Friday, May 14, 2010
Wadaiko Newark Pt. 2
"Terry tells me you're a ringer!"
I took his statement as a compliment, and liked Dr. Greg Clark instantly. I stood in Wadaiko Newark's dojo not as a student, but as a potential troupe member. Dr. Clark struck me as someone smart and interesting, with a personality and outlook diametrically opposite to most of those I'd become accustomed to in music production. He'd been a chiropractor, worked in military intelligence, and had a character that showed great inquisitiveness. "This is someone I can believe in" was my thought. It seemed as though I'd found some kind of new mentor.
The Wadaiko Newark performing troupe consisted of eight full time members. In order to become the ninth, I would have to attend their Saturday morning practice sessions, learn their performance routine, and perform a solo audition. After the audition, the troupe would decide whether or not to accept or reject me.
Practices continued apace throughout the end of summer, and in early autumn I decided to perform my formal audition and ask the performing troupe to accept me as a member. I had decided to take one of the basic taiko drum pieces from the beginner class and integrate it into an improvisation on the trap kit. The piece was to be used as a Jazz-style "head", and after playing this, I would improvise, thereafter returning to the piece in conclusion. The improvisational style was inspired by Milford Graves, whose amazing drumming had been leaving me speechless for years. Graves's drumming pulls from holistic medicine, musical systems from every corner of the world, and his own form of martial art. It is pretty much god-head for a certain style of kit playing, and I tried my humble best in an imitation of it. Upon completion of the audition, permission was granted to me to join Wadaiko Newark as a performing member. I was in!
Throughout that fall and winter, we rehearsed our performance routine. We were looking forward to the spring, which would afford smaller ensembles such as ours many chances to play at street festivals, fairs, and Buddhist temples. I very much enjoyed getting to know Dr. Clark and the various personalities of Wadaiko Newark.
I was particularly happy to be assigned to do a duet with Marie. The piece, Ka Ga Ra, featured the two of us playing in unison on shime daiko (a small, piccolo pitched drum) and uchi daiko (a large, tenor pitched drum). Ka Ga Ra was to be played in between two group features, while the rest of the group did a quick set change. It seemed as though Marie enjoyed playing the piece as much as I did. We'd smile, count it off, and just go for it.
Before we knew it, spring had arrived, but along with the sun and scheduled concerts, it brought with it a hint of storms to come.