Friday, August 17, 2018

A Master of His Craft

by Geddy (writer), Katy, Texas, August 17, 2007


Watching Neil Peart (pronounced peert, not pert) play the drums is an incredible experience. Even if you have no interest in drumming, rock music, or guys named Neil you should watch this gentle man perform (youtube has several videos available). It's the same as with the Mona Lisa or the statue of David. Works of great craftsmen should be visited if only to inspire us to do better.

Neil keeps time for a band called Rush. I say keeps time but that is only part of his genius. Intricate rythms combined with powerfully fast hands bring something more to the music than just a beat. While other's motto for life may be K.I.S.S. (for: keep it simple stupid) Neil has a more lofty credo, M.U.S.I.C.(for: make up something interesting and complex).

In the movie "Amadeus", Salieri's complaint was that Mozart's music had "too many notes". That people could not hear that many at one time. He would probably say the same thing about Neil and he would be wrong again. Neil's circle of drums provide more than ample opportunity to put a fill where mere mortal drummers would dare not tread. And Mr. Peart pulls it off effortlessly it seems, though a practice ethic that is second to no one is what makes it so. I refer to him as a "lead drummer", as in "lead guitarist", for he not only provides the backbeat but also propels the music forward in a way not seen often today. He is a master at stretching and compressing time within music and will often play different times with his hands than his feet. One critic described it as "The most spectacular display of independent limb movement he'd ever seen". I can not disagree.

The fact that this gem of a man still plays today is also a miracle to me. Ten years ago his only daughter died in a traffic accident on the way to her first day of college. That alone would have destroyed me. Ten months later his wife died of cancer, though Neil is certain it was a broken heart. The double tragedy within a years time sent the man in search of a way to cope with the losses. He climbed aboard his BMW motorcycle and started a journey of more than a year as a "Ghost Rider" traveling throughout Canada, the U.S., and South America trying to make himself whole again. He chronicles his trip in the book, "Ghost Rider, Travels on the Healing Road" which I would recommend to anyone who has suffered a loss of a family member, if only to realize you are not alone.

The band had been on a 5 year hiatus following the deaths but returned in 2002 with a new album "Vapor Trails"( did I mention he is also the lyricist?) and has since celebrated their 30th anniversary as a group. This Years "Snakes and Arrows" CD has been a chart topper. If you delve into the name, and the album, you will find it is about much more than its title suggests. My advice? Give it a listen.

About the Writer

Geddy is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on A Master of His Craft

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By M.J. Hamada on February 22, 2008 at 03:30 am

Doesn't he also have a PhD in philosophy and write most of their major hits?

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By Geddy on February 22, 2008 at 08:59 am

Actually he was a high school dropout and I don't think he ever went back. He was not considered "cool" and endured more than a little teasing. He was ,however, a voracious reader of all types of literature and this is where he developed his philosophical bent. I've read two of his books and much, much more of his writings to his journal and consider him one of the most insightful people I've ever encountered. He is quite knowledgeable in the areas of horticulture and birdwatching as well. Yes, he writes the lyrics for all of Rush's songs but he considers his job of "hitting things with sticks" just that...his job...only a small portion of what he is as a person.

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By Geddy on February 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Obviously supreme co-ordination and an imagination to come up with ever changing solos that bring countless concert-goers to their feet is not you're cup of tea. As a fledgling drummer in my day I remain in awe of his abilities and accomplishments. I can, however, understand your feelings. I go out of my way to avoid hip-hop and rap music which I consider hateful and vile with no redeeming qualities. I do, reluctantly, respect the artist's abilities to entertain the masses even as I consider those masses the least common denominator of human intellect. Mr. Peart has never championed "popping a cap" in anyone's ass nor expressed a wish to "bitch slap"a ho. I have no idea if that kind of music is your preference only wishing to say I can understand strong feelings towards things done by others. I re-read your comments twice so let's call it even on the two minutes.

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