Richard D Hite
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Richard D Hite

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"Good Vibrations March30, 2009"

Richard Hite approaches the three large gongs, kneeling reverentially and nestles in among the bells, conch shells, Tibetan temple horns and goat horns on the floor. He reaches up with a mallet, and with a feathery touch begins priming one gong with an arcing motion across the textured brass. The result is a continuous low drone that resonates deep into the skin. With his other hand he gives a second gong a glancing blow, the direct tone weaving into the undulating tones of the first.

"Playing the instrument regularly is as much a practice of my own spiritual path as anything else I do," says the 57-year-old Hite. "For me, it's a meeting with God, it's an expression of gratitude. I had a God experience the first time I heard one."

Hite and his partner of 20 years, physical therapist Susan Thompson, are living at the Embracing Simplicity Hermitage in Hendersonville while preparing for a concert at the Light Center in Black Mountain on April 25. "We don't have a plan after that," he says with astounding faith. This former clinical psychologist, who until recently rejected the notion of himself as a musician, is now considering exploring the Los Angeles music scene with his mantra of healing as entertainment, or as he calls it, "entertrainment."

An accomplished martial artist, Hite suffered a severe back injury in the mid-1970s. "It wasn't just a physical injury, it was an identity shift," he says. He began attending yoga classes, and heard his first gong in 1977. "After a routine they brought it out and just banged it, just made it roar," he recalls softly. "That had a very profound effect on me. At the same time I knew that you didn't have to beat it to get it to do what it needed to do. You don't beat the singers to make them sing better." The next day he bought a pair of timpani mallets. "I went back to the ashram and asked them to let me play the gong. And with the little mallets I got it to sing in the higher overtones. It sang, and that was it — I was hooked. I had to find out more."

Hite earned his masters degree in psychology and put it to use leading mind-body seminars, directing corporate training and opening a yoga center in Clearlake, Texas in 1987. In 1989, after a devastating explosion at a petroleum plant in Pasadena, Texas, Hite took his therapeutic yoga to an in-patient trauma center at a hospital there. From the beginning the gongs were part of his treatments. "Early on, I got to see how just one 24-inch Paiste symphonic gong could effect EEG response, brain wave activity response. When you added that to the effects of everybody stretching and breathing and relaxing, it triggered healing experiences, even from the very first group. And sometimes it was just miraculous.

"What I knew in the beginning was that by keeping the center tone going with a basic rhythm pattern, I could do the same thing that a shaman was doing with a drum beat, and through entrainment get the brain wave to go into a higher alpha state, six and a half to nine cycles a second, which is six and a half to nine beats a second. With a single gong that beat tone effect was really effective, but then when I got two gongs everything took off. When I started bringing the 30-inch gong with the 24-inch gong to the hospital, I found that by adjusting the angle of the faces in relation to each other, you control the frequency of the beat tone effect that you get from the two gongs. And then you could very precisely control the entrainment process."

Hite noticed improved circulation in diabetic patients as well. "Two notes on that 30-inch gong would override capillary constriction and start wound healing immediately. I had an idea that the intense resonance of the deep tones would help them relax. What I didn't know was that by stimulating the skin so much that it would interfere with the constriction that was part of the trauma process, and cause relaxation to the extent that it does, but its awesome."

Hite offered stress reduction seminars for NASA engineers and was invited to a class of Harvard Medical School students. "I'd start playing the gongs gently with a large mallet, creating the deep resonant tones off the centers of each, without hitting either one of them hard enough to go into the splash. The 'whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa' effect going on in the room was more felt than heard. I'd be talking to them about stress reduction or some other thing, but the talk is just the dog and pony show. After ten minutes of that center tone, pain has gone away and everybody is in a very profoundly relaxed state."

When Hite's hospital program lost funding in 1999, he and Susan Thompson bought a motorhome and left Texas. He planned to use some time to write a book about his clinical work. Meanwhile, Hite continued to get offers to perform with his gongs — the Vancouver Sacred Music Festival, the Seattle Sacred Music Festival, Institute of Noetic Sciences conferences in Vancouver, B.C. and at Agape Church in Los Angeles. Hite was performing with, and feeling validation from other musicians. "They were telling me this is music, and I'm realizing that maybe my self concept just isn't right. That maybe I need to let go of who I thought I had professionally created, because it's just surface anyway. And maybe there's something else going on here that I need to pay attention to."

At one conference, Hite was asked to play for a group of visiting Tibetan lamas. "After I played, one of them said, 'It was like a friend calling me to meditate.'" The leader of the group was a Tibetan physician, and when he learned that I play the gongs in hospitals, they proposed to do a blessing. They sat in front of the gongs and sang a prayer with that deep tonal chanting. With their voices they made the gongs sing back, and that was awesome. And it gave me a sense of 'Okay, now what?' I've got the science behind it, and now I've got the blessings from the traditional practitioners. As we're sitting there Susan looks at me and says, 'You know, if all people have to do now is come, lay down and listen to you play to experience healing, who are you not to do that?' I had no answer."

"Initially I played to please me," Hite admits. "I felt something happen psychically and spiritually the first time I heard a gong played. I was different after I heard it, and I wanted to explore that."

The reason the Tibetan lamas play the gongs in their monasteries, Hite says, is because they believe the gongs call in angels and other benevolent spiritual beings. "They believe that they like the overtones. When we get the overtones going, and the beat-tone effect with the overtones, people go into very deep brain states, high alpha, high theta states. That's what we're measuring. You can't measure consciousness but you can measure correlates. The alpha and theta patterns that the music brings about are patterns associated with long-term meditation, patterns associated with immune system functioning, patterns associated with wound healing. If you can shape the energy of the heart signal, so that the energy going to the heart is always telling the heart that it's okay to heal, then for a cardiac patient that music can be live saving. And the way to reach more people is to make it entertaining and make it accessible."

- Robin Tolleson, for Bold Life Magazine


"Icaros", "A Calling of Angels", "Flute & Gong", "Earth Tones, Sonic Alchemy", "Touched by Sound" CD's



Music can heal the world and that is what I am doing with my music. I know the healing is real. I played these gongs in Texas hospitals for 12 years as a therapist and was the director of alternative healthcare for Johnson space Center's hospital until1999. A group of friends in Vancouver, Canada heard me play for a group of Tibetan Lamas in 2002 and convinced me that I should play a concert open to the public. They rented a hall and the performance sold out. This began my transsition from a clinician to a musician in a big way. Please go to if you want to read more about my clinical work. What I knew as a powerful healing tool was suddenly being praised as music. What quickly followed were invitations to play Sacred Music Festivals in Vancouver and Seattle, Washington, performing on stage with grammy nominees at major international conferences, an invitation to teach a seminar for Harvard medical students and staff, both solo and ensenble performances in a musical performed in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theater , and a consistent stream of church performances. At the 2006 Religious Science Southeastern Conference, jazz notable David Zasloff sat in on my performance with his shakuhachi flute and trumpet. The music is transfixing! We have perform together several times in small venues and have become great friends. From those performances, I was invited to play my first "mainstream" music festival, 2007's First Night Celebration in Raliegh, North Carolina. This marked the debut an integrated computer graphics video show that is also very entrancing with the music. Most recently, I have been exploring the musical reach of my instruments performing duets with other musicians such as Serapha Markus, electric guitarist from Ashville,NC. Heavily influenced by Pink Floyd and Carlos Santana, our Whales in Space Show is cosmic and deeply touching.
My partner and manager Susan Thompson and I tour full time in our motorhome as the cases for these instruments are big and costly to fly with. We have recently been granted status as a 501(c)(3) tax deductable charity by the IRS in order to persue some bigger social goals with my music such as in schools and prisons to promote learning and reduce stress.