As the new year rolls in I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about rhythm and explore some ideas that I’ve been thinking about over the past few months.
I’ve been penning a few ideas for what I think will become a new book at some point next year and it felt like a really good opportunity to allow some of these to breathe a little and surface for air.
In the show I talk about two general areas:
“We have to slow the rhythm of rush in our lives so that the best of who are can emerge”
One More Wave Before We Go
“Although the rhythm of the waves beats a kind of time, it is not clock or calendar time. It has no urgency. It happens to be timeless time. I know that I am listening to a rhythm which has been just the same for millions of years, and it takes me out of a world of relentlessly ticking clocks.
Clocks for some reason or other always seem to be marching, and, as with armies, marching is never to anything but doom. But in the motion of waves there is no marching rhythm. It harmonizes with our very breathing. It does not count our days. Its pulse is not in the stingy spirit of measuring, of marking out how much still remains.
It is the breathing of eternity, like the God Brahma of Indian mythology inhaling and exhaling, manifesting and dissolving the worlds, forever. As a mere conception this might sound appallingly monotonous, until you come to listen to the breaking and washing of waves.”
― Alan Watts
The endless rhythm of the waves can create an island and allowed time can eventually destroy what it creates.
The rhythm of walking makes a stiff new pair of shoes comfortable and uniquely shaped around feet, but over time this rhythm is the cause of their wear, tear, and eventual demise.
In Everything a Heartbeat
The heart of a human beats an average of 2.21 billion times over a lifetime. That’s just over 70 times a minute, 4000 times an hour, 100,000 times a day, 700,000 times a week, 3 million times a month.
Your heartbeat is everything. It underpins your life. Without it you wouldn’t be alive. But how often do you even notice or remember its existence?
The Gentleness of Drums
Rhythm is powerful, and most prevelantly so when it’s not loud. We often think of drums as an obnoxious and violent instrument but I see them as the opposite.
They are at the heart of dynamic shifts and sensitive nuances in the sound. Like a great designer, if you notice the work of a drummer before anything else then he’s not done his job properly.
If you want to make a positive impact on the world with the rhythm of your life then the first thing to do is to stop. And to listen.
This is the most important strength of any drummer. They are first and foremost a fantastic listener, they can hear and feel things that other people can’t or wont. And they know what to do with those things.
If you can’t hear what is going on around you or you refuse to listen to it then you can’t expect to change it in anyway other than violence.
Yes, you can probably drown out the rest of the band if you play loud enough. You can smash the cymbals.
You have the tools at your disposal. But that doesn’t mean you should use them in that way. They are built for a much more beautiful purpose. To be used to communicate a message.
In Everything a Feedback Loop and Learning
Evelyn Glennie is a phenomenal percussionist. She talks about the importance of exploring what it means to truly listen when it comes to learning a musical instrument. She is also nearly completely deaf.
A written piece of music is a set of instructions that anyone can read and play given a sufficient amount of technical knowledge and ability.
“However, what I have to do as a musician is do everything that is not on the music. Everything that there isn’t time to learn from a teacher, or to talk about, even, from a teacher”.
If all we do is learn to replicate, duplicate, and imitate the lives or work of others, we might have something that looks like an interesting life full of dynamics and tempo changes. But unless we listen, interpret, and explore the space between the notes we will fail to find out own voice and live a truly and gently unique life.
How are You Holding Your Tools?
We live in a time that seems to be terrified of silence. We can fill our lives with noise 24/7 if we like, and we often do.
If you hold a drum stick like your life depends on it, gripping it so tightly that your arm is tense you will experience a shock right up through your elbow the moment you strike the drum.
Glennie says that when you do this, when you hold on to it so tightly you will, “believe it or not (be) detached from the instrument and from the stick”, but if you “simply let go and allow your hand, your arm, to be more of a support system, suddenly you have more dynamic with less effort. Much more. And I just feel, at last, one with the stick and one with the drum. And you’re doing far, far less.”
You might recognise this if you’re a golfer, raquet sports player, or even a DIY enthusiast.
The tools we use often works against us when try to hold too tightly to them, but the more we feel them, and experience them as an extension the more control we have. When you’re tense you don’t have as much control.
Do you allow your tools to control you, or are they an intentional and purpose-filled extension of you?