I’m currently working on a TV film score with a story line dealing with illegal african immigrants in Germany. To give the african characters a certain “ethno” tone, the director and me decided to work with this big “wok” thing that he saw lying around here, which is in fact a hanghang or better know as the hang drum. This instrument, invented in 2000 by Swiss instrument makers Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of Panart, has since its inauguration drawn unexpected worldwide demand and caused the little workshop of both inventors in Bern to restrict their output to a limited amount. Today one has to set his name on a long waiting list to eventually get hold of a new hang one day. The instrument is now in its third generation and the instrument makers recently announced in a statement via the hangblog that they would open the “Hangbauhaus” again for people to pick their hang (the somehow esoteric sound of the statement makes me shiver though…). My instrument is a first generation hang with a so called “Hitzazkiar” tuning, a persian scale with the tone row A3, D4, Eb4, F#4, G4, A4, Bb4, C#5 and D5. I’m quite fond of this tuning since it is a bit more “spicy” and has more in-build tension than normal pentatonic tunings. The hang unfortunatly has been spoiled too often lately in cheap harmonious world-music-kitsch clichees, since it is very easy to tap on a hang and produce charming consonant sound patterns without big effort. I believe the potential of the instrument has still not been fully explored, apart from brilliant musicians like Manu Delago, who had millions of people watching him on youtube playing on two hangs here.
For my filmmusic work I have multisampled my own instrument in order to be able to play it chromatically. There are two sample libraries on the market, one is by sonic couture and the other is included in east west’s stormdrums 2 library. The latter has a better sound than the former but is only restricted to the actual tones of a pentatonic scale, so I always miss some additional tones to produce a bit more tension and harmonic dissonance. My own samples are not played with the hands but with some timpani mallets that produce a somewhat softer sound in my opinion. It is great for laying out ideas on the keyboard without setting up microphones and checking out how the hang could work in the mix. As a background sound those samples do a good job, but if I intend to use the hang as a center instrument I would always invite a good percussionist to my studio to get the best out of the instrument. The rich overtone structure of each tone on a hang causes samples played in another scale than the original “Hitzazkiar” tuning to interfere with the resonances of the other notes and lead to a somehow “dirty” feeling. But you can check out my EXS instrument that I posted on my homepage if you work with Logic and would like to give it a try. Click on the download button, then unzip the file and copy the sample instrument into the folder “Sampler Instruments” located in the Logic folder. If you have problems with that, drop me a mail and we can try to figure it out. Finally here is a more unknown video of Manu Delago playing the song “Maria door een doornwoud trad” on three hangs: