PANArt’s creations have altered the world of sound and instrument design.
A Brief History of the Hang
The Hang is a contemporary musical instrument, often referred to as a “sound-sculpture” created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer, owners of a small company called PANArt in Bern, Switzerland. The Hang was first introduced to the world around the year 2000, and by the year 2013, following the evolution of several generations of several thousand Hang instruments, PANArt had decided to focus on a new creation, the Gubal.
Both the Hang and Gubal are made from a steel-based alloy called Pang, a patented material developed by the instrument makers themselves. This material is partly what gives their instruments such a captivating sound with the slightest effort necessary. The non-linear, somewhat cosmic playing field, the richness of tone, the unprecedented versatility of playing options and the dynamic response to the slightest touch has caught the attention of the masses, with YouTube videos of a few early Hang players going viral and demand for the instruments running high.
PANArt had declared early on that the Hang was not meant for mass-distribution and instead kept their attention on the evolution of their art form, the Pang material, and their commitment to maintaining freedom from the trappings of commercializing their instruments. However, the world would not sit still and be denied their contribution, at least not in spirit. The Hang has sparked a renaissance in musical instrument design, with countless new instrument makers following the inspiration that first came to Felix and Sabina. Many of these instruments have been dubbed as “Handpans” while others have created their own categories and descriptions. A culture has been building and a new sound and style of play has been unfolding. Never before has an instrument had such an immediate and profound effect on the music landscape. It all started in Bern, Switzerland at the hands of Felix and Sabina. Their role for giving birth to this phenomenon will be remembered and respected. The Hang and their future contributions will always be held in the highest standard by those who are fortunate to experience them first-hand.
I wrote in detail about the Hang and that writing has been featured on this website for a few years but is now being replaced by this summary and an introduction to the Gubal. For those interested in a deeper look into my experiences with the Hang and some answers to frequently asked questions please feel free to access that writing here: THE HANG INSTRUMENT.
I’ll continue to play the Hang at my concerts but have now added the Gubal to my repertoire, and it is by all accounts an amazing step forward from the Hang. I define it as a true “World Instrument”. An amazing array of sounds can be accessed from the ergonomically advanced form. It truly melds elements of the steelpan, gamelan, and other melodious and percussive instruments from around the globe with the addition of a deep, airy bass that can change pitch with the skillful movement of the hand. There are other unique features that when all are combined gives the player an ability to create the sound of a small ensemble on his or her lap, yet that sound is unique in the Gubal itself. Most of the essential elements of the Hang are still intact but the Gubal goes even further into the sound-spectrum, offering a lower frequency “grounding” element to the upper frequencies usually associated with the Hang and the instruments inspired by it. The bass frequency is really the crux of the Gubal sound and it warrants a different approach to playing than the Hang. Forceful playing or aggressive drumming techniques can easily distort the sound and detune the instrument. The Gubal, perhaps even more-so than the later generations of the Hang, is best suited for quiet environments with relaxed play. This is where the magic occurs and where the full spectrum of sound can be heard and felt.
The unique elements of the Gubal will be best appreciated in a live encounter. If one listens to a video or audio clip over a computer or a phone without the use of headphones or good speakers the result will be disappointing, as the low frequencies won’t be heard at all. With that in mind, please visit PANArt’s channel on YouTube for some excellent Gubal playing by Felix, Sabina and others. That link can be found here: PANArt’s YouTube Channel
I’ve posted some Gubal videos on this website, and also on my YouTube channel that can be found here: Matt Venuti’s YouTube Channel
Further information about the Gubal, from the words of PANArt, including their process for creating and distributing the instrument, can be found here: Gubal news from PANArt
I hope to see you on the road during one of my performances. I sing passionate, original songs while accompanying myself on the Hang and Gubal. I often choose churches, yoga studios and theaters or any venue that tends toward a quiet, acoustically rich environment. Please check my schedule and come see me live when possible, and be in touch if you’d like to host a concert in your area.
All the best!