Uncharted Creativity and the Expert Drummer

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Tirelessly researched and seemingly aimed at scholarly types and the academic end of the drumming community (though musos in general will find much of interest here), this unique book from the one-time Yes, King Crimson and Earthworks sticks-man is an insightful read based on his new research regarding drummers and their creativity behind the drum set.

Over its 250-plus pages players as diverse as Chad Wackerman, Peter Erskine, Mark Guiliana, Martin France, Cindy Blackman Santana, Thomas Stronen, Asaf Sirkis, Dylan Howe and Ralph Salmins have been quizzed by (the now Doctor) Bruford on their own unique relationship with the instrument and their personal feelings on feel, flow, time and expression amid many other areas of the art form.

There are enriching ideas on rhythm, recording, improvisation and the constraints surrounding a player’s surroundings, musical setting, style and given genre, as well as choice words from all on the “what to play and what not to play” implications of what formulates a perfect take or creative performance. While some readers may initially be alarmed by some of the layout and the kind of flow charts and diagrams you’d expect to find in a physics textbook, Bruford’s book fast becomes a fascinating read.

Particularly enlightening and informative to this writer (and drummer of 25 years plus) are the detailed chapters on practice and performance in a functional versus compositional setting, the approach to leading a band versus the drummer’s role of supporting a leader or soloist, and a whole chapter given up to Elvin Jones and the creative and stylistic changes he brought to jazz drumming.

During a recent interview with a US drum mag Bruford summarised the book as “a manual for drummers on collaboration and their position within a group” and as you flip through this clever book it becomes clear it’s  something he undoubtedly believes is still understated and under-recognised, like the creative powers of drummers themselves and their ability to affect and drive the music. Above everything else though it’s a great reference report or research tool from one of greatest and most innovative drummers of his generation.

Uncharted Creativity and the Expert Drummer
By Bill Bruford. University of Michigan Press, 274pp. ISBN 978-0-472-05378-0