It was certainly one of the most unusual tracking sessions we've ever held. In a ward at Western State Hospital near Steilacoom, WA., we recently recorded a therapeutic "drum circle" in which many of the musicians were geriatric patients. The session was for a CD called "Community in Rhythm," which will be distributed as a tool for other wards in the psychiatric hospital and other therapists outside.
The recording was organized by Melissa Gunter-Green, a professional who has used drumming as therapy for several years. To the delight of the drummers, she was assisted by Doug Bridges, a registered nurse who makes and plays digeridoos.
Drum circles give older patients a chance to socialize and be part of a team, using rhythm as a non-verbal language, Ms. Gunter-Green explained. It is relaxing, fun and "gives the patients an opportunity to experience success, since they use the side of the brain not often affected by the aging process," she added.
Patients wrote their own titles for the drum pieces, and they give a pretty good idea how they sound. Among them: "Swamp Dance," "Hum Drum," "Gator Grumble," and "Resuscitation Waltz."