Drums Don't Kill Circles......
Heidi J Torres
hjt at tenet.edu
Mon Dec 16 17:48:35 PST 1996
People kill circles......
Mari greets all and has, after some thought, decided to bring forth a few
points while rambling on at length...
1) In response to the initial post, drumming "kills" bardic circles
because, in my experience, the two forms are not really compatible.
Drumming is deep, rhythmic, primal. It speaks to something deep inside
us. We want to join in, to become part of it. Some of us drum, some of
us dance, some of us just stand around the circle tapping our feet
beneath long skirts and wishing we weren't wearing Tudor/kimonos/armor or
whatever. It is something that pretty much everybody drawn to it can
participate in -- which often leads to inexperienced drummers and dancers
flinging themselves into the fray.
When people hear drumming start up, other drummers and dancers are drawn
to it. They want to be part of it.
Singing together also speaks to something deep inside us. One of my best
"bardic circle" memories (down here, we just call 'em campfires) is from
years ago when Steppes Warlord was still at Camp Burnet. Some nice lady
had set up a beautiful camp with pillows, torches, etc, all to lure bards
and performers there to have a "real bardic circle". Somehow, it didn't
feel quite right to me. Ragnar, Leon, Kemreth and I (none of us 'cept
Kemreth were peers back then) flumped down on a nice spot of grass on the
edge of the empty list field and started singing. As if by magic, people
started coming out of the darkness and swelling the circle. We
sang together, we sang separately, we sang some more together. When the
sun rose the original four of us, plus a few others, were still sitting
there, singing, telling stories.
That was magic. I've also been involved in drumming and dancing circles
that were magical. I haven't, however, participated in a "magic" circle
where drumming, dancing, singing, poems, etc, were successfully interspersed.
What usually seems to happen is that a campfire will be going along
nicely and someone, usually a friend of the campsite, will want to dance,
accompanied by either taped music or drums. Everyone will say "Sure,
we'd love to see you dance." Then, drawn by the music or rhythm, other
dancers and drummers will appear. "Can we dance next?" they ask? And
why not? Dancing is obviously being practiced and enjoyed right there in
the campsite. It's the same as if I wandered into a campsite with a
sonnet ready to fight its way out of my mouth and found folks doing
renditions of Shakespeare. "Hot diggity!" my little poet-bone would
hum. "A receptive audience!" What could be more natural than to offer
Anyway, it's my belief that drumming "takes over" bardic because it's the
stronger of the two forms of entertainment. Singing, telling tales, etc
is more fragile. Just as a delicate fragrance can be overpowered by a
stronger aroma, drumming and dancing can far too easily overpower other
The two forms do, however, suffer similar blights. Just as I have seen
wonderful campfires utterly vanquished by certain types of pests
(incredibly long, dull, lackluster performances, Bard Books and People
Who Never Stop Singing being the most prevalent), I have also seen
enjoyable and wonderful dancing circles totally ruined -- almost always
by bad manners. (The time I saw a beautifully choreographed piece of
dancing massacred by an uninvited dancer hurling herself into the piece
really stands out in my mind -- I don't think I've ever seen anything
that out and out rude in a "regular" bardic circle.)
I believe courtesy and education is the key to most of our problems.
Drummers, remember how loud and powerful the drumming can be, and how it
can fill up a whole campsite. If you want or plan for there to be mass
drumming, pick a good spot far enough away from the main area so that
people who want to sing and tell stories can do so.
And practice. If you're going to be drumming or performing for people,
friends or strangers, you want to be the best you can be.
All performers, remember to get the mood of a circle before you decide to
do a piece. Maybe they were doing bawdy songs a moment ago, but they might
want a change of pace. Wait and see. Dancers, before you join the
dance, make sure the dancing is "open"; and make sure they want to keep
dancing -- that circle too might want a change of pace.
Well, I've rambled quite a ways -- don't know that I've said much, but
there it is.
Mari (who really wishes she could nail points like Gunnora but finds,
alas, that she must saunter around them in a mazelike fashion and thus
asks all for pardon.)
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