Keith Terry’s Body Music

Following up from yesterday’s blog post with the Barbatuques video clip, today’s spotlight is on the work of percussionist/rhythm dancer and “body musician” Keith Terry. Keith Terry’s Body Music is a performance art that synthesizes body percussion, movement and cross-cultural rhythmic concepts. In Body Music, Terry draws upon rhythmic techniques such as polyrhythms, phasing, cross pulses, and polymeters. Terry’s influences range from Japanese Taiko and Balinese Gamelan to North American rhythm tap and Ethiopian armpit music. Terry  is the artistic director of Crosspulse, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to the creation, performance and recording of rhythm-based, intercultural music and dance. In addition to performing and teaching workshops, Terry has created two instructional videos (Body Music Vol.1 and Body Music Vol. 2) that teach the basics and variations on Body Music. These videos are wonderful (teaching) resources for music educators and musicians.

I was first introduced to Terry’s Body Music by San Fransisco-based Orff teacher Doug Goodkin, who was the first music educator to use Keith’s ideas in his work with children and subsequent teaching in Orff workshops. Since the early 90’s, Body Music ideas have been introduced by Goodkin and by Keith Terry himself to music teachers worldwide, among others at the Orff Insitute, and at Orff summer courses and conferences. In addition to the use of Body Music in the classroom, Keith’s ideas are applied by many performing groups as well.

Body Music is suitable as a medium for rhythm training at all levels, and also for strengthening rhythmic sensibility in singing, instrumental playing and dance. My own musical training began with classical piano studies and singing. Rhythmical training was often a nightmare subject because of the way it was taught: focusing on the ears and the head/logic, but completely disconnected from the rest of the body. It wasn’t until I was introduced to music education approaches like Dalcroze and Orff Schulwerk, where rhythm is connected to movement and body percussion, that I had most of my a-ha moments in rhythmical training. Later on, I took some percussion classes – something I would strongly recommend too for all singers. Working with world music styles that are based on aural learning has also been an invaluable training to strengthen my own rhythm skills.

In Body Music, the playing of rhythm patterns, movement and vocalization are brought together. When rhythm is experienced through the whole body it demands a physical internalization of rhythm, that I believe music education on all levels and areas benefits from. Music doesn’t happen in the head, it happens in the whole body! Body Music can be adapted to virtually any music style or culture, and thereby provides excellent rhythm training tools for culturally diverse music education. Finally, a link to the Crosspulse Teacher Blog, where you can download a PDF of Keith Terry’s article on Body Music.

By Katja Maria Slotte

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