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I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Bump, Associate Professor of percussion at Truman State University, a couple of weeks ago. He talked about his experience in Trinidad and Tobago during Panorama 2011. Michael recently performed with the Invaders Steel Drum Band while on sabbatical at Truman State.

Check out the podcast at:


Let us know your thoughts.

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An important point. Notation however remains a blueprint, not the building.


I most heartily agree that music (composed or as yet uncomposed) is out on the astral plane and "composers" are actually interpreters with the gift of allowing these waves to be channeled through them. However, I find your points on the "chicken or the egg" analogy to be somewhat theological and quite debatable. Remember it took God six days to create heaven and earth. I believe it is widely accepted that man could communicate verbally long before there was an alphabet, and allthough God may have given man the ability to create written language simultaneously with the ability to speak, clearly man did not do so untill much later and I can't see why music should be any different. If there is anything in scripture (Christian or otherwise since you choose a theological approach) to back up your theory please direct me to it and I'll be happy to give it due consideration.

I did not mean to cast aspersions on classically trained musicians (I'll admit that it certainly must seem so) as I was taught to read music at an early age and through the years have found it usefull (though by no means necessary). Having played with cats who read, as well as with cats who don't read music it strikes me that the literate ones may be TECNICALLY more proficient but they are mostly a bit stiff while the non literate players seem to be much more inspired and fun to listen to.

Also I'd like to say that I've had much success over the years learning songs by merely listening, whether it be a Bass part, Guitar part or Pan part; it is by no means impossible, it only takes time, concentration, and yes, a gift.

                                                         Phil Schmidt



Sidd, i'd have to say your comments ring true, all the same here is my continuation & clarification. A Trinidadian is someone born in Trinidad. That's it. There is no requirement of knowledge, what you have done with your life, or even where you live. A musician is simply someone who plays music. Amen. And a whole lotta women too! yes, one's natural curiousity should impel one to reach for names, chords, different beats, understanding of different recipes, principles of organization, orchestration & arrangement, manipulation of dynamics within a phrase as well as per section, how the base line addresses & often outlines the chord sequence as well as the myriad concerns of music. But while our interest in or actual accumulation of all this musical culture may make us better musicians, it is still not a requirement to our entitlement to the name "musician". Musician only means you are a conduit of music, not your depth of your understanding of it. A more important definer would be the feeling you get & are able to transfer through it. You could say that music comes from an exalted, impassioned focus with its ability to delight, invigorate or disturb through sound. So here is my view: A musician is simply someone who plays music! An erudite musician is one who has mastered the international vocabulary of music & understands what each concept means in practice & even how to achieve this. While one is evolving from one to the other, or stalled enroute, one remains still fully a musician. Is Amrit Samaroo a musician now, but at the age of 4 didn't qualify? While throughout his life he has accumulated musical technique, wisdom & theory, there simply could not have been a time when he was not a musician. Music is sound first & knowledge second. We could venture it is the manipulation of sound knowledge of sound. Though we all aspire to the knowledge & feeling of sound, wherever you are in that continuum does not qualify or disqualify one from the ennobling name of musician. Therefore a kalimba player, a flautist and a pannist is always & definitely a musician whether they play by shape, rhythmic memory of patterns, or actual note names and whether they have their musical"ABCs" or not.
sidd, i posted  to your previous comment in error. it must be spring with all this talk of flowers! Take it easy, b
I don't know how many of the commentators here took the time to actually listen to the pod-cast in its entirety, but I do agree with Dave's thoughts expressed elsewhere that the points raised in the pod-cast i.e. the dynamics of a Trinidad steelband preparing for Panorama as seen from the viewpoint of a foreigner,has been distorted into a discussion as to whether or not a panists should learn music theory.

As far as I am concerned, ALL panists are musicians, only some are PROFESSIONAL musicians, and there is a distinction.

The youngster who joins his favorite steelband after Christmas in Trinidad with the intention of participating in the Panorama and maybe playing on the road on Carnival day becomes a musician.

The beauty of the steelband is that he can fully participate, without learning music theory.

If on the other hand his interest is awakened such that he wishes to further his knowledge and understanding of music, even if he does not wish to become a professional, then it becomes necessary that goes to the next level, which includes formal study of music theory.

This does not negate the fact that gifted musicians in all genres have been successful without formal music training, but these are our geniuses(like Boogsie, etc,), and are exceedingly rare.
A key distinction. In fact a full twelve-key distinction! But even the genii, with or without formal training, learn from others. They look listen & learn, absorb & deliver their own musical itineraries & experiments. The truly gifted jump ahead, but they move on the turtlebacks of the examples & sonic perfections of the past. None emerge alone not in music & not in childbirth!
I wish the administrators of this site would close the conservation on this topic. The discussion is far from the original intent of the original post.

I think we can all agree that pan players are musician. We are preaching to the choir and it is my hope we can put this topic to rest here and now.

Thank you.

Sidd would you please keep quiet, I do not want to say shut up it might start you off again,Dave please forgive the board Administrators the topic went off the wall and it is not the comentators fault, we all received E-mails with comments by the administrators asking a Question "are pan men real musicians?" and it should have been a seperate thread but it was linked to your thread, I will not make too many comments on this as to why I think it happened, but pan is the results of a series of spontaneous reactions so is music, it needs not be defined, Dr bump gave a real honest reaction to an earth moving experience with this illustrious but humble artform we are all real musicians most humans the way we walk, talk, eat, sleep etc and them we transfer this into an audible expression and call it music as it hits the ear it assults the emotions and we reminise on it bringing a pleasure that cannot be explained, through years we in order to make this expression universal we created tools to help us better to use it, Dr Bump had a nice but rude awakening as he realised that enslaving oneself to these tools and depending wholeheartedly on it kills the authenticity of the expression itself which is supposed to be an apeal to our emotions which is best expressed from the heart rather than the brain, the pan musicians depend on the tools of their brain and use their emotions to reproduce them and this seems to be his point

I do believe you might be able to delete the discussion your self if you are tired of the "OLE(old) Talk" as we call it


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