I caught Steve Reich, on the BBC here, talking about the Brussels Flamenco Show that inspired his 1972 Clapping Music. The flamenco was dismal, until the Spanish performers began to mark time with complicated clapping patterns, entrancing Mr Reich in the process. Which led me, in a wonderful ‘completing the circle’ way, back to Spain and to Catalan Percussionist Santi Carcasona:
Flamenco-style palmas (clapping) is something Spanish children do, in very complicated patterns, for fun, at the back of the bus on school trips. I’d guess that, for Santi, there was no stress involved in getting the clapping ‘right.’ Which gives him ample room for fun.
I love the fact that Santi’s utterly unpretentious in his performance of a 1972 minimalist ‘piece’. There’s nothing stark or over-serious about his demeanour. He’s even cheeky enough to have arranged Steve Reich’s score to suit himself and his 4 identical bandmates.
If you watch Steve Reich himself performing Clapping Music, with Wolfram Winkel, you’ll notice how differently they move their hands. Where Santi has the relaxed, flowing wrists of a lifetime of playing with clapping, both Steve and Wolfram have the serious concentration of adults who came to clapping later in life, as a slightly exotic percussion practice and a conscious exercise in sound. Of course they do it well, but they do it differently:
Which leads me round and back to singing in English. When you’re relaxed in your knowledge of the words you sing, you create space within and around them. That space brings them to life. English, especially in song, is all about space: how you squeeze or expand it and how you mark the borders within it. Think of Jolene, Moon River or Piledriver Waltz. Or any English language song. The words breathe in and out, as emotion requires.
Next time you sing, think of Santi Carcasona, with his wonderfully relaxed wrists, playing his precision cover version of Steve Reich. You don’t see all the hours of preparation and practice. You see pure enjoyment.
© Sing Better English, 2016