A drum circle was hosted at the Highland Dream studio space May 25th, 2019. The pyramid shaped diffusion roof build had recently been completed and what better way to inaugurate the space with good mojo than a drum circle with old friends and new.
I began exploring the use of percussion as a tool of transcendence in my early 20’s. Although I had experience and passion to make music and was familiar with drums and other instruments to a mild degree, my approach to “percussive hand drumming” was and continues to be completely intuitive and improvisational. My first drum was an empty 5 gallon water jug of the kind typically found in offices to dispense drinking water. At this time in my life I began exploring “consciousness” consciously and looking for profound states of existence and perception. Without outside instruction, a guide or a class, I began to experiment with hand drumming by myself or with a close circle of three other friends where we would sit in a circle, usually at night and drum ourselves into altered states of consciousness. At this time I had never heard of drum circles as a thing to do and the only awareness I had of drums being used in such a manner was by native American Indian shamans which I knew very little about but became fascinated with. All this was very forign to the community of New York City which is where I was born and living at the time.
Intuitively I decided to ride my motorcycle to Los Angeles as I was being drawn more deeply to exploring my inner dimension. I had always felt a special sensation about the West as I visited Los Angeles as a child to see relatives. I had begun reading more about Native American Indian spirituality and imagining the majestic desert landscapes. It was not long before those visions came true and I was now sitting perched on very large boulders with those same three friends drumming into the night while staring at the stars and spiraling free into ecstatic states of consciousness.
Drum circles became a weekly affair among my community of friends thru out the 1990’s. It shaped much of my memories of this time period since it is what we usually did when we would all get together. A circle would form where ever we were, some locations were better than others depending on neighbors, Surprisingly we rarely had an issue. Boys and girls together, drumming with anything that could make a percussive sound or dancing, even vocalizing if the moment opened that way. Together, it always felt as if we were boarding an “illuminated Light Ship” together and blasting off the earth into cosmic ecstatic territory. We repeated this practice because it felt great and there was never a doubt as to the therapeutic value.
It would be in the later years that I could better understand intellectually what was happening that yielded the beneficial results drum circles did and do. The mechanics of how I always approached drum circles were in alignment with how I worked creatively in any medium and the fundamentals taught to me by my Kung Fu teacher, all of which were in sync to the natural tendencies I held as a child. To be present, that was all. No musical ability is needed, no teaching necessary of a drumming style, patterns or cultural approach for which there are many. My approach was as it always has been, its only that I finally could communicate with words to help bring understanding to a process that was completely intuitive thru all those early years.
The reverberence of joy, the frequency of happiness, these are expressions of freedom. It is the improvisational drum circle and appropriate method of guiding its process by which the intellect is quieted so that we may experience liberated states of existence. As we get older the mind gets even more active and it is the uncontrolled, often unconscious noise from this component within us that disturbs our innate illuminated frequency. The improvisational drum circle can be looked at as a tool to reset ourselves thru the process into an equanimous vibrational state that is harmonious and without friction by activating a “meditational” state of being. All this is accomplished without the need of understanding music or the pursuit of well being. The improvisational drumming process of being “present” yields the therapeutic results without the need of any knowledge and is still one of my favorite things to do with friends old and new.
When we are in the present doing what ever we are doing, we are not being taken by the distractions of our thoughts of past memories or future imaginations which often hold negative qualities to them and can be all consuming for many. The improvisational drum circle can be seen as a fun form of “Sonic Yoga” 🙂
For the last years I have transferred this format into the recording studio environment with musical instruments of any variety including the classics: Drums, electric guitars, bass and keyboards, it has been communally called “GregJam“. A name given because no other name could be thought up and was the name written originally for the recordings captured of the improvised one take sessions.