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Call and Response Between Humans

The musical ritualistic interplay of call and response is one of the oldest and perhaps most pervasive pattern in human history. It is specially well known as an African form but it can be found practically in all realms of human culture, transformed and hidden, but always there.  At its most basic, "call and response" describes a rhythmic interaction between a group and an individual. The individual calls out a phrase, or bangs a phrase on a drum, and the group responds by repeating the phrase that the individual has offered. This can be extremely helpful as a simple mechanism for the radio to function. We have already offered several examples of this particular experiment but the variations are endless.  It is a very effective way to break down any barriers of shyness, hesitancy or self doubt. It also offers a clear and simple format for the group to maintain interaction and not retreat into the nether "inner world". By making the roles explicitly clear, this format allows each individual to give himself fully and surrender to their particular place in the scheme, a surrender which is not only helpful but crucial for the invocation to work.

There are two basic physical arrangements for this. These are not to be taken as "rules" or even as strict ritual. They are simply two formats that will encourage this process to occur. Once an invocation is occurring the forms may flow freely. The 2 basic arrangements are:

1- The caller in front of a line or semi circle of "responders"

2- The caller in the middle of a circle of responders.

The caller can issue his or her call through words, pure raw vocal sounds, instruments, or any combination of these. The responders may respond in similar varied ways. To start to experiment with this form, the responses should be as identical to the call as possible. Later on they can be more like developments or reactions, but to begin with, we will try to simply approximate the call as closely as possible. Of course, chaos and friction always intervene, so the responses are never quite the same... we simply strive to make them as close to the same as possible.

An excellent warmup sequence for a group that is inexperienced, shy or simply uncomfortable among themselves, is the following:

Each person takes a 5 to 10 minute round in leading the group in a call and response with their voices. In the first round, the "caller" simply has to say a single word, which the entire group then repeats. Then the next time around the caller has to say a rhythmic phrase which the whole group repeats. The third time around the caller has to make nonsensical noise which the whole group repeats. After these 3 rounds (with each person having gone up 3 times) the group should be warmed up for either more intense experiments or simply to dive right into a free form invocation.

Another variation of this experiment is to use percussion instruments (or noise makers). The caller or leader should use a clear, precise instrument (a clave works well, a snare can also work). The leader beats a particular rhythm and the group reproduces it. The interaction between the group and the caller can be very dynamic (with each phrase becoming a development of the one before and the speed of interaction increasing) but to begin with it is enough to maintain a steady rhythm and have the group reproduce the rhythmic phrase as closely as possible with their own instruments.  The same sequence as before can be used, with each person taking a turn being the leader.

It is important to remember that the group should strive to answer in a unified way. Again, through pure chaos, confusion, error or friction, the group will never sound as one, but it should still constantly strive for it. If the group surrenders to pure chaos, then the experiment(s) should start over.

If there are enough people in the group (and some of them have the ability to drum) then the group can divide into 3: the single caller, the responding group, and the drummers. Again these roles can shift. The drummers can be further divided into 2 groups. One set of  drummers would keep a beat going under the call and response and the other set would add a running percussive commentary that can contribute  greatly to the level of information transfer and raw creativity that is experienced by the group. The "commentary" should not break apart the underlyng beat. Instead it should ride on top of it, using lighter and higher percussive sounds to create a network of inner references, possibly too fast for the intellectual brain to register but present nonetheless. This network of references can lift a good invocation to a completely different level of intensity, as long as each element of the group fulfills its role, the stations reached by such a radio can be unexpected and startling.




Where or what is the Clear Light? ] The Blank TV ] [ Human Call and Response ] Call and Response with the Clear Light ] No Thought ] Silence ] Noise and Music ] Chaos and Information ] Safety ] Shame and how to overcome it ] Build Up and Release of Energy ]

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