Monday, December 10, 2012

Losing Control: Antidotes to the Grid

Drummers are obsessed with rhythm. But not the moon rhythms that drive the oceans, no the pre-fatal abstraction of machine rhythms.  Devotees to the false god of the clock.  Perfectionism among drummers is an epidemic, and because of that the paralysis of the fear of the unknown is rampant.

The grid is a very small area, just as visible light is an extremely narrow wavelength. The grid I define as the area where a traditional "note value" could theoretically house a "note"....similar to the options on a drum machine, any quarter, eighth, sixteenth, thirty second, and maybe sixty fourth, in whatever numerical subdivision up to say 12.

Yes the the grid is worth knowing. And if you are looking to be employed where metronomic exactitude is the karaoke death sentence of Sisyphusian muledom then by all means learn accountability so one can be of service to all styles and feels of music.  Even though there is survivalist sarcasm here I fully believe in knowing the grid.  Marcel Duchamp says, "I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste."

But this loyalty to the machine, to the standardization of the ear, to the extremely narrow bandwidth of "rhythm" I think is causing drummers to be too careful.

To fully gain control there has to be the courage to completely lose control.  The reins are held loosely. Shamanic trance, drumming as painting, drumming as breathing, drumming as language, words, love letters mailed and love letters set on fire, the freedom of off-the-grid exploration.  For some off-the-grid will be a place to live and to work and to never come back to the compressed heart of the machine.  For others it will be a way of relating to the instrument with a new perspective so that the grid becomes more lively and dynamic rather than a fixed and passive structure.

Some antidotes to perfectionism and slavery to the grid.

First the "grid" can always be loosened and humanized.  Allow imperfections, fluctuations in tempo, fire up the neurons in the heart and bypass the cul de sac autoeroticism of the intellect in a searing arc of red meteor fire.

Accelerations:   (feet play ostinatos on the grid:) hands speeding up slowing down creating rhythms based in the joy of movement and the feeling of the sound as the criteria.  No devotion to bar lines or time signatures and each hand has freedom of tempo, dynamics, and domain.  Practicing total freedom of the language of the hands while the feet hold down a very tight pattern or an extremely loose unfixed pattern.  The soul itself can become the groove and that needs no commentary and all music becomes ornamental to that primary condition of ecstasy.

Monologues: In the same way that speaking does not require any practice to a metronome. Drum for or to someone or something.

Weather: waves, rain, haunting of fog, the wind, the atmosphere is full of images and beautiful pulsations that are off the grid, natural, and primal as fuck.

Minimalism: let silence be the dominating voice like a very distant thunderstorm. Practice primarily listening and get transfixed in the ecstasy of non-doing.

Making love:  The dynamics of lovemaking, infinitely silent and sweet to violent euphoria and abandon.

Polyrhythms:  Set up both sustainable and unsustainable systems. Experience not being able to maintain a rhythm as an entrance into it's own oscillation of creation destruction creation destruction. That is a very primal thing to be a part of.  Fall off the horse and get back on.  Invent new ways to gallop.

Sound barrage:  Avalanche, eruption, downpour,  experiment with a full and complete unleashing on the drums but play at a dynamic that IS sustainable, in other words let it increase your energy rather than playing over the edge that will deplete you.  Try a quiet incessant barrage and then build from there.

Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance: This is a pre requisite for all drummers

Sing Sing Sing Sing Sing:  This is a pre requisite for all drummers

 Adore the wildness of the masters: MILFORD GRAVES