“Things I Have Learned from Children” by Kenta Nakagome
Things I Have Learned from Children
A year has passed since I started touring as a member of the “School Workshop Performance” tour cast. When I was a school student myself, I wanted to skip class as much as possible and I wished it was Sunday or the summer holidays every day of the year. When I think about it, it’s pretty strange that I have started going to school again.
Our performances are held as a part of each school’s curriculum for performing arts appreciation.
During our performance, we want to share the true sound of taiko drums, teach the kids about taiko as a musical instrument, and tell them all kinds of things. We interact with the students using our taiko, all up-close & within arm’s reach. This is the purpose of our School tour.
For about a year, I have traveled around many schools, playing taiko and spending time with my fellow cast members. It seems to me that while we want to say and convey different things to the children, we somehow end up receiving a lot more from them than we give.
I think children are wonderful beings.
When I see other Kodo members communicate with children, they have an indescribably calm and warm look. We are there to give a performance, but we are unusually relaxed. It seems like I can see each member’s true self appear at these performances.
As Kodo members, we always perform with pride and to the best of our abilities. We aim to deliver good sound and a good performance. We all have the same strong attitude towards our performances. However, most of the children have never heard of Kodo and some have never heard the sound of taiko before.
Although I do not know what the children are actually thinking, I feel that they have an instinctive insight into the real nature of each performer without considering the name of “Kodo” or our various titles and positions, like “professional performer” or “musician.”
They also judge whether our taiko performance is good or bad, interesting or not interesting, purely by instinct.
For School Workshop Performances, we perform in school gymnasiums.
So, the audience gets to listen to our taiko at a closer range than in a concert hall. If the sound is too loud, some children block their ears, and if the music is too monotonous, they start chatting. If the performance is good, they concentrate on our music and I sometimes see some children enjoyably swaying their bodies to the rhythm. For me, seeing that instant reaction from the children is very interesting and it makes me feel an air of tension, in a good way. I feel that children help us improve our own sensibilities when it comes to conveying the sound of taiko to an audience.
I used to just play taiko powerfully, with all my might. However, when I play taiko in front of children, my sound automatically becomes softer at times and stronger when I feel it needs to be. I now think about what sound will best reach the audience at each different moment.
As a member of the Kodo ensemble, I have always had in mind that I need to play taiko in a certain way or I need to act in a certain way. However, through our School Workshop Performances, I feel like I am now facing taiko anew.
I have been given a great opportunity to reflect on the sound that I create.
The right sound to play at each and every moment during our performance comes to us from amongst the children and within us, as we share that same space in time.
Keeping all of this in mind, I now enjoy going to school.