Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

The World of Music’s Leading Drummers

The world of music is illuminated by leading drummers. Legends such as Gene Krupa, Joey Jordison, and Gavin Harrison never cease to amaze music lovers with their extraordinary talents. The drummers are not only skilled at playing the drum set in band format but also play a crucial role as tempo keepers and rhythm drivers in a musical performance. Their ability to control the tempo and dynamics of music is an essential factor in creating stunning and memorable performances for listeners.

Among the many great drummers, somehow one drummer beating the snare drum like a man in a trance comes to mind. The drummer is Ryosuke Kiyasu, a musician from Japan known for his unique and energetic playing style. His solo snare drum performances have taken him around the world, creating a global footprint in the world of experimental music. Kiyasu has appeared in various countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Indonesia, and dozens of other countries. Each of his performances is characterized by the simplicity of the equipment used: just a snare drum placed on a table and a pair of drumsticks. Such simplicity strengthens the intensity and uniqueness of his performance, distinguishing him from other drummers and leaving an “impression” on audiences in various parts of the world.

Even though he only had simple equipment, Kiyasu presented a solo snare drum performance with elements of surprise and dynamics. He plays his snare drum in a variety of unusual ways, from gentle, affectionate touches to thunderous, angry blows. His stage actions were characterized by various bold and experimental improvisations, such as tearing up the table where the snare drum was sitting, trampling the snare drum with his feet, burning the snare drum membrane, hitting it with a microphone, and rolling around while continuing to play the snare drum. The blend of unique musical expression and stage action produces a complex and chaotic sound, reflecting the wild soul of Kiyasu’s music.

Indeed, Kiyasu’s solo performance at first glance seems unconventional and haphazard. He is a drummer with an established musical career. His work in the music world began with joining various bands such as Sete Star Sept, The Endless Blockade, and Fushitsusha. Since 2003, Kiyasu has established himself as a recognized snare drum soloist. When playing with the band, he employs drumming techniques common among hardcore drummers. However, when performing solo, he displays a spontaneous, avant-garde playing style, transcending conventional boundaries and exploring various musical possibilities.

Kiyasu’s snare drum solo performance has sparked heated debate among music lovers and critics. His unique use of a single snare drum to produce complex and expressive performances has challenged the conventional understanding of what drums, drummers, and drum solos can do.

One review reflecting the controversy is Dylan Tarre’s article entitled Ryosuke Kiyasu: Redefining the Drum Solo with a Singular Snare. In his review, Tarre praised Kiyasu for his courage in exploring new territory and redefining the role of drums in music. He wrote, “Kiyasu, with his single snare drum, creates an intimate experience and a shared journey of sonic exploration. It’s a brave exploration of uncharted territories, a bold redefinition of what a drum, a drummer, and a drum solo can be. One can only anticipate what new sonic frontiers Kiyasu and his snare will conquer next.”

The Dual Nature of Kiyasu’s Musical Career

Tarre’s review also did not escape harsh criticism. Many individuals on the internet voiced their disagreement with Tarre’s writing style as excessive and even arrogant. One fairly representative comment came from a netizen stating, “This is some of the most pretentious bullshit in the world.” For them, Tarre’s review is just a collection of meaningless words that seem forced to show the writer’s expertise in understanding the essence of music. Other comments were no less scathing, accusing Tarre of pseudo-intellectual efforts, namely trying to appear intelligent and insightful by using complicated language full of musical jargon. To his detractors, Tarre’s review was simply a pointless show to satisfy the author’s ego, providing no value or benefit to readers.

Behind his wild appearance, Kiyasu revealed in an interview how he doesn’t do any planning or complicated thinking when playing his snare drum solo. Instead of relying on techniques or strategies he had learned, Kiyasu completely surrendered himself to the moment; he let his desires and feelings manifest through his drum beats. His anger radiates through strong blows, while his calmness is expressed in smooth and melodious strains. The improvisational approach allows Kiyasu to create music that is spontaneous, authentic, and expressive; it reflects the pure and direct emotion of the moment.

From his statement that “I have never studied percussion techniques formally” and his free and improvisational playing style, Kiyasu does not think too much about percussion techniques in his performances. He focused more on expressing his emotions through music rather than following percussion rules and traditions. When people call Kiyasu’s music noise or avant-garde, he just smiles and says, “I only make music that I like.” His relaxed attitude shows how he doesn’t care about genre labels. It may confuse listeners. On the other hand, it allows him to freely express himself without being bound by the constraints of a particular genre.

Continuing, Kiyasu said, “People say my music is extreme, but I never think about it.” The quote shows how Kiyasu doesn’t focus on how others define his music. He is more interested in expressing himself authentically, whatever other people think. Kiyasu said that he wanted his music to reflect the emotions he felt at the time, be it happiness, sadness, anger, or confusion. He uses a variety of musical elements to create soundscapes and is not afraid to experiment with unusual sounds and techniques. For Kiyasu, the most important thing is that his music is honest and authentic.

Musically, Kiyasu’s method can be categorized as improvisation. Improvisation is a common technique in jazz music, where musicians spontaneously create melodies and harmonies during a performance. However, Kiyasu’s approach to improvisation was very different from that of jazz musicians. In jazz, improvisation is usually guided by a conceptual framework or attitude placing certain limitations on the freedom of the improviser. In contrast, Kiyasu’s improvisations did not have any limitations, except for his emotions and instruments. Kiyasu actively strives to break the boundaries in each performance, consistently introducing new and unexpected elements.

High Art vs. Performance Art

The debate contrasted the concept of high art, always associated with established artistic traditions and formal aesthetics with performance art always embracing unconventional approaches and challenging the boundaries of traditional artistic expression. Kiyasu’s performance, with its unconventional nature and reliance on a simple snare drum, blurs the boundaries between the categories and raises the question of whether it can be considered high art.

Rather than providing definitive answers, the debate instead raises a series of interesting questions challenging the basics of artistic categorization. The idea of classifying art into different levels of “high” and “low” art raises fundamental questions about the authority and legitimacy of hierarchical systems. Who has the power to set arbitrary standards and determine what constitutes art and what does not? The debate investigates the subjective nature of aesthetic judgment and the challenges inherent in establishing objective criteria for artistic evaluation.

The essay will not attempt to provide definitive answers to the above questions. Instead, it will delve into the diverse artistry of Kiyasu, his performance seamlessly blending elements of performance art and sound art. By observing Kiyasu’s engagement with his body and the sounds it produces, one can easily discern his mastery of the two disciplines. Kiyasu’s artistry goes beyond mere entertainment, elevating his performance to the realm of expression.

The act of categorizing Kiyasu music genres by individuals may simply be an attempt to make him familiar with the context of existing musical references. Although the approach has no flaws, it begs the question of why not just treat Kiyasu’s music as an anomaly. However, every artistic creation, whatever its categorization, has its characteristics and idiosyncrasies. Especially, it applies to Kiyasu’s artwork, defying conventional patterns and being more in tune with the spirit of industrial music.

Nonetheless, if it were necessary to categorize a precise genre for Kiyasu’s experimental artwork, it would be preferable to call it the “Kiyasu improvisational genre.” However, the naming still doesn’t feel right. The reason is that improvisation is just one of the methods Kiyasu uses in exploring his music.

The Evolution of Art and Emerging Experimental Musicians

As time goes by, the boundaries of art continue to be challenged and violated. Such inherent dynamism comes from the intrinsic creativity embedded in the essence of art itself. The emerging wave of experimental musicians and their critics represented a liberation movement from the stagnation of creativity and a defiant response to regimes seeking to curb it.


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