Friday, February 03, 2006

Hramblings: The Kendama (Japanese stick and ball toy)

Touch the Sound, a documentary about virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie, was playing in Ann Arbor for a short run. I can recommend the movie for anyone who is interested in watching collaboration in realtime. One of the particulary compelling exchanges was between Glennie and the Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo.

After rummaging through Glennie's stick case, pausing briefly to challenge the utility of implements that looked more at home scrambling eggs, the jam began in earnest. After one very technical piece, there was a short exchange that started with a rhythm generated using a wooden stick with a large red ball attached with cord. By choosing one of several cups on the stick, it generated a clave or temple block-like sound.

As it turns out this is an ancient children's toy called a kendama. Think of it as a Japanese yo-yo. A few basic techniques have grown into a very large repetoire of increasingly difficult tricks. But more to the point, its another example of something initially thought of as ordinary being elevated through mastery. Did I mention it doesn't need batteries?


At 1:50 PM, Blogger mccon said...

I got a fever ... and the only cure is more cowbell.

At 2:43 AM, Blogger Edward Vielmetti said...

There's a little kendama photo essay and history here

it suggests a French origin for the game.

Joe, would you really give a kindergartener a cowbell?

At 4:23 PM, Blogger mccon said...

I'd give 'em a whole cow if I thought it would do any good.


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