Ecstatic drumming can be used for recreational and high energy ritual drumming. It is not to be confused with the term "sacred rhythm", which may be either high energy or subdued.
Associative Qualities: Volume and speed.
Requirements: Dominance and clarity of main patterns and beat.
In large group drumming, many things are added instinctively, but if things get too spacey, it gets boring and confusing, especially for dancers. It becomes just a jumble of rhythm. Players and dancers can be elevated to the highest levels if, amongst the confusion, three things stand out:
1. A beat for the physical part of the dance.
2. At least two notes that occur with some regularity to give it shape.
3. Lead patterns that move it along.
Humans do not instinctively know much of either dance or drumming. Children have a very difficult time at first trying to coordinate rhythm and dance.
Males especially, although they play with much energy, tend to play rather flat 4/4 rhythms. Like adolescent birds or whales, it takes some practice and learning to be able to sing their best. Humans have the ability to achieve great wizardry with rhythm. Although the levels common in most American drum groups are often thought of as great, what the mind is really capable of is an order of magnitude higher. How high do you want to go?
It is good to have untrained children play in a drum circle. This can provide a spacious, shifting background of randomness. Untrained adult drummers will also react instinctively to their environment and produce a directionless mixture of patterns that form a web of rhythms.
Hangups in the drum circle are usually caused by student drummers who, instead of reacting to the environment, take the broad patterns they've learnt and insert them into the rhythm. This can result in the following problems:
1. These patterns are fixed. They are inserted into the rhythm rather than grown out of them. Since they come from someplace else, they usually cannot move with the rhythm.
2. Many student drummers have the ability to play very loudly and their patterns dominate and obscure the flow of subtler, more fluid rhythms. The externally produced patterns sit like bricks in the flow and tend to drag. Adding sufficient beat, shape and movement can elevate and motivate the most directionless drum circle. Although the lead drummer could do all three, such a task is extremely exhausting.
These three things take at least two or three people to do. They should have empathic relationship with the others present. Beat and shape are as one with at least the lead drummer and the dancers. The lead drummer is one with the total environment.
Note that, if all the drummers and dancers are totally linked, the result is usually too high. How high is too high? Past a level where you have drummers falling over and dancers collapsing, ending the rhythm. Lead drummers get skilled in working at a level where they hear and sense the totality of the drum/dance circle. They dominate and shape this totality and are usually immune to motor lock-up, confusion, and ecstatic blowout. This is also why these drummers are never bothered by unwanted spirits while drumming.
Drummers who can add beat and depth to a rhythm are always welcomed by lead drummers and dancers. (And ecstatic drumming has little value without ecstatic dancers) the task is strenuous and determined, and the result moves the rhythm to higher energy levels.
© Copyright 1980-1994 James VanDenAkker
© Copyright 1997 Luis M. Nunez
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