I am playing with “The Walls” a blues band in Santa Monica tonight. 9:45PM
I did not want to be a drummer when I was eight years old. My piano teacher was a strange crotchety old man who smelled and lived in a large dark old house in Elkhart, Indiana. I think he was an okay teacher. I don’t remember the rulers on my knuckles, but my older sister did. I wanted out of that weird horror story setting. My mother then presented me to the children’s band and orchestra teachers and I played French horn for a painful but relatively short summer. When we all arrived back at Weston Elementary, I saw Mike, one of my classmates, drumming in a little jazz band that he had put together for the student assembly. He was swinging along pretty good. The thing that really attracted me was the response that Mike was getting from the people. Everyone was smiling at him and his guartet of fifth graders; clarinet, piano, flute, and mike with just a snare drum and a hi hat. These terms I did not know yet. The girls really liked what he was doing. I filed that away in my mind for some future use. The band was pretty good for kids, but I could see right there that the groove was coming from the drums. That hooked me. I visited Mike’s home; large, spacious, full of light on the other side of town. A Steinway grand piano sat in the living room, exuding music. On the coffee table lay a copy of Downbeat magazine. “What is that?” I pointed at the black and white cover of a musician who was not white. “That’s Downbeat, Buddy. A magazine about jazz..”
The autistic children at TobinWorld were drumming and smiling. Smiling is a special accomplishment. A victory. The staff smiled too and encouraged them with great love and infinite patience. Some of the kids remembered the last drumming event and sang along. They could feel the stage vibrating up through their feet. We played the steady laid-back downbeat at about forty beats a minute. They started to match the steady relaxed downbeat pulse and they smiled. It is miraculous to see any person connect to the universal rhythms, something outside of our own interior distractions. Watching the kids connect to the language of rhythm is enlightening and humbling. Our brain is an immensely complicated creation but our sense of rhythm is even older that the intellect. It is a body wisdom. They play along with the easy grooves. They hit the drum, sometimes in the groove, sometimes off on their own, but something calls them back to the steady, nurturing forgiving downbeat pulse. I hear Al Green in my head, or maybe Otis, or Aretha, or Marvin. The meditation is to stay steady and relaxed, like the Rock of Gibralter, like a buddha, like Al Jackson, Al green’s magical drummer, for the children’s wandering minds to come back home to. When they find the downbeat, either intentionally or by accident, they sense the rightness of it and there is light in their eyes. We all light up a little brighter. We are sharing. They discover that the repetition feels good. They find the downbeat grooves and they are sharing with the group. There is a common experience here of heartbeat rhythms that are forgiving, steady and predictable. Something to trust. It is a structure they perceive and interrelate with. They move; sometimes in time to the rhythms, sometimes to their own inner drummer. But they are actively responding to the feelings of the grooves. These simple downbeat patterns are part of every culture in the world. Nobody owns rhythm; it is to be shared, and then it becomes a healing experience as well as joyous.
excerpt:”History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2015 all rights reserved buddyhelm.com
Sigmund submitted his first treatise and his publisher turned him down.
“You are violating the sacred ten commandments, my good doctor, by not honoring thy mother and thy father. We cannot publish this.”
Freud changed his premise for the origin of neurosis from adults abusing children to something called the Oedipus and Electra complexes. The books sold, they weren’t on the fiction rack. He missed the rhythmic pollution that was the real culprit causing extreme anxiety in people of wealth and station. Vienna was a hotbed of Industrial Revolution just as was the rest of Europe. The pumping of steam engines was a pervasive rhythmic din. This was the first time that humans had to live with a repetitive mechanical pulsing that drove their daily lives. Now we know about rhythmic entrainment and how it controls our lives even when we are not aware of it. Especially when we are not aware of the dominant rhythmic pulsing around us. It is a survival mechanism that evolved maybe four hundred thousand years ago to ensure survival of the species. If there was a fast groove then there might be danger. If the grooves are slow, then we can relax and heal. The tempos around us trigger chemicals in our blood. It is a mechanical mechanism that has gone into overload. We entrained to organic rhythms for hundreds of thousands of years, obeying the tempos of the seasons, the tides, the migrations, the monthly and annual cycles of the universe. But the advent of mechanical rhythms created a fear. If we are not in synch with the dominant groove, then we may not survive. Now the tempos are so harsh, fast and unforgiving that we are making ourselves sick trying to catch up to the insanely fast digital tempos that are being forced upon us by the media, the advertisers, the movie makers, the pop music producers. Take back your groove. Theirs are unforgiving.