Simon Barker’s Australian Drumming

I recently watched a video from the University of Sydney’s ‘About Music, Lecture Series’ called ‘Engaging With Korean Rhythmic Tradition.’ The lecture was by well respected Australian jazz drummer, Simon Barker.

Simon has a PhD in Music Studies and is a lecturer in Jazz Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He is a renown performer both in solo drumming and as a leader and sideman of several internationally recognised ensembles.

During and after my studies at the Victorian College of the Arts I listened to some of Simon’s music. I also had a one off, extended private lesson with him, and have watched his Documentary ‘Intangible Asset No. 82’ a few times. But none of these interactions captivated me the way this lecture did.

For the uninitiated, Simon does talk about his background and his journey into Korean drumming, and how it influenced his jazz drumming. From my perspective, this was the first time I’d really seen him relate his work back to fundamentals, and how it can fit within the context of improvisational music studies.

A particular aspect of the lecture that really caught me, was when he discussed the learning snare drum rudiments, and how it is a particularly common way of developing a vocabulary on the drums, and that essentially he was developing a different language. The way he articulated this point really made snare drum rudiments sound very unimportant, and very much changed how i felt about a lot of what I had spent many hours practising. Essentially that snare drum rudiments aren’t THE way to develop technique and language, but just one of an infinite number of possible ways to develop technique and language on the instrument.

I have transcribed a particular pattern Simon demonstrates in the lecture, related to a style of drumming that he’s interested in at the moment from Polynesia. I then felt compelled to write down some other polyrhythms in 5 that i wanted to practise, and a three-part polyrhythm.

If you have some sort of background in music and are interested in further discussion about these rhythms feel free to contact me with any questions or discussion points, alternatively feel free to do further research of your own as there are plenty of musicians out there who have studied these concepts far deep than i have.

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