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When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 27, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (May 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609801287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609801284
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 7.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A drummer herself who has taught and performed on the frame drum for many years, Redmond has written an engaging work on the history and meaning of female drumming in ancient spiritual traditions. She bases her work on her travels to ancient sites and other research, tracing the role of sacred drumming from as far back as the Paleolithic era (in the worship of the "Great Mother" or "Great Goddess") and in ancient civilizations in the Near East, India, Greece, and Rome. Along the way, she unearths the first representation of a framed drum at Catal Huyuk (in present-day Turkey), ca. 5600 B.C.E. Redmond even takes us through the rise of Christianity, which silenced both women and drumming in worship, then concludes with the reappearance of drumming in the modern age and its importance as a medium for transformation. Well documented, with an excellent bibliography, this multifaceted study will have great appeal for all readers and especially for music and women's studies collections.?Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Women's spirituality circles have taken to drumming in a big way. Redmond has been a leader in reintroducing the frame drum, which, she persuasively argues, has been an instrument of spiritual transformation for millennia. Her marvelous book brings together mythology, history and prehistory, personal experience, musical lore, and scientific information on the healthful effects of drumming. Scores of illustrations show stately goddesses holding frame drums, wild maenads tossing their heads as they pound, and priestesses sanctifying space with the rhythms they beat. Redmond's own story of learning drumming in a society in which women are still actively discouraged from taking up the drums is a paradigm of female experience. Wise and passionate, Redmond's book will find a ready audience, made up not only of those who have attended her popular workshops but also of other women drawn to the ecstatic pulse of the drum. Patricia Monaghan

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 32 customer reviews
It's a book worth owning and sharing with all drummers you know.
C. Veater
The book is well written, informative, empowering, spiritual, practical, historical... just terrific.
Pamela F. Falciani
This book outlines the history of drumming and empowers women today to take up the drum.
Carole Pink

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on March 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Throughout history, music and rhythm have been used in religious ritual, to bring human beings into the ecstasy of the divine presence, by whatever name that has been called at any given time. And, specifically, rhythm was prevalent in the ancient Goddess religions of the Mediterranean. I never realized, until I read _When the Drummers Were Women_, how many of the Goddess traditions included sacred drumming. But it's right there--Cybele's devotees ate and drank from drums and cymbals, Inanna was given drum music as an offering, and votive figures of drumming women have been found in many places. It's like what I've heard happens when a woman gets pregnant--all of a sudden, she sees pregnant women everywhere. Not because there are more pregnant women than there were before, but because her focus has changed. Layne Redmond gives us a new focus--percussion--and suddenly we're able to see the pattern of rhythmic ecstasy that ran through many of these rituals, which many of us hadn't noticed before. And she also suggests drumming as a way to the divine today, and emphasizes that drums were not always seen as "masculine" instruments as they are seen today. Are they seen as masculine? Ask me, ask any woman who played percussion as a young girl. A lot of weird looks still follow a female drummer. But that's changing, thanks to prominent female drummers like Redmond.
Why not five stars? I think it's a personal issue of mine. I've read a lot of "history of the Goddess" books in my life, and at this point I'm heartily sick of reading about the matriarchy and its suppression by the patriarchy. This isn't Redmond's fault, it's mine. But this book contains the exact same story arc I've seen many times before, the very same oversimplified history.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Petteway on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
RE: simplistic feminist fluff??? Someone has a problem with successful women!!!

Let's get some facts about Layne Redmond down here:

Drum! Magazine readers (a rocker's mag, predominately read by young males) in 2002 voted Layne Redmond Percussionist of the Year, her album Trance Union, Percussion Album of the Year and her video, Rhythmic Wisdom, Percussion Video of the Year. In 2003 they once again voted Trance Union, Percussion Album of the Year. In 2003 the editorial staff of Drum! listed Layne Redmond as one of the 53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made A Difference in the 90's, along with drummers like Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Zakir Hussain, Elvin Jones and Micky Hart. By the way, she is the only woman on this list. Drum! Mag readers are well known for being into simplistic feminist fluff!

She was the first woman to have a Signature Series of world percussion instruments with Remo, Inc., one of the world's largest manufacturers of percussion instruments. She has been a soloist at the Touch Festival in Berlin, Seattle Bumbershoot Festival, the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, Tambores do Mundo in Brazil, the 1995 World Wide Percussion Festival in Brazil, and the Vienna International Percussion Festival in 2001. In Nov. 2004 she'll give a scholarly paper on Ancient Greek Percussion and also a hands on clinic, fusing Middle Eastern and Brazilian rhythms for tambourine, at the Percussive Arts Societies International Conference (PASIC 2004). Another group of people well known for their simplistic feminist fluff leanings.

In terms of her spiritual connection to the frame drum she has taught or lectured at Andover Newton Theological School, Hartford Seminary, the Unitarian Conference, St. Catherine's College in St.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Weinhold on January 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Redmond's thesis is quite fascinating, and it is wonderful to see this area of oft-overlooked women's spirituality and religion come to light. However, I was a little disappointed in the writing of this book, finding it straying too far from the intended topic of the history of women's drumming practices. In recent years, many books have been published with this theme: ancient goddesses, Divine Feminine, etc. I picked up this book because I thought it would offer a completely new angle on ancient practice, yet, I found it repeated things that I have learned in various other publications. There were a few new insights, as well as very interesting images and pictures to demonstrate how ancient women used their drums, but not the amount of information for which I was hoping.
One other qualm I had with this book was the subtitle: A Spiritual History of Rhythm. When an author attaches this inclusive subtitle to a book, the reader hopes for a survey from many different cultures and continents. I was disappointed that African rhythm history was altogether ignored in this book, in favor of Asian, and European rhythm history. African rhythms are some of the most ancient, and the women had a special purpose and place in the development of rhythm and music in Africa. Why ignore them? Perhaps Redmond's subtitle should have read: A Spiritual History of Frame Drumming in Europe and Asia. At least that way, it would have been clear upfront what the reader could expect.
Although I have been critical of the overall work, I applaud Redmond's effort to commute her passion and love for drumming and rhythm, as well as her devotion to the Divine. Reading the book inspired me to pick up her CD, and I am anxious to hear more of her work.
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