Monday, December 6, 2010

Drumming and Perception.

OK, so it wouldn’t take a degree in quantum physics to be able to figure out that I’ve rediscovered my passion for drums and drumming. It also would be easy to guess that the word “drum” pretty much describes me. So much so in fact that I’ve been searching for the Sanskrit character for “drum” or “drummer” so I can get it tattooed on my arm.

I mentioned in a previous blog post how I tried several times to put drumming behind me and how unsuccessful those attempts were. I guess I should clarify something… It wasn’t DRUMS that I was trying to avoid, nor even DRUMMING! I was more disillusioned with the BUSINESS of music and what it meant and I began to equate the business with the instrument. I didn’t hate drums, but the fact that the drums led to the business which at times I did hate! The business, you see, is comprised vile creatures that would peel the skin from its victims if that very act would not kill the victim and the associated cash flow!

But drums, and drumming, are like life to me. I am fascinated with the shapes and colours of drums; the sounds, textures and tones. Not just drumsets, but also Darabukas, Djembes, frame drums, Tablas…. I love them all.

Recently I was trying to explain to a friend the sensation of transcendence in drumming. I started to say, “When I sit down to play…” and ended up saying “When I put my drums on…” So OK, maybe I do wear my drums like a garment of rhythm. Maybe they are not so much an instrument of sound and tempo as they are a cloak of textural expression that allows me to show the world what I think and feel in a percussive fashion.

The act of playing now has changed due to the scaling back of my stage set-up. I carry less due to lack of vehicle space, and I carry lighter due to lack of youthful machismo. This has led to a total re-thinking of how I approach what I do and how I do it. Obviously, the key elements of drumming within the context of the music of western society are still there: the downbeat and the backbeat remain, but the fills are so totally different. Instead of using a five or six piece set, I’m using only four, which means I have gone from four or five horizontal surfaces (the bass drum is vertical) to three. That means the subdivisions of notes has had to change as well. After many, many years of thinking and playing a certain way, it has been awkward and at times comical to change that. At the last gig, I was feeling like things were finally starting to take shape and I was playing more to the configuration I have rather than thinking of the old set-up and trying to make those ideas fit on the smaller set-up. The “Square peg in a triangular hole” idea…

The perception of success too can be misleading and a cause of concern. I learned to play drums primarily by doing what we all did at that time… by emulating my idols. My teenaged logic understood that if I learned to play like my idols that I would become one of them; that I would also get the lifestyle including the manor estate in the Welsh countryside. As time passed and that hadn’t happened, even when I began drumming professionally, I felt as if I’d missed out on success. Of course, this meant that I was a failure and therefore should leave the business and find another way to make a living. I later came to realize that I wasn’t a failure in any measure. I had managed to eke out a modest livelihood at the drum set and avoid taking what we know as a “day job” for many years.

My drumming career was on-again, off-again for some time, at times willingly, sometimes with great emotional struggle involved until the final blow… hearing damage!

I’m not here at this time to address that trauma, because I’ve found a way to overcome and deal with it, or at least make it tolerable.

What I AM about to address is that even though I don’t have a manor estate in Wales, even though I still struggle financially, even though I am not a household name, I AM a success! I am and have been successful in playing drums for many bands in many genres of music. I have successfully entertained countless people throughout the years. I have successfully taught many young drummers, some of whom are full time or primarily drummers today. I have travelled to many places across our vastly beautiful country and the northern U.S. and even far and distant lands. I have met some of the most remarkable people anyone could hope to meet as a direct result of my drumming and I would never have met them otherwise. Some of these people are still friends of mine and I consider them a valuable part of my life.

Success cannot be defined by bank accounts, cars or houses. (Although they help) Success cannot be defined by awards or accolades. Success cannot be defined by the number of people who recognise your name from recordings, radio or television.

Success in my mind is being alive, healthy and still pursuing one’s dream. Success is having many friends and interests. Success is having a good home; warm, dry and comfortably full of love.

I have all of this and more.

Listening to: Emerson, Lake and Palmer on You Tube.

~Still Wandering…

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