Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Context Matters

Finally, I've finished delivering the three tutorials on son phrasing:

Son Phrasing (Part 1): Son and Mambo
Son Phrasing (Part 2): Starting Son, and Clave
Son Phrasing (Part 3): Son Montuno

And another on the zarabanda action:
Zarabanda: A Context for Rhythmic Anticipation

Add those to the two ear-training lessons I'd done just before them, and it makes a marathon six tutorials written in a very short span of time. And my brain feels like it's run every inch of those 26 miles.

Regular visitors to the Rhythm Sense section in which the four tutorials are housed might recall that there were initially three unactivated menu items: Rhythmic Agreement and Participation; Commencing on Two Dance Cycles; and Rhythmic Anticipation. That was how I foresaw the tutorials taking shape; I knew the technical skills that I wanted to convey, but didn't have a strong sense of how to deliver them in a manner that wasn't dry. Had I done it that way, I think only really hard-core dancers would have stuck with it.

Zarabanda rhythm (torso) over Afro 6/8 pulse (lower body)
©Copyright 2008 Loo Yen Yeo. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, it took me a break from writing and dancing salsa (necessitated by the recording project) to decide on how. I'd always promised myself to work on my son dancing more, and so I did; and it coincided with two other events: leading the development of a batch of trainee salsa instructors, and finishing David F.García's book on Arsenio Rodríguez.

It became clear that the son was the ideal genre for the context of the former two skills; the zarabanda described by Ned Sublette for Rhythmic Anticipation; and the son montuno as the bridge between them. I'm happy with the way they've turned out. But naturally the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and since I can't unlearn and relearn the son just to validate it, I might have to wait until I have the chance to teach son again.

Sometimes I do wonder if it's material that anyone ever reads. At the very least it's a solitary enterprise - myself learning through the authoring process, and publishing it for Netizens to stumble upon. Oh, and it's also a good source of teaching support - I can refer my workshop attendees to it as required; they seem to like that a lot. I think it reassures them that they don't have to remember everything that I say during the class.

And, there is more context yet to come: more ear-training tutorials which layer up into a modern son rhythm section. The tracks are ready, the mind is... ?

Yeo Loo Yen