I just stumbled onto this page, which lists all sorts of musical works, electronic and otherwise, that veer from the straight and narrow 4/4:
ahhh, tvtropes. a true time waster. surprised i never stumbled on this page.
Cool! Just listening to Zappa, mahavishnu orchestra and king crimson is a good start to hearing plenty of oddtime signature.
... not to mention the original "Mission Impossible" theme, in 5/4, by the great Lalo Schifrin. (In high school, we actually marched while playing this tune.)
I'm trying to understand how a mix of time signatures, played on top of each other, works best, giving the music a certain propellant. Anyone know of any references on this? Also, it's one thing to put, say, 7/4 over 4/4, but what about 7/ (4/7) over 4/4, or some such? Is this a known technique?
It's not common (at least in the western world to my knowledge) to divide a bar by an odd number.
But odd number tuplets can serve the same function.
"The Black Page" by Frank Zappa is notorious for being difficult to play and extremely detailed in it's metric modulation. Tuplets within tuplets.
Winslow: I think the key term is 'polyrhythm' and to a lesser extent 'polymeter'
The most common polyrhythms are based on relatively simple time ratios ie 2:3 and 3:4 (simple ratios are also a characteristic of the most 'consonant harmonic intervals'). Many traditional African rhythms are inherently polyrhythmic. Shuffle and swing time also (but perhaps indirectly) derives from simultaneous subdivisions of a longer time unit. More recently some modern Western musicians like Steve Reich have made polyrhthm (along with shifting phase) a relatively central element to a lot of their music.
Another aspect that provides drive in rhythm is unequal groupings (compound rhythms) especially In music from the middle east and eastern Europe, (3+2, 2+3, 2+2+3, etc) although these beat groupings are often 'felt' as short and long and not always counted literally. Arguably, even afro-latin hybrid patterns and their antecedents (evident in many styles of contemporary pop and electro, etc etc...) tend to the unequal division of 8 beats into 3+3+2.
Theres a lot of generalisation in those statements, but they may be useful to you for further investigation...
Thanks, Spectro. I have much to explore and learn. I have been fascinated with polyrhythms since -- well, since hearing some African drumming way back when; as a child, I somehow got asked up on stage to "sit in" with Olatunji and his drums of passion. Later, it was King Sunny Ade and Talking Heads and Fela and lots of other African pop music - a typical trajectory for white suburban boys like myself.) And Reich, too - proud to say I saw 'Music for 18 Musicians' performed at Carnegie Hall. And lately, I have fallen under the spell of Atom TM, aka Atom Heart, aka Uwe Schmidt, who is a master rhythm maker. And I can see, if only from the Akai MPC control panel images he projects during live shows, that he is often playing with 5/4 over 4/4 and things more "out" than that, which I am quite unable to decode by ear. Atom also goes by Señor Coconut, in which guise he plays Latinized versions of Kraftwerk and other pop icons, and more. He understood, perhaps better and earlier than others, that the claves of Latin music are much like the patterns and phrases common to much electronic music, and they can be manipulated in the same ways.
The great thing is that AM makes it easy to play around with different groupings and meters. I wish I had more time to play with it.
Allow me to point to a truly wonderful and smart essay about the African influence on American music, "Hear that Long Snake Moan," by Michael Ventura. Much of this influence came up from the Caribbean in the form of voodoo and Santeria religions (the essence of which is Roman Catholocism as understood and interpreted by the African mind) and into New Orleans, where jazz and blues and rock have their roots. Rhythm and polyrhythm and dancing are key themes in Ventura's discussion. I used to Xerox this piece for many musical friends but now, through the miracle of the Internet, it is available at the click of a mouse.
It is available at Ventura's own website - http://www.michaelventura.org/ ; you have to search a list of writings and then click to retrieve a PDF - and elsewhere:
Most of theses books are for drums.
An excellent book: West african rhythms for the drumset by Royal Hartigan. It's really awesome. One of my favs.
Rhythic illusions and rhythmic perspective by Gavin Harrison. 2 awesome book also for the drumset.
The pattern series by Gary Chaffee.
Even in the odds by Ralph Humphrey. A bit old school but some good info in it.
Thanks, I'll look these up!
Entirely by chance today, I stumbled onto this really good TV documentary, from UK, with Melvyn Bragg, about Steve Reich. In many parts, but great:
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