In 2013/14 PANArt has obtained a patent in the USA and in Europe. The subject of this patent is the protection of a procedure where common steel sheet is converted into sheet with a higher intrinsic energy. In the method the steel sheet is nitrided until the sheet is completely permeated with iron nitride needles. This material, a composite, is suitable for building sound sculptures and musical instruments with higher sound quality and stable tuning.
PANArt has been building Hanghang for five years with this composite material, a considerable and worldwide appeal was the result. This led PANArt to the decision to license this technology and offer it to other metal sound sculptors. After an exhaustive research we discovered that more or less 80 individuals worldwide are conveying metal sheets towards sound. All their instruments carry their own names and brands and are associated to the family of handpans.
In the last months all of these metal sound sculptors have been contacted by PANArt. The result was quite sobering: With the exception of one company in the USA no one else of these small businesses or lone fighters have taken the decision to acquire a license.
The research for possible license partners also proved that some of them are using the patented method without being aware of doing so. Others, on the other hand, are very well aware that they are infringing the PANArt patent.
Even more, the research showed that the demanded prices for instruments looking similar to the Hang were horrendous. The constant high demand for the sound sculpture Hang from PANArt has obviously roused the ghosts of the marketplace: The Hang became a cult object and similar instruments were shoved into the marketplace in high numbers. The desire of many people to play an instrument without having to learn one, has been satisfied this way.
The reason for this development is an underlying misunderstanding of the Hang: What resulted in an instrument of individual centering thanks to years of concentration under the hands of the PANArt tuners, transformed into an instrument of the steelpan family, to the so-called handpan. These instruments are not only played with the hands but also with gloves and sticks.
The steelpan of Trinidad is part of a collective art form, the steelband. Each section of this orchestra has its distinctive function and therefore its timbre. The high art of the tuner consists in blending the voices of such orchestra. The tuner must therefore understand his pans in their complexity and be a master in tonal modulation in order to avoid dead sounds.
Here lies the main issue: A livelily sound is needed. This sound acts as a impulse to life, it stimulates body and soul. The tuner coercively needs to comprehend that creating such a sound is not possible without the stiff work with the hammer. It cannot be obtained if the material is not shaped and at the same time work hardened. Compressive stresses have to be introduced. This is backbreaking work.
Our research on the current culture of sheet metal instruments also unveiled that several business-minded producers came to the conviction, that machines could produce such vivid sound. In many instances the two shells of these sound sculptures are produced using manual or CNC metal spinning and the tone fields with its domes are pressed by machine.
The tuners of PANArt have been experiencing and playing the art form steelband over many years, they have built thousands of steelpans. They have grappled intensily with Trinidad’s gift to the world. They didn’t put the gift into a vitrine but they have literally digested it and absorbed it into their own culture. This is how the Pang instruments were born, the Hang and lastly the Gubal.
The pressure of the high demand for the Hang has generated the emergence of replicas of the Hang, collected under their generic name „handpan“. As the term „steeldrum“ is a misconception for the pans of Trinidad, the term „handpan“ is a misconception for the Hang.
Metal sound sculptures produced by machines may have a decent appearance but their sound is dead and they feel lifeless. This knowledge has been acquired at a very early stage in Trinidad, the home of steelpans. Also, they soon understood that it makes absolutely no sense copying the shapes of steelpan notes of another pan builder. The wisdom lies in the insight, that the internal structure of the metal is the key issue. This work cannot be accelerated or simplified.
With the Hang the sounding metal sheet has come to the individual person. The shimmering sounds have hit individuals all over the world with full force. Very affectedly they asked themselves: Where does this sound come from? From the inside? From the outside? The listener became a sounding instrument. A spiritual experience.
The Hang had to be played the same way as a steelband pulsates with its mighty basses. There was a hollow cavity that sounded and centered. With the Gubal the Gung, that’s its name, is now unmissably in the center.
In order to build such a complex instrument a special material is needed. The decisive factor in the steelpan, the compressive stress, is here also indispensable if one does not want to be bogged down into a banal manner of steel drumming. The earthed Hang, the Gubal, only deserves the best materials. The PANArt tuners continue their research.
It is a questionable development if steelpan builders start to build steelpans from one day to another that should be played in a new form with hands. It is even more questionable if they supply sticks with their instruments, but call them handpans. Whoever plays banal sounds in a virtuosic manner with sticks may experience some fun, but those looking for the subtle in the play with hands will be disappointed. They have paid a considerable sum of money and are frustrated.
The tuners of PANArt are quite pensive that only one out of 80 handpan builders has chosen the offered and largely proven procedure for building high quality musical instruments. Without investments in good material the art of metal sound sculpting will loose itself in meaninglessness. There is no way in continuing with this path without studies of the metallurgic dimension of instrument building. The PANArt license offer is still valid and available.