Thursday, April 11, 2013

On rhythm: Thinking vs. Feeling

There are two main ways to enjoy taiko: in your body, or in your head.   While most of us do a bit of both, it’s worth examining them both and seeing how either option can benefit you.

Most of us *feel* taiko before anything else.   Most people I know encountered taiko for the first time in a live performance and didn’t have the words to describe what they saw.  Even though their brains were trying to make sense of this new delightful thing, their bodies felt it plain and simple.   They connected to the performance because of the impact.  Taiko doesn’t have to be loud to impact someone, however – impact can come from the movements as well as the sounds.

The eyes and ears have a lot of opportunities during a performance, and they lend to a more cerebral enjoyment.   Because of all the data coming in, we can really appreciate things like anticipation, humor, nuance, variety, talent, etc., and enjoy those aspects months and even years after any given show.

Some of us are more geared to one side or the other, but is one better than the other?  No.  Just like some people have a “sweet tooth” and others like it spicy, there is variety and preference.

Where this really comes into play is in learning new rhythms, patterns, or whole pieces.  Do you internalize the notes or do you analyze them?

If you’re a feeler and someone is tossing patterns at you with the expectation to just repeat them, you might find yourself having issues.  It’s like being given a ton of facts in History class in 6th grade and having to memorize them for the test.  There's no connection, no context.  If you can somehow feel the pulse underlying those patterns, and keep that feeling connected in your body, then you'll have a "core" where patterns can rest and be referenced.

If you're a thinker and patterns are either too abstract or complex for you to latch on to at first, you can either reference them to something you are familiar with, or take as many mental notes as possible to work on it on your own between sessions.  If you can't get a pattern in an odd meter when it's being taught, what can you identify and use to help you take a step closer?  If you're getting frustrated not picking a song up as it's being taught, acknowledge that you may need some time afterwards and collect as much information as you can.

Ultimately, both methods together are greater than the sum of their parts.  Or...something like that.  Where one doesn't work, the other often will.  This also applies to more than learning, it also comes into play when teaching and improvising.

Just talking about these two methods is a post in itself; talking about how to develop them has to wait for a future post.  So in the meantime, ask yourself which of the two you identify with more and why.  Do you neglect the other side?  Do you embrace both?  What's your default?

There is no right way to process, as long as you process!

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