Womb To Tomb started as a series of modular site-specific sound installations involving a spatial distribution of multiple drum kit parts. The kits are disassembled into discrete components and generate sound by 'performing themselves' with the aid of small hidden motors. The project has since developed into live performances involving 2 drum kits - one mechanized, the other played live.


Composition & performance - Philip Brophy


Jolted, Melbourne


The performance version of Womb To Tomb seeks to dehumanize the spectacle of the drummer as much as possible. Enlightenment ideals seem to be wilfully embedded in the drummer, as if he or she is an endless, spiritual return to the essence of mankind's commumal entrainment, bringing people together through conjoined rhythmic performances. The dull endpoint of this is Rock's tragic spectacle of 'the drum solo', where the metronomic automaton behind the band gets to 'shine' through a display of vulgar expulsions pleading for appreciation on grounds of energy, control, discipline, technique and expression.

Womb To Tomb inverts this by having the drummer mirrored by a kit appended with small motors and beaters. The composition moves through a series of droning textures effected by that kit's mechanics; the live drummer works with these sounds - either by mimicking and blending with them, or simply unthinking any human creative impulse to 'dialogue' with the mechanized sheets of sound. If this is a battle, the end has long been pre-determined by electricity, motors and mechanics.


As with the installation version, two types of motors are used fro the mechanized kit: 12 volt @ 8100 rpm for the floor tom and bass drum, and 12 volt @ 6500 rpm for everything else. Most of the cable ties are affixed with nails and hard plastic so as to produce a louder sound - mainly as it is much harder to play the drums softly than it is to bash them. This is the only concession made by the mechanics; the peformance is predicated on how the live drummer can meld with the mechanized kit as fundamanetally as possible. The composition is performed acoustically to match the energy fill of sound in the performance space. Hopefully the audience cannot tell if the drummer is doing anything at all.