Fiddle/Sticks: The Drummer Project by Casey Driessen is a collaborative exploration of rhythm which pairs Casey – the leading voice in percussive fiddle/violin technique (AKA The Chop) – with a list of the landmark drummers and percussionists of our time. Cutting across all genres and traditions, the project documents these rhythmic explorations through recordings, videos, photos and journals. It serves as an inspirational and instructional resource for drummers, percussionists, fiddlers and everyone in the music community interested in pushing the boundaries of their instruments and their music.
IN MY OWN WORDS…
One day last year, I was chatting with a friend about the future of a new percussive bowing technique on the fiddle - curiously named "the chop." That person just happened to be banjo innovator Béla Fleck, who knows a thing or two about pushing the boundaries of an instrument. From that discussion, the seed for Fiddle/Sticks was planted.
[Note: Fiddles and violins are the same physical instrument – the distinction is generally for genre, but it’s not a rule. I like "fiddle" – but feel free to substitute "violin" in your head if you like.]
The chop is a relatively new idea, but it came from the father of bluegrass himself, Mr. Bill Monroe. In 1966, Monroe told his fiddler Richard Green that he needed to improve his rhythm. Monroe’s advice was to imitate the trademark percussive thwack of his bluegrass mandolin "chop." Trace that technique farther backwards and you find the mandolin replicating the backbeat of popular music played by the snare drum – but in the drum-less musical setting of bluegrass. Through this lineage, on an instrument with centuries of musical history and established technical dogma, a brand new bowing technique is born within my lifetime. Paying homage to its mandolin source, this fiddle sound is dubbed "the chop."
I've immersed myself in chopping for over 20yrs and believe this is just the beginning. The chop has advanced well beyond its backbeat origin into harmonic and rhythmic complexity that intrigues and excites fiddlers across the globe. To other musicians, it's a fresh take and innovative sound not heard emanating from the fiddle family before. I am working hard to push this style to new heights and feel Fiddle/Sticks: The Drummer Project is a perfect pathway. This collaborative exploration of rhythm between myself and landmark drummers and percussionists will trek across all genres and traditions while documenting these meetings through audio recordings, videos, photos, and journals.
I have teamed up with writer, filmmaker and storyteller, Craig Havighurst (String Theory Media, Music City Roots), who will tell the story of these encounters while I concentrate on the music. We will take this project to the drummers — spending two days in their studios and practice spaces, playing music, writing music, exploring the rhythmic side of the fiddle and the melodic side of the drums, interviewing, and deepening our understanding of the musical arts. Successful funding of Fiddle/Sticks will go towards the following: musicians honorariums; travel, lodging, and food; video shooting, editing, and production; mobile audio recording gear such as a laptop, audio interfaces, microphones, mic stands, hard drives, etc; production, editing, and manufacturing of an audio CD; the donor perks; and fees required by Kickstarter.
The thought of this project becoming a reality makes my metronome race with excitement. I've never been satisfied exploring the fiddle just from the fiddler's point of view. Rather, I've discovered my creative turning points through other instruments and genres – adopting the 5-string fiddle over the conventional 4-string to play bebop alto saxophone lines by Charlie Parker; learning odd-meter time signatures from syllabic rhythm practices of classical Indian music; incorporating funk slap bass lines; mimicking rhythm of a glass shard filled tin can shaker from Madagascar; and, of course, my pivotal watershed moment, imitating the mandolin chop in a childhood bluegrass band lacking mandolin. I am continually searching for new thought processes, inspiration and challenges to push the limits of my musical voice, and I believe the unconventional pairing of fiddle with drums and percussion will do so in an awesomely unpredictable way.
Please help me take the fiddle (violin) chop to its roundabout drumming roots. My ultimate goal is to work with experts from jazz, rock, pop, funk, Motown, hip-hop, New Orleans, turntable, drum & bass, fusion, country, electronic, and world idioms. For my launch, I will focus on five drummers across varying specialties. Confirmed so far are Jamey Haddad (world percussionist for Paul Simon and Berklee College of Music Professor), Futureman (jazz fusion drumitar inventor for Béla Fleck & the Flecktones), and Kenny Malone (legendary Nashville country session drummer). I hope that Fiddle/Sticks will serve as an inspirational and instructional resource for drummers, percussionists, fiddlers and everyone in the music community interested in pushing the boundaries of their instruments and their music.
I sincerely thank you for your support.
- (60 days)