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Home » Jojo Mayer: Exploring the Distance Between 0 and 1 at TEDxZurich (Full Transcript)

Jojo Mayer: Exploring the Distance Between 0 and 1 at TEDxZurich (Full Transcript)

Jojo Mayer


(Drum improvisation)

Good afternoon. What I just did was I played a short improvisation that’s built on a very simple electronic drum beat, which is usually not performed by a drummer but generated by a drum machine or a drum computer.

And the reason why I choose to do this obsolete task for you is the short story that I would like to share with you. That story goes back kind of like a long time. As we were talking about apes, it goes actually back to the apes, because – at one point, when the first monkey was drumming on his chest, he did it because he wanted to communicate something, and there is a theory that humans started to communicate with speech around the same time as they started to communicate – started to play the drums.

And the first drum rhythms were probably a simulation of speech patterns, and also because the amplitude of the drums can reach a long distance, it became one of the first or possibly the first telecommunications instrument, and it was used by many cultures to communicate with faraway entities such as gods and spirits. And up to this day, we use drums and rhythms to communicate but not necessarily to summon fellow tribe members for a hunt or to signal troops on a battlefield, but the reason we use drums or what we use it for is to communicate cultural aesthetics and values.

Now – for instance, up until the 20th century, drums and rhythm didn’t have a central function in Western music, and as soon as the frantic rhythms of industrial machinery and the urban life itself were introduced, drums and rhythm went from the fringe to the core of Western music culture. And the catalysts for that were mainly three new technologies, which was: the drum set, jazz, and the ability to record sound. And when those three new technologies came together, they set up this big bang of a rhythm universe that kind of expanded the triad to the entire century. And every decade kind of spurred new drum beats and a new rhythm set; sometimes they became signals for the beginning or the end of an entire era.

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