Drum Languages as Red Code

From the earliest moment that the Maoist state began to commission a new live-arts repertory for its publically managed performance collectives, it was appreciated that the drum and gong/cymbal were highly qualified candidates for the role of untexted political messaging. Experiment with the visual and acoustical iconography of the drum has since then continuously engaged both pedestrian but also envelope-pushing (ugh!) musical dramatists charged with delivering updates or expansions of drum topoi. Like no other psycho-manipulative machine.

For a great many reasons. Not least of which is that drum-ing bypasses speech (semantic propaganda) and evades jamming by the defenses (shut-offs, shut-outs, earmuffing) that any mass society develops to screen out cliched logical instruction endlessly reiterated. Drums as sound-engineering machines and dance-evocative codes are harder to resist, easier to tweak, or even synthesize electronically. Especially in the latter mode, as drum-SIMULATORS, they are wondrously apt for opening the gates of Shklovskyian ostranenie (остранение)- “defamliarization”- where am I? what is this magic around me?” A realm in which we are most easily induced to enchantment by any sort of reiterable coding device: icons re-re-examined, mantra, refrain, even nonsense “song”, and the like. If flight-tempted dancers or composers or singers or poets seek entry into this world (and they always have, will), even the IMAGE of the drum can often get them there. Shamanism of a sort.

A great number of the short subjects (I hate “posts”, I do not write letters to myself…) that have and will appear on this site examine the evolution or pillaging of drum-trance templates for public messaging. But not just as they appear in the textbooks of the Loyalists. A dialogue has in fact been developing between the orthodox “been there done that” variety of cookie-cutter soundscapers on the one hand, and, on the other, defectors or secessionists trained in the drum technologies of state theatre and film but at one point or another having resigned from the Papal service and gone out on their own to try new and bolder approaches with drum-dream. By no means necessarily as counter-advocacy or one-way-ticketed dispatriation. But mainly because there is simply too much richness of potential in the idea (esp. in film and dance), and so promising a conduit to aesthetically astute non-Sinophonic audiences.

I have and shall link this topic page to all the posts that treat this matter under (category) “Drumdance and Drumtrance Messaging”.

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