Part 4: Facilitating the Drum Ensemble Towards Orchestrational Consciousness
By Arthur Hull
This is the fourth in a series of five articles related to the video, “The Art Of Drum Circle Facilitation”.The articles and the video, found on the opening page of the VMC website, describes and demonstrate the four stages of the Village Music Circles Drum Circle Facilitation Protocol. By using this VMC protocol, you will be able to take a circle of drummers from a group playing consciousness to an ensemble playing consciousness, and finally into orchestrational consciousness, where drum rhythm grooves are turned into music.
If you have been following this series of articles, you have gone through the basic Village Music Circle protocol that will help you get a drum circle started through facilitating interactive experiential rhythmical playing actives. I have introduced to you the process of facilitating a “Drum Call” experience that will educate your drum circle playing group about itself and the collaborative musical potential that exists in any group rhythm event.
By completing the Drum Call process, you have also completed the job descriptions of (1) the Dictator, dictating to the players in the circle the basic body-language signals that you will be using throughout your whole drum circle event, and (2) the Director, directing the group towards ensemble consciousness and musicality through experiential activities.
The key to knowing when to stop being the Director and start being the Facilitator, (the third job description in the Village Music Circle facilitation protocol), is when the players in your drum circle are turning their drum rhythm grooves into interactive music expressions. Now that your rhythm ensemble is offering you some musical elements to facilitate, the real drum circle facilitation experience begins and you can start facilitating the group to higher forms of collaboration and musical expression.
The basic elements that make a musical rhythm ensemble are “platformed” in the following order:
- Rhythm Connection. This must be in place before any other musical element can appear in any rhythm groove. If you don’t have rhythm connection, you won’t have a group rhythm groove to work with.
- Interactive Dialogue. A connected group rhythm groove becomes the foundational platform for interactive dialogue to occur between your drum circle players and their different instruments. There are many ways to facilitate interactive dialogue amongst your players, but the fundamental role of the facilitator is to help the players use their notes to make space for other people’s creativity. You will discover that in the beginning of a drum circle event, the players have a tendency to fill up the spaces with notes. As you move through the VMC drum circle protocol they will have a tendency to listen more and play less notes, making more space for each others rhythmic and musical creativity.
- Melody Line. Once you have your players listening and talking to each other in their interactive rhythmical dialogue, you have set the foundation for a particular melody line, or Rhythm Song, to appear in the totality of the group’s interactive playing. These melody lines in your drum circle group’s playing will constantly evolve and change throughout the event. You may find more that one melody line interacting in the rhythmical dialog at any one time. Sculpting and showcasing the particular players who are the fundamental contributors of any “dialogue melody line” is the key to facilitating your playing group into higher and more sophisticated forms of musicality.
- Harmonics. Once a melody lines begin too appear in your interactive drum circle music, then many different types of harmonics will manifest itself in between the activities of different timbral contributions offered by your players. We call this “Angels In the Music.” You will swear that you can hear chorus voices or a flute or saxophone in the sound mix when there isn’t anyone singing or playing a wind instrument in the circle. Angels In the Music is a manifestation of the harmonies created in your drum circle.
These are many musical elements in your drum circle ensemble that you can identify, facilitate, select, and showcase, which will allow you to raise the group’s level of musicality. This style of facilitation will help you to guide the players in your group towards “orchestrational consciousness.” My experience is that the best facilitators who follow the Village Music Circle facilitator drum circle protocol, do two things:
- Follow the people who are following you!
- Work with what they give you!
This means that while facilitating a drum circle group, you’re listening deeply to what contributions the players are offering to the music. Then you can facilitate and showcase those contributions and connections in such a way that you are guiding the players in the direction they want to go towards spirited music making while creating the Angels In the Music.
Sculpting and showcasing rhythm “songs” of mixed timbers and drum pitches and then stop-cutting the rest of the players will educate those non-playing people in the circle about “orchestrational consciousness” while they are listening to that particular sculpted “song.” Sculpting these elements in the circle as a platform for more sophisticated musical interaction is your intention as a facilitator.
In the 12-minute Facilitator segment of the one-hour VMC Facilitation video (below), you will find examples of song sculpting as a music platform for inviting deeper listening and more sophisticated music interaction.
I remind you that throughout this video you will see me, and many other Village Music Circle facilitator graduates, demonstrate facilitation techniques based on simple body language signals. But what you won’t see is that, most of the time, good drum circle facilitators stay out of the center of the circle as much as possible. This allows the players to connect with each other to explore and express their collaborative rhythm and their musical spirit. We call this action of leaving the center of the circle “GOOW”: Get Out Of the Way. And sometimes we say “STOW”: Stay Out Of the Way. Let the rhythm go until the drummers need your help. If it aint broke - dont fix it.
Until the next installment in this series, Share Your Spirit!