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The Article Modern Drummer Magazine Refused to Publish: Alfred Nobel and the Invention of the Microphone: by Paquito D'Rivera

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The Article "Modern Drummer Magazine" Refused to Publish

Alfred Nobel And The Invention of The Microphone"

By Paquito D'Rivera

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PAQUITO D'RIVERA

Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of twelve GRAMMY Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.

Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony.

As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the same orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several GRAMMY nominations (1979, 1980) and a GRAMMY (1979). Read more...

I strongly believe that technology is here to help the art form, not to overwhelm it, but tragically, with a very few, each day more and more scarce exceptions, the invention of the microphone, that is credited to the German Emile Berliner in 1876, 

Emile Berliner

Inventor of the microphone 

Alfred Nobel 

The Inventor of Dynamite

has resulted almost as damaging as the dynamite by Alfred Nobel, that both have been used and abused into creating irreversible material destruction by the later, as well as serious damages in the good taste of listeners by Berliner’s artificial amplification device. All of that with the support of sound engineers and the consent of the musicians –some of them talented professionals–, that increasingly ask for more and more volume in their reference speakers, and consequently into the house. It seems like if we’ve all reached the conclusion that the louder, the music is heard better, the volume is supposed to be a synonym with energy, and the one that screams more is the one that wins. Doesn’t it go that way?” How sad!

I have witnessed the volume and reverb go up so high on Dave Valentin’s flute, that it converted his gorgeous, natural sound into a synthesizer, more appropriate for a Heavy Metal band, than to play “Obsesion”, the beautiful Pedro Florez classic and classy tune he and his many fans enjoy so much. Nowadays the circus, the unnatural pyrotechnics, the addiction to gimmicks for provoking easy applauses, bad taste and that excessive volume have hit Jazz and popular music as a tsunami, so everything now is forte and fortissimo.

Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer

A few years ago the legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who made all those famous recordings for Impulse, Blue Note, CTI and Atlantic with Coltrane, Monk, Hubbard, Rollins, Miles, Lee Morgan and all those hip jazzmen of the 50’s and 60’s, had the guts to say – I believe it was in a Down Beat interview – that “ Jazz pianists don’t want or don’t know how to get a decent sound on the piano”.

And to certain point he was right since it is really difficult to find jazz pianists with the elegant, delicate, yet swinging sound of Kenny Baron,

Teddy Wilson,

Makoto Ozone,

Renee Rosnes,

Oscar Peterson

or Bill Evans,

and there is no doubt that some of the fault lies on the drummers that everyday play loud and louder, forcing the pianists to bang on the keys, to ask for more volume on their wedges and thus destroying the inherent acoustic character of the instrument.


( I bet that was one of the reasons that Nat “King” Cole, many times didn’t use a drummer in his trio).  “Give me more piano on my monitor” is the usual request, and my answer is always another simple question: Why don’t you play more softly so that you can hear what the “freakin” pianist is playing…You left the brushes at home or what?


The great Argentinean pianist Jorge Dalto was convinced that drummers were carriers of the “original sin”, and when they did play another way –meaning softly and tastefully–, it was with great effort and going against their nature. “Otherwise they would have taken up the harp or the violoncello, no?”, he would say half in jest.

I think Dalto was exaggerating a little bit, since still you are able to find drummers like Ben Riley,


Ernie Adams or the wonderful Brasilian


Edu Riberio to make you swing your butt off without breaking your eardrums.  So please do not misunderstand me.

95% of hearing loss is irreversible

"Impeccable musical balance"

Modern Jazz Quartet

 

The drum set, as well as the brass and even the saxophones, are instruments that have strong sonorous presence, so I think that by having that in mind all the time would make a big difference in balance and finesse.

–“If you can’t hear the guy next to you, you’re playing too loud. That’s the only way to play in tune…”–, is a sentence I hear since my early days at the conservatory. But how in heaven can I listen and play in tune with the guy next to me if I am not even able to hear my own horn with all that noise around me? And then we have the bass players, that since the electric bass emerged on the scene, many of them think that they’re always playing with KISS, Metallica or Deep Purple. Usually they ally with the drummers, and I even think that they buy earplugs together, in sets of four, so that in between themselves can have some fun while make life unbearable to the rest of the musicians.

Wynton Marsalis told me once that he thought that mikes are here to enhance the music, not to cover it.

So probably, that's why they have removed even the contact microphone from the contrabass of Carlitos Henriquez ( I love his walking bass!) in teh JALC orchestra, so drummers have to come down to hear what his partner in the rhythm is doing.


Of course, this thingabout turned off mikes applies primarily to indoor concerts, and I also believed in this concept, until certain evening, at the amphitheatre of our annual Jazz Festival in Punta del Este, trumpet player Terrance Blanchard ordered the removal of all the microphones, including that of exquisite pianist Ed Simmon.  And guest what: miraculously, everything was heard crystal clear and with tremendous energy and swing.  The only thing required was to be quiet and listen with attention, as that is what music was invented for in the first place,  isn't it?

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Comment by WASHINGTON DC JAZZ NETWORK on May 19, 2016 at 12:29am
Comment by Ronnie Burrage on September 22, 2014 at 12:50pm

This is an interesting article as a drummer who has been out of work and not hired because of the stigmatism of, "he plays to loud" and not given the chance to prove otherwise this touches on a place that has brought on severe pain, depression and something I've had to overcome in a big way. I've played, performed and recorded under a wide array of circumstances and at an early age learned to play softly, musically and with dynamics. Unfortunately because of later associations with loud, boisterous, dynamic fusion players and seen mostly in that light (as if none of my other work existed), I have been thrown out of the box of consideration for recordings and collaborations and certainly left out of work as a jazz drummer. My family and I have suffered financially because of this. My many years of working with the giants of the music and all of the sudden Lorraine Gordon of the Village Vangard, (I suspect there had to be others as well) says she'll not have me perform/work there anymore because I play too loud, started this thing, the stigmatism. Even though Max Gordon (the real owner of the Vangard) before his death was a great supporter of how and what I played and we often had many conversations face to face with me and then there were the gifts he would give me like Rahsaan Roland Kirk's horn whistle or a tambourine and cowbell. Always Max would say to me, "Ronnie, you're a great imaginative percussionist, I love the way you can play subtly and loud when needed, keep the time and switch up using percussion sounds on the drum set". At any rate after all this its been a very hard life not being able to make a living from this music I love and am a part of because of this thing and the followers that still perpetuate this stigmatism. I know my enemies out there are loving the fact that they have taken work away from me (not just because of this thing) and that's all good because I am still here, still playing, writing and making beautiful music. Even though the recognition of my contributions are not in the main stream I have found peace in knowing the love I have for the music continues to keep me moving forward and gives me a knowledge and base to compose from life experiences, dynamically, full of emotion, taking on happiness and gratitude each time I am given the opportunity to play. And I am blessed because God has given me a talent to provide using my musical gifts for my family in a way that is unique, honest and full of gratifying hard work. If one care to research my work it is out there and available here www.ronnieburrage.biz and all over the internet, however at present you will not find me on the mainstream jazz festivals or clubs, I pray someday soon that will change. Also here is a great body of work where there was no amplification, orchestrated by Hamiet Bluiett: The Clarinet Family - Hamiet Bluiett - CAM Jazz
www.camjazz.com/8024709051127-the-clarinet-family-cd.html
Recorded live in November, 1984 - an acoustical concert with no amplification except for a bass amplifier on For Macho - during the "Berliner Festspiele", ...

Comment by WASHINGTON DC JAZZ NETWORK on September 22, 2014 at 12:11pm

Revalyn T. Golde, thanks for your comment.  You hit the nail on the head!

Comment by Revalyn T. Golde on September 20, 2014 at 4:23pm

The lure of having a pay date over having a play date causes too many musicians to fold and take their cards off the table. Music is the science of life and if you are (trying) to out fox science you will end up with hybrids that make you sick; not rhythms and melodies keep you well. What if all the musicians faced with that choice woke up one morning and said, hell no. I ain't doin' that sh_t no more! Then maybe the art forms would open doors to new horizons that kept us whole. Lawd chile, what you say? Nirvana!

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The Article "Modern Drummer Magazine" Refused to Publish

Alfred Nobel and the invention of the microphone. 

By Paquito D'Rivera

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I strongly believe that technology is here to help the art form, not to overwhelm it, but tragically, with a very few, each day more and more scarce exceptions, the invention of the microphone, that is credited to the German Emile Berliner in 1876

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