Thursday, June 26, 2014

Question Everything: Anger

John Lydon, (a.k.a. “Johnny Rotten”) was one of the biggest figures in Punk Rock.  Lead singer of the Sex Pistols, he made some huge waves and wound up being an iconic, controversial figure in the music world.

In his song "Rise" there's a line: “Anger is an energy.”  This is very true.  It’s often an ugly, dangerous energy, but it’s still energy.

In taiko, we tend to see anger as a very negative thing to be avoided. Most people I know (in taiko or not) will do a lot to be away from negative energy, from ignoring the person feeling it to physically distancing themselves from it.  Angry members/students offend and upset those around them, often leading to serious group dynamic issues.  Angry players make the audience uncomfortable and can even damage the drums.  Anger’s not even that great for the individual as well – tension, negative emotions, and probably a host of chemical reactions that aren’t favorable to the system.

Now I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t question things around me.   What if anger could be used beneficially?  Is there a way to channel it for something beneficial?

I’m no psychologist.  I write blog posts on what I know – and question what I don’t, looking for answers.  And I know that I’ve used anger in positive ways in playing taiko.

Sometimes before a concert, I’ve pep-talked myself angry.  Does that sound weird?  We think of pep talks as a positive, boosting experience, normally.  But I think of it like a boxer getting ready for a fight.  I want to totally destroy my opponent.  In this case, my opponent isn’t the drum or the audience or other players – it’s my doubts, my fears, my worries…it’s failure.  And so I might get myself a little angry to deal with it, proactively.

I dare my doubts to get in my head, I trash-talk to my fears. It’s a bit silly, and not something I do very often, but sometimes it’s useful.

Using anger in this way comes in useful even if I’m not preparing beforehand.  During a solo I might find myself getting off tempo or losing momentum mentally, physically.  I’ve literally screamed “NO!” in my head and used that anger to immediately refocus on what needs to be done.  There are times when I’m getting really tired and I use a little bit of anger to make myself keep going, keep pushing.  It works for me.

Getting angry is part of life.  Anger can be disruptive and harmful, but recognizing when and how to use it, even for just moments, can bring something pretty handy to your toolkit.

As for the song “Rise”, it was an anti-apartheid song.  That’s one way to channel anger!

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