Most of this magnificent book went straight over my head, intellectually. But it still made excellent reading because sometimes reading someone talking about something you can't do is as exciting as watching them do it.
It's the enormous amount of thought that goes into Mr Schick's work that blows me away. Not just mechanical muscle-memory repetition and technique, but hard intellectual working-out. He seems to pour an incredible amount of attentional energy into each piece - as if he has to put enough Units Of Attention into the piece upfront that everyone who ever sees it will be able to drag enough attentional value out. Or something.
Anyway, on with the dog-earing:
page 5: "But what, finally, is percussion? Of course, we all know what percussion is. Percussion is that slightly dysfunctional family of struck sounds: a barroom brawl of noises, effects, and sonic events that can be created by striking, brushing, rubbing, whacking, or crashing any and practically every available object. The most succinct definition of percussion comes from German, Schlagzeug; Schlag means "hit" and Zeug means "stuff." We percussionists are musicians who hit stuff. It is the quality of the hitting and the nature of the stuff that effectively define the basic substance of our art and apply focus to the music we make."
I gave up German as soon as I could (more to do with the teacher than the language) but I always liked the lego-brick snap-together nature of it. And HitStuff is clearly the best definition of percussion. And it's the perfect opportunity to suggest that you visit Stefan's Neologist project - where he'll craft you a new lego house of compound German word - specifically to your order.
page 23: "Every early percussion piece was a mini-universe, a kind of percussive Noah's Ark featuring a representative spectrum of every possible kind of sound and performance skill, and the counterbalancing need to make sense of it all through a globalizing compositional scheme. The sheer number of instruments used in these early pieces was tiring. Often it takes longer to arrange the instruments for a piece like Luciano Berio's Circles (1960) then it takes to perform the piece. Every piece tried to do everything and ultimately the effect was numbing. In the movie The Blues Brothers, when Jake visits Elroy's apartment near the elevated trains in Chicago, he asks how often the trains pass by. The response, "so often you won't even notice," describes with equal accuracy the loss of sensitivity that attends musical saturation. Percussive color is easily exhausted as a musical commodity, and in the end the quest for plenty led to over stimulation and the concomitant absence of distinction. It became paralyzing."
Someone should start an Analogy Matching Service. Because often you find yourself with an image or an idea that you know is a perfect analogy for something, but you're not sure what yet. That instrumentally overstuffed percussion repertoire being refined into something clearer, emptier and simpler is obviously ripe with potential metaphoric meaning. Just not sure what for yet. I also love the way that he uses the Blues Borthers quote to illustrate such high-culture stuff. That's good writing.
page 79: "The realization that expertise in percussion playing might mean nothing more than the ability to cope with an endless supply of fresh dilemmas led me back to an essay written by Stephen Jay Gould. The relevant passage comes from his book Ever Since Darwin, and in it he claims that individual members of a species living at the edges of populations evolve more rapidly and radically than do individuals positioned closer to the centres of population. The notion is that the forces of nature are more brutal at the edges of a communal population; therefore they exact a greater need on the part of the individuals on the fringe to adapt. At the edge everything is rawer and less certain: space seems larger but poorly mapped, possibilities appear greater but are only vaguely defined. I could not stop myself from making the leap. In the community of musicians, were we percussionists necessarily more adaptable because we were living at the edge of the herd?"
Again; we have an Analogy Surplus here... "expertise in X might mean nothing more than the ability to cope with an endless supply of fresh dilemmas".
There are some great performance videos featuring Mr Schick on YouTube (which really is a universal arts festival), Some of them are that kind of intense, modern percussioning that you can imagine The Fast Show would have fun with, but I like them. Because I like the spirit of HitStuff, because there's clearly some meaning in there, even if I haven't figured it out yet. And because if you can't be pretentious on your blog, where can you?