Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sometimes Magic Doesn't Just Happen...

I have a button on my bulletin board that someone gave me many years ago that says "Magic Happens."  Right now it is holding in place a flower shaped ornament that was attached to a gift a different friend gave me about a year ago.  I'm not overly big on buttons or bumper stickers. I think condensing a message down enough to fit on either often leads to oversimplification of what is often a much more complicated issue.  

Tonight I spent my evening making music and rhythm for some dancers in a town about an hour north of here.  I played rhythm on the zils, riq and mazur along side a percussionist who I perform with regularly (usually as a dancer) but who is far more accomplished than I when it comes to rhythm.  The show, which was sold out,  took place in a small restaurant; the eager crowd of 40 or so people filled the space wall to wall.

I was nervous.  I was nervous because I would be leading off the percussion on the first set after my fellow musician finished a solo on the ney so that he would have time to switch instruments.  I was nervous because I didn't want to fuck up make a mistake and make a dear friend look bad.  I was nervous because the dancer we were playing for was someone who I admired greatly and I didn't want to let her down.  Taking all of this nervousness into account I picked the instrument I felt most comfortable with, the zils.

The music began with the soft and slow sounds of the ney; the crowd was quiet and attentive. All eyes were on the dancer and her sinuous movements.  The music came to an end and she held her pose, I began to play.  My zills rang high and clear, filling the space with sound.  Four measures later I was joined by a doumbec loud and steady.  While my partner in music took the lead I followed first on zils and then on the riq.  We had performed together so often over the past few years that even with my limited experience I was able to anticipate and follow his lead without issue.  The dancer, very experienced with performing to live music, cued us easily to speed up, slow down and when she was ready, bring it to an impressive shimmy close.  It was a conversation of music and dance.

My nervousness forgotten, lost somewhere in the ring of the first clap of the zils, I was left disbelieving it was over and wishing it would go on and on and on (thankfully we played three more times during the evening).  I had experienced that sort of synchronicity, that magic, that can happen when performing to live music before but only on the other side of the drum as a dancer.  Tonight was the first time I experienced that as a musician.***

The drummer (improvising) makes a rhythm, the dancer (also improvising) upon hearing that rhythm responds with movement.  The drummer comes back with a question in sound (faster?), the dancer turns with a long slinky movement (no, slower please).  Yes, here you go responds the drummer...a moment later, quick shimmies of the hips...back and forth, hearing the drum beat, reading the dance and responding again with rhythm and movement...  

I would call tonight magical, but I think it was magic that happened because I was with a musician who I'd spent a lot of time working with as both a dancer and a percussionist.  I think it happened because we played for a dancer who is very skilled,  truly loves dancing to live music and knows how to speak without words to a drummer.  I think it happened because the crowd was happily ready and eager to be entertained.   I think it happened because all of that blended to create something wonderfully unique where the music and the dance became one performance.  Neither being  merely an accent or a back drop to the other.

So back to the button, "Magic Happens?"  Sure, I'd say that it does, but sometimes it happens because we've worked hard at something we are passionate about and each of us brings that experience, all of the time spent learning a skill, the hours of practice, all of our failures, our successes and our willingness to possibly fail again to that moment. In that moment magic doesn't just's made.

***to my friend...I understand now why you find it so addictive :-)

1 comment: