most powerful harmonic, with the Hang we give the fifth more power, with the dome shape of the tone fields. Pay attention to this, next time you hear a Hang. The allure of Hang playing does not lie in virtuosity, but in playing intuitively, in such a way as to allow space for these sounds.

Seven or eight harmonically tuned tone fields are arranged around the central tone, the DING. With all Hanghang the DING is a D3 (Re3). The DING resonates together with the GU resonance of D2 (Re2) when you play with the instrument in your lap. This is the ground resonance of the air which streams in and out through the GU, when it is activated by tapping the DING or the shoulder of the DING. The throat-shaped GU has its own high resonance (D5, Re5), aligned with the DING side. In the tone circles of all the new Hanghang you will find the fifth, A3, plus D4 and A4.

The remaining tones are tuned by the Hangmakers in artistic freedom. For example, here is just one possibility: D3 (central note); tone loop: A3 C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A4.

In all cases, the fundamental aspect of the tuning is D, its fifth, and its octave. In this harmonic cathedral, infinite dynamic musical possibilities are opened up for Hang players. The gentlest impulse from the hands is amplified by the tension in the lens-shaped resonance body of the instrument. The result can be a music that goes right under the skin.

How the instruments will find their players:

An appointment will be necessary to purchase a Hang. There will be a limited number of Hanghang made available during the month of April, and again for one month only, later in the summer (dates to be announced). Please do not just show up at the door. There will only be one Hang made available per person. Please come alone, as we will not have the facilities to receive additional guests. Payment is made in full on the day of purchase. We do not ship orders.

What to do next:

In the event that you are interested in acquiring a Hang, please send us an e-mail. Please include your telephone number in all e-mail correspondence.

In our reply we will send you information on the price of the Hang, its protective shells, bags, boxes, and how you can make an appointment to visit.

We will not be in a position to respond to calls and faxes and e-mails before the first of April. You will not receive confirmation of an appointment before this date. Please do not come to visit if you have not received this confirmation.

Once you have an appointment, indulge yourself with a train trip! Hanghaus lies but a few minutes’ walk from the station. If you have made an appointment, we can offer you a free night in our guest rooms.

Ron Kravitz and David Kaetz will be here in April to receive you. Both are musicians, and Hang players right from the beginnings. Between them our colleagues speak English, French and German, and we Hangmakers can also speak with you in Spanish and Italian.

We thank you for your attention and send musical greetings from Hangbauhaus,

Sabina Schärer and Felix Rohner, Hangmakers