Independence and Interdependence

On the Creative Coordination DVD, Thomas Lang states that Independence and Interdependence are both different states of mind. And after considering and pondering what he said for a couple of minutes, I came to agree. If you think about it, the only difference between interdependence and independence is how you view what you’re playing. If you view what each limb is doing as a separate rhythm, that’s independence. if you view each limb as playing a part of a larger rhythm, that’s interdependence.

I suppose that technically all playing is independent, because there is no cause and effect relationship between one limb and another. The only exception (that I can think of) is where a particular pattern has become an irresistible habit. This happens in new drummers a lot. They get used to playing eight on a hand and four on the floor to the extent that it’s ingrained into their muscle memory. So whenever they play eight on a hand they automatically (against their will) start playing four on the floor (or vice-versa.) Even in this case however, the cause-effect relationship between the two limbs only exists in the mind.

Both, independence and interdependence fall under the larger category of coordination. So why did we bother to come up with these sub-categories? I suspect it’s because the way we think of the part can affect our ability to play it. Suppose you’ve got a Latin gig and you’ve got to cover three different percussion parts and hit the snare on 2 and 4. Each limb has a pretty complex part to cover, none of the parts sound alike, and it’s all going on at once. If you tried to play that by processing all the different parts together as one unit, you would overload your brain. So you think of each part separately because they are easier to digest that way. Once you’ve got each part down, it’s a matter of layering them upon one another until they all fit in their proper place. I’d call this independence because each rhythm is thought of in it’s own right.

An example of interdependence is when you’re playing a polyrhythm (Dave actually touched on this in the show.) One hand is playing one thing and the other hand another. Two different rhythms but they are perceived as one whole. It’s hard to think 2 on one hand and 3 on another so instead it’s thought of as one cohesive unit. Glen Kotche (of Wilco) performed a piece by the minimalist composer Steve Reich called “clapping music” on the Modern Drummer Festival 2006 DVD. He talked about how he saw it as a duet between left and right hands. That is a prime example of interdependence. Both rhythms are part of a complete whole they don’t stand alone.

I really don’t think that there is that much to be gained by knowing the difference between interdependence and independence honestly. It’s mostly for people interested in the intellectual aspect of drumming. Theory oriented people. I’m not saying that it’s bad that we gave it a name. I’m just saying that drummers develop their coordination just fine without being anal about the differences between interdependence and independence.

So basically I just taught you something and then told you that it’s really not that important to know…

I’m gonna go rethink my life.


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