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Monday, August 12, 2013

Vantage Point

I have a gigging kit and a kit that stays set up permanently in my living room. For my show on Friday night I took the snare drum from my permanent setup with me. Today I got on my drums to mess around with some African Claves from Billy Martin's book but my snare drum was still in its case in the van.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to move toward sound and away from musical dependencies and habits. Expanding intimacy with drumming itself rather than with a drum set, with sound itself rather than with music, with the act of drumming rather than with what I am drumming.

I walk around the town playing on mailboxes, road signs, thrift store objects, telephone poles, benches, buckets, cups. Anything that looks like it might have a song I check to make sure. So why doesn't that extend to the drum set as much? Habit? Comparison? Expectations? Musical taste? Fear? I think the main thing is there is no preconception about a mailbox or a five gallon water jug. There is not an extensive library, in the exalted annals of music history, of mailbox and water jug recordings and techniques.

These found-percussion trysts are innocent encounters with sound. There is no, "am I doing this correctly?" because there is no "correct" way to play a mailbox or a water jug.  The obsession with technique and perfectionism, as it correlates to the learning of an instrument, is only useful if it does not tamper with the ability to innocently experiment with your instrument stripped of all historical and musical context.

That is why I didn't go and get my snare drum. I did a practice session and some soloing minus the snare. It completely changed my relationship with the toms.  It changed the way I thought about melody and drumming. The grooves were wilder and simpler. Africa came to visit or vice versa. When you change vantage points your vision and your knowledge expand.

Set up your drum set backwards.  Use only floor toms.  Remove all your cymbals. Do a solo blindfolded. Drum in the forest. Video tape yourself and play it backwards.  Duct tape your right hand to your heart and drum with your left. Do anything to break your dependency on your instrument in order to increase the chance of entrance into extra terrestrial innocence where intuition and sound converge in the melted heart.




4 comments:

  1. I'm thinking about all the ways I can apply this to my practice of the piano.

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    1. For Piano I think the best is to open it up and get in there. Howl into the body with the sustain pedal pressed down. Find a way to play all 88 keys at once. Improvising is like war. Inner peace in spite of circumstance comes through action and primal intuitive decision making in the euphoria of the now.

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  2. Really profound and interesting vantage point!
    Vocals are easy to experiment with, to some degree, and I personally feel that the guitar is a more creative instrument than the piano since it's not linear in the same fashion. You can play the same note in many different ways with a guitar, as opposed to each note having a specific place on the piano.

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    1. Creativity has nothing to do with instruments. You could set a piano on fire and imagine how guitarists would ache for those black sounds. You are creativity and through your voice, your body, and your consciousness, instruments have no limits.

      Vocals carry the whole mystery. It is your gateway to every form of music. Howling, singing, crying, toning, Tuvan throat singing, extended vocal techniques, beat boxing, chanting, moaning, speaking in tongues. This is all foundational stuff.

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