Thursday, February 2, 2017

Strength in softness

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Last weekend, Kodo came through the Bay Area to perform their show "Dadan".

Dadan is different among Kodo shows - and most taiko we normally see - in that there are no women, no fue, no dancing, just men and drums (percussion).  I've seen Dadan on DVD so I knew what to expect, but seeing it live brought something to light for me.

If you've seen Kodo before, you know they're all in better shape than most people will ever be.  Cut, in fact.  And when you think "a bunch of men playing drums for 2 hours", you might be inclined to think of loud, powerful, strong songs and enough testosterone to fill a swimming pool.

But I was impressed by the lack of reliance on raw strength.  I was impressed with the nuance of dynamics and appreciation for softer volumes when loud was such an easy choice.

And that makes me think about my/your/our taiko, what we're used to doing.  What's your default volume when you solo?  What's the default dynamic for new songs in your group or when you're teaching older songs to new people?

When does quiet say more than loud?  If everything is loud, then silence is sometimes deafening.  If you don't quite get that, listen to Monochrome, one of Kodo's most iconic songs.  There's a passage where all the players, all on shime, build to a chaotic, rising surge of volume, and then with a cue from the lead, they all stop.  Even when you know it's coming, it's striking.  Then quiet notes come creeping in.  Purposeful.  It makes you want to hear instead of being forced to listen.

So for all of you/us that are comfortable with loud, whether it be through drum or voice, even if you don't change your style of playing, start thinking about when you could make a difference by changing dynamics.  Appreciate the wealth of options you have and you'll find yourself a much more well-rounded artist!

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