On Having Two Drummers

Day 294 Week 43 Q4 Sunday, October 22, 2023

Some of the most contagious and, hence, most danceable beats were supplied by rock bands fifty years ago, like The Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Santana. Sometimes there were actually two drummers, and sometimes there was a drummer and a percussionist, which to a classical musician might sound confusing because, in that world, everyone is a percussionist, not a drummer except, of course, for the people who play tympani, but that is another matter.

Apart from confusing cultural nomenclature, which I merely mention here and am not inventing, the issue is a double timekeeper as a powerful way to keep everyone and everything in synch. Sometimes, companies have project managers and coordinators, and sometimes, one person has all of the responsibility for timekeeping.

Two timekeepers allow for polyrhythms as well, which are not only more interesting but approximate the way life works more accurately as well. We have many cycles within cycles, and they sometimes line up more strongly than others. For example, there is your work life and your personal life. What some of you are saying is that they are the same. Well then, bear with me here, for unless you are the type that is good at marching in rhythm in parades or other, from above, dictums about how to march, I suspect that most of you march to the beat of your own internal drummer and do not necessarily agree with the common denominator rhythm society attempts to impose upon you.

Just as there are often two guitarists in a band with one playing rhythm and the other playing lead and two violins in a string quartet nominally for the same reason as there are often a drummer and percussionists playing in the same ensemble, the reason is it is easier to share the responsibility and permits more texture and nuance not so much because each party is a specialist although that may be the case, but because it is more fun to skip through life than to march through it.  As an aside, when I joined a local volunteer fire department and parade season was coming up, other local fire companies had dress uniforms; for just such occasions, I was told we were (and still are) a fire fighting company, not a marching company and instead of wearing shiny shoes we wore hoodies.

So, yes, understand that creative people do not march in formation. But they do have plenty of rhythms or often even rhythms, which is why I recommend the two-drummer approach to life. Unless you want to end up alone, lacking in longevity and meaning, find out what the more normal rhythms of life, as well as your internal ones, are, and find that polyrhythmic beat you can dance to because I am sure you would rather dance than march. If you want to bob and weave and also still get things done, then you need two drummers.