By DC Music Editor Benjamin New
All extraordinary music shares the common bond of extraordinary discipline. Whether we speak of the brilliance of a Mozart piano concerto, Paco de Lucía performing a perfectly executed flamenco rasguedo, the wondrous vocal inflections of Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic masterpieces, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, the glorious simplicity of a Randy Newman song, or the supernatural tone and phrasing of a Carlos Santana guitar line; a profound discipline is always involved. Have a look at this delightful video of the "Top Secret Drum Corps" from Basel, Switzerland.
If I may make a broad generalization, I suggest the Swiss know a thing or 2 about discipline. It is evident in precision instruments crafted there, the way their business is conducted, and in their drum rudiments. It is believed by historians that the first drum corps was Swiss, sometime in the 15th Century. The Swiss had won their independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1291, and had become known for their bravery and military excellence.
The needs of extended marches and camp life encouraged the development of drum music in the 1400’s. The rest of Europe took notice of this military music at the climatic Battle of Marignano (near Milan, Italy) in 1515 and began to recognize the peculiar intelligence and discipline that this type of drumming promoted.
Of Course the American Revolution was empowered by percussion as well. America boasts some of the finest drum corps in the world, but it was not invented here as many people seem to believe. American’s moved it into football stadiums and certainly added much to craft, but invented it?
Even Julius Caesar refers to Drums as an integral part of the military.
“Beware of the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry, [who] infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How will I know? For this I have done. And I am Julius Caesar.”
The buzz about the Top Secret Drum Corp started in Europe but after this performance
in Edinburgh, Scotland, well; the secret is out on both sides of the pond. Top Secret's act is a mixture of traditional Swiss drumming with quick rhythmic devices and precision drumstick juggling. It is a truly compelling mix of contemporary and traditional percussion.
It was 11 years ago when an aspiring group of young percussionists began looking for a challenge, to perfect their drumming skills and to explore fresh new approaches to their craft. They mixed ideas from the Scottish and North American style of drumming with the world renown Swiss rudiments. During the following years, Top Secret took part in many events in Switzerland and appeared on Swiss Television. The group was originally composed of six drummers and one bass-drummer.
The Swiss invented the “traditional grip” of the drumsticks. The advent of drum corps has it's incipience as an actual military squadron used to keep cadence for marching.
Groucho Marx once said "Military justice is to justice what military music is to music".
I think if he heard this group and saw this performance he might just rescind that comment. What if instead of spilling blood, when nations had conflicts, their drum corps met on the field and whoever kicked musical butt could claim victory?
Yes, I am an idealist.
Raise the bar high.
(The realist places the bar within easy grasp.)
“Seemed to me that drumming was the best way to get close to God.”
- Lionel Hampton
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