Building Bridges with Music, not Noise

In my thirty-plus years of working in acoustics, I’ve found that noise tends to divide communities, polarize noise-producers and neighbors, even neighbors with neighbors, and generally creates.. a nuisance.

It takes an extraordinary amount of personal responsibility for someone who creates noise to acknowledge the problems and get cracking on being good neighbors. An extraordinary amount of personal responsibility, or maybe a lawsuit. Meanwhile they’re driving their neighbors nuts.

You see, what I’ve come to realize is that a certain portion of the population really doesn’t have any appreciation for the value in being a good neighbor. I guess it falls under the phrase, “It takes all kinds.” It might be a very different world indeed if people who are good-neighbor challenged understood that their right to swing their fist, acoustically speaking, ends at their property line. What a concept!

So what’s on the flip side of this record… is it– over time, with a lot of discussion, noise-producers will start to act like good neighbors. Or– people who are good at being good neighbors will take over the projects that produce noise. I’m not sure either of those tunes has been written yet. One way or another, there’s a lot of patience, and bridges, to build.

On the other hand, unlike noise, music can build community. Rather than dividing, music can unite. (I’ll look forward to the e-mails about loud outdoor concerts.)

Here’s a quote from Maine’s Rick Cormier in response to someone who said that drum circle novices should take lessons before participating in drum circles and not consider themselves “drummers”. Think on it, and enjoy.

“…I think that this issue depends on the intention of the circle. If the purpose of the circle is to play great traditional African (or Middle Eastern or Latin, etc) music, then by all means the drummers should be trained so that they have a clue as to what they are doing.

On the other hand, if it’s a freestyle community drum circle like mine the intention is different. We drum to create an atmosphere of spirituality or healing or sociality or creativity or fun… whatever the participant comes to get. Most of our newbies drum quietly and don’t disrupt the circle. They soon develop the ability to hear the improvised music and interact effectively with it. They learn by doing, by watching. They ask questions. They develop their sense of tempo. They learn to hold down the beat while more experienced drummers play lead. They learn to embellish effectively. They learn when to step into the foreground and when to recede into the background. They intuitively learn what’s best for the music. All that’s required of me is patience… and the relinquishing of control.

As recorded music first became accessible… people stopped singing in their homes and while they worked. People who sang for its own sake… for their own enjoyment… heard voices like Caruso’s and became embarrassed at the sound of their own voices. I find that sad. That kind of thinking has become ingrained in our culture. Our society makes it very clear to our children who should be playing music or sports… who should be drawing or dancing… We’re here to achieve not to enjoy.

In freestyle circles we learn to trust ourselves and one another… to play with joy… to take risks… to make time for ourselves… to allow others to be heard… to allow others to be different… to allow others to grow… to allow ourselves and others to make mistakes: All lessons of great value.

Creating a community where it is safe to express oneself without words… Where one can grow in so many ways, connect with others, learn, and laugh… building bridges between people instead of walls… That’s our intent.”

—Rick Cormier, author of Freestyle Community Drum Circles.