Daniel Bernard Roumain musical instrument workshop, 9-10-05, 9:30 am
[Conversations for Change]
I knew it was gonna be a good time when I woke up before the 7:30 alarm and scrambled outta bed. This is atypical behavior. And then a fancy French breakfast, and then….
What a remarkable teacher. I teach music, largely to kids, and I get super hung up on explaining how things are done and why, lots of literalism. This person knows better: he barely explained, what he did explain was fairly loose & impressionistic, and he was delighted with the results whether they were what he’d expected or not.
A perfect-sized group of people whose names and actions I still remember spent a long time in a circle learning each other’s names and a movement coordinated with each, and then turning them into a composition, sometimes saying names, sometimes just moving. This is brilliant: as a classically trained and traumatized musician, I easily forget that my body is the root of my music, especially when I’m playing that violin. So much thinking happens that no music gets made. Well, not on Daniel’s watch. We danced and talked for about an hour, and it was much more looking and feeling than listening. Who knew?

And then we had some one-on-one conversations. Again, with each interaction Daniel chose not to diagnose, not to say, you would probably enjoy playing more if you could let go of restrictions and be more childlike, but instead to invite a conversation that would contradict whatever was in the way through the doing of it. After giving Jef a new idea, he invited him to tell him something now. I got to say to him, we’re gonna talk about how miserable I was learning this thing as a kid and you’re gonna tell me why it’s ok today, and he did. I don’t know if he could have explained how he did it, but he sure did it. We all shared a moment thinking about who we love and would choose to save in a disaster while a horn player got to play what that sounded like. He taught us all about how many sounds you can make with a microphone without even using your mouth, and how you can make exciting electronic music just by messing with your EQ. And then a couple of vocalizers got to try out a technique Daniel uses to loosen up the Boys’ & Girls’ Choir of Harlem by saying, “Yesterday, I went to the mall”:
1. Lily says it while Heidi echoes each word
2. Heidi says it while Lily echoes each word
3. They say it in perfect unison
4. They say it in unison three times as loud and fast as they can
5. They freestyle.
This was one of the most thrilling pieces of music I’d ever heard. People, try this. It is phenomenal. And so simple. It was all sooooo simple. Surprise.
According to the Taoist masters, a great leader leads so well in accordance with the way people and things are flowing that you can’t even tell that you’ve been led, you think you did it all yourself. It’s impressive and heartening to see an artist hanging out in a town where he’s a star letting himself become an almost invisible tool to other people’s expression of their specialness. And it’s inspiring too—I can’t wait to use these games with my kids and my bands and my friends. This was magic. Thanks.
Daphna Kohn