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The Rhythm of My Days, Measure by Measure

By Zane Glauber
Bedford, N.Y.

illustrationIt's six o'clock. From down the hall, I hear my mother's footsteps approaching. The door opens.

"Time to get up!"

I make the journey from my warm bed to the hard oak of the kitchen table downstairs. Racing thoughts about the day's events, upcoming tests, hours of inevitable homework are silenced as the Miles Davis sextet walks out onto the stage in my mind. There's a round of applause and the group starts playing.

The men look at Paul Chambers on bass as he thumbs the familiar riff of "So What." My focus is not on him, however; my eyes digress to the sparkling silver Gretsch drums in the middle of the stage. This is what I've been waiting for. Philly Joe Jones sits behind the carefully crafted set and, in a couple of measures, digs into his ride cymbal while keeping time with his left foot on the hi-hat pedal, his face shining with sweat, his smile beaming excitement, every pore of his body oozing jazz.

I finish my eggs and venture back upstairs to clean up, put on some clothes, and organize my backpack before leaving for school. I hold the toothbrush to my mouth with my right hand and play out the ghost notes of Jones' snare drum with my left hand on my thigh. I go down the stairs for the last time, taking each step in rhythm, the thud of each foot a kick on the bass drum.

A school day ensues. The bell rings, time for seventh period BC Calc and another derivative quiz. I methodically go through the formulae in my head. Should I use the quotient rule, or change the exponent of the second function and use the multiplication rule with the chain rule? I feel like Philly Joe given a straight-ahead 4/4 bop groove; he could keep it at 4 or he could spice it up with two groups of 3 and one group of 2 with quick Swiss Army triplet fills. My hands express the mathematical directives in my head, they feed one off the other, just as Elvin Jones grooves off the blazing solos of Trane. While trading fours, Coltrane blares out sixteenth-note triplets and Jones responds with thirty-second notes between the snare, the toms, and his vintage Zildjian Ks. My quiz asks me for the derivative of a complicated polynomial — my pencil draws variables, exponents, coefficients and parentheses, much the way Elvin responds to the tenor sax with comping paradiddles, accents, ruffs and cymbal hits. The solo is finished; I hand in the paper.

It's now five o'clock. I sit at my desk, contemplating my approach to an English assignment. My confusion mirrors the playing of a complex time signature, say 19/8. Counting 19 beats every measure while keeping perfect time is close to impossible. I ponder solutions. Would I divide it into two groups of 7 and a group of 5 or count it in four groups of 4 and then a quick group of 3? I complete the assigned essay by seven.

The clock strikes ten. I lie in my bed, my head reaping the benefits of the cold side of the pillow. Before I drift off, I hear the soft sighs of Jack DeJohnette's brushes on the skins, complementing a mellow Michael Brecker ballad. Lights fade into darkness as one day's end blends into another's beginning.

I live my life through music. The complex rhythms of jazz drumming inspire me to be spontaneous and creative, to play off the sundry challenges I face every day. Time perpetually moves forward; I will always be there to keep it.

Essay:   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8

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