All posts in the "Compositions" category.
All posts in the "Compositions" category.
My new year’s resolution for 2014 was to write Radiddlepa. Composition is difficult for me, but for whatever reason Radiddlepa went fairly smoothly and I debuted the piece in Devon, England in July. The resolution worked!
I wrote Radiddlepa over the course of an 8-month period, during which I practiced almost exclusively tsukeshime, including lots of experimentation with new sounds and techniques. I’d search until I found a rhythm or technique I liked, I’d record it on video or audio, set it aside, and then continue searching. Once I had a large set of recordings, I then grouped them together based on the bachi (or lack of bachi) required; both hands, one hand and one “take” (bamboo) bachi, one “take” and one mallet, two “ho” (magnolia) bachi, two “hinoki” (cypress), one “take” and one “hinoki” in one hand and a mallet in the other, etc. These groupings became the rough sections of the piece and from here I enjoyed a long stretch of very technical practice, trying to figure out how to get between the sections and what was indeed possible to perform. The final stretch involved structural practice and struggling to improve the still-finicky techniques.
During all this, I carefully labeled every chunk of my practice, so I now have a record of how many minutes I spent practicing Radiddlepa, from inception to debut. For the first time with this composition, I know how many hours of drum time it took to write the piece. These hours don’t include the time composing on paper or reviewing and organizing video footage, probably about equal to the time on the drum.
Here are the stats.
Start date — Oct 13, 2013
Debut — July 6, 2014
Days of practice involving Radiddlepa prior to debut — 109
Total hours on drum prior to debut — 166.85
Average hours per practice session — 1.5
Total “idea recordings” from experimentation phase — 114
When I first tallied the total, I was surprised it’s not more than 166.85 hours. Although that’s a big chunk of time, considering it was completed over an 8-month period, it doesn’t seem like much. And looking at my 10,000 hours of practice graph (below), Radiddlepa doesn’t even register.
This tells me that the limiting factor to my daily practice hours is something more fundamental than practice topic or inspiration. Even when totally committed to an exciting new project, I average about an hour a day of drum time. To be honest, it feels like that might be the limit of my creativity. Beyond about an hour a day (and the other hour or two of research/prep/planning time required to make that hour effective), I run out of ideas for how to get better. It will be interesting to see if I can become more creative toward this end in 2015. Perhaps another new year’s resolution?
Maz, Shoji, Eien, David, and I performed a massive version of Karc / Joan of Arc, the bachi-tossing Duet, and Jack Bazaar with LATI staff and students. Thanks to Katsuji for taking video, and bringing earplugs!
Thanks to the hard work of Yuta, Kiyoshi, and Ian, we’ll be trying Eau de Squarepusher in the concert this Saturday. Although we’ve been working on it for a few years, we’ve never been satisfied with our performances of it. Considering this last run of rehearsal yesterday, perhaps this Saturday will be the first time we do it justice!
(notation coming soon)
The Shaga section was the most foreign for me, as the motions of brushing and scratching the skin are more akin to playing shaker than taiko. That having been said, the hours spent touching the skin and playing so gently have really helped me bond with the instrument. I’m extremely careful about how I treat my drum’s one pristine head. In the end the techniques are not quite as esoteric as expected; I now love to use scratching motions on odaiko as well.
The independence required in this section was one of the most technically challenging parts of the piece for me, and I spent many hours going very slowly figuring out each successive sound. I practiced mainly on my my desk and on my notebook while riding the bus. Shaga is amenable to practice anywhere.
A note of caution. If your drum skin is not perfect and has cracks or flakes in the first layer of the skin (called the “gin”), you can damage the skin further by improper technique. A fingernail can easily get under a crack and flake off the gin. Watch the video closely for how I use different fingernails in different directions. Practice slowly and carefully, especially when using actual skin.
(notation coming soon)
Teko is one of my favorite extended techniques from Radiddlepa. By simply changing the location of a “side-stick” hit (with the left hand in the video), we can get a “double strike”. The first strike is the bachi coming down flat on the skin. Because the hand is overhanging the side of the drum, the bachi pivots on the body of the shime and the butt of the bachi comes off the skin. When the wrist raises again, the butt comes into contact with the skin again, creating our second strike. The technique allows for remarkably fast and intricate rhythms.
Once we’ve exhausted our practice options and patience for sticking and tones, we can focus on the challenge of accenting. I worked through each pattern of the 1eau Drill (see 30 Days page 26, previously the “1234 Drill”) over a period of a few weeks. Once I was able to play the 1eau Drill while maintaining radiddlepa sticking, I gave myself random challenge patterns of accented and and quiet/ghosted notes. I drew these patterns from “Edobayashi”-style rhythms. I’m still working on this challenge.
(Notation coming soon)
The Outro section requires only the tonal and dynamics skills learned thus far. The left hand is accenting the “1”, alternating between the drum center and the drum body, while the right hand switches between the drum body, skin edge (“de”), drum body, and rope. The right hand is switching every three counts for an interesting relationship between the hands.
Once your interest in practicing the basic sticking starts to wane, add the challenge of changing the tone of each hand. Move the left hand to a different sound and stay there until you feel settled. Then find a new tone. Then try the right hand. Then move individual hits or pairs of hits to new tones. The goal is to gradually add complexity in order to make the sticking challenging again. When your hands loose the LRRL RLLR sticking, slow down or stay on that challenge until you get it figured out again. Then search for the next glitch. I call this process “truffle hunting” and it can last for months.