Drumming

Last night I had one of those musical experiences that can only be called transcendent.  I was on my way back from a meeting with a group of activists working on some direct actions – as I approached the Occupy SF camp I could hear drumming.  The drummer’s timing was great and as I got closer heard a dueling clarinet and trumpet playing what sounded like a klezmer song.

I started picking at my banjo trying to figure out what key they were in.  D minor.  Good.

As we were all jamming and the crowd around us was growing and swaying to the rhythms, a few  people started dancing wildly with passion.  A few minutes later I heard the sound of a tuba from behind me.  I turned around and saw a dude approaching with his sousaphone (which was my instrument in middle school and high school).  Once we had the bassline established, the crowd started freaking out.

After awhile I couldn’t really hear my banjo anymore over the drums and horns.  So some dude came up and stuck a bullhorn next to the banjo head.  Now we’re talkin.

After a few songs like this a cop came over to us.  He told us to keep it down.  We  chose not to comply.

Anyone who makes music knows that music is freedom.  There is a liberating feeling that goes into the bodily control it takes to produce organized sound.  That feeling of freedom is quite possibly what allows non-musicians (is there such a thing) to get excited about and be moved by music.

A few days ago I was reading a twitter feed about the drum circles that have been going on at the Occupy Wall Street camp.  There were reports of a town hall meeting where a number of residents near the camp have begun complaining about the constant drumming.

Here’s the proceeding

As a gesture of good faith, a compromise was reached that said that the drummers would only play for two hours per day.  That seems awfully generous on the drummer’s part, because to only be free for two hours a day is hardly any freedom at all.

Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve been reading even more recent reports that the drummers have not been sticking to the 2 hours per day agreement.

I understand the resident’s grievance about the loud sound.  But my personal perspective on this is that we are living in extraordinary times and if there is one thing that can get humanity through this mess together, it is music.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged a post suggesting a musical filibuster.  The perpetual drum circle at OWS is certainly something exactly like what I was hoping to see happen.

When I was in Ghana a few years ago I was lucky enough to come across a funeral drum circle.  These funeral drumming events would sometimes go on for a few days with constant drumming all through the night.  Of course it is a huge part of the culture in Ghana to keep the drums going.  And rightly so.  We need drums.

To all the drummers out there:  Play louder!  Play longer!  Don’t let the “authorities” inhibit your constitutionally protected right to free speech.

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