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Old 01-22-2013, 10:54 PM
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Anon La Ply Anon La Ply is offline
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Default Re: Should drummers call themselves musicians?

Originally Posted by Bushmanic View Post
I can't find the exact thread/post at the moment, where larryace (Uncle Larry) wrote down very interesting thoughts about why drummers are not always considered musicians. Would be a great read for all who keeps asking themselfs/others this very question.p
I know the one you mean, Bush (or do you prefer Maniac?) ... if I remember rightly, Larry's comment came from frustration at seeing other drummers at local jams - drummers who bash all the time, who don't listen and just shoehorn their licks into the songs, who step on the vocals and soloists, whose tempo is uneven etc.

He was talking about players who never got past their noob garage drummer habits (guys with drum sets). Bear in mind that Larry started out as a garage player himself (as did I). Over time he gave up his bad drummer habits, got in demand, and became the drumming equivalent of a vehement reformed smoker or ex-junkie evangelist ;-)

Most people question the bona fides of garage-y drummers - likewise garage guitarists, bassist and singers, though history set up drummers as an easier target.

As Earthrocker said, early last century the old guard classical people had enough trouble accepting jazz as a legitimate musical form let alone drummers, who at the time only played a basic timekeeping role and frequently were the least musically educated member of the band. There was also racism and embarrassingly odious snobbery in some who thought of drumming as a primitive black man activity and that white classical music was inherently superior.

My history's a bit dicey (understatement) but I think Chick Webb the first drummer last century to get the general public respecting drummers. Gene and Buddy progressed that line and drew great crowds. I understand that the intelligent, educated and refined Max Roach played a role in turning people's heads around about drummers.

Some classical boffins believed that drums were not a musical instrument but merely noise makers. At the time drums did have more of a sound effect role in classical rather than being intrinsically tied to the flow and structure of the music as they are in jazz and other modern music.

Nowadays, of course, noise-making can be a legitimate musical pastime. Duncan and I have talked about this stuff a bit and he pointed me to instances where noise is used in mainstream music and listeners (including me) barely even notice, apart from digging it.

People love to say "that's not music" about music that challenges their conservative and fearful world view, eg. Cage, Stockhausen, free jazz (some say it's not "jazz"). My Dad said it about The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

Duncan also put me on to the notion that what distinguishes music from non-music is intent. So music need not travel up and down the stave, nor even be capable of being written with conventional notation. If you intend to make music, then you're making music. Whether it's any good or not is another matter.

I don't think gatekeeping is logically valid - "not a musician", "it's not music", "it's not jazz", "it's not rock'n'roll". It's whatever the performers intend it to be and from there others can judge its merit or lack. On one thread Matt Smith referred to Muzak as an "artificial musiclike product", a parsing that I like a lot. Sincerity (or its lack) is a defining factor.

It's hard to imagine this question coming up in places with rich rhythmic traditions like Africa, Asia or South/Central America.