Percussion As A Way Of Life

Percussion. It affects all aspects of my life, because I see/hear everything as sound and rhythm. I'm always listening to the world for inspiration: birds, traffic, children playing, the wind in the trees, rain, trains, water, machinery, driving, walking, sitting—these are all things that I find rhythms and life in.

Silence. I drive an amazing amount of miles to and from gigs. While I do listen to music or podcasts, more often than not, I listen to the silence. I listen to the sounds around me and feel the motion of the journey. I find this a sort of driving meditation. I get some of my best ideas driving. The activity of driving occupies one part of my brain and frees the rest for thinking. I play things over in my head, work on various scenarios, debate ideas, and listen to the music of my mind. 

Performing. I improvise a lot and think of it as a living laboratory, where I try things out, following different sounds and rhythms to see where they lead me. I record every performance, both because I want to know what I did when an amazing idea/sound/rhythm happens, and also for when something didn't work out. In those cases, I listen back to hear where the process perhaps lost its way. I can then choose to take an idea and work on it, hoping to nurture it into something useful; or, I can realize that it was a dead end and move on.

Listening, feeling, interacting…

Interaction. While I work mostly as a solo artist, I do love collaborating with others. It's one thing to play by yourself, not having to fit in with anyone else's ideas, and it's a completely different thing when you have to listen and react to the sounds and rhythms that other musicians are weaving around you in real time. 

Rhythm. I'm always thinking in rhythm, even in a pure improvisational setting. As a percussionist, it's too easy to be tempted just to make a glorious noise and leave it at that. But I find time/rhythm/structure appealing, and I feel it keeps the music from just being wankery. In my experience, too often people who improvise (especially the less experienced), just throw out any old noise, hoping that it's a good one and will work. Or there are those who constantly shout out, “Me, me, me!,” as they make sure to be singled out above all other contributors, making it a sort of solo performance with accompaniment.

Quiet. Another temptation of percussion, is to wield all it's power all of the time, creating a cacophony that can't be ignored. This is all too easy, and takes years of learning restraint. 

Power is effective only when used selectively

I like to play quietly, inviting the listener into my world, rather than assaulting them full on, taking them prisoner. There's also a special world in the quietness, much like using a microscope to better know the visual finer details. Small sounds, quiet sounds, they intrigue rather than intrude.

Listening. If you're not listening to the world around you, you're missing everything that you need.

How do you interact with your world?

~ MB

Deconstruct Yourself™


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