The Gong's All Here

by Cassia Berman .

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian mystic and composer Alexander Skriabin discovered a chord which he felt would "lift the audience to an exalted state... musically aligning humanity with the kingdom of nature." He called the chord "mysterium tremendum".

That's the name given by yogic gongmaster Don Conreaux to a band of musicians from around the world who've been playing together since 1992. Mysterious Tremendum uses tonal resonance of ancient, indigenous, and in some cases orchestral instruments to create an environment of sound that can bring listeners to altered states of consciousness, opening them to healing, and connecting them with more expansive states of reality.

Conreaux has spent most of his life working with, researching, and teaching the use of sound for healing and transformation. He began studying yoga as a young actor in Hollywood in the early '50's, simultaneous with a career in both mainstream and underground theatre and films. "In 1969 I was introduced to the three main instruments we use in Mysterious Tremendum, the gong, the bell and the conch, as meditation instruments," he says. "We meditated on the tones they made. The gong was used to help people transcend their physical limitations."

He immediately got a gong, and ever since he has pioneered, or resurrected, the use of gongs in meditation, yoga, and bodywork massage, including a 6 year stint as Gong Workout Specialist at the Beverly Hills Health Club and his present private practice of yoga and healing in New York City, and presenting seminars and concerts extensively in England, Australia, Poland and the USA. A founding member of the Tibetan singing bowl band, One Hand Clapping, Conreaux has played the gong in jazz and symphonic orchestras, and developed teaching tools and recordings on gongs and the mind/body connection.

"The secret of the gong is its tremendous potential for healing and rejuvenation," he says. "That's really what we want to bring out to the world. Because the gong covers the full spectrum of sound, it vibrates all the cells and bones and organs, some more than others, depending upon the pitch of the gong. You feel an influx of energy coming from it in your body as well as hear it. This "musical touch" which actually turns the body into one big ear, creates a sense of ecstasy of well-being."

The earliest music, according to Conreaux, was basically tones, which combined in mysterious ways, "master musicians would gather together and play spontaneously, without written music in a kind of telepathic resonance," he says. "This particular type of music had a magic in it insofar as it aligned the player and listener with the devic, or nature kingdom, and in this way attuned them with the planet as a whole.

But, music is changing the time, and the ancient always comes back to purify the end cycle of music," he continues. "In Mysterious Tremendum we have a collage of culture-the didgeridoo from Australia; the conches, which have been used all over the world, from the Native Americans here to all over the East; and the gong, used by Mayans, in India, in Bali, China, Japan, Korea, Turkey, etc. These instruments give out living tones that are organic. With this type of music, nothing is ever the same. It answers some sort of primal DNA urge for the roots that go way beyond lifetimes."

The music of Mysterious Tremendum is not beautiful in the same sense that violin music is beautiful, Conreaux says, adding that it's more accurately a force of energy, "like a divine engine, affecting the body's meridians. By and large, after it's over, you just feel great," he says. "You feel like you've been healed by the spirit of nature. And the wonderful thing about it is that the instruments heal the player while the player is playing the instrument."

"The return of happiness and the spiritualization of matter," read the characters engraved on the face of a Chinese gong dated 600B.C.E. As no two concerts have ever been the same, Conreaux and his friends can only promise an evening attuned to harmonize the spirit the audience brings with it. Recent appearances have ranged from a concert at the Open Center, where they created "Jurassic Park Sonata" complete with "Dino Romp" to a series of evenings at the Gay Men's Health Crisis, where they have presented "healing gong baths" for clients with life-threatening illness.

The audience is encouraged to bring tone-producing instruments-drum, rattle, flute, bells- "and become part the roar of the universe," as Conreaux puts it.