Drums as vibration?
October 5, 2005 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Working on a project dealing with the drum (that is, skin stretched over a frame) as a technology. I need to name all the applications of a drum I can think of, and their humanistic implications. I've got Drum as Music and Drum as Communication. But I mentioned exploring the fact that you can *feel* drums before other instruments, that they have a very physical aspect, and the prof said there are tons of applications in this category alone. WTF? Something about separating wheat from chaff with drums? Anyway, I have to turn in a proposal by 1 pm tomorrow, and I would love your help. Ideas on other applications?
posted by ibeji to Society & Culture (23 answers total)
I think "Drum as Communication" is too broad. Split it down, and you'll have many more applications. For instance, drums have been used for long-distance messaging over geographically separated communities; for signalling action in the heat of battle on a ship; for setting the tempo of an army's march, for sending coded signals in even very closely watched settings such as slave plantations, for telling a room full of dancers what steps to do, etc.

A trampoline is kind of a drum.
posted by Miko at 5:27 PM on October 5, 2005

Best answer: A fluidized bed is used in manufacturing processes where pellets or powder of a material (e.g. plastic) is suspended in a 'cloud' above the vibrating bed. A heated form is then passed through the cloud so that the plastic coats the form. Cooling the form down afterwards allows the plastic shape to be removed. Coffee creamers are made this way.

Loudspeakers are a form of drum. The membrane is like a drum head which is moved electrically rather than mechanically such as with a stick or hand. This is true all the way down to the earpiece on your ipod.

The seismic mapping done in oil exploration uses a hydraulic ram to 'thump' the ground, which behaves like a drum head. Remote microphones pick up the sound waves reflected off subterranean structures enabling computer mapping of those structures.

Like miko says, you need to get outside the box a bit.
posted by RMALCOLM at 5:51 PM on October 5, 2005

I agree you are being to broad. Saying "drums as communication" is like saying "voice as communication," there's alot more to both than that.

How about drum as social cue, as in a rimshot telling people when to laugh? Or drum as sacred object, as in the religious ceremonies of countless cultures? Or drum as (psychological) weapon, as in the Fellowship of the Ring when the Gandalf is reading the last words of Gloin, about how the terrifying effect of the goblins' drums - "drums, drums in the deep, we cannot get out..."? There are thousands more.
posted by ChasFile at 5:54 PM on October 5, 2005

(Upon seeing the page title) Or remember the scene in Private Parts where Howard Stern gives a woman straddling a woofer an orgasm on the air by humming into his microphone? That was basically a drum he was using, as RMAL points out.

Early microphones were basically inverted drums, where the motion of the air pushed a membrane up and down. This membrane was in turn fixed to a magnet inserted into a coil; as the magnet moved through the coil, it produced a current, which was amplified and played through a speaker somewhere else. I'm sure there's more examples of inverted drums (isomorphic to the impeller/propeller diad) you can find.
posted by ChasFile at 6:00 PM on October 5, 2005

Best answer: Don't really understand the question, but Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead drummer) wrote in his book about a death drum that made people sick if they heard it. He said it worked. Drums used in traditional healing ceremonies? Thus, drumming as medical technology. Also medical Ultrasound
posted by Ken McE at 6:03 PM on October 5, 2005

And then there's the eardrum. Which allows most folks to hear sound.
posted by Clay201 at 6:11 PM on October 5, 2005

And Kevin
Drum... sorry.

Think of it this way: What does a drum do? How does it do it. What else could those actions do? What if the drum was very very small, very very large? What happens when things are on the drum, in the drum, near the drum?

Work that. Game the solutions. Don't be afraid of a few silly leaps -- they may lead you to somewhere that isn't silly.
posted by eriko at 6:31 PM on October 5, 2005

Just for the hell of it, Neil Peart from Rush co-wrote a horror story about a magical African drum. Excerpt on this ugly-ass website.

Lateral thinking -- animals, from rabbits to elephants, communicate by pounding on the ground in various ways, don't they? So you could start with the thesis that percussion is the oldest, most primal form of communication, and that we were probably using it long before speech.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:50 PM on October 5, 2005

percussion is the oldest, most primal form of communication, and that we were probably using it long before speech.

Not only that -- but how do we hear anything? Through the membrane called our ear drum.
posted by Miko at 7:08 PM on October 5, 2005

Response by poster: Lots of good ideas, everyone--thanks!

To clarify: I was being broad for the sake of brevity. I have *tons* of applications I could name under the umbrellas of music or communication. However, my prof hinted that there are some uses of the drum--specifically defined for this assignment as some kind of skin stretched on a frame *made by man*, so not ear drum--that would fall outside these two more commonly known categories. I'm looking for instances (that many of you have named or hinted at, thanks!) of drums inciting physical response... Infrasound type stuff (like the Mickey Hart thing), studies on how drums affect the central nervous system etc. The closest I've come is this article from 1962 called, "A Physiological Explanation of Unusual Behavior in Ceremonies Involving Drums". The questions that eriko is asking are good, but are there any answers? RMALCOLM gives some really helpful suggestions...
posted by ibeji at 9:08 PM on October 5, 2005

I think the fact that they generate bass that can be felt rather than heard is the most important thing. Its the bridge between sound physical feeling (& feels damn good, too - I have the subs cranked up in my room).

As far as other uses... I'd guess slightly tilted drums were used to separate things that differ in weight, & to shake things around/spread things out, like modern vibrating belts (for blueberries, cranberries, etc) do to let people sort them.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:40 PM on October 5, 2005

Look up drum circles, but if you're not a damn dirty hippie don't go near one. It's not communication, and it sure as hell isn't music.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:49 PM on October 5, 2005

is a percussionist and teacher who is doing pretty ground-breaking work using drums and music sounds as healing aids, there was a great NYT article on his therapy work last year, although he's still best known as a musician, of course.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:48 PM on October 5, 2005

Best answer: To follow up on ineji's comment, the archaeologist David Lewis-Williams has written about induction of trance via "psychic driving", which involves drumming, as well dancing/repetitive body movements and often flickering lights. He believes this is a central practice of many cultures, particularly Khoi San "bushmen", and that it has discernible effects on rock-art worldwide - in particular, it can produce "entoptic phenomena".

He has written lots, a full explanation if you have a decent library would be 1988 J.D. Lewis-Williams & T.A. Dowson. The signs of all times: entoptic phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic art. Current Anthropology 29: 201-245.

Lots of references here

posted by Rumple at 12:10 AM on October 6, 2005

Two more "physical" applications of drums: 1) since a drumhead is just a membrane that moves air to produce sound, you can use it to just ... move air (w/o sound, or w/ sound as a side effect). There's a toy based on this principal, an "air gun" that shoots a blast of air.

2) You can use a drum as a "display" for the vibration patterns on a drumhead, either as "art" or as a means of visual exploration. Scatter iron filings (or sand, I suppose) on a drumhead. Play a sound. The drumhead vibrates in sympathy with the sound, and the filings align themselves along the (my vocabulary is failing me here) "nodes" of vibration.
posted by zanni at 12:36 AM on October 6, 2005

Best answer: I believe you align or sort fibers for felting using vibration, I'm not sure if the aparatus uses a membrane or a string.

Trampoline as drum, the crack of a sail when it catches wind. Just riffing here. There must be tons of specific technical/engineering applications, though I couldn't really point you in a direction, and they don't focus on sound, but the conduction of vibration, et all.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:44 AM on October 6, 2005

Best answer: Vibration tables. I recall a story, probably from Scientific American, about a facility that had a giant vibration table that they used to test satellites, by feeding it various sine waves. At Christmas someone hooked it up to a tape player, and turned it into the world's largest speaker.
posted by Leon at 12:53 AM on October 6, 2005

Best answer: Dunno if this is what you mean, but football teams at some deaf schools use the vibrations from very large bass drums as a way to signal the snap count.
posted by dersins at 4:16 AM on October 6, 2005

Response by poster: You are all amazing! Thank you so much for helping me begin this really exciting project.
posted by ibeji at 4:18 AM on October 6, 2005

I (vaguely) remember a kid's science show where the host filled a drum-shaped container with smoke, tapped on the membrane, and expelled small puffs of smoke from the open end.

I have no idea what possible application this had, but it looked cool at the time.

Hey, free advice is worth what you pay...
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:46 AM on October 6, 2005

Best answer: A tennis racket is a drum used to propel small green objects.
posted by cortex at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2005

Best answer: A membrane-barometer is a type of drum that responds to air pressure (it's being beaten by molecules rather than with drumsticks, and the shape of the "drum" (membrane) converted to a scaled output)
This is how to make a simple one.
posted by easternblot at 1:32 PM on October 6, 2005

The Mickey Hart book referenced above is Drumming at the Edge of Magic. It's got a lot of information about the spiritual uses of percussion -- inducing trances and the like. His book Planet Drum may be useful as well.
posted by Vidiot at 4:40 PM on October 6, 2005

« Older What are the best things about the Basque country?   |   How to automate importing a text file into Excel Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.