I saw Robin Hood the other night. Not bad, not great, but I enjoyed it… and, I had an epiphany.

There was a party scene at night when Robin and the boys were cutting loose, and there was shot of a 12th century hand drum being played with a small mallet. Just a quick shot, but it hit me right between the eyes.

I read Micky Hart’s Drumming On The Edge of Magic back in the early 90s  while camping at Big Sur, on the California coast. If there is sacred land left, it’s here. I spent four days reading, thinking, walking, clearing my head, wondering what to do with drumming and equal pull towards pursuing screenwriting.

Hart’s book touched on many aspects of drumming that I really enjoy, the spiritual ones that go far beyond just pounding and seeking an endorsement. He got back to the source, the origins and intentions of early drummers, and I got hit with that thought again the other night watching Robin Hood.

I remembered walking under the starry california night sky, looking up between the towering redwoods, wondering about rhythm in its many forms. The simple movement of air was also a channeling of energy from somewhere, and the tracing back of that path to the source is something I think about to this day.

Doing so brings a level of truth to my playing that is not easy to get to, because in Western culture, drumming is not always thought of as a spiritual path. In Africa, some cultures honor the drum like a religious diety. They even build huts for drums, offer then tributes, food, cattle, etc.  Believe it or not.

Compare that to the drum set of today. we play it to relax, have fun, pursue stardom… but do we play it to find something much bigger than ourselves? Do we go through the Jim Chapin book, the Gary Chaffee books, the insanely intense Marco Minnemann works, all to find the source of that which makes us search?

Not exactly light morning breakfast conversation, and you see precious little of it in most drumming publications… but… the soul is singing nonetheless, and when we let THAT song out, the drums play precisely on the very edge of magic that Micky Hart talks about.

We live in such a sound-byte world now, everything being processed at nine hundred miles an hour. One of the things I love about jazz is focusing on the production of each note and improvising it as you go along. It’s a living, breathing style of music that gets me closer to the deep end of the pool, so to speak. It makes me stop and think… kind of like seeing that hand drum being played in Robin Hood did for just a second…

Somewhere, nearly one thousand years ago, drummers played to create musical magic. It was simple, honest, present… it was the stuff we came from and the stuff we can easily lose sight of with so much bombarding our souls. If we make ourselves be still, be quiet, we can BE behind the drums and discover who we really are and where that reality comes from.

It’s an intense journey, one that require valuing if we are to embark upon it. And, it’s very fragile, lost like a whisper in a thunderstorm. If we can hear that whisper, the one that precedes every note we play, we hear music as the great masters hear it… and we get closer to their ways and their perspective, a view over the very magical edge of drumming.

Will you hear it when it speaks?