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December 09, 2011

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I have to say that one of the best things about Halloween is that it places a limit of October 31 on how far back into the year stores can put up their Christmas displays.

Also, can someone come up with a Republican Administration example of Obama's recent decision on over-the-counter Plan B? It's appalling.

It's funny, isn't it? You learn 2/2, 3/4, 4/4 because they're simple ... but kind of boring. Then some music teacher points out, oh yeah, there's this thing called 7/8. And now you know why you've been practicing -- to do ragtime. It's a secret conspiracy to amuse the world and all you have to do is make people laugh and smile. :-)

These guys would give most people headaches, but I loves me some Meshuggah...

In a typical polyrhythm by Meshuggah, the guitars might play in odd meters such as 5/16 or 17/16, while drums play in normal 4/4.[21] An example of Haake's dual rhythms is a 4/4 and 23/16 rhythm. He keeps the hi-hat and ride cymbal in simple 4/4 time but uses the snare and double bass drums for 23/16 rhythm.[7][31] On "Rational Gaze" (from Nothing), Haake plays simple 4/4 time, hitting the snare on each third beat, for 16 bars. At the same time, the guitars and bass are playing the same quarter notes, albeit in a different time signature, and eventually both sides meet up again at the 64th beat.[25] Hagström notes about the polyrhythms, "We’ve never really been into the odd time signatures we get accused of using. Everything we do is based around a 4/4 core. It’s just that we arrange parts differently around that center to make it seem like something else is going on."[3]

...though I imagine there's the possibility that what seems super cool to me might be considered a bit silly by people with more musical training or knowledge.

I imagine there's the possibility that what seems super cool to me might be considered a bit silly by people with more musical training or knowledge.

Not so, Meshuggah's stuff is pretty well respected, and Haake specifically is widely acknowledged to be a serious [email protected]

Meshuggah? What next? Belgian beer?

There's always Brubeck, Bartok and Rush if you like a little release with your tension, not to mention salsa dura and all those latin/African polyrhythms (no knock on Meshuggah; I just need to meditate for a while after I listen). Funny thing, lj: I just introduced my kids to Rush.

The best part of complex rhythms/meters/etc. is when you begin to FEEL it instead of counting. That's what got me hooked. I remember playing some latin hemiola in jazz band in college with a guest artist and how hard it was for him to get a pretty good set of musicians to really feel the pulse. We thought we had it before he got there. But when we finally got locked in, wow. I miss that. It's one thing to listen, another to be part of the music.

Great topic for an open thread!

I totally dig Bartok. And Rush, but that's too obvious, at least as far as the older stuff goes.

The best part of complex rhythms/meters/etc. is when you begin to FEEL it instead of counting.

Just so, bc. Those odd meters are meant to be felt, not counted. Brubeck said that he was inspired to write 'Blue Rondo' after hearing that subdivided 9/8 rhythm (1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2,3,) in Turkey on the street. I think there's plenty of Greek and certainly Indian music wherein odd meters (from the Anglo-American pop pov) feel quite natural to regular people. Zappa has a piece called 13 - an improvisation, basically, with L. Shankar - in which he shows the audience how to count 13: (8th notes) 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, (quarter notes) 1, 2, 3, 4. Easy!

Meanwhile, back in our Dictatorship of the Accountantariat in which everything has to be in 4/4 - even 3/4 is suspect - I was recently asked by a dj I work with to provide a piano part for his version of 'Take 5' - which is in 4/4! I think I complained about this here before, but...wtf?!

The best part of complex rhythms/meters/etc. is when you begin to FEEL it instead of counting

Yes, the deal with complex meter is to break it down into repeating sequences of smaller groups of beats.

So, 7 is actually felt not as 7 but (usually) as some combination of two 2's and a 3. So, "Sleigh Ride" here is 2-2-3.

Except at the top of the bridge, which is two bars of five, phrased as 2-3. Dude is messing with our heads.

The Latin thing is a little different, because it's almost all in 4 or 6/8. It's just organized around one of a number of assymetric 2-measure rhythms called claves. Once you learn to hear the clave, and how the other parts fit on it, you can start feeling it pretty good.

The African thing (west, sub-Saharan African) is based around multiple time feels being played simultaneously. Increasing or decreasing the complexity of the relationships of those rhythms is what makes that music go, it's a near-exact analogue to the use of harmonic tension in European music.

Cool clip LJ, that's the hippest version of Sleigh Ride I've heard. The guy is a nice player, clean relaxed and articulate.

Nothing more fun than music.


Yes, the deal with complex meter is to break it down into repeating sequences of smaller groups of beats.

And, he went on to say, the way you "feel" that stuff is to feel shorter units as weak or unstressed beats, longer units as strong or stressed beats. The longer duration is what makes the strong beat strong.

So, the feeling of 7 here is "weak - weak - strong".

If you were to dance it, you would just put more physical weight, or a larger gesture, on the 3 than on the pair of twos. Dancing it, which can be as simple as walking it around the living room, is actually a great way to get this stuff out of your head and into your body, which is where it has to get if you're going to make music out of it.

Rhythm nerds, I am one. I have a paradiddle bumper sticker on my car.

My understanding is the current theoretical consensus is that (perceptually/cognatively speaking) there are only twos and threes; we just can't deal with more than two unstressed beats after a stressed beat. Even four (e.g., 4/4) is a hierarchical set of two twos: STRONG Weak Strong weak.

Interestingly, all [conventional] Western rhythmic systems are hierarchical; -- go figure -- an undifferentiated series of equal pulses just isn't the deal. For a counter-example see Ruth Crawford (Seeger) Diaphonic Suite No. 1, 1st mvt (as well as a few of her other works) which is in 1/4 (!) - essentially the aforedescribed matrix of undifferentiated pulses (although the phrasing by necessity leads to the perception of structurally stronger and weaker pulses, it's not quite the same as meter).

It doesn't even take a particularly complex or odd signature a la Don Ellis to spice things up. I've always been a sucker for good old 6/8. It's just got a tremendous sense of movement to it.

For those of you who like Meshuggah and complex rhythms it's probably worth hunting down Thordendal's solo album Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, which takes the stuff he does with Meshuggah further out into Alan Holdsworth inspired fusion waters. Morgan Ågren plays drums on the album so you know it's going to be technical but still have feeling. There's also plenty of chunky metal mixed in and some vocals that sound like the Lollipop Guild doing Death Metal.

I exaggerate nothing. It is that weird. But it's also pretty amazing.

Here's a question for those of you who are more knowledgeable of music theory than I:

When you change the time signature (meter?) of a given piece of music, how do you make it "fit," if you know what I mean? For example, if you have something originally written in 4/4 and you change it to 7/8, you lose an 8th note. Where does it go? Do you pick a note or some number of notes and shorten them? How does that work? Is that part of the art of doing such a thing?

Where does it go?

This question brought me up short. At first it struck me kind of funny, but then when I tried to actually answer it, it sent me down kind of heavy path.

The tricky thing about your question is answering what "it" is. There isn't really a tangible, persistent entity of any kind that's there in one case and not in the other. There are just two musical lines -- two sequences of sounds, occuring as events in time -- which are close enough to be recognizably almost exactly the same, but also recognizably different.

The interesting question is how our minds hear a sequence of sounds in a way that infers a structure - a pattern - with a meaningful identity.

So, the short and not very useful answer to your question is "It doesn't go anywhere, because there is no 'it'". One sound is just longer than the other, like one tree is taller than another.

But there is an "it" - "it" is the meaningful difference our minds perceive in the otherwise identical pattern created by the sequence of sounds.

"It" not only doesn't go anywhere, "it" is actually created by the difference in the pattern. It doesn't exist until it goes away!

Gentlemen, start your bongs!

Do you pick a note or some number of notes and shorten them?

You can do that, or just leave some out.

In this case, some of the notes were made shorter. So, if you sang along with this version, the last "ing" syllable on the lines "hear those sleigh bells jingling" and "ring-ting-tingling" are shorter in duration than in the original, by exactly an eight note.

So, in this case, the original melody sort of lends itself to this alteration, because you can change it to 7/8 without leaving anything out, and without changing the original line very much at all, so it's still very recognizable. And, it still sounds good, and retains the kind of jaunty character of the original.

Equally important, for a song with words, is that the lyrics still parse naturally and are still very singable over the new version.

Recognizing the potential to make that change -- hearing "hey, this would work in 7/8" -- is definitely part of the art of doing such a thing.

Thanks, russell.

I guess my question was funny because of the way I worded it, as though you would literally take an 8th note and throw it out (which I guess you could, possibly with strange results). What I really was getting at was how you put the music into the smaller space, in my example, smaller by the duration of an 8th note.

(Now imagine taking the 8th note and just sticking it in the beginning of the next measure, requiring you to push 2 out in the next one, and so forth, so that you end up with 8 measures in the new composition for every 7 in the original. Yikes! - I dismissed that method after considering it as a possibility, but maybe I was just being avant garde without knowing it.)

BTW, this is what you get when an engineer with minimal musical training attempts to theorize musically....

Now imagine taking the 8th note and just sticking it in the beginning of the next measure, requiring you to push 2 out in the next one, and so forth, so that you end up with 8 measures in the new composition for every 7 in the original.

This is actually a fairly common technique for working with rhythm. If you do what you describe here, you end up with an extended rhythmic cycle, where the "one" in both time signatures (7/8 and 4/4) diverge, then realign, at a consistent periodic interval.

The most visible guy doing stuff like this is probably Steve Reich, with his "phase" technique. In his case he often intersperses occasional shortened or lengthened measures to advance a rhythm systematically through a series of permutations, while another player holds steady on the original version.

It's simpler than the description sounds. Here's the sheet music for his "Clapping Music", an early experiment of his in this style. Here is a video of Reich and another guy playing it (Reich is the guy on the right, I think the guy on the left is Russ Hartenberger).

Whenever Hartenberger nods, he plays the rhythm shortened by one eight note, to shift it to the next leftward permutation. Reich stays constant. After doing this 12 times, they come back to unison.

Here is the juggler version, because you know there has to be a juggler version.

You can hear a lot of stuff like this is more modern jazz drumming also. In this solo, Bill Stewart basically wanders in and out of a number of meters other than the original 4/4, while Steve Swallow holds his original 4/4 riff on bass (and works hard at not getting pulled off course by the crazy sh*t Stewart is flinging).

Sorry, here is the Reich/Hartenberger "Clapping Music".

Here is Wilco's drummer, the great Glenn Kotche, playing it by himself on two drums, starting at about the one minute mark in the video. He blasts through the permutations at one measure each, so you can really hear the phase cycling aspect of it.

Kotche uses this as a warm-up, which is, basically, seriously sick.

So we've come full circle, so to speak (ha!), if I understand you correctly, russell, because it sounds a lot like the rotating time signatures those Meshuggah fellows play.

In any case, good stuff, this music thing.

it sounds a lot like the rotating time signatures those Meshuggah fellows play.

It's exactly the rotating time signature thing the Meshuggah guys play.

Yes, the music thing is very very good stuff.

In the case of the version of Sleigh Ride above, one of the quarter notes has been (cleverly) shortened to an eighth note in _each_ measure; the entire song is thusly in 7/8.

In the case of Reich, e.g., "Piano Phase," the signature doesn't actually change IIRC; the beat in the measure on which the emphasis, or lowest and perceived "downbeat" is shifted:

http://media.hyperreal.org/zines/est/gifs/reich1.gif

...giving the appearance of phasing/shifting/mixed meter, when it's all really just 4/4.

Within a piece, if the time/meter shifts, then, one (or more) of several things may be going on, the most complicated of which is probably Elliott Carter's technique of "metric modulation," in which divergent meters are stretched/compressed (as it were) in order that they take up the same amount of time.

(cf. Carter, String Quartet No. 4)

Interestingly, "common time" or 4/4/ meter has at various points been compared to Euclidian/Newtonian "grid" space (earlier) and (later) many concepts of normativity applied/blanketed/suffocating the rich panoply of phenomena that actually exist.

That is: you can make the argument that "the world" is in C Major in 4/4 and that everything else is a deviation therefrom. Or you can make the opposite claim: the view that everything is in C and 4/4 is merely the application of the dominant paradigm to the multiplicity of actual experience, by which it becomes the lens/filter through which we view/describe everything else.

one of the quarter notes has been (cleverly) shortened to an eighth note in _each_ measure

Yes, that is correct. Sorry if that wasn't clear in my comment above.

giving the appearance of phasing/shifting/mixed meter, when it's all really just 4/4.

Also correct. In the Reich phasing stuff, the overall nominal meter remains 4/4, musical phrases are shortened by one subdivision to shift the perceived "downbeat".

Although the question of whether the nominal meter or the audible meter is the "real" one is an interesting one.

the most complicated of which is probably Elliott Carter's technique of "metric modulation," in which divergent meters are stretched/compressed (as it were) in order that they take up the same amount of time.

With all due respect to Carter, there are musical practices in more rhythmically oriented cultures that are much more complex than his application of metric modulation.

European art music has an extraordinarily simplistic understanding of rhythm. Not a good thing, not a bad thing, the focus in that tradition has simply been on developing other musical elements for the last 1,000 years.

"With all due respect to Carter, there are musical practices in more rhythmically oriented cultures that are much more complex than his application of metric modulation."

Fair enough, I suppose; although upon examination most of these complexities are simplicities built up, combined, or layered. I try not to have a Western art music bias, but that on what most of my experience and training is based.

upon examination most of these complexities are simplicities built up, combined, or layered.

Upon examination almost everything more than trivially complex in music is simplicities built up, combined, or layered.

That's where the complexity comes from.

Not just music, for that matter.

That's my observation, anyway.

I try not to have a Western art music bias, but that on what most of my experience and training is based.

No worries. Everyone is coming from somewhere, myself included.

finding irregular time signatures in popular music? take five, kids, it's not an impossible mission. there's nothing you can do that can't be done!


With all due respect to Carter, there are musical practices in more rhythmically oriented cultures that are much more complex than his application of metric modulation.

European art music has an extraordinarily simplistic understanding of rhythm.

Emphatically agree with russell here. Listen to some good Indian classical music from way before Carter. Like Russ. I'm also not pushing for a value judgment about it - it's just a fact.

Compare more speech oriented rhythmic world views (Mediterranean-African, Indian), and the N European grid type; the latter is just imposed. Again, I wouldn't want to have a world with no European art music, but the European model is problematic if it becomes, as bob cites, suffocating. I think it's actually an ethical failing that 4/4 is, for the moment at least, the musical lingua franca for the rich world - almost any music for export from any country in the world is in 4/4, and it all has the same kind of beat - a kind of abstracted, perfunctory, 'funky' groove. I don't mean to make a political point here, I just think it's boring as F___, and implies a rhythmic idiocy or incomprehension among regular people which just isn't true, including in the US, UK, etc. Take 5 is a perfect case in point. People totally got the two dotted quarters followed by two quarters groove. I would guess very few grabbed their heads and said 'ACK! 5/4!" Who cares?

finding irregular time signatures in popular music? take five, kids, it's not an impossible mission.

a.) name another anglo-american true pop song not in 4 or 3, (not counting the verse of 'Money' by Pk Floyd) and b.) 'Take 5' covers these days (by 'hipsters' I guess) tend to be in 4 - see my real life report above.


name another anglo-american true pop song not in 4 or 3

Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill", which is in 4 plus 3.

But there aren't many.

almost any music for export from any country in the world is in 4/4, and it all has the same kind of beat

This drives me nuts also. As traditional styles become popularized, they all seem to end up coerced into 4/4, with some kind of low sound on the 1 and a backbeat on 2 and 4.

It's a straitjacket.

Not sure how strict the definition of 'pop' is, but Jethro Tull's 'Living in the Past,' XTC's 'English Roundabout,' and Radiohead's 'Morning Bell' are all in 5/4. Seal's 'Dreaming in Metaphors' is in 7/8.

Does a Grammy qualify something as "popular?"

"Schism" is a song by American rock band Tool. It was the first single and music video from their third full-length album, Lateralus. In 2002, Tool won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for the song.[1]

Because there's this about said Grammy-winning song:

"Schism" is renowned for its use of uncommon time signatures and the frequency of its meter changes. In one analysis of the song, the song alters meter 47 times.[4] The song begins with two bars of 5/4, followed by one bar of 4/4, followed by bars of alternating 5/8 and 7/8, until the first interlude, which consists of alternating bars of 6/8 and 7/8.

The following verse exhibits a similar pattern to the first, alternating bars of 5/8 and 7/8. The next section is bars of 6/4 followed by one bar of 11/8. This takes the song back into alternating 5/8 and 7/8. Another 6/8 and 7/8 section follows, and after this the song goes into repeating 7/8 bars.

The middle section is subsequently introduced, consisting of three bars of 6/8, one bar of 3/8, and one bar of 3/4 repeating several times. At one point it interrupts with two bars of 6/8 followed by a bar of 4/8, twice. A bar of 5/8 is played before the meter switches back to 6/8 for two bars and 2/4 for one bar. This repeats, setting up another section: two bars of 9/8 followed by a bar of 10/8, that pattern again, and then a single bar of 9/8 followed by alternating bars of 6/8 and 7/8. The outro has alternating bars of 5/8 and 7/8, ending with alternating 6/8, 2/8 that one could interpret as pulsing with a 4/4 feel.

The band has referred to the time signature as 6.5/8. Although many composers would use 13/16 instead, 6.5/8 is still a valid fractional time signature.

"It's got a good beat, you can dance to it".

What's the time signature for Strawberry Fields?

What's the time signature for Strawberry Fields?

Mostly 4/4.

The fourth bar of the introduction is 2/4.

In the chorus, it's 2/4 under the words "nothing to get", then a bar of 3/4 under the words "strawberry fields".

The last chorus (before the extended outro) is extended, with a 3/4 bar under "strawberry fields" then a 4/4 bar, then another 3/4 bar under "strawberry fields" then a 3/4 bar, then a final 3/4 under the third "strawberry fields", then two bars of 4/4.

Then it's a long instrumental fade in 4/4 with the infamous brief return.

Tricky.

The logic of the time signatures in "Strawberry Fields" basically follow the vocal line, which is less common in pop music, but is very very common in folk music of many sorts.

Well, there were two versions, some 20 mixes apart, of "Strawberry Fields", as I recall, recorded in different tempos and keys, each marked "Best" at the time of recording.

Lennon liked both and dumped the project in wizard George Martin's (who demurred at first) lap, the former saying, approximately and breezily: "George, I'm sure you can come up with something."

So, Martin and Emerick sped up the remix of the first version and slowed down the remix of the second, "gradually decreasing the pitch of the first version at the join to make them weld together", in Emerick's words, quoted in "The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions" by Mark Lewisohn.

Later, of course, Martin Luther Lennon would turn on the "something" George accomplished in that song and others by demanding before the "Let It Be" sessions "and we'll have none of George's jiggery-pokery".

Soon after, natch, the ever-flexible Lennon, especially, and the other Beatles listened to the Let it Be/Get Back session tapes and were horrified at what had been wrought without Martin's presence and asked the engineer at the time (Geoff Emerick had already quit during the White Album, I think), to clean the takes up, the result at which the boys also blanched.

In other open thread news, unfortunately not about the Beatles, Fox News (there are many ways to use the "n" word without saying it, someone once said) is trying a Willie Horton on Mitt Romney, with Barack Obama in the role of Willie Horton.

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/12/14/how-do-you-like-me-now/

Truly despicable people are FOX and the rest.

al Qaeda killed all the wrong people.

By the way, the edit is at the 60-second mark.

I'm not sure what effect all of the altering of the tape speeds had on the various time signatures.

By the way, the edit is at the 60-second mark.

Holy crap, I hear it. Among other things, the tempo picks up by a couple of clicks.

I didn't know about the cut and paste thing, I'm gonna go back and listen for that now.

with Barack Obama in the role of Willie Horton.

That is pretty freaking funny.

I figure you have to think of Fox as non-stop conservative street theater, and leave it at that. They're the right wing's Bread and Puppet troupe, except with only about half the wit.

name another anglo-american true pop song not in 4 or 3,

Pixies "There Goes My Gun" is 7/4 and 3/4.

Pretenders "Tattooed Love Boys", 15/16

the start of "Whipping Post" is in some ridiculous time.

Broken Social Scene "7/4 (Shoreline)"... 7/4.

the start of "Whipping Post" is in some ridiculous time.

11/8.

And I gotta say, the Pretenders' debut was a thing of loud rude pop perfection, from beginning to end.

OK, ObWi is probably one of the few contexts in which some folks might find this and this interesting.

If it floats your boat, enjoy!

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