Music inspires. It not only awakens the senses, it can encourage deep relaxation, as well as generate energy and movement in the body. Many use music to enliven, some use music to find emotional release; others use music to spark creativity and freedom of expression. The concept of freedom is of particular interest, where a new instrument and one of its primary players are stretching the boundaries of autonomy.
Of the myriad instruments that exist in the world, each one is crafted to produce a unique sound vibration. From a guitar to a gong, the sounds that emit can be healing and powerfully transformative. One particular instrument holds an extraordinary potential to bring pleasure and peace to the body, mind and spirit. This instrument is called a Hang.
The Hang is the exclusive creation of Felix Rohner and Sabina Scharer. Barely over a decade old, each instrument is handcrafted, one-by-one in their modest workshop that they call the "Hang Bauhaus" on the banks of the Aare River in Berne, Switzerland. The Hang is constructed of a special metal called "Pang," an alloy of nitrated steel and other elements that is also the creation of Felix and Sabina.
I find it quite interesting that the word hang has two meanings. The Swiss translation from Berne's dialect is hand, while the German translation is slope. I understand this now, after having the pleasure of watching the hands of master Hang player Matt Venuti falling in an angle of repose, when he played the Hang at my yoga studio last fall.
Before meeting Matt, I had never experienced the Hang. I say 'experienced' because the sound that radiates from his playing isn't something you just passively listen to. It feels like part of you, as if the same elements that make up the Hang are present in your bones.
Matt experiences something similar, stating "I've found that over time my hands become so malleable with the Hang that I don't feel any separation between them and the instrument. The mind quiets as the hands take the lead... the heart responds and the hand answers. It's like a synergistic dance that becomes a union."
The Hang has a characteristic non-linear shape and can sound like a super-galactic cosmic celestial wind chime, or an entire ensemble in Matt's case, but mere descriptions don't do it justice. The Hang can have a profound effect on those who are fortunate enough to experience it in a live setting.
In Matt's world of music and sound, the path to free expression is of the utmost importance. As the instrument makers have evolved the Hang in their quest for artistic growth and freedom, Matt's playing style has evolved along with each generation of the instrument. He now tours constantly with the latest of the Hang maker's creations; the freely-tuned, or "Free Integral Hang," an instrument with more depth and potential than previous generations.
When he played at my studio, Matt offered what he calls a "FreeFlow" experience. FreeFlow was birthed from his concerts where people felt an irresistible urge to move. The event is often in the context of yoga or dance but without any instruction. Participants are encouraged to explore the idea of freedom by moving at their own pace, on or off the yoga mat, and in their own creative flow by simply listening and feeling the melodies and rhythms that Matt generates from the Hang.
During our FreeFlow experience, there were belly dancers swaying to the syncopation, power yoga enthusiasts rolling through vinyasas, and contemplative sorts settling into healing rest and meditation. It was indeed a beautifully free experience.
Those who are inspired by music seem to find each other. It is no surprise Matt Venuti and jazz saxophone genius Stan Getz had a connection, and it wasn't just through music. Their relationship spanned well beyond the love of melody and rhythm, and seeped deeply into the field of health, healing and spirituality.
Music loving yogis would benefit greatly by learning more about the Hang, reading the amazing story of Matt and Stan, and noting the schedule of Matt's FreeFlow events.
A great writer, Aldous Huxley, said, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." It is certain, that by expressing ourselves through music we will grow, we will heal, we will transform. This is a path to freedom.