The Drum Controversy Continued On and On

Gunnora Hallakarva gunnora at
Sun Dec 15 22:03:45 PST 1996

Gwendolene, I'd like to answer in a general way your last post(s) on this
topic, rather than interspersing them between the lines of the last
conversation.  I've included the previous post at the end for reference
purposes, but I thought that this format would be more readable since we're
to about the third layer of point-counterpoint-riposte.

(1) While I did express some dismay at the problems I and others have
experienced with drummers, I was also careful to try and propose some ways
to at least begin suggesting ways for remedying the problems so that you and
other drummers can hopefully get to have the kind of fun you want while
those who have had problems with drummers will get some relief of the
problems that they have experienced as well.  IE, all bitching was balanced
with what suggestions I could figure out to make. More specific suggestions
for helping the problems need to come from the expert drummers in our
Society, and there are many (see below).

(2) If I seemed to give the Bad Bard Problem less coverage in my posts, it
is because I was responding to a question FROM A DRUMMER  that said
something like, "Why is it when we start drumming it kills a bardic circle
dead in ten minutes flat?"  I didn't just up and out of the blue suddenly
decide to bash the drummers.  I was attempting (and suceeding, I think) in
offering candid opinions with suggested solutions for the original questioner.

(3) In my answer to your first post, I was careful to say in several places
that bad bards (drunk, bad, untrained, moronic,
think-they're-funny-but-they're-not, woo-woo-people and attack bards are all
included) had the same problems and the same answers to those problems.  In
both the case of the bad bard and the inconsiderate drummer, if they're
gonna act like bums, give them the bum's rush out of the circle.  Let's not
discriminate against anyone here.  

(4) My basic plea was never, "Shoot the damn drummers."  It was about
PERFORMERS (no matter their race, creed, religion, singing, strorytelling,
instrument playing or drumming)... I reiterate:  ALL PERFORMERS should be
considerate of the others around them.  

(i) If it is not your campsite, introduce yourself and ask permission to
participate.  If it is a public circle, it is a nice idea to greet the group
during a break and introduce yourself, and possibly ask about the format, is
there a moderator, are there any groundrules etc.  

(ii) If you are going to perform, make sure that your performance is
consistent with the mood of the circle you have joined:  it is hard for most
people to suddenly switch from a beautiful, heartwrenching solo song telling
of love won and lost, to loud and raucous entertainment such as drumming.
It is better to allow the mood to shift somewhat first... often, realizing
that to follow such a performance, the mood is shifted one notch along a
spectrum at a time until your desired mood is achieved.  (A sample spectrum
of performance moods:  beautiful sad song, followed by group singing sad
song, quiet humor changes mood slightly, a really silly tale follows, and by
now the audience mood has shifted enough to allow a vigorous drum piece to
fit in without jarring the listeners.)

(iii) Check the format of the circle you have joined.  If the group is
dead-set on telling stories exclusively, or singing solos, or singing in
groups, etc. then allow them their format.  Eiether choose to join their
circle with the proper type of performance, or share your talents with
others who will appreciate them more that night.

(iv) If you are too drunk, don't perform.  You may need to ask a sober
person about their opinion of your state of drunkenness, as it's hard to
gauge this yourself after a few drinks.

(v) Don't hog center stage.  Everyone in the SCA is, to some extent or
another, a dramatic personality type or we wouldn't be here, doing this.
Everyone enjoys their chance at the spotlight, and it is possible to take
turns (so long as this does not contradict rules of ettiquette given above
about mood or performing in a circle with limited style(s) of performance.)

(vi) Tone deaf, those who sing in the key of Z, those who have no rhythm,
those who cannot carry a tune in a basket, novices whose performance hasn't
had the rough corners sanded off yet... be considerate of others.  If you
participate in group singing or performance, your enthusiasm can be shared
so long as you don't drown everyone out.  An occasional solo "key of Z"
performance with enjoyable content is OK (Master Leon's a great example!)
but don't overdo it. If it becomes obvious that your performance is
detracting from the group's enjoyment, give it a pass for the night.  There
will always be another event to play at, and you can practice in the meantime.

(vii) Volume compatability is important.  Some circles fluctuate between
very loud and very quiet.  Some are most always quiet.  This is related to
gauging the mood.

(5)  My lady, earlier I tried to point out in a humorous way (which most
obviously failed miserably) that you came back in your first post with quite
a bit of vitriol in response to my original, well-considered, balanced
criticisms and proposed solutions which were offered in response to another
drummer's question, not as a personal attack on yourself.  I will point out,
without humor this time, that in your most recent post to which I am now
responding, you have come back even more angry, defensive and hostile than
in your first post.  I am not attacking you personally.  If you are lumping
yourself in with the Attack Bards and Inconsiderate Drummers (TM) then *you*
are doing it.  I haven't had you play for me, so I can't give an opinion as
to your drumming proficiency or possible lack thereof.    For all I know,
you could have the best drum technique and ettiquette in the world.  Or the
worst.  This is not the point, as we weren't discussing you, personally.  I
have not lumped you in with any drummers, anywhere.  Nor have I commented on
or made assumptions about what types of bardic performance you might or
might not enjoy, nor did I anywhere suggest that drummers, yourself among
them, did not listen to (or perform) other types of music or storytelling etc.

Do be aware that I am not responding solely to you in this series of posts.
The original topic was begun by another drummer who asked for help, and has
been carried forward by other posters besides you and I.  Therefore, in most
cases my comments are addressed to you AND to the others on this Listserv,
or to the Listserv in general, and in places, I am talking of activities,
events or persons in the kingdom at large.  No one, yourself least of all,
is singled out by me for insult or other purpose.  The generalities are
meant to include those who are "listening in" on our "conversation," not to
somehow make you feel insignificant, stupid, untalented, obnoxious, rude, or

You said " Why should they [the drummers] be kind and considerate to you if
in return for consideration they get called 'Nothing but a bunch of no
talent drunks'??? After a time you stop being hurt by it and start getting
even... "  

My lady, no one, least of all me, said any specific drummer was a "no talent
drunk", or that most drummers were "no talent drunks", or that all drummers
were "no talent drunks".   My lady, no one is calling you anything, nor are
they saying anything about your skill.  You are apparently feeling insecure
on this issue and are willing to jump exceedingly far to take an offense
where NONE was given to you personally.  As for "...stop getting hurt by it
and start getting even..." Lady, you might as well just lay down in the
freeway and let the trucks roll over you: taking this unreasonable attitude
is not going to change people's opinions of you as a drummer, but it might
cause you to have to put up with even more shit than you can imagine (and
not from me, I might add) over your attitude and the apparent chip on the
shoulder that this comment indicates, especially if you actually start
trying to "get even" for imaginary slights.  The trucks might be less
traumatic, and certainly quicker.

(6) Rank and its supposed priveleges.  My lady, the only privelege my rank
entitles me to is the fact that the Crown must listen to my advice.  They
don't even have to take my advice, just listen to it. NONE of the other
peerages have any greater privelege than this.  None of the landed nobility,
or the Royal Family, have much in the way of privelege, other than the right
to wear their insignia... what they DO have are a LOT of responsibilities to
their local groups, the Kingdom, and to the SCA as a whole.  The only high
rank I can think of that conveys privelege is the Crown itself, and the
priveleges have to do with granting awards and making laws, not ruining
someone's bardic circle by bad behavior.

Privelege of rank, ANY rank, does most emphatically NOT allow you to be an
Attack Bard or Inconsiderate Drummer (TM).  If you are afraid to ask a
higher-ranked gentle who is misbehaving to leave, then ask someone of higher
rank to carry your message to him.  If someone of higher rank tells you that
they are allowed to BE Attack Bards or Inconsiderate Drummers (TM), or will
not honor your request for them to leave, you might appeal to others of
"high rank" to assist you in whatever way is necessary.  Hel, come get me!
I'll give 'em an earful.  But honestly, most of us who have peerages or
those who have brass hats do not have the misapprehension that this is an
entitlement to bad behavior.  We're in theory supposed to be setting a good
example.  (BTW, I not only mentioned in my earlier post that Inconsiderate
Drummers (TM) should be asked to hit the road, before I did so I had already
discussed the possible merits of whapping an Attack Bard (TM) upside the
head with an axe if they wouldn't get the hell out of Dodge.  **NOTE FOR
HUMOR IMPAIRED!  Do NOT actually hit anyone with an axe!  Try to ONLY use a

(7)  Late night bardic and drumming concerns which we agree upon.  After 2
am, we should all become quieter.  It is much easier to get a non-drumming
bardic circle to be quiet, and by 2am, most have gotten to quiet stories and
songs.  Some DO get drunk and loud, and this is inconsiderate.
Unfortunately for the drummers, deep frequencies carry further and louder
than do higher pitched ones (cf. lots of recent research about subsonic
elephant mating calls, check Discover magazine a few months back).  This
means that more people will be annoyed by late drumming than by late
singing, even late shouting and carousing.  I have never before your post
heard of anyone ever managing to take over a drumming session in full spate,
or even being very sucessful in asking them to try to hold down the volume a
bit.  If you have encountered this, please tell me: When, where and who?  (I
want to hire them to "talk" to some of my mundane rowdy neighbors!)

Unfortunately, by the time I notice that the noise of either drums or bardic
is annoying me late at night, I am already undressed and in my nice warm
bed.  I just keep praying that it will quit soon.  If I had more energy (or
if the noise is REAL close to my tent), I might get up out of my warm bed
more often and ask that the people in question tone it down for the night.
Mayhaps event autocrats could ask their Constables (or whoever is doing site
security) to gently remind post-2am carousers to be more quiet. Some sites
have sucessfully set aside "late night loud party" camps well away from the
rest of the campers, which works best when there is another area for those
who turn in early way on the opposite end.  

(9) Whether learners and novices should perform, play, or drum is a vital
question.  I think they do need practice, but this is related to gauging the
mood of the circle in question.  A beginner can slip a single test piece in,
as long as the mood of the group allows it, and they don't overdo it.  I
suggest trying your new piece (whether drum, voice, instrument, story or
poem) on a small group of your friends in a campsite before you take it to a
huge circle.  If tonight you can't sing because your voice won't cooperate,
your instrument cannot be properly tuned, you can't remember the words, your
rhythm is off etc, you might should wait On the other hand, if your
performance was well-received, go ahead and present it to the larger circle.
And if it is well-received there, you might venture another after a couple
of people have taken a turn.

Many local areas have Entertainer's Groups, and there are, I am informed,
Drummer's Groups and Middle Eastern Dance/Drumming Groups.  These are forums
in which novices can learn from one another and more experienced
entertainers, and can receive honest critiques and get in a lot of practice
before a group before they hit the big circle at an event.  If there are no
performers' group(s) near you, you can always start one.  It only takes two,
one to perform, and one to listen, to get started. Then you are not a novice
when you do come to the circle, you are a seasoned performer.  And reinforce
this with practice at home!  I sing in the shower.  And I always practiced
my singing and poetry in the car on the way to work or to an event as
well... I got practice, plus it helped the miles go by effortlessly.  And I
usually "test performed" my new stuff in front of several friends who hadn't
heard it yet at the event prior to the circle as a final check.  

(10) My lady, you challenged me as to whether I would remedy the problem by
teaching.  I do teach, when I can.  I have in the past attended at
Entertainer's Groups, and will in the future (at the present moment I am
working night shift, but if anyone wants to come over and sing at 8am, let
me know...)  I teach songs by disseminating the words, and helping people
learn the tunes when we get together. 

I cannot assist with hands-on teaching of drums as I have a geis against
touching percussion instruments (it's a funny tale, and it was Branwyn's
fault!).  I *can* listen and offer comment.  However, like anything else
which is not my primary field (Viking stuff), I would tend to try and refer
the drummers in this kingdom to those who ARE experts in the field:
drummers, and talented ones at that.  Master Cynric is an outstanding
drummer, and plays a variety of drums, not just the dumbek.  Baroness
ZaraZena certainly can drum.  Master Lucais is an excellent drummer, and I
hear tell he doesn't even know how many of his own ceramic dumbeks he's
accidentally kicked over and broken over the years.  Mistress Branwyn
O'Bralligan is a good teacher, and as far as I can tell can play any
instrument, given five minutes to mess around with it: she plays the dumbek
and the boudrhan, and I've heard her on a snare drum as well as using an ice
chest as an impromptu percussion instrument for a small bardic circle.
Fiona and Raylen in the Steppes can teach drummers on at least boudrhan.  I
know that there are others who I am missing.  Anyone in the list I just gave
can refer you to still others who are competent or even talented drummers
who you can learn from.  

Other messages on this subject have mentioned teaching tapes and books,
which are also a big help.  Some other suggestions:  sign up for a
percussion class at your local music store or junior college.  Call
musicians in your phone book and see if any will provide private lessons.
Call and ask the local symphony orchestra percussionists if they take
students.  If you are poor (like most of us in the SCA at one time or
another) don't be afraid to explore exchange of services for lessons...
musicians need their grass mowed like anyone else, their houses cleaned,
etc.  Even mundane musicians can be receptive to this.

Lady Gwendolene, I hope that you do continue drumming.  I hope you improve
your skills until you are the kind of performer that you dream of being.  I
also hope that you will look over my past posts more closely.  This issue is
obviously near and dear to your heart, and you seem to have taken things
somewhat out of context in some instances, overlooked or ignored information
in others, and been far too willing to assume personal insults where none
were offered nor intended.  Good luck.

Wassail and Gud Jul, 

Gunnora Hallakarva
Ek eigi visa (th)ik hversu o(dh)lask Lofstirrlauf-Kruna
heldr hversu na Hersis-A(dh)al


In the post previous to this...

Gwendolene McIver replied in her post:
>Then what is the problem?  You just ask the "drunken drummer"  
>to leave, you tell him/her that this circle is for singing and story 
>telling and unless the drummer is a complete idiot they will. .  
>It looks like you have already lumped me with those that don't 
>want to do more than  get drunk and beat on a drum as loud as 
>I can,  there you have made a mistake.   I enjoy listening to songs 
>and stories as well as the drums.  And I have joined in on many 
>group sing a longs.  I unlike you have had fun at BOTH.

>Gunnora had said:
>I believe that when one is beset by an attack bard, they can be politely
>if firmly encouraged to stop, or light-heartedly teased into stopping, or
>simply asked to go back to their tent and sleep it off NOW.  And if 
>said attack bard won't listen, that's what axes are for.

Gwendolene McIver replied in her post:
>Yet you are unwilling to do this to a drummer?  and what about us 
>poor little peons that don't  "out rank" the attack bard, our only 
>recourse is to leave whether we want to or not.  Like they say rank 
>has it's privileges. 

>Gunnora had said:
>If the drummers have the consideration of a dead skunk, they will not
>monopolize a circle no matter how much fun they are having.  It is 
>simply wrong to stroll up to someone else's circle and take it over
>(drummer OR attack bard).<snip more of same>

Gwendolene McIver replied in her post:
>As it is simply wrong to walk up to a drumming circle and take IT 
>over. This too I have seen, and as far as having it on "my turf" it 
>was. So drummers are not the only rude one here.

>Gunnora had said (looking over her glasses and frowning):
>My lady, no one said that the drummers and dancers had to take
> a long walk off a short pier.  You have taken the suggestions made,
> filtered them through indignation, and your answer has come out in 
> this sentence like the outraged squawk of a stepped-on broody hen.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>As is your statements now, you too have taken what I have said and
>filtered them for yourself.  Never once did I say I didn't like "regular"
>bardic circles, I was just pointing out that just as there are rude
>drummers/dancers there are also rude singers/story tellers. And your
>rantings also sound like stepped on livestock.

Gunnora had said:
>Drummers are a good thing, in moderation.  They are even a good thing, 
>in excess, if they have made arrangements to do nothing but drum without
>wrecking someone else's circle.  I personally get very tired of the 
>DOOM DOOM TEKKA TEK over and over and over, it is true.  And 
> there's nothing as obnoxious as having to listen to five hours of bad 
> drumming and bad dancing and accompanying leering 
>drunks,especially when this all takes place after 2 am.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>I'll be, we have found something we agree on.  Most circles should 
>end by 2 am. There comes a time when even a "regular" bardic circle 
>should have stopped hours ago, but no one is allowed to complain 
>about that because that would just be rude.
Gunnora had said:
>As I mentioned before, if the drummers don't want a bad rap, they need 
>to take steps to go beyond the dreaded DOOM DOOM TEKKA TEK.  
>They need to show courtesy to other performers.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Then the same can be said of  "regular" many times 
>do we need to hear the same song/story from the same person, 
>event after event??? Yet again to say anything is to be rude.
Gunnora had said:
>But why should we allow rank novices at drumming to do their learning 
>on our recreation time?  We absolutely would NOT allow a novice tuba
> player  to interrupt our circle and start honking really loud random notes 
> on the tuba. We wouldn't want someone to practice their beginners scales,
> off-key, on a violin during our events where no one can get away from the 
> dead cat noise.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Ok, what about the novice singer or the story teller that has to start
>over again and again because they lost their place???  Why should we let
>them  do their learning on our recreation time???  We encourage them, as
>we should, why not do the same for the drummers/dancers???  See your
>statement apply to both sides of this issue. If you don't like the way
>things are going either find a way to change it ( with some sort of tact,
>or maybe even an offer to help teach) or leave the area.

Gunnora had said:
>Beginning drummers need to practice on their own time, or as I 
>mentioned, if they want opportunities to learn from other drummers at
>events, either (1) make a drumming area for this activity or (2) do 
>drumming during the day, before nightfall so that their mistakes 
>and one rhythm doesn't drive everyone nuts during the quieter 
>circles in the evening..

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Is that an offer to help??? That would be the best thing any one could
>do.  If it is because of lack of experience then why not offer your help
>instead of your complaints.

Gunnora had said:
>I beg to differ.  People get to drum or dance at home while 
>practicing. People need to do a lot of drumming at their homes, in their
>own living rooms etc. so that when they do drum in public they are 
>bearable. No one would allow a beginner with any other instrument to 
>assault our ears the way we regularly have to be assaulted by novice 
>drummers.  DON'T do all your learning and practicing at events!!  
>Do it at home!  Practice with tapes of medieval/middle eastern music.  
>Tape yourself and listen to what it sounds like.  Invest in an inexpensive
> metronome and find out if your idea of rhythm has any relationship to 
>the real world.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Finely some good advice instead of just complaining.  But this too apply
>'' to the "regular" bards, not just drummers/dancers.

Gunnora answers:
>We aren't discussing competition circles, here.  For one thing, those 
>almost always have a moderator, and entries are almost always timed to
>some  extent. As for "not being forced", well, that is so.  However, I have 
>on several occasions had a bardic circle at MY OWN CAMP invaded by 
>The Drummers Who Would Not Die.  Where do you go then?  You're 
>already "at home" but if you thought you were going to bed, forget that 
>feeble dream.  And you know, the really drunk drummers are hard to 
>get to leave.  It can be done, but you have to be a really rude ass hole 
>(even ruder than the drummers) to get their attention in this instance 
>(or resort to the bad bard axe, as mentioned above).  This is why I think 
>that drummers (and other performers) need to be sensitive about what 
>and where the circle is!

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Then if it is on "your own turf" then follow your own advice (as earlier
>stated)  and ask them to LEAVE.  Too bad if they think your an ass hole,
>its your camp, you didn't ask for drummers did you?

Gunnora had said:
>You know, when I first got in the SCA, it was customary to ask 
>permission to enter a camp that was not your own, at the very minimum to
>call out "Hail the Camp! May I enter?"  This allowed introductions 
>to be made, and people knew who the guests were and who the host/s were.  
>It might be a good  idea to practice asking that question when entering a

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>I do this, unless it is to the "main communal"  bardic circle.  And I
>have NEVER had it happen for me in my camp though, never once has anyone
>asked before they just walked in, be it drummer/ dancer, or singer/ story

Gunnora had said:
> If you will be drumming, it is only polite to ask whether *this* 
>circle will be a good place to share your skill.  If the people 
>there tell you that no, this is a laid back, quiet circle, or a tale 
>spinner's group, or whatever, don't argue. Find another venue in 
>which to exhibit your own skills or stay and enjoy the skills of others.

Gwendolyn replied in her post:
>Then give the drummers the same respect, that is ALL  I have been 
>saying.  Why should they be kind and considerate to you if in return 
>for consideration they get called "Nothing but a bunch of no talent
>drunks"???  After a time you stop being hurt by it and start getting
>even...  Not the SCA way of doing things is it?  People have asked for 
>tolerance of their fellow man/woman on a different thread, why can't we
>have a little here???  

Gwendolyn continued replying in her post:
>If your not willing to teach or help out then you have no reason to
>b*tch.  I am willing to help and have done so on many occasions, 
>I have organized bardic circles that have had  BOTH storytellers/singer 
>AND drummers/dancers and have had very few problems.  This is for 
>both competition and just for fun.  Like I said you are ALWAYS free to 
>go elsewhere and if it is at your camp you are ALWAYS free to tell 
>every one to leave. 

Gwendolyn continued replying in her post:
>Some of the BEST bardic circles I have been to have been out in the
>western border of Ansteorra, (where I use to live) where they don't
>realize you can't have it both ways. I guess they haven't had people
>coming out there telling them they have to do it a certain way, and they
>have grown up (SCA wise) without all the preconceived notions of what a
>bard should be.

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