Picked somewhere between a hint and a dream, I reflect mostly on contours of what once was, that has now bled into what has become. Being small, on my father’s knee, thumb behind my back, his index and middle tap continuously, foot nimbly kicking the bass in opposition with his hand smacking the tom. My fat baby belly his high hat, he beats rhythm into memory — one and a two and a three and a four. Once old enough, he hypnotizes us to repeat “one and a two and a three and a four”. His afternoon retreat was our fondest. Always a tune to keep. When not counting, we danced and at bed, we sang. Every family has a thread — ours was music.
I learned if I were to sing, try to hold the note and project out. If I were to learn an instrument, I would need to learn the backstory and theory — for that, I steered clear until I left. Never one for listening, I rather just wait for the beat.
With time and separation, longing for the comfort of the familiar comes like a wave, and you find yourself moving toward something you understand. I could never play the guitar but was asked to teach a tune to a fellow consumer because “it just looked so natural” on my knee, while I sat there to purchase my still barely used Yamaha. I strummed the strings on gloomy days, without direction or reason, trying to connect — far from my own, like a Martian far from home.
Perfecting the guitar always seemed about patterns, attention, and listening. Some of which I could grasp, but never was as natural as keeping the beat. With an internal metronome, I could feel when to connect to the bass drum. The guitar was about learning, but drums I could just feel my way through. It was as if my father’s leg was still underway kicking and his voice on the sidelines reminding “one and a two and a three and a four”.
The first time behind a drum kit was more intimidating than the guitar. Both complex, but jumping into the drums is certainly more aggressive than the off-key strum of those forgiving alloy strands. Lack of space within the home makes it difficult to practice, but there’s always a pillow to strike, so it’s not much of an excuse. Still, it’s not the same as being behind a full kit in a padded room, far from the reaches of anyone knowing. Behind a kit, creativity takes a hand and redirects, anger exhausts, adrenaline explodes, and then there’s the rush. You just move and it’s all just enough.
Then you are separated by consequence, only to discover upon reuniting how much easier it is to return. Like an old friend, you jump right in — conversing about all the time lost and moments in between, moving around topics, so as not to leave any out. You feel at home — daughter of the rhythm section — my father not so far after all. It’s the simple beats you return to when you realize you missed a step. It’s the simple “one and a two and a three and a four” that feels like home. What was once a difficult jumping off point becomes the comfortable space you begin again.
Hours drift away in a studio and I’d have barely perfected a song, but it’s my time, away from the obligation and stress of the everyday. My oasis has become the place I left far behind, now wondering why. In this place, my brain can dance and my limbs just “okay, go”. It’s not even a smooth sound, not a well-structured two-step, but then I slow it down, I find the beat — and suddenly I can breathe again.
If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/finding-a-new-rhythm/