Monday, February 28, 2011
Zohar Fresco is not only a man who can bang on the drum in the most sublime way imaginable, but he is also one who has mastered the art of simplicity, elegance, and correspondence. He communicates through dynamic soundscapes made up of equal measures between four elements: the pulse, color, energy, and spirit. “The drum is only a tool, tav in Hebrew, and has embedded in its name both the idea of oneness and life. Then there is also the idea of connection – the Hebrew letter vav is the sound of being joined, one and another, AND.” I let myself be pulled into the kabbalistic philosophy of Zohar's drumming, and think about how amazing the idea of joining is, yet joining not horizontally, as one may think is logical, but vertically. Of course, the one and the other cannot and should not be dissolved into one another. They must remain independent. “Before a child is born,” Zohar tells us, “the first thing that he hears is his mother's pulse and her voice.” “Remember,” he then says by turning to the majority of men in the room, “what we all want is this, to hear the woman's voice and her pulse. The woman always wins, remember that.” Something in Zohar's voice leaves no room for disagreeing. He speaks softly, and his words fly as do his fingers on the drum. I insist on touching his hands for the whole time I'm present. And he lets me. And we both feel the power of the shekkinah. He knows why I'm there. I'm not there to imitate his inimitable style, nor am I there to learn how to drum. I'm there for the light, the formless form, which yet in his hands exudes the rigor of discipline. Zohar masters to perfection not only what can be turned into articulate and clear sound, but also the voiceless, what he calls the ghost notes. I like these notes the best. They allow me to follow the movement of his hand into 'almost' sound. The sound of the silent O. “I'm zero,” Zohar says, "I start from zero on this round thing which is the drum, a zero itself, and I give nothing. But I want this nothing to move people.” His playing moves me. I cry. And then I cry some more as I realize that he plays for me, just for me. Zohar wrote a piece called Echad, One, and I understand what he means by pulsating at unison with another's heart: D-, -T, --, T-. So we also drum for each other. Each in our own way. And the collective beat of 22 joins in. Zohar's gaze following our fingers reminds us to remember the connection: as above, so below. And yet, while his drum electrifies vertically, his gaze establishes a horizontal line as well. We're all under him, but only because he insists on no hierarchy. “I'm here to serve” is his mantra, and one hears it as the doum on the drum, the very vehicle which creates dynamics. Zohar leaves us all flat on our bellies, supplicating, or flat on our backs, ecstatically contemplating the stars.
People ask me whether I drum for shamanic purposes. While I reply in the negative, I tell them about various archaic techniques of trance-inducing rituals. By drumming, most shamans of the world believe that they can fly to the Cosmic Tree. The skin of the drum is revived through a pulsing touch and voice. The sounds taken together recall various spirits. As such, the drum is used as a means for ascension. The shaman is a medium who creates a correspondence between theriomorphic ancestors, the mythical subterranean beings nurturing the roots of the tree, and the cosmic branches holding the dead souls. The way Zohar slides his finger on the drum, pressing on it as if to demonstrate my point, creates a swishing sound that always makes me bite my lips. His moist hand tapping gently on the dead skin reanimates some other worlds which I'm trying to mix in with my own. “So, you are an alchemist,” a biochemist interested in drumming asked over dinner. “I don't know about me,” I said, “but I know that Zohar is one. He has the right ingredients, and he knows how to mix them. He puts into his playing neither too much, nor too little, but exactly as much as it's necessary. He takes balance and control to sublime levels. The level where we can all hope.”
A few German percussionists insist that I'm a kräuterhexe, a healing herbalist witch with a penchant for synthesizing philosophies and religions. “Drumming is a form of divination,” I say. The drummer summons the sun and the moon, the underworld, the Lord of the Dead, AND... the Echad.” “You will hear spoken in symbols, what you already know,” I tell another, who calls me a healing Tarotist. “The shamans of the tundra Yurak call their drum a singing bow,” I further say, and they offer horse-meat to the master of the drum. What can we offer Zohar? Perhaps an acknowledgment of what we are, including the ghost notes. “I'm all these things because of the magic of noise and the magic of music. We're all summoned by light.” “You have to pull the light to yourself,” another Kabbalist drummer says, and concludes that I'm a “funny woman.” At the end of the day, I don't know about the funny part, but fun I had. In Zohar's company, one always thinks of him as a pulsating light. Splendor is embedded in his hame. If Zohar is a zoharic pulse, then drumming must return to him. Let us then intone with the shaman, the alchemist, the kräuterhexe, the Tarotist, and the ghost note: Zohar Fresco, we bow to you in refraction. Let there be fragments of light.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
When the mathematicians hit you, be ready. It may not be only numbers that they have in store for you. Here I was, thinking of the growing intensity in the ping-ponging that I play with my genius friend, and laughing at the idea that the more I think that I can handle the biggest infinity around, imagining also that I sit on the edge of the universe where there's a lot of space between the galaxies – that's it, no more clutter, just as I like it up there – not even dust – so, yes, thinking at the edge of the universe of how beautiful it is to add one more zero to the one, and thus get further and further away from screwed up perspectives and verbal animations, I think, yes, with the biggest infinity around, the only ordinary thing that will happen is seeing the emergence of patterns that replace the world of words with images and symbols, and yes, the obvious itself will also occur like magic, and the obvious is that soon I'll change my profession, and so will he, the genius, that is, I mean, here at the edge of the universe, with space in between the ordinary occurrence of the obvious, yes, what will happen is that I'll take up his job at Aalborg University, a mighty universe indeed, and he will take up mine, an even bigger universe, as I'm always into bigger things than anyone else, and we'll improve the world from within, we'll go from the 10 raised at the power of minus 16 to some other 10 raised at some very nice infinity, to destroy numbers, crush them, to make some light, so ok, we'll need some help, I think Caravaggio is a good bet, and so is Zorn's 11th axiom of set theory, yes, we need to fix first some existences, even Gertrude Stein was into redemptive acts, so why not us, get past the obvious but not losing it out of sight, and also past the Bible, but not losing it out of sight either, and then we'll pause 5 minutes into the film that H, the genius, has been circulating around for our instruction into Zorn's lemma, which says that, well, Zorn says a lot of things, that there must be a yes somewhere in it, there's for instance a very nice yes in the very fifth minute, after the alphabet and the creation, and after the facts: "In Adam's fall we sinned all"; "Thy life to mend, God's Book attend"; "The Cat doth play, and after slay", when the camera takes a break from all that infinite obviousness of ordinary things, and when it pauses on the yes, lo and behold, not on anything else, in fact it does so quite stubbornly, pause, that is, or hesitate, to be more precise, and yes, of course, before you know it, H and I will have a lot of fans, we do already, and they will all shout, oy, or perhaps, oh my, how clever of you two, by Jove, but then by then Jove will be out of sight, I mean, with all this infinity in the provisional, who's to say what we'll get out of changing professions, but then again, at the edge of the universe, whether H will be a mediocre poet, and I a lousy mathematician, the question is, will it make any difference, no difference at all, we'll be so spaced out, and totally Muybridgian, beyond analogies, beyond the laws of attraction, beyond the laws of correspondences, beyond the laws of causality, beyond the laws of end results, and, I'm sure that I'm missing some laws right now, I'm sure of it, but, in any event, and even beyond 'whatever', there is light, there's lots of light even there where there's lots of space between the lightning stars, and yes, even though I hate it, I think that I'll pick up the phone and ask the genius what the hell he's thinking about, although between the two of us, I know it already, so perhaps to the fans then, yes, we promise, we'll do it, we'll hit this one. Let there be 11 of them.