Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Putting the Baby to Bed

Recently i had a long conversation with drummer and percussionist Stephen Taylor Hodges who has played with the likes of Mavis Staples, John Hammond, Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Waits.

One of the first things he said about playing the drums was "how hard would you pat your baby?"

This resonated with me immediately because as a drummer and a father I have realized that volume has a limit. In fact this conversation opened my eyes to what I already believed, that the drums should invoke silence, that the dynamics of the trees should be the reference point, the swaying of the ocean, the aura of the moon of the snare drum has ancient power at the level of the whisper.

It's not so much a negation of volume, but an embrace of the full dynamic range holding close to the center as the silent hub of the wheel and from there exploring the lightning of the storm and the violence of ecstasy always returning to the whisper of the leaves and the black sky.

It has completely transformed my practice routine. Right now I am going through stick control for R i hit the bass drum soft for L i use a brush on the snare and in my right hand I am using an egg. Mr. Hodges said that using shakers is a very powerful way to bring you back to your center. Also playing at this volume allows you to use a metronome without headphones which is amazing.

I had an amazing experience tonight. My drum set is in the living room now because I am playing at a volume like a quiet radio. My son's room is right next to my drum set and while my wife was putting him to bed I continued playing dropping my volume to the quietest possible. Barely audible, my kick with the synthetic lambs wool beater sounded like far off thunder, and on the snare with the snares off I used a Native American drum beater. I felt like I was in a dream playing this music that could facilitate the transition from waking to sleeping. It was shamanic, primal, mystical, and grounded in the dynamics of nature. So I have decided to dedicate a blog to my experiences along this path so clearly illumined by Mr. Hodges. .

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