Writings by Tim Girvin
The Nature Of Rhythm

When I was in college, I studied, among other things, North Indian tabla drumming. To extend my rhythmic interests, I used to practice darabuka, or North African drumming as an accompanist to a group of belly dancers (as a discrete form from table dancing). This was entertaining evening work to earn extra money during college. During the years that followed I learned a solid hour of bols, or tabla compositions, from the Calcutta gharana or school. Indian music, in its dense and complex heritage, speaks of hundreds of years of development. Drumming, conceptually, finds its lineage traced straight to the God Shiva, who taught the art to the elephant headed deity in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha.

My ultimate abandonment of the instrument was rooted in the depth of the Indian compositional system, which is laden with resonant and nonresonant beat cycles, complex contrapuntal and syncopated beat patternings that would drive any normal person insane. Throw out your metronome! It's about finding your own rhythmic soul. In fact, in the end, that's what I became: rhythmically obsessed...insane. Driving down the road to school, I used to practice my recited bols (each drum stroke has a vocal sound, so that the compositions can be passed from teacher or ustad to student, sounding like the chattering of monkeys: "dhin ga dhin ga ta ke te ta ke te da ke re te dhun na dhun na", being an example) or compositions on the steering wheel, until absorption in this meditation took over my attention to the pathway ahead, and I almost collided with a vehicle headed in the general direction from which I came. Which, in more direct and simplistic terms means: I was spaced out in the rhythmic labyrinth of winding sonic melodies and forgot, for just an instant, that I was behind the wheel of a 2000 lb. 1957 ruby red Dodge pickup (Ruby was her name) and when I refer to "Dodge", I reference the action of suddenly sweeping the vehicle, to dodge, away from impending doom...

Anyway, I had hoped to array a nest of Hussain cd's today for your relevant listening, only to discover that the Girvin 1000 plus CD collection has been changed into a mini set design for the Matrix human brood pods. (Damon? Rob?) I couldn't sort through the mix, and as a result, put on some other quick discoveries.

With our hearts, breathing,
our beat is one
step after another, in
synchrony with the warming pulse
of life, connected by the
sutra of the thread, that
links the planet into
one amazement of
beat, vibrating to the
cosmic molecular dance,
celebrating the charge
of electricity as we
signal eachother, gesturing
our minuscule code,
one heart to another,
one wave beat, crashing
sending the ripples of
excitement, from the stars, to our soul
through the sound
of time.


Tim Girvin

(Originally sent: April 3, 2000)

< Back