Thursday, October 22, 2020

Shawn Mativetsky - RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India

I am always excited when I hear about a new book on the topic of rudimental drumming. As someone who was initially introduced to the drums and percussion via rudimental drum line culture, I'm always interested to see what creative applications and variations people are coming up with. Admittedly, it's sometimes hit or miss (!) but many percussionists these days are coming up with some very imaginative and creative uses of the PAS 40 for us to consider.

With that in mind, Shawn Mativetsky's RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India recently caught my attention and it's impressive. In this book Shawn has taken rhythmic concepts from North Indian tabla drumming and applied them to the snare drum rudiments.

I first met Shawn during my first week as a student at McGill University back in 1995 and even back then I recognized what an incredible talent and devoted student of rhythm he was. He's put together a great study here and I encourage anyone who is interested in expanding their knowledge of rhythm and applications of rudimental patterns to check it out.

To learn more about Shawn and his book, visit his website (also check out his page for some fantastic videos where he demonstrates various North Indian rhythmic concepts and applications) and you can order his book through Liquidrum.

Shawn was nice enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about his publication:

Shawn Mativetsky - RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India - October 2020

1) Tell us all about your new book! What is it all about and what are the goals of your text?

RUDIMENTAAL is a collection of rudimental snare drum pieces, inspired by the tabla drumming of North India. My aim with this text is to provide a gateway into North Indian drumming for drummers and percussionists from all backgrounds. In addition to the pieces contained in this text, are explanations of the solo tabla form and the repertoire of which it is comprised, along with exercises and ├ętudes in order to further develop one’s understanding of the compositional forms, rhythmic devices, and performance practices of this rich musical tradition. My hope is that readers will enjoy this exploration of Indian rhythm, and like me, get absolutely hooked and travel further down the rabbit hole, so to speak.

In RUDIMENTAAL, the repertoire is presented in a way similar to how one might learn tabla. First, one learns various compositions from the repertoire as separate items. Each item can be seen as an ├ętude, or a short concert piece for performance. Once enough repertoire is learned, one can then connect the various compositions together to create a fully-formed solo. There are a number of compositions provided, along with instructions for how to piece them together, allowing for numerous possible permutations in coming up with your own solo snare drum performance. Essentially, you can design your own piece based on your repertoire preferences, and the form can expand and contract to suit whatever duration you have in mind.

Through RUDIMENTAAL, my aim is to provide insight and understanding of North Indian rhythm, including the concepts of taal (rhythmic cycles), tihai (rhythmic cadences), layakari (rhythmic density), strategies for improvisation of variations on a theme, and how to apply the tabla solo form to snare drum. In notating all the compositions for snare drum, it required me to simplify the compositions down to their bare essence - the soul of each composition - making the motives and structures clear. Due to this, drummers, composers, and all musicians in general, should be able to expand these ideas further, and apply them to the drum kit and to many other musical contexts.

2) What was the motivation and inspiration for putting this together?

I know that many people are fascinated by the tabla and Indian classical music, however often tend to be intimidated by the complexity of the music and the many years of study required to play an instrument such as the tabla. With RUDIMENTAAL, I hope to create a bridge between the Indian and Western music traditions, so that more musicians outside of the Indian classical tradition can gain some understanding of this rich, beautiful tradition.  Much as the tabla is the principal percussion instrument of the North Indian classical tradition, the snare drum is likewise central to the Western percussion tradition, and so this transposition of repertoire from one to the other makes a lot of sense to me, and comes quite naturally. In this way, drummers and percussionists can approach North Indian rhythm on an instrument that is familiar to them. My hope is that RUDIMENTAAL can help drummers, and musicians in general, to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the tabla and North Indian rhythm, and begin to apply some of the concepts in their personal musical practice.

3) How do you recommend students and teachers approach working through this?

As previously mentioned, the repertoire is presented in a way similar to how one learns tabla. Each of the pieces in RUDIMENTAAL can be performed as separate works, or can be joined together to create a larger form. First, there are some introductory exercises centred around counting taal with the hands, and speaking bols of the theka (timekeeping pattern) and some tihais (rhythmic cadences). I have provided videos of these on my rudimentaal.com website in order to assist with this process. After one has integrated these foundational concepts, one can move on to learning the compositions.

Tabla players do a lot of repetitive practice, looping phrases and compositions over and over until they are fully integrated in terms of memorization, technique, tone, and musicality. I strongly recommend taking this approach, going item by item, repeating as many times as necessary to fully integrate the materials, before moving on to the next, and before attempting a run-through as notated. If there are challenging phrases, isolate those phrases and repeat as many times as necessary.

My Guru, Pandit Sharda Sahai-ji, would often say, “Practice one million times, perform once.” This illustrates the work ethic and level of preparedness required.

For the kaidas, which are theme-and-variation compositions, it is a good idea to try to follow the logic of the variations. This will help with the musical flow, but also in understanding what is actually going on, musically, which will allow for these concepts to be applied to other musical contexts outside of the book. In order to assist with this, I've provided a full analysis of KAIDA 1 in RUDIMENTAAL.

One could work through the repertoire in the book in order, treating each short piece as an etude or short performance, or, one could join these together in a specific way in order to form a larger solo performance. Detailed instructions for this are provided in the text, but essentially, the tabla solo form is flexible - as long as we have an introduction, development, and conclusion, the solo can last 5 minutes, or 5 hours! In the case of RUDIMENTAAL, perhaps 5 minutes to 30 minutes with the repertoire provided.

There are also three complete standalone pieces included, which are significantly longer.

4) What future book projects do you have in mind?

RUDIMENTAAL is still quite fresh off the presses, so I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I can definitely imagine a ‘Volume 2’, expanding the concepts further, introducing new repertoire, different taals, and further strategies for improvisation.

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