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Drumming [Jan. 16th, 2016|02:25 am]
Another one to mark off the "things I did with spare cycles" list. I went to a drumming circle.

I didn't know what to expect. All I know is that a friend of mine used to go with her mum, and really got into it. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I also remember saying at the end of Dunderry that a Jam is a spiritual experience (due to drumming around a fire), so I wanted to see if I could find that again.

I think my expectations were different from the reality, but the reality was still pretty good.

I think I was expecting something a bit less structured. And I expected the room to be smaller, more haphazard. But it was a circle.

At each seat there was a tall drum, and in the middle was a box of rattles and other percussive instruments, along with some candles.

When I walked into the room I knew nobody. Everyone looked very... well, most of them looked like what you'd expect. Baggy clothes with clashing colours. Beards in various states of manicured disarray. And t-shirts with slogans like "Spaced out". Feather earrings. Everything that wasn't me in my zip-up hoodie and jeans.

The leader came in, and he led us through a quick warm-up/introduction to our instruments. He led us through some beats we'd be using in that circle. I saw drummers laugh as they exchanged little musical jokes with each other through drumbeats and body language. It was something I was expecting to be able to do, but I realise now it will take a lot of time.

We followed along through 3 different beats. I could manage the first two, but the third required more coordination than I could manage.

Then we took a break and I found The Other Smoker. We got chatting, and she complimented me on my skills as a newbie; it turns out it was her fourth session so far. Then we both over-shared on a trivial level. We said more than we'd say to other perfect strangers, but it was all minutiae. She asked if I had alopecia, and she told me she was a hairdresser, so that's why she knew what it was. (I didn't tell her that in my experience not every hairdresser does) I said that I really needed to do something with the hair, and showed how my dodgy-looking comb-over covers quite a chunk of an empty patch. She said she didn't think it was that bad, and she thought I was going for a kind of alternative punk look. I told her I don't take compliments well.

After the break, we got into the meat of it. We each chose one of the rhythms to play for the rest of the night. I took the first rhythm, less difficult than the third, but more complex and interesting than the second.

It turns out most of the rest of the newbies (there weren't many of us) took that rhythm too. I was fine until someone turned the lights down to near-dark. Then I found it harder to work. When I got lost I was looking at one guy a few seats down. Now I couldn't see him. The guy to my left lost his place a lot, and tended to look to me. And the guy to my right was also on the same rhythm but he was adding to it (as was encouraged), and was experienced enough to play it with a different technique than I was shown. Which meant, I couldn't do much.

I ended up picking up on the complex beat for a while (or just taking out my pocket rattle and trying to do something with it), until the leader showed our section (who'd all lost the rhythm by that stage) how to play it again. I had a new relationship with the rhythm and the drum then. Hell, in the 45 minutes we played, I think I had a new relationship with either at least 10 more times.

After a while the rhythm became mine. After a while I heard my drum among the drums. Sometimes I lost it. Sometimes I felt how to play it in new ways. Sometimes I'd drop out to massage my hands, and lose my place for a bit, but I never really lost touch with the beat after.

At various points I sweated and ached. It was a fuller workout than the dance lessons. I could have sat inside the circle, or lay down, or danced. But I wanted to contribute to the sound, not just drink it. On more than one occasion, the session reminded me of a less refined Dunderry. Sometimes I'd just stop and drink in what was happening.

At the end, when we tapered off of our own accord, he led us in for a closing ceremony. We held hands and sang a note three times. Then used some of the energy we raised (it was the one and only time it was acknowledged). Then myself and my comrade in cigarettes nipped out.

It turns out there's normally also a little freestyle session at the end, but that didn't happen because of the tapering. There's apparently also going to be an overnight session at some point, where you can go all night, or go to an area to rest.

When we hit the air, it was welcome. I wasn't uncomfortably hot (I'd realised I needed to strip down to a t-shirt before starting the real session), but it was nice to cool a little bit.

Finally, I helped bring some drums out, and then I headed on, but not before listening to 4 of the more experience drummers just jam together.

So yeah, I think I might go again. I think some folks there know what energy is, and what that session provides. I think some are musicians who like this thing. I don't think those groups are mutually exclusive.

I'm glad I went, even if my hands are sore. (And at the end of the night, my thighs refused to close without twitching, and my arms and shoulders felt worked out.