That thing you love, has it ever lost its spark? What caused that? It's easy to get cynical, to shut down and to give up but that initial spark is worth fighting for. Ray Ford shares his story and addresses some of these questions in this episode of the podcast.
Ray's Introduction to the Hang:
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is The Handpan Podcast.
Sylvain: Your craft, that thing you love, which is produced so much joy and human connections throughout your life. Has It ever lost its spark. What caused that? Was it the passing of time? Did you get stuck or simply bored? Was it the culture around it? The expectations? Were you disappointed or hurt? It's easy to get cynical, to shut down and to give up, but that initial spark that which started it all for you and me is worth fighting for as we get to learn all the nuances of how handpans are made, how they work, could it be that ignorance is bliss? Does pulling the curtain ruin the magic of the handpan? On today's episode, my friend Ray Ford shares his story and addresses some of these questions. He helps us to rediscover wonder that place of reverie and imagination and childlike innocence as one of my friends would say, it's time to reignite your spark. Let's go!
Sylvain: Ray, it's really good to have you on the podcast. How are you?
Ray: Hey, good, thanks sylvain. Thanks for having me on.
Sylvain: Yeah, my pleasure.
Ray: We just got back from another camping trip out in the hill. So, uh, it's been a nice relaxing day.
Sylvain: Wow. Where were you?
Ray: We were out at Lake Marina. It's a San Diego, east county. And um, there was a bunch of rainstorms recently. I'm sure they hit Arizona too. And uh, so everything is joyously soaking up all that precious water out there in the desert, so it's going to be nice.
Sylvain: Do you guys camp out there?
Ray: Uh, yeah, we um, several years ago much to, even our surprise, we got a little tiny RV and it's our home away from home and uh, we take it out all the time, um, especially on quick weekends because I still have to work for a living and so that means that I come back during the week and so we both grind it out during the week and then we run away on the weekends.
Sylvain: Well, it sounds like a lot of fun. Um, did you bring an instrument with you on that trip?
Ray: Uh, I did. I brought, uh, it's always, I always wonder which one I'm going to bring. And I have a lot of different handpans and uh, so I try each one out right before I leave and I'm like, okay, you're coming with me. So, and, and Laura plays her mountain dulcimer and she just retunes it on the fly and we have fun.
Sylvain: Oh, that's awesome. Well, I'm really excited to sit down and chat with you. It's fun because, um, typically I start these conversations with asking, uh, my guest, my friend, what their first discovery of the instrument was. But with you, I actually got to relive that first discovery because you posted a youtube video on our Facebook group, which I'll link in the show notes, but it's, it was amazing to be there with you on that first day to hear your questions. Um, so really briefly, if you want to summarize what that first experience was and also walk us through what the journey between the first discovery and then when you got your own handpan looked like.
Ray: Oh, well, sure. Because I think about that day a lot even now. Um, so at my children's school, we were there for a harvest festival and we get there early and all the vendors are sending up and there's sound stages and there's artists that are doing their things. And I come around the corner and there's this guy playing this instrument. Uh, it was, uh, now looking back, it was an integral Hang. Um, so it had that brass top and it had a brass rim. Um, many had face paint on and, and I think he was playing it on. Of course he had this half circle of folks, uh, deep around him. And I pushed my way through and I was just just in amazement. Um, I had never seen anything like it. I don't play a music instrument or haven't played a music instrument. I've played a little bit of percussion in my medieval reenactment, but I mean, nothing too. Nothing really formal or anything like that. And I saw this and I was just drawn in and, uh, I went and got Laura and I grabbed her and I'm like, have you seen this thing. Have you seen this guy? Have you seen this thing? And, uh, then of course, you know, the video has me asking. It's almost embarrassing now to go back and listen. But I mean those are really the questions that everyone asks, right? I mean, when we, when we play we're like what is that thing and where can I get one? And you know, so, Hey, I see you're playing two notes at the same time. And, uh, he was very gracious and he would stop his plane and of course his daughter was in the way and she, you know, she wanted the camera on. Which of course any daughter would want. Anyway, I followed this guy around all day long and, uh, you know, to clock in the afternoon, he'd look up to the semi circle of people and I was there again and he's like, you again. And I'm like, yes. So, I mean, I could tell that I was hooked.
Ray: So let's see, I get home and, uh, you get on the inner webs and I look up Hang Drum and uh, this is in 2008. So you look up hang drum in 2008 and you're going to pretty much get hang drum. That is all you're going to get. You're going to get hang. And then, so I found several forums. I found uh, the Hang Forum, so I'll interchange hang and hang. I know that there's a proper way to say it. Yeah. Um, I found the, the real hang forum and then there was an offshoot, um, Eh, uh Huh. Hang dash Music, forum. Um, and that was the predecessor to um, handpan.org. Yeah. And in those days, um, so you know what you're reading about a maybe a little bit of controversy of, of people trying to branch out and make this instrument again and really there was only one place to get it. And the thing that I saw was this thing called the Hang. And uh, you had to write a physical letter and your letter had to be accepted. Um, and then you had to go pick it up in person and it, I mean it went from total, oh have to have this thing. It's going to be so awesome to get home. And, um, my goodness, it's completely out of reach. Um, and that, that's, um, that was, uh, that was tough to deal with.
Sylvain: That's kind of a crushing feeling and I'm trying to put myself in your shoes when I experienced the instrument, you know, being from France, Switzerland was the country next door and it still felt unattainable. But for you halfway across the world, that's even more out of reach.
Ray: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I'm not a traveler. And so to think of myself as, oh, I'm going to go over and get this specific instrument and deal with, um, a foreign country, foreign languages and things like that, fairly introvert and, uh, uh, get fairly anxious about those kinds of things. So like that was, it was not going to happen. Uh, so let's see. Uh, uh, a year goes by and a startup company called Pantheon steel is starting to come up with sound models, but they're not releasing them yet because they're not satisfied with their sound. Um, but I got on their waiting list. Um, and certainly you can discuss them on the forum and to, you know, we were all excited about any information that we can get a, but at that point you sort of have to put it out of your mind. This is not something that is going to wind up in your lap. Right. Uh, so, um, there was a one in 10 possibility of this coming through kind of thing. Um, but then they said, okay, we're ready to start. And I knew that I was on the waiting list. And so now you just have to wait your turn. And I think I was #149, so that came up in like December of 2009. And, uh, Aaron gave me a call and said, what scale do you want? Um, and this was before you're like, oh, this, I'm overwhelmed with Scales and, uh, I don't know anything about scales. And I just wrote back and I said, whatever you think I might like. And he had no idea who I was and I'm, I put this out there, whatever you think I might like. And he writes back and he says, I have just the scale for you and this is, boy, I really liked this kind of stuff. This is serendipity. And uh, I love the whole concept of serendipity of things happening, how you wouldn't necessarily have imagined it and they just do. So he picks a minor pentatonic, it's seven notes and it's fi