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Sunny Murray

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SM: Yeah, it was worlds apart, but you know, actually Denis was a great drummer and those records that they made, I used to listen to Denis and I used to hear [what] he was trying to do and what he offered Cecil was the most, rhythmically, that a lot of drummers could offer. Though at that period, Cecil tells me, Elvin [Jones] had played with him a gig and Louis Hayes on that record [Hard Driving Jazz]. Louis Hayes enjoyed it, from what I know, but Cecil was young and a great pianist in the sense that' you didn't know what was going to happen next. So you had to have your technique high enough that your technique would perpetuate the next thing. So that's what I was doing. First I started studying every rhythm I could find, you know, one day I came to Cecil's crib and said, 'hey CT, I found out how to play this and this and this.' I told him one day, we was laughing, and I told him, 'yeah I learned today how to play 5/5,' and CT said, 'There is no 5/5.' And I said, 'yeah, well I found 5/5!' [laughs] So then, as we progressed, we still didn't have any work, but you know, I started to study more acoustical and natural sounds, tones, because it seemed like playing with CT demanded more than just beats. Even though on our Montmartre record [Live at Caf' Montmartre, Fantasy 86013, 1962], I had taken beats as far as I wanted to take them. And it started to seem like Cecil's music required more than [that], so I started dealing with the natural sounds that are in the instrument, and the pulsations that are in that sound.

AAJ: Which are the implied rhythms, right?

SM: Right, the rhythm is in the sound and not in the beat. Because the beat in itself, when you study sensation of tones, a beat in itself has a certain resonance, it depends on where you make the beat at. For instance, in certain materials, the beat has a longer resonance and is equal to a tone.

AAJ: So it is, in a sense, like the way they measure communication of whales in water.

SM: [laughing] Well, that's one explanation. Here's another example. Once every so many years, in Europe, they have a conference of acoustical professors and composers to decide should the pitch and interval of instruments remain [the same], such as the piano, the bass, the guitar, which it seems there's a social, audible level that they agree instruments should be made. In other words, you can play an instrument, and there's a certain audible level at which you can reach people. Some people have a low audible level, and some people have a high audible level. So they don't want to make a saxophone in 312 or a piano in 4. They could do that eventually, we'd have a whole new world and universe of music. They don't do that because of the requirements of selling music and the requirements necessary to make music likable to this general audible level. Another good example is like, say your grandma is listening to the radio in the kitchen, and she has it kind of below the audible level. And you say, 'Damn, grandma, can you hear that?' And she says, 'Of course, son, I can hear it.' And you go upstairs and you play your shit blasting, and it just makes her crazy, because it's above her audible level. She says 'I don't know, these kids listen to the stuff way up there.' This is what's been happening for quite a few years in the acoustical area, and for me it was food for thought, and I found some wonderful things there, some wonderful experiments, some wonderful possibilities for the trap set, which is basically the newest instrument created, I guess you could say, in terms of new instruments. We had all those violins, the piano, which were first classical instruments. Going back further than that, we had the basic conga or bongo or something like that, but the change in having those basic instruments, they were limited. So throughout history, coming back from the 20s, the drum set was slowly augmented and put together. The snare from the regimental concept, the tom-toms, etc. Papa Joe Jones elongated the sock cymbal, before that it was considered a foot cymbal. And Joe Jones elongated it to where it is today, the sock we see today.

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