Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Sometimes it’s just that simple.
Or that complex.
In 2017, I attended the North American Taiko Conference held at Stanford University. While there, I participated in a workshop that tossed out all the fancy things we try to do as taiko drummers and took us back to the basics. The facilitator told us right up front that we were going to spend 2 ½ hours working on loud and soft…basic dynamics…all in a duple meter.  
I felt annoyed and frustrated. I had traveled all the way to California to deepen my taiko experience. I wanted to expand my movement vocabulary. I wanted to learn some new songs. I wanted to network and meet new people. I wanted to explore a range of meters. I did not want to spend the afternoon playing loud and soft eighth notes. I figured I could do that at my home studio in Fort Wayne. But there I was and that’s what was happening so I succumbed.
First we played loudly. Very loudly. It’s easy to play a taiko loud, albeit a little exhausting. And then we played quietly. Very quietly. It’s much harder to play a taiko quietly. And then we explored the range of dynamics in between the two extremes…we defined dynamic levels on a range of 1 to 10 and moved from one to the other in steps and then in leaps and then in various combinations….by the time I left the workshop, my head was ringing with Infinite combinations full of textures and qualities…combinations that elevated my playing to a whole new level. Combinations that filled my heart and soul and mind in an endless array of possibilities that I obsessively notated on napkins and itineraries and boarding passes that somehow made their way into my backpack.
Once I returned home, I carefully sorted these jumbled bits and pieces and transcribed them onto index cards that I worked with a fellow drummer to sequence. We put them in this order and that and that order and this until we eventually composed a five-phrase song complete with a polyrhythm and an interlude. No fancy moves. No intricate rhythms. Just a duple meter of eighth notes played loud and soft.
Playing it requires an intense focus so I titled the piece Breathe. And when Fort Wayne Taiko hosted guest artist Tiffany Tamaribuchi for a three-day workshop March 2017 somehow this was the song we ended up working as a group. With her direction and encouragement, we infused the song with spirit and practiced applying her ergonomic technique.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Sometimes it’s just that simple.
Or that complex.
© 2014 Fort Wayne Dance Collective
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