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Author Topic: Jumping Drum, Brownie Drum or "Brownie Bouncer"  (Read 3024 times)
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Rookie Brownbark
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« on: 02 September 2014, 03:10:37 »

The Jumping Drum or Brownie Drum, which is also sometimes referred to as a "Brownie Bouncer", is a musical instrument developed by the Llaoihrr of the Brownie Vale.  Rather than hitting the drum with implements, the Brownie musicians use the springiness of the skin to jump high into the air, striking the drum with feet, hands and any other part of their anatomy.

These instruments are often very simple, with a wooden frame supporting a tightly-stretched animal skin.  Sizes vary from about 15 nailsbreaths across to a ped, although these larger drums might be played by more than one Brownie at once.

Both the base and the skin are decorated with simplified representations of plants, animals, or other objects that the Brownies may wish to emulate with their music.  Professional Drummer'rs from the Drummer'r clan will normally have a pattern or theme they use to decorate all the instruments in their band to identify them - perhaps a XXX fly to suggest the buzzing of the wings or a pun on the bands name.

The basic design for these instruments is incredibly simple - an animal skin is tied to an open-topped, wooden cylinder and pulled taut.  The base is traditionally made of a piece of horn from the XXXX goats/sheep that live in the Mountains.  A section is sawn off the very base of the horn, forming a large circle which the skin is then stretched over to create a drum large enough for one Brownie musician. 

However, killing one of these creatures is a rare event and as the drums have become more popular Brownies have started using carved wood instead.  This in turn has allowed the drums to be made large enough for several Brownies to use at once, making "team" performances more and more common. Like any device exposed to the ingenuity of the Llaoihrr Brownies for any length of time, new designs and materials are always being tried and tested. 

What makes the drum a "Jumping Drum" is more the way it is used than anything in the design.  Of course the instrument does have to be large enough to allow jumping, and the skin must be stretchy enough to allow for the bounce.

Playing these instruments is not just a case of achieving the correct sound and rhythm; players must also be able to execute spectacular jumps and flips whilst doing this.  Skilled players can control their jumps and twists, and therefore also control the time between jumps and the rhythm they beat out with their feet.  Extremely skilled players can add beats from arms and hands, which have a slightly different tone, and therefore vary the beats they are able to produce.

Compared to other percussion instruments, the sounds the Jumping Drums can produce are fairly limited in pitch and tone.  The skin needs to be springy enough for the Brownie to bounce high, which dulls the sound of the hits and means that the most you can really get out of these drums is a mono-tone "boom", or a lighter "fswat".  However, these instruments were developed for use at large Brownie festivals with thousands of onlookers.  Such subtleties are lost over the chatter of tiny voices, but the acrobatics can be easily seen. 

The skill of the players is also measured by their precision and synchronicity, as the only way to get the sound louder is to have more drums.  Teams of 20 drummers are ideal for large gatherings, which is why these instruments are most prevalent amongst large, well-off Brownie settlements who can afford to support this many individuals.

These drums are most common in the Vale of Brownies for large festivals and events where teams of "Jumpers" perform together.  They are often accompanied by small reed flutes and whistles.  The effect of this performance is more about providing a festival atmosphere with plenty of noise and commotion, rather than producing beautiful music. 

Origin and History
These instruments were originally made from the horns of the XXXX, on the rare occasions that a group of Brownies managed to hunt and kill such a beast.  This was in the days before Brownies had tamed and trained the Brownie Owls they now use as mounts, making it a long and dangerous trip into the high mountains.  Exposed above the treeline with no flying lookouts to keep predators away, Brownies would have been in constant danger of becoming a delicious snack.  However, large kills provided such an abundance of meat and fat for food, and leather, bone and horn for buildings and machinery, that the benefits would be felt by every Brownie in the settlement.  Such a kill would be cause to celebrate and to give thanks to the Goat Spirit, and drums made from the base of the horns would be used as the focus of this impromptu festival.

Nowadays most of the materials that would be gained through a goat kill are traded for instead, and some settlements have got so large that any festival takes months of preparation.  Festivals are now regular events throughout the year, but they still include the Jumping Drums at their centre.  Performances are often very lavish with up to 20 musicians performing together at the Council Tree's Harvest Festival.

The drumming of a Jumping Drum has always been associated with giving thanks to the Spirits (please see Brownie Beliefs for a full detail of this Brownie religion).  There place will always be at the centre of a festival, leading the celebrations.

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« Reply #1 on: 14 September 2014, 17:14:20 »

Just read the entry, Rookie, and it's really a lovely idea for our Brownies and its written beautifully and with care for details!  thumbup Best thing about entries like these is that they fit perfectly to a culture pf such a small folk, by size and by concept, and that the entry really explores that in every respect. Love e.g. the analysis what sounds the drums can produce, that there's a lot of precision and synchronicity needed and that only many drummers can really make a whole composition work etc. One can clearly see in such details that you thought it through...  cool

Something to fix in the very last sentence, otherwise I didn't see any mistakes except the still missing references:
There (=their) place will always be at the centre of a festival, leading the celebrations.

Anyway, I plan to update the site next Sunday, so maybe you can fill in the missing references, and then I can include this one as well, Rookie! Aura +1 at any rate for a great addition to Brownie culture! grin

"Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a mediator, and this must be the heart." -- Maria (Metropolis)
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« Reply #2 on: 15 September 2014, 05:45:23 »

No more time to read it, Rookie, but the idea is great! :)

"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path  that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking,  breathlessly. ~Don Juan"
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