“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Elliot
If you’ve ever spent time on page 37 in Ted Reed’s Syncopation, you know where I’m going with this….I started playing drums in 1976 and in 1992 had the world of drumming change my world….
Twenty four years ago, my long-time friend and still drum teacher today, Kevin Soffera taught me how to read this page over 20 different ways, perhaps even more. But his first challenge was to convince me that what I was looking at, or more specifically how I was seeing what I was looking at, had infinite possibilities; That apparent reality, that which comes through the sense doors, was a slight of the hand trick on the mind.
To note, in any one moment, we can perceive only about 2000 bits of the 2 billion bits available to us. Or put another way, we base our human experience on apparent reality – .00001 percent of the whole picture. The other 99.99999%, we leave out. More on how to live inclusive of the non-material void of intelligent potentiality later.
For now, here is a quick look at how things went that day…
KS – “Hey Mike, what do you see?”.
ML – “…uh…eight notes Kev…!?”
KS – “Great. Yes, correct. Look again, what do you see?”
ML – silently to myself – I thought, Huh?…. where’s he going with this? My reply… ”um, eighth notes….?”
Like any wise teacher recognizing their student hasn’t a clue, Kevin compassionately said, “yes of course, correct again! And just when I thought he was through, he challenged me one more time. Despite having and interest in mysticism and things such as Zen Koans – “what is the sound of one hand clapping..” I was a bit embarrassed that I wasn’t picking up what he was laying down. My final and reluctant reply was, “….er um, Eighth Notes?
Kevin once again validated my correctness, but then exercised his wizardly ways on my consciousness. While absolutely a bunch of eighth notes, Page 37 in Ted Reed’s Syncopation became so much more – in fact over twenty different ways over the next year. Bass drum patterns, hi-hat patterns over those bass drum patterns, each against variations of the other, paradiddle exercises over samba ostinatos and double bass, eighth note and sixteenth note triplet rolls, right hand lead patterns in a jazz context, shuffle grooves, and on and on. After some time, I even began seeing my own interpretations of the page. It became endless.
But that wasn’t only where the magic came about.
At one point during the course of the year, I left my lesson saying, “holy fuck, what if my life is like a page of eighth notes?!?!” – “that my office, friends and families and all the other aspects of my life were viewed through such a limited lens” – like looking into a large room through a key whole – never seeing the whole picture. Could limitations I felt within my circumstances be reinterpreted so that my experience of them also became infinite or at the very least more dynamic, just like page 37? “Holy crap,” I thought to myself – actually out loud. “Have I got work to do.”
And so, rather than getting a drum lesson that day, I received a life lesson, a call to action to upgrade the mental operating system and to re-invent my world, myself, and my human experience. Grateful for that and every lesson since. Thanks Kev!
In another post, I’ll share what this lesson eventually catalyzed in my life… for now, I ask…..
“What if you’re life is like a page of eighth notes. How will you play it today?”