I received an email invitation from the Guitar Planet or the Music Galaxy or the Trombone Shack or the Oud Factory Outlet or maybe it was the Accordion Diaphragm Superstore or some other purveyor of only the finest noises. They’re having a drumming contest. I’m sure it was a very exclusive offer. They no doubt sent it to me because I purchased an A string from them back in Clinton’s first term or some similar big outlay, and they’ve kept me in mind since then. It’s an honor I don’t deserve but I will accept, like a Nobel Peace Prize or something.
A drumming contest, you say? I know a drummer. He’s currently the best eleven-year-old drummer on Earth. He used to be the best ten-year-old drummer on Earth, but he can’t seem to stick to anything for very long. I counseled him to continue being ten years old for as long as possible, but he doesn’t listen. Now all his business cards will need re-printing.
He’s not eligible for the drumming contest, of course, and for two different reasons:
- He would have to be five years older than he is to enter. Five!
- He knows how to play the drums properly. That’s not allowed.
I have no idea why they wouldn’t be interested in letting him enter because he’s eleven. They’re supposedly looking for a “man bites dog” headline for their contest. If he won it, they’d have something unusual to tout, I’d say. But of course, they want everyone to be unusual in exactly the same way. That is to say, everyone is required to look reliably dissolute and buy one more cymbal instead of practicing, forevermore. Their music store is almost useless for a real musician. Their stock in trade is selling instruments to people who will never learn to play, but develop exquisite taste in choosing the perfect black T-shirt with the finest Big Daddy Roth typefaces announcing tours of geriatric thrash-metalers from days gone by.
So he’s too young. Got it. But what about problem number 2?
To enter the contest, you’re supposed to, and I’m not kidding here, drive to their musical Lubyanka satellite store at the appointed hour, take five minutes to adjust the drums they have already set up, and then play for three minutes. Play what? With whom? What they mean is you’re assumed to be a musically incompetent show-off, and you’re supposed to make as much noise as you can, and the loudest noise wins.
A three-minute drum solo is a penance. It’s a plague. It appeals to the basest instincts of humans. It’s noise. My son has been taught to play music with others. He can, and does, accompany his much older brother perfectly, and he never plays a note out of place, or misses, or steps all over the vocals, or plays drum fills that go three quarters of the way to the bridge, then get frightened by how fast they’re going and turn around and try to go back home to the verse in the wrong spot. He has never played a drum solo, and he never will. He plays music. Playing music is apparently not allowed in a drumming contest.
I don’t really care about the drum contest. I wouldn’t enter him in it even if it was allowed. It doesn’t have anything to do with music. And besides, he gets paid to play, so if you want him to perform in The Bouzouki Vivisectionist’s Warehouse or the Dulcimer Grotto or whatever you call your stripmall slice of bedlam, then write him a check, upfront, or buzz off.