The word GONG is saturated with associations: the splendour of the Orient, mysticism, drama, loud metallic clangour, violent impact, etc.
The present piece draws upon all those connotations, but it is primarily a symphonic drama about the life and behaviour of the sun, our closest star and prime source of life on Earth.
Describing the sun in music is not a new idea, of course; during a visit to Greece, Carl Nielsen was inspired by the orbit of the sun and its very un-Danish ferocity and thus wrote the "Helios Overture".
GONG is a "Helios Overture" too, of sorts, albeit more abstract. Recent astronomical research shows, that the surface of the sun reverberates like a gong, in four different, simultaneous tempi (not directly depicted in the score, though); the sun looks like a GONG, - the O in the written work looks like the sun; there is even a solar research group called GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group).
Formally the composition follows the life and fate of the sun, from the initial explotional birth through the hyper-activity as energy source as we know it today to the final, predicted flaring up and collapse into a so-called "white dwarf".
But - being a musical composition, not an astrophysical thesis - GONG is brought to its compositional conclusion by a "real concert-ending", a chord taken from the middle of the piece and sustained over several bars, from virtual nothingness to full force.
April 1992 saw the death of Olivier Messiaen. GONG is dedicated to the memory of that great composer, the last of the real "stars" of 20th century composers