Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hitting the drum.

On the surface, taiko players pretty much all do the same thing: we hit the drum.  That’s kind of what taiko is all about, regardless of your motivation.

But some players, when they play, do more than simply “hit the drum.”  Some project and extend their energy past the drum head, using their bachi as an extension of themselves.  Others just…hit the drum. Many players are in the process of going from the latter to the former, but some are stuck. 

I can see when a player is treating the head of the drum as the goal, and it has nothing to do with them physically looking at it or not.  You can close your eyes and (assuming you don’t miss the drum) you’d still have the same overall sensibilities.

This isn’t necessarily a binary thing.  There aren’t two camps of people at 100% and 0%, respectively.  While there are some people at 0%, the rest are all over the spectrum.  And I’ll admit these numbers are my opinion of things, since these are my observations.  I’m simply trying to put what I see into something qualifiable, even if I’m not actually using numbers in my head.  What would 100% even mean?

This isn’t about the kind of ki where you shine for the audience, smiling, yelling, etc., since that has nothing to do with striking.  And it has nothing to do with volume, either.  Smacking the hell out of the drum through force is still just hitting the drum, albeit it crudely.

What it is about is the big picture as well as the details.  It’s the grip, wrist snap, alignment, posture, hara, flexibility, and connection to the floor through the feet, among many others.  But it’s also the unity of individual motion and how to connect one motion to the next.  Your style doesn’t really matter; someone who’s drunk playing at a matsuri can demonstrate this kind of projection just as much as a seasoned member of a group like Kodo.

There is so much more than just getting a good sound out of a drum, so much more than just making the right shape, so much more than simply playing with the rest of the group.  The drum head is only a physical limit.

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