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Showing posts from January, 2015

There Is No ‘Better,’ Just ‘Different’

This weekend has seen the NAMM show happening in California. And all the drum/cymbal/percussion companies are showing off their new wares. So this is a good time to talk about all the instruments we use. There is a prevailing sort of relationship with our gear where we often say one thing is better than another. “Pearl drums are better than Ludwig,” or, “Sabian is better than Zildjian,” etc. Now all of this sort of thinking is fueled by the glossy drum magazines and the ads in them proclaiming gear that is bigger, better, best. But that's a fallacy we buy into.

What is the best gear for you?

Ponder this for the moment: what is the best gear for you? There is no one answer to this. The answer for you might be: the least expensive, the loudest, the shiniest, the sturdiest, the prettiest, the most sensitive, etc. We each have different needs. What I need in a drum or cymbal is probably different than what you need. 

My criteria for a drum is that it is round, and when I put my choice of…

Great Advice From Great Minds - Part 3

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This time we will look at 3 exceptional artists, who while different, are also very similar in their drive to create. While none of them are musicians, they all worked closely with music and musicians, as well as related art forms. Their ideas and advice are applicable to anyone working in the arts.




Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was a French writer, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. He was friends with, and worked with, such artists as Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky. His works were widely praised for their originality and depth.
An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.Art is not a pastime but a priesthood.When a work appears to be ahead of its time, it is only the time that is behind the work.Be yourself. The world worships the original.Cocteau's thoughts are to the point. Art is not a pastime but a priesthood. We must think of what we do as more then just a pastime, we must b…

Great Advice From Great Minds - Part 2

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Continuing with a series of blogs looking at Percussion from the perspective of non-percussionists, this time I take a look at composer/philosopher, John Cage. Cage had a singular impact on the arts of the 20th century like no one else. Beside being a composer and musician, Cage was an artist (drawing, paining, design, and other types), writer, philosopher, and mycologist (expert on mushrooms). He did a lot of work with dancers and artists of various genres, influencing countless people along the way. 

It can be argued that Cage was a percussionist, but that was only by default. In his early career, he had access to percussion instruments, so he wrote music for percussion, and in order to perform this music, he recruited his close friends and played along with them. Thus, some of the most iconic percussion music out there, was originally performed by a totally amateur percussion ensemble.

A young Cage with percussion
But as much as he is known for the many things he did in his life, his …

Great Advice From Great Minds - Part 1

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Sometimes as drummers, we tend to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We are lost in our own little drum world. It's also not easy to be self critical. We can't objectively look at ourselves from an outsider's perspective. That is why it is often invaluable to listen to what others, especially non-drummers, have to say about what we, or other drummers do. So I would like to present some outside observations:

Karlheinz Stockhausen




The following observation is from the late, great, German composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen. This longish quote is from The Royal College of Music, Stockholm, May 12th, 2001. Stockhausen was responding to questions from the audience after a performance of “Kontakte,” which he wrote for piano and percussion playing along to an electronic score that he was mixing live. Stockhausen wrote a lot for percussion, and he was very particular about how his pieces were played. He and the other performers—Antonio Peréz-Abellán [piano & percussion], …