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 
similar fodder.

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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