Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Very occasional quote of the day: master from the beginning

I'm just thinking about a VOQOTD from 2017 today— from the painter Robert Henri:

“An art student must be a master from the beginning; that is, he must be master of such as he has. By being a master of such as he has there is promise that he will be a master in the future.” 

That dated phrase “such as he has” meaning whatever abilities you have at present.

You could approach that a couple of ways. A lot of serious drum students will think it means you have to be really good at all the stuff you can do right now. That's how we think as student drummers, about what we can do. So we could reduce that to a very mundane: make sure you cover the basics. Which everyone does now, to a fault. Ho hum. 

I take master to mean being a full blown creative performer. So you approach every performance directly, like a master. It's very different from a student attitude, where you're mainly concerned with sounding good and doing everything right and not making mistakes and not getting negative comments. 

I saw two great examples of this when I was a teenager. I was really into drumming then, and saw and heard lots great players. I also saw these two drummers who hadn't gone through proper drummery channels, who didn't sound like my idea of good drummers, but who were really playing and really performing. I resisted them, but what they were doing was undeniable, and they changed my thinking completely. 

Jimmy Velez was just a kid in the 8th grade playing in a punk band with my friend Chris Higgins. I saw him play one time in a talent show, doing a kind of non-specific full-body lashing at the drums. Brad Boynton* was the star drummer at my high school, who was into music in the right way, and who was actually playing. I was just preoccupied with working out hip drum crap then. The way Brad played was pure improvisation, that purely fit the music— while being quite assertive, with no worked out hip drum crap whatsoever. 

A lot of people will think of this attitude in terms of personality traits, like assertiveness, aggressiveness, self-confidence; for me it was simply that the desire to create energy** was bigger than my student fears. 

* - Today Brad owns the Rhythm Traders drum shop in Portland, incidentally.

** - Most of my drumming life I would have said kick ass.   

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