By TIM KANE
How many of us weekend and weeknight warriors work our behinds off playing the skins, only to have some fan tell us after a gig, “I loved your facial expressions”?
Hearing this one too many times myself, I decided to research the anomaly further by examining 30 celebrity drummers I admire the most.
What’s so strange and equally refreshing about the live performance facial images I compiled as a photo collage linked here from online postings at Drummerworld.com and various artists’ personal websites is they all share similar traits.
The extreme concentration exposed in these images is amazing.
But can we draw meaning from facial expressions as they relate to a solo or phrase drummers are playing?
According to a recent American Psychological Association (APA) web posting, Joseph Campos, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley says, “there is profound agreement that the face, along with the voice, body posture and hand gestures, forecast to outside observers what people will do next.”
Does that same theory apply to drummers, who change facial expressions on a whim at that difficult phrase juncture in a solo, or when the arms and legs begin to burn from lack of oxygen?
Ever consider trying to look more presentable during a sneeze, or keeping a smiling face when lifting a very heavy object? Same applies to drumming, which is a very physical workout – like trying to play four-way independence at a 120-metronome tempo.
APA says, “the point of contention remains in whether the face also says something about a person’s internal state.”
The strange, deranged, obsessed, comical, intense, and peaceful faces of drumming all come back to one term in my mind: Joy, even if you blew that 32nd note fill you had been practicing for weeks. It’s still pure joy to sit behind a set of drums and play the best you can for minutes or hours on end. The truth is some parts of the brain are more focally recruited while we play drums.
I’d rather see squinty eyes, chaotic mouths, drools, sneering teeth, and back tonsils any day. The alternative is rather opaque to contemplate: Poker face, no smile, no raised eyebrows, no snarts, no emotion, no nothing. How very bland the drumming world would be without our theatrical expressions.
The more comfortable you are behind a drum kit, the more compelling and creative your playing will be. In my mind, facial expressions can enhance the experience for the listener and certainly reflect the concentration and emotion of the performer.
– TIM KANE is a professional writer and drummer of 30-plus years residing in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com