Today is as good a time as any to remember the late great drummer, Winston Velez.
He can hardly help it, of course. Winston’s beat still resonates in his mind, the soft whisper of his snares and then as if out of nowhere a sudden low thump, a quick metallic note as his drum stick makes contact with the metal rim, small solo with the cymbals and then back to the regular beat. Since Winston died, he still keeps time this way. It is a much better clock than the thing hanging from the wall.
And you might have guessed that of all that is physical in this particular universe, time is the most inexorable. It keeps moving forward measuring itself in the travel of light, the co-mixing of the particles, the transfer of heat and energy, the bounce of sticks on a drum-head, entropy. These do not move as they please. They keep a particular time, a velocity and acceleration which can be measured in hard numbers. And we can make them out best when we void them of emotional bias. Not so Winston’s music.
This, you would have to appreciate from the soul, inside the context of a song, a dance perhaps, or somebody playing the saxophone from some short distance. And you can be sure, Winston is not playing to some mechanical metronome. He plays as he always does, by and from his heart.
And if you ever played with him, he might have reassured you at the beginning by saying these words: “Play as you would. I will just put my music inside yours. Don’t worry about me.”
And he would do it too. Perfectly.
You never had to worry about him. And then you could take your music every which way you pleased and he would still be there keeping exact time, never one step behind or before you. And then you would have to ask yourself, How do you do that?
It would seem as if he has correctly measured something inside you which seemed at first inchoate, even unfathomable, which certainly you did not know yourself, until this time when you started playing with him. Time is not hanging from a wall. It is both inside you and everywhere at the same time.
And then you might stop playing for awhile and leave him alone with his drums. The better to listen to him play and take the stage for himself as he is quite capable of doing. And then you might be able to hear the depths of his soul. A whole lifetime of music listened to and then later played inside a harmonic complex. So many lines of music traveling together in time and space both inside and outside him and yet they cohere in our ears into a single phenomenon of sound-thought, a single object of music, speaking to us from deep inside him.
And you might have just simply left him alone to bring this music to its inevitble end. But in a time shorter than you wish, he looks towards you eye to eye, starts nodding his head to his particular beat, then smiles to let you know you will have to count his cycles to decide how and when to re-enter.
By now, he might have taught you and you might have learned that when you play with him it is best to play inside the spaces he leaves and creates for you. They are there and quite easy to find. Was it John Cage who said, the music lies not in the notes themselves but in the silences between them? It was Winston who taught you exactly what these words mean exactly.
And now, years after his passing, the silences are still there embellishing the sound that is everywhere, the drumbeating of every-day life.
And even as you write these words at the patio of Coffee Dream in Arcenas Arcade, Banawa, where awful disco music plays from the loudspeakers and intermittently you hear the buzz of passing cars and the sputter of habal-habal, you know the cacophony can never really overwhelm.
As in times past, you simply put the words in, into the silences that are also everywhere. Right there in between the notes, the quickening beat of life. Winston’s music still plays inside you as it will play up to the very end. You simply play along.
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