I’ve been reflecting on the drum/pan name question, and have had some thoughts.
I’m wondering these things: are pans and tuned metal percussion instruments, such as bells, the steel tongue drum, chimes, more fem in energy? And are drums, more masc? The folk I have come across so far that are creating steel tongue drums/tank drums like the instrument I have are guys, and they are making their instruments and calling them drums, and I am wondering if there is something in there that is around their own masculine sense of identity – being a drum maker, calling the instrument a drum – when it might more acurately be called something like a pan, or a bell or chime related name due to the kind of instrument it actually is?
The process of making a steel tongue drum, for example, is quite masc energy in it’s activity and action: sawing reclaimed steel, fire and forging, the sawing of metal to create the notes. And then the end result, is this beautiful ‘drum’, that feels effortlessly fem resonating, and in the way that it is played, intuitive and fem feeling – but perhaps in the most gong like ring there is some heart of masc as well?. Perhaps it is the combination of a masc energy process and a fem energy end sound that is part of what makes it so special? Do the two somehow become forged? Or is it not like that?
When I am writing about this, mentioning masc and fem, I want to make it clear this comes from an energetic perspective. I believe that we can move in and out of these energies, that we can be in them differently at different times, that some folk might be more masc or fem leaning energetically – perhaps have a masc or fem dominant energy, or may feel in balance generally but at times lean into each way, but that this energy is not the same as the form of their physical body, or necessarily their gender identity. It is an energetic sense, an energetic quality, with a distinctive feeling. For myself, I experience myself generally as been masc fem energy balanced, but know when I am leaning more into a masc energy, or more into a fem energy. So it isn’t loaded for me, for example, if the steel tongue drum is either masc or fem leaning, becuase I can meet it in either place by shifting in my own energetic state of being.
These types of things are though very culturally loaded. I’ve done a lot of lovely deschooling around this for myself, and to me, what is amazing is when people feel really, really free in their energetic movement in the masc/fem spectrum/space, and do not hold any kind of self-judgement or sense of one or other being somehow better or more ok.
In our culture, which traditionally has held a very strict sense around what it means to be masculine or feminine, and who can be these things and what that looks like, this kind of movement and feedom in masc/fem energy and experience, can be described as ‘queer’ or ‘queering’. (Another tricky term due to it’s history as a slur, but the best term I have for describing this, I am using it as a function: to queer, means to me to move effortlessly across the masc fem space regardless of other features and identity.)
So, you could say, that a woman playing a masculine type of instrument is ‘queering’ if she is playing that instrument by leaning in to a masculine type energy to do so. Or a guy, leaning into a very feminine energy to play a feminine feeling type of instrument, is also queering it. It’s mixing up and playing with all of these things at once.
When I plat the steel tongue drum, I play it intuitively. I play mostly with my eyes closed, and with no intention of a tune in mind, but instead try to ‘get out of the way’ of what is happening, and play in as channelled and intuitive way as possible. To me that feels very fem energy. It ends up in a very flowy, meditative and cleansing experience that feels divine fem. I know what masc energy feels like, and I think I know what divine masc is, and that I think comes across more in other ways that I work and express myself. I know that I am not partnering with this instrument in a masc energy way.
But then again I come back to wondering whether there is an energetic union taking place. Becuase when I play, I experience the steel tongue drum as a means by which to express the essential energy that comes through me. By that, I mean the white light energy that is neither masc or fem but just is. And the instrument is just that, I means by making that divine light energy resonant in the world and a way to let it pass through my body without accumulating.
I’ve been doing some reading about this:
I’m interested in the history and issues around women playing – some earlier research about steel drums/pans in Trinidad and Tobago thew up something interesting about this:
“It really came from the bowels of our impoverished lower classes and we are extremely proud of that,” says Michelle Huggins-Watts, a Trinidadian steel pan arranger.
“It helped bring the players recognition, it allowed them to travel and see the world, it brought opportunities they would never have had if they had not been involved in this art form.”
Huggins-Watts is a rare thing. She is the only woman arranger to win the island’s prestigious Panorama competition with her band, Valley Harps.
“It wasn’t until the late 1970s or 80s that women even started playing the steel pan. It was a street instrument, it took a while to become respectable,” she adds.
I once happened to end up at an event where Evelyn Glennie was the keynote speaker, I’d love to know what she thinks about all of this, and what her persective/experience is. As she moves through different types of percussion, that I might thing of as masc or fem, I wonder if she experiences energetic movement, in and out of the masc and fem as she plays different things, or not? I’d love to know also what her thoughts are on sound and healing too. I’m going to look some more to see what I can find from her online.
I’ve started reading about sound healing. I’m trying to start to build my understanding of the work being done around this:
If you know any good resources on sound healing, please send them my way!