Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Percussion Concept: Attack

This was the last Solares session before a long break, so I wanted to leave all participants with something simple yet of fundamental significance that they could practice.

It had struck me during the modulation practices that their vocalisations were inconsistent in interval and in tonal quality, it's a drawback to vocalisations deployed in communities where rhythmic social activity is not a mainstay. So I brought along every shaker instrument I owned: shakers, maracas, ankle rattles, shekere...

The idea was simple: to replace the "gung-gung" (beats 4, 4+) and "pak" (beat 2) vocalisations with beats from a shaker.

Long impulse to short impulse sound
Using a vocalisation, the participant is not normally critically aware (speed, climbing intensity) of the initiation of the sound, nor of its decay (due to resonance in cranio-thoracic cavities). Vocalisations are slow to develop their full sound pressure and to dissipate as well - they are long impulse sounds.

Shakers initiate their sounds quickly because they have a discrete impact event. Their sounds also dissipate quickly because their containing cavities tend to be small. Their tones are short impulse sounds.

Critical evaluation
Moving the back-beat timeline from vocals to an internal instrument, decoupled tone generation from the perceptual-integral self: placing the rhythmic activity outside the body; and, at some distance from the centre (i.e. at the end of the arms) such that a lag time was introduced, and had to be compensated for. Both of these factors contribute to a requirement for critical listening and a more critical evaluation of the quality of performance.

Options for development
Transferring the interpretation of the back-beat timeline onto shakers broadens the scope for the musical development of percussionist dancers: rhythmic variations; call-and-response; ensemble performance; percussive attack and decay; and phrasing. Crucially, it frees up the vocals to interpret a separate timeline.

The giant of all immediate purposes is to render to the participants the best possible feedback on their quality of performance, in fine synchrony of movements to music, and involvement in co-operative ensemble.

Exercise One
Solo, without music. Caribbean sway basic, then walking. Begin with "gung-gung" vocalisation (beats 4,4+). Add embodiment rhythm (beats 1,2,3). Add "pak" vocalisation (beat 2).

Exercise Two
Solo, without music. Caribbean sway basic, then walking. Begin with two shaker beats synchronised to the "gung-gung" vocalisation (beats 4,4+). Add embodiment rhythm (beats 1,2,3). Add one shaker beat synchronised to the "pak" vocalisation (beat 2).

Exercise Three (without back-beat vocalisations)
Solo, without music. Caribbean sway basic, then walking. Begin with two shaker beats on beats 4,4+. Add embodiment rhythm (beats 1,2,3). Add one shaker beat on beat 2.

Exercises one through three were repeated to slow music. Exercise three was then maintained to music of increasing tempo.

All participants found the initial process of playing a shaker whilst dancing challenging. It was important to allow each one, the time to work out an approach which suited him or her the best. Intervention was kept to a minimum, but there was always a high availability of support.

At the end of the session, participants were clear as to what practice was required i.e. exercise three to a tempo maximum of 150bpm, and they were already able to achieve this in the workshop.

The refinements will come after I get back.

Loo Yen