I sold my drum set today. It now sits tuned and disassembled in the trunk of an Outback.
Selling this drum set was hard for me. Not because nobody wanted it, but because I didn’t want to let it go! Why IS that!? I haven’t played it professionally since 2005, and it’s been sitting un-tuned and un-played since then. I told myself it’s just an object when in reality it meant much more than that.
When I was 9, I started playing basic rock rhythms but as I matured I needed to figure out how to make new, complex sounds to reflect the world around me. Not only are drums interactive instruments in how you tune and play them, but as you explore different tuning, pitch diversity and sound quality, you begin to think in unexpected ways, too. The world around me became an interactive sound playground (to the chagrin of many) that could be adjusted and tailored to what I was trying to express.
This tailoring also relied on a mechanical exploration of objects. What does that log sound like if I hit it with my hiking stick and how can I cut/notch/sand it to make a different sound? How about an old oil drum or some PVC pipe? My drum teacher kept sticks in his car at all times, and revealed to me that his dashboard had excellent rebound and was a very lively (and quiet) surface to practice on.
This is the essence of improvisation. Looking at something which has a clear purpose, and changing the perception of it to suit a different purpose. Another example of this is my metal mixing bowl. At first glance it’s just that, but take a closer look and you can see tiny dents and a few holes drilled into it with a U-joint attached to use on my hi-hat stand.
What a sound! a sharp THWONG followed by a melodious ringing. It has so many musical applications that it became a mainstay of the kit.
This flexible perception of usefulness has carried over into many aspects of my life. It has built a comfort-zone in the tricky landscape of money, work and love. Knowing everything has other uses and isn’t always what I think has lead to a great deal of surprise, delight and oddly dented pots and pans. 😉 It has supported me in tailoring traditional uses of things like bicycles, Christmas trees and house-building to my own style in new contexts.
Reflecting on why they were so hard to part with, I came to understand the drums had been a medium with which to explore the world. A journey wrapped in dogwood and synthetic skins that expanded my perception of what’s possible! They taught me things that can only be taught quietly; secretly; in the moments just before you realize what you’ve stumbled upon. Making something out of nothing, then turning it into something else is just the tip of the iceberg. This kit lead me gently through my young life, and whispered tales of patience, persistence and humility; all of which I’m still growing into; but that is another story, and shall be told another time.
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