Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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It’s All About the Beat

Today’s prompt is ” to write a poem that engages with another art form .”   Okay, that would be drumming for me.

It’s All about the Beat

It’s all about the beat and the rhythm and the flow.
For whatever reason I did not go
to band or orchestra like those other kids
with their black scuffed violin and trumpet cases
stamped with words: “Property of the Music Department.”

Still I sang and danced with my hair brush around my room
finding the beat and the rhythm and the flow.
I learned to belly dance and bang my zills
and what I lacked in those exotic skills
I made up for with beating out rhythms and finding my flow.

Darbuka and djembe and the timbrel too–
I played like Miriam so long ago
finding the beat and the rhythm and the flow.
I’m not that good but it doesn’t matter though
because it’s all about the beat and the rhythm and the flow.

ljg 2019


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Moving Forward with Djembe Drumming

I wanted to take my drumming practice to another level so I found a teacher.  I wanted a woman teacher so as to feel a little less intimidated, but it has taken a while to find one since drumming seems to be a male-dominated music medium.  Ironically, the djembe is a drum form from West Africa that historically been played only by men.  Not so anymore.

Djembe are heavy drums, often weighing up to 30 pounds.  The drums are carved from tree trunks, covered in goat hide and tuned by intricate rope bindings.  When in use. the drum is held in place by the drummer’s legs.  My legs are so sore right now.  Who needs a Thigh-Master when you can get a better work out with a djembe?  My arms got an equally vigorous workout after playing for an hour and a half.

I am struggling with learning the Afro-Latin rhythms typically played with this drum.  The teacher allowed me to video a snippet of one such rhythm so I can practice.

I will practice on my darbuka for now.  I do not think I am quite ready to invest in a djembe yet.

Here is one of the patterns I am trying to learn:


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Hearing My Voice in the Din

I have not posted about drumming in the last few months. This is because I have not been to my favorite drum circle in the last few months.  When friends ask “How’s the drum circle?  Still going?”,  I’ve been telling them that I’ve been too busy, or had a commitment elsewhere, or the hot weather was not to my liking, and so on.

The truth is I stopped going mainly because I felt intimidated.

Some of the people who regularly attend the circle are professional musicians. Several of them specialize in Latin jazz or traditional African drum rhythms. I find these rhythms difficult to ease into.  I just can’t nail those syncopated beats.  I felt like I was messing up their drumming because I could not get this.  I had convinced myself that I was not a good drummer.

During my hiatus from the drum circle,  I continued to drum with some other musician friends who play and sing contemporary folk/pop/rock arrangements. I get enough affirmation from them to know that I’m not completely hopeless. Those arrangements are my style, it seems.

I returned to the drum circle today because I missed the people there. But I held back, finding the base beats and softly playing around them so as not to throw off the other drummers.  Mostly I sat there and just enjoyed their playing.

The take away from this lesson is that I need to learn the nature of my own creative expression—what I enjoy, where my strengths reside— and be comfortable enough to not be intimidated by other Creatives who might be better in some respect. My creative genre is primarily writing. I need to know my style. I need to write in that style with no regard of what critics, both my inner and outer, think or say.

If someone doesn’t like my style of writing, so be it. I am going to keep on writing anyway. If my critics make a racket because they don’t like my writing, I’ll quietly persist nevertheless, hearing my voice in the din.


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Noisy Toys: How I Start a New Creative Project, Part II

In yesterday’s post, I shared how I engage in a new creative project. In the process of working the plan I ran into a glitch. Or, to be more optimistic, you could say I expanded my knowledge base on a grand scale. At first, I almost jumped through the loophole I articulated yesterday of admitting the plan was not workable. Instead, I powered through and made the first of I hope many recordings of my own percussion music.

To make a long story short, I had no problem mixing a very short audio clip. The problem came with sharing it. Oh, is that not the bane of the creative’s existence: showing the rest of the world your work? In order to share the audio, I ended up having to make, with great difficulty, a video. Even though I felt like I had enrolled in a crash course in film editing, I was pleased to learn some new applications, and refresh myself in some old ones.

What I learned is this:

  1. Pushing the boundaries in my creative process requires hard work and a headache. The idea came easy.   Mastering the tools and technology, well, not so much.
  2. It is not enough for me, at any rate, to create. I must also share it with an audience for it to be worth my while.
  3. Finally, I will never be happy with just one creative genre. I need to be trying new things on a regular basis. I may never be very good at music making, but I enjoyed the process. And that is just as important as the product.

Without further delay, here is my twenty-four second sound mixing experiment.

Note:  To create and share my percussion work,  I used my iPhone to access Garageband (only available for Apple products) and to shoot the video,  a PC laptop in order to access Windows Movie Maker, my email application to mail the audio and video files from one device to the other and, of course, WordPress. Oh, and the instruments:  A darbuka, an egg shaker, and a cowbell.

Oi.

ljgloyd 2018


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A Cow Bell, Two Shakers, and a Strumstick: How I Start a New Creative Project

I am an over-committed person (AKA a workaholic):   I have the day job. Then I have a continuous home improvement project that is going to take months, if not years, to resolve. I do things for my faith community. I drum as much as I can to relieve the stress of the first three commitments. I love to read (see the Goodreads list on this site). I do about forty-five minutes to an hour a day of cardio exercise and yoga for health maintenance.   And, of course, I write.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I can permit myself to try out new activities because of all these other activities. I believe, though, that to call myself a Creative, I must constantly push the boundaries through to new experiences. And once the permission is granted, it is simply a matter of making a plan and then working the plan.

One of the new activities I am considering is composing and recording some of my percussion work. Let me say here that I am most definitely NOT a musician, but nevertheless I have given myself permission to still explore this creative and technical genre.

So how am I doing this? First, I set the intention by granting myself permission to try something new AND, just as importantly, permission to set it aside mid-stream should I find it not a viable endeavor.   Next, I brainstormed the project on a pad of paper, grouping the dump of ideas into actionable items. For this project, I realized that I needed to review the technology I had on hand or could access without cost,  investigate online videos and tutorials for the software, and inventory my percussion instruments* and song sheets. After sorting, reviewing, and prioritizing these actions, I determined that I would start by learning if I could use my cell phone and the Garageband app on it to record and mix MP3 tracks.   Before I start working on this, I started a Project page in my planner.

So my process is: 1) set the intention, 2) brainstorm ideas, 3) sort the ideas into specific actions, 4) implement the first action and make note of the results.

If I am able to get past the first action, then I will proceed to the next, and so on until a finished product is at hand.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

ljgloyd 2018

*FYI:  I have four frame drums, two darbukas, four egg shakers, a flex-a-tone, a strumstick and a cow bell.   That’s going to be one weird and funky track if I am successful.


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Back to Basics Across the Disciplines

Once or twice a month I gather with others at a local drum circle. This particular circle has a lot of djembe and conga players and most of them are experienced and talented percussionists. I am learning a lot from them.

However, I am an amateur darbuka player, and my initial study of drumming was with middle-eastern rhythms– which are enormously different from the Afro-Latin beats of the drum circle players. Furthermore, once a week I practice with a band (guitarists and vocalists) who play contemporary pop/folk. So you can see that I am exposed to an ecclectic variety of musical sounds. Unfortunately, this is resulting in me developing, in my opinion, a rather eccentric drumming style where I am not particulary good at any one of them.

To mitigate this, I have assigned to myself the task of going back to the fundamentals of middle-eastern drum patterns and practicing them until I am competent in them.

I think this return to the fundamentals is important in all creative disciplines. If you crochet, perfect that single chain stitch. If you cook, be a master at hard boiling eggs or making that bechemel sauce. If you write, dust off your dog-earred copy of Strunk and White and review the elements of style.

Before Picasso started painting like this,

he learned to paint like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ljg (c) 2017

In case you are interested, I am working on perfecting a maqsoum pattern: