A week of endless lifting, carrying, packing, unpacking, fixing, scrubbing and what not – I deserved a Friday night out but was looking forward to the upcoming date with my own bed. Still I had the ticket to Kieren Hebden and Steve Reids concert and wouldn’t miss it for the world. My only fear was I would fall asleep as soon as the lights went off.
The lights went off in the half empty concert hall, Steve Reid took out his drumsticks and all of a sudden I knew that rhythm was not something I responded to as a human being but rather it had been a part of me that I suddenly became aware of. It was as if it came through me, the head going back and forth with the beat, the foot living a life of its own… I could see by the rocking of the chairs all the way down that I was not the only one. I had a peculiar sensation of hearing the sounds before Steve and Kieran produced them, they were sort of coming from the inside.
Recently I saw Evelyn Glennie‘s TED talk over the Internet. She is a solo percussionist and composer who happens to be deaf and says her aim in life is to learn the world to listen. Evelyn herself when playing relies not on hearing aid but instead listens with her entire body – her arms, hands, chest, cheekbone – opening it up to the sounds and connecting to them in a broader way than simply through hearing. There is a of talk about how little of our brain capacity we use in every day life but it seems we have equally little understanding of what our bodies are capable of. Evelyn demonstrates how not trying to hold the drumsticks tightly, not trying to control them but rather supporting them with hands changes the quality of the sound and reduces her efforts (achieve more with less. Steve Reid was a living example of this point: he was not commanding over his drumsticks but rather was involved in an intricate and joyful dance with them and we all were witnessing it. His body was virtually hovering over the the chair, drumsticks all over the place, leading his hands, not the other way around. By the look of him, he might just as well be in heaven: wide smile over his face, he was living the rhythm, seeming oblivious of the audience.
Oliver Sacks argues that humans are the only species that spontaneously move with the beat. He also mentions the bonding effect of the rhythm. At the concert I believe I observed the bonding effect taken yet to a higher level. Two young men and a girl were sitting on the row right in front of me. At first the three of them seemed to be on equally friendly terms but as the concert unfolded the girl and one of the guys got friendlier and soon it became clear those two were a couple. I know it is a little far fetched but I believe Steve Reid’s passionate drumming contributed to the increasing intensity of their own interplay. Maybe there is this something in the beat that makes us connect with the primordial, older brain, the one that is acting instead of re-acting?
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I say “rhythm” and think “Mayakovsky”.