What’s Your Immediate World?

I recently gave an interview to Mark Mann for ARTINFO via the telephone using an interlocutor and some of the questions we discussed gave me food for thought which I would like to put to you…

In respect of my worldwide travel Mark was interested in knowing how I maintain practise and did I have any routines to keep myself grounded.

“No! Absolutely not” I said. “And the reason is that I don’t want to become hostage to anything. That’s the first step in breaking down, where you hang on to something. My best strategy is to immediately lock into the time I am in wherever I arrive in the world. I don’t even think about the time at home.”

In hindsight I wonder if abstaining from one set of rituals could be indirectly involving me in another and I would be very interested in your thoughts on this!

As for rituals before concerts, my response is a clear: “not at all. Every single place is different, and how you feel is different. It’s part of listening to your body and accepting how you feel. If you feel nervous, accept the fact that you’re nervous. If you feel really raring to go, accept that. Accept the emotion that you’re in at that time. Because you know that as soon as you walk on stage and you feel the presence of the audience, a switch goes on and you do your best. That’s all you can do. If you start loading yourself with this ritual or that ritual, then that would play on your mind more than the piece of music.”

I know people who always do yoga exercises prior to a performance or feel the need to abstain from certain foods or drinks or alternatively feel they must have specific sustenance prior to performing. Again I would be interested in getting your perspective on this and what, if any, rituals you follow prior to certain events?

Mark’s next statement has the potential to require a very broad response. He said “a big theme of your work is the immediate world: you respond to what is present to you, your actual environment”.

I giggled at this point. “Well, I think percussionists do that quite naturally. We can pick up stones or rocks or twigs and so on, and suddenly we have some delight from that, if it makes interesting sounds. I think there’s always a child-like quality in what percussionists do.” Again it is a very leading question and I wonder how many of you think about this in the context of your own environment and how you respond within your workplaces, home or social setting.

“As percussionists we are often asked to do so many unusual things, and we’re used to that. Even with the piece that we rehearsed in the morning, we are being asked to play with sound effects, and use different ways of getting that emotion through. As percussion players we’re always thinking outside of the box, and always trying to find objects that might be interesting. Just the other day I happened to be in my kitchen and I had this fairly large wooden bowl. I turned it upside and I started tapping on it, and I realised it was like a Kevlar Scotch snare drum. Yet it had a kind of thinner, woodier effect to it. Immediately I decided that it didn’t belong in the kitchen, but it now belonged to the studio. So it remains there now.”

What items have you found that have other uses and how did you make that discovery?

Here are some extreme examples where my environment definitely had an impact on my performance. Whilst filming Touch the Sound my boundaries were pushed way out of my own personal comfort zone when I was asked to play a snare drum in the Grand Central Station in New York – as you can see from the passers-by this performance was unusual in many ways and triggered a variety of interesting reactions. Another environment Fred Frith and I, pictured, encountered during the filming was a very dirty old and leaky Sugar Factory in Germany and this is what we did with it! We had a great time and hope you enjoy it too.


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