The first drum set came on the market in 1918. It conquered urban dance music and established the triad of bass drum, snare and hi-hat as the globally used combination. Percussion became the pulse of European-influenced music. This history can also be interpreted as the African backbeat being introduced to European music via the detour of North America. 100 Years of Beat tells this story and investigates the relationship between played and programmed beats. It presents style-influencing drummers and explores (back) beat concepts from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and New Orleans, from Arabic and Indian music.
While drums in European music had mainly an embellishing function, they were actually prohibited in North America in the first half of the eighteenth century. “No Drumming” laws were enacted across the United States because it was feared that enslaved Africans and African Americans would use drums as a means of communication to organize revolts. Instead of using instruments, people then drummed on barrels and with spoons and the “pattin’ juba” (also known as the “hambone”) evolved. The dance that uses the entire body as a drum introduced the roles given to the various frequencies that were later transferred to the bass drum, snare and hi-hat.
The first proto-jazz dance orchestras of the late nineteenth century performed with multiple drummers, each playing on one drum. Then, in 1918, the Ludwig Drum Company in Chicago put the first drum set on the market with bass drum, snare, hi-hat, tom toms and cymbals. With two foot pedals, drummers are now able to play four instruments at one time. Similar to “pattin’ juba,” now only one body was responsible for the beat. The popularization of the drum set was accompanied by the spread of the backbeat.
HKW curator Detlef Diederichsen explores the music of the past 100 years and traces leitmotifs of pop history from unexpected perspectives.
Part of 100 Years of Now