Online Thesis/Dissertation Repository

BLOOD DRUM SPIRIT: Drum languages of West Africa, African-America, Native America, Central Java, and South India
by Royal Hartigan


Blood Drum Spirit is a study which focuses on West African and African-American music. The research is conducted through the eyes master drummers in each tradition and also includes a stylistic history of the drum set in African-American music. Three additional sections treat the adaptation of Native American, Javanese, and South Indian drumming and drum languages to the drum set. The research consists of interviews and performances of music by master artists from each world tradition. These sessions are tape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed.

The topics arising from the research on West African and African-American music include timbral and technical parallels; individual rhythmic correspondence and adaptation; the recurring phenomenon of multiple rhythmic perspectives in ensembles; the role of notation; possible methods for the study, performance, and teaching of these traditions; moral aspects of the music and their use; and a personal sense of shared heritage.

In the section on West African music, we investigated 25 traditional pieces, which include recreational, ritual, harvest, warrior, funeral, court, and ceremonial music. We also studied contemporary Highlife drumming. These are additional chapters on four traditional West African drumming pieces and their adaptation to the drum set.

Javanese drumming patterns are recorded and transcribed, as well as South Indian solkattu phrases and compositions, and the 175 tala forms of South Indian Karnatak (classical) music.

Percussionists will find that over 900 transcriptions of Native American, Javanese, South Indian, West African, and African-American patterns are a multitude of time and rhythmic complexes distributed through the drum set in original and challenging ways which require and promise a high level of mastery.

The result of our efforts is a comprehensive body of musical techniques, styles, and theoretical/aesthetic issues, which are assembled for the first time in a systematic and detailed manner. They offer a unique resource to scholars, practicing musicians, and general readers interested in music and culture.

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