I just came back from France. We were at the airport yesterday. As I watched the crowd shuffling by, I was struck by all these people, so different, so diverse, converging in the place. Maybe the difference of culture was the most obvious. African women with bright colors clothing, Indian women with their sari, people of different faith recognizable by the hat they wear. That is something to marvel at.
I’m thinking that just a hundred and sixty years ago, that kind of human diversity was mainly seen in ports. Maybe a few chosen neighborhood in really big métropoles. We now have those in every big city.
But, besides the picturesque mix of ethnicities and cultures, I could tell people’s state of mind by their rhythm. Don’t laugh, you do it too, I’m sure. I’ll explain.
Here comes this little man, he carries a small briefcase, his face, his body is nothing but a forward motion. He walks briskly, with his passport and boarding pass in hand. He won’t stop for coffee, he won’t ask for direction, he doesn’t pay attention to nothing else but where he is going. I’m sure he speaks with short, rapid fire sentences, the consonants cracking in his mouth, the vowels barely perceptible.
By contrast, we have this voluptuous lady pacing behind a mountain of luggages. She has a child or three in tow, usually a friend also. She talks as she walks, to her children, her friend. Her tone is gentle, sweet, almost lazy, the vowels are familiar friends on her lips. She might stop for coffee and decide for a treat, and why not a meal, and why not, as a matter of fact, sit down and socialize a little bit. She will find a way to make the time be pleasant.
What kind of drummer will the short nervous man be? Can you imagine it? The time almost always rushing, the short fills lending on a short crash. The worries on his forehead showing how concern he is about keeping good time, if his drum are perfectly tuned and what the band leader is thinking. Do you hear it? Do you hear his inner rhythm coming through his playing?
And the lady? Can you perceive the different approach? She doesn’t grip the sticks as tightly as the man. Not every sixteenth notes on the hi hat will be the same: some might be accented, some might be softer, some might be a little longer. Her rhythm is singing, as articulated and flowing as her speech pattern. She takes the time to explore a fill, a sticking, just like she takes the time to explore a moment, be it for a coffee or a walk across the park.
As I was looking to the infinity of people walking by at the airport, I thought about all these different rhythms criss crossing each other, those different moods, those different steps, that human symphony that we call our world. Heaven for a musician, really.