Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rowan Storm and her new drum line

This past week, Los Angeles percussionist Rowan Storm was in the Boston area, to visit friends and to perform with Iranian musician Nima Janmohammadi in Vermont. During her whirlwind visit, I had the chance to catch up with her. Cape Cod percussionist Lisa Esperson joined us too.

I've known Rowan for a long time. We've sent friendly e-mails cross country and across the world for years, and always hoped to meet in person. So it was a delight to finally manage a face-to-face conversation. We accomplished our rendezvous at a very busy Starbucks in Needham, MA, the town where I grew up.

Rowan has had a lifelong passion for Middle Eastern music. She spent many years focusing on classical Persian music, developing a special expertise in that field. Now she teaches and performs a wide range of Middle Eastern percussion styles. She also founded and directs a group called the Sazandeh Women's Ensemble, dedicated to Middle Eastern women's frame drum, singing, dancing and storytelling. She is also a regular faculty member at the popular Mendocino Middle East Camp.

Rowan reached into her drum case and pulled out a sample of her latest project - a signature line of beautifully nested frame drums, called the Rowan Storm Thinline Frame Drum by Remo.

These drums were Rowan's idea. She wanted frame drums to be thin enough so they can be played with her new technique, what she calls the 'Partner Hand Symmetrical Frame Drum Method.'  If both hands play in a balanced manner, Rowan says, more types of drum beats are possible. Furthermore, playing in a balanced way strengthens a drummer's left hand, resulting in improved performance on other drums. The Remo frame drums are lightweight and compact. And, she stressed, they're economical. You can get a set of six for under $200. Here is a link to the Rowan's site - check out the instructional video too at the bottom of the page.

We will keep reporting on news from Rowan, since she has many projects in the works. Tonight she's flying back to the west coast, one day ahead of a snowstorm. Timing is everything - in drumming, and in life.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Chauvet Caves and Wormholes in Time

This last week we feasted on some great documentaries on Netflix.
First, we watched a documentary about the mysterious Chauvet Caves in France, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog. Discovered by three spelunkers back in the 1990's, these caves kept many astounding paintings of horses, cave bears, ibexes, and lions in perfect shape for millenia. The quality of the drawings takes my breath away, particularly the detail of the animals' faces and mouths. While there was immediate suspicion that the paintings were a hoax, carbon dating estimates they were painted about 30,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. And...there were no human footprints in the caves. Instead, they found cave bear skulls and bones that were calcified by the centuries, covered in a thick layer of the cave's calcifications. Below is the most amazing painting of horses. The quality of the renderings shatters my previous assumptions about humans and prehistoric art. You can read more about the caves and see more paintings here. 

Then the other night we watched Steven Hawking's Discovery Channel special on time travel. He argues that there are tiny wormholes and holes in time, all around us, all the time. They are smaller than microscopic. This gets me wondering whether flashes of inspiration, feelings of deja vu, genius, clairvoyance, etc. might be somehow related to these anomalies in the fabric of time.