Wang Xing and Yu Cen are an artist duo that create sculptures and sculptural furnishing inspired by the deep urge for connection. One sculpture in particular caught the interest of Chop Suey Club — a working musical sculpture called the KONG Drum . "Kong", literally meaning “empty” in Chinese, is an homage to the hollow, oblong shape of the piece, as well as the peaceful resonance of the KONG Drum “empties” the mind and puts the user in a relaxed, meditative state. In this case, it's about having a deep connection with one's self via sound.
Xing and Cen combined traditional Chinese design philosophy with modern aesthetics in the creation of their drum. The KONG is built from circles: its body is round and globular; its eight tongs are oblong and ring-shaped; the logo inscribed in the center is a perfect circle; the legs are tiny ovals; even its mallets are built from rubber balls. One could clearly how the circular-design of the drum mirrors its soothing, rounded sound. The only piece of the drum that isn’t circular is the acoustic chamber opening on the bottom which takes the shape of a lotus flower, revealing the underlying inspiration for the piece.
The modernity in the KONG Drum’s design comes from the wide variety of beautiful metals used to built the drum. Some of the drums are built of perfectly-reflectively, highly-polished steal. These drums act like chameleons and beautifully metamorphose into the color of their surroundings. Other drums are built matte steal that shimmers and changes in the light. Both materials are truly striking and beautiful.
Yet, a bird with beautiful feathers doesn’t necessarily have a beautiful song as well. How does the KONG sound? Just as with the design of the drum, the KONG comes in a variety of scales and modes. Though every scale evokes a very different emotion, the tone of each KONG drum is deep and resonant. Like any other instrument, the richness and sound depends on the player and how they approach the instrument.
Yet, despite the beautiful design and sound of the KONG Drum, perhaps its most interesting feature is the ease with which one can learn to play. One does not need formal training or even prior musical experience to learn to make beautiful music with the KONG Drum. All one needs is the ability to make effortlessly beautiful sounds with an equally beautiful instrument.
(Text: Dalton Corr | Photo: Ruoyi Jiang)