Player's Voice - Matt McDonough "Expression"
e x p r e s s i o n
Drumming has been an ongoing experiment in self-exploration for me. I guess when I started my initiative was pretty standard. I loved music and wanted to be in a band, and of course there's nothing wrong with that. But as time went on and the frustrations compounded for all the extraneous distractions that come with such pursuits.I steered inward and sought more internally selfish desires. My choices in band mates and writing became increasingly less commercially motivated and more experimental.
I found that as I developed creatively as a writer, my playing in a live setting had an increasing influence on how and what I composed in a strange and surprising way. I have a long interest in East Indian philosophy/meditation and have studied for many years. It seems that focused attention/concentration by the mind brings about states of peace and clarity. This holding true theoretically, the efforts of concentration used in drumming also I realized might bring about these same results with varying degrees of success. I consequently began to focus consciously on these techniques in my composition. My writing began to include "puzzles" made up of polyrythyms and number sequences.in a sense, Zen koans for drumming. The intent being of the potential outcome on my psyche during their performance on stage.
I really enjoy this perspective in writing, since attention on the actual music is not focused on literally what it "sounds" like for the sake of pleasing the ear. But now the music has an underlying motive that I feel is more directly aligned with the aims of Art. This being that Art should not be mistaken for Entertainment.
My onstage experience is joyful and I can feel free of the anxiety of living up to an audience expectation when I perform. No butterflies or nervousness before shows, just the anticipation of what might happen with tonight's show. Now granted my success varies with the states realized. Life isn't easy and there aren't any easy solutions for happiness. But I've definitely realized a technique for myself, through my drumming, that gives me a greater sense of community with my friends and an overall feeling of wholeness.
For those interested in pursuing a similar philosophy in playing, I would make a few suggestions. Reading was an early on influence. The works of masters such as J. Krishnamurti, Ramesh Balsekar and Eknath Easwaren were prime. Any techniques involving focused concentration and meditation are a great place to begin. Feel open to experiment and don't worry about specific practices, but look for what you feel comfortable with and what resonates with you. The point is what works for you personally.
Next you have to find styles in your playing that take advantage of your newfound perspective and skills. For myself, I found challenging my limits technically were most important. If I couldn't play it, but could visualize it.it was game. Consequently: complex time signature, tempo changes, and unusual patterns were helpful. Also, I've always avoided improvisation. But these are not rules but just what I've found works for me. Improvisation might be paramount for another player and just following your emotional initiative might be mind-blowing. Explore and be receptive to your own needs and drives.
Lastly, challenge yourself with breaking your reality-tunnels. Listen to music and players that you're unfamiliar with and maybe you even don't really like all that much. If you're really applying your reading and study.this work is not so much about anything specifically in a literal sense but the spirit of an open heart and mind.