Oct. 23, 2008
Some bands do without drummers. The Grateful Dead wanted more drums, not less. The mother of all jam bands played drum duets. The drummers played as if each was inside the other's head.
One of the Dead drummers, Mickey Hart, has written books about the role of rhythm in cultures and in our lives. "Life is about rhythm," he says. "We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that's what we are."
A touring company of "Stomp" stopped in Cape Girardeau this week for two performances. Wordlessly the musician/dancers in "Stomp" remind the audience that anyone and anything can make music. Their instruments happen mostly to be the tools of the cleaning trade -- brooms, mops, dust pans, buckets of water, garbage cans and lids augmented by pipes, tire inner tubes and the like, but they could be most anyone's tools.
They could be typing on keyboards and rapping on cubicle dividers. They could be in a aerobics class where breathlessness has a special rhythm and sound.
"Stomp" makes music snapping cigarette lighters and blowing noses. Much of the music is made with feet and hands, snapping fingers and slapping bodies. It's exciting to see the performers merge with their instruments, being played as much as playing.
The beeping made by a truck backing up can be annoying if it disturbs us or its rhythm can make us want to add a melody. The choice is always ours.
"Stomp" recalls tribal feelings still in our bones and our blood, the pounding of drums excites us as rock 'n' roll has proven, makes us want to move. A more languid beat lulls us like a child on a swing.
Someone dumped a pit bull puppy on one of the porches in our neighborhood. DC and I and Lucy and a wary Hank have temporarily taken her in until she leaves for her new home on a ranch in Oklahoma. Until then the puppy is percolating all over our house with the same kind of energy the "Stomp" dancers have, the energy that gave each of us life.
One way to settle her down is to hold her against my heart. That's the sound that soothed each of us before we were born into this alien environment. It's the sound of our mother's heart, of lifeblood moving. It's the sound that soothes us when we stand beside an ocean, the sound of Mother Earth holding us in her arms.
Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.