If you are using the latest version of flash player and firefox you may experience a technical glitch. Sometimes the videos will freeze after exactly 00:02 seconds. This makes it easy to spot. The problem does not always occur, but if you come across it and would like an immediate way around it, you can view this diary in IE7 (freely downloadable from the internets)--or maybe another browser? I'll add to the list as advised; and update if firefox finds a way to solve the problem
some of the videos might cut off a bit abruptly--and some of them might start with a slight bump. I've added timings so you know how long each piece lasts. Volumes may vary--not too much, I hope.
I've chosen all the pieces as exemplars of particular rhythms. I hope you enjoy all the music (tastes vary--we all enjoy different aspects, have preferences); but the main thing I'd like you to listen out for in each piece is its rhtyhm.
What I'd like to do is take you on a trip through the beats. We've had eric-b and rakim's eight-beat (well, I think it's eight--I'll come back to eight); and Debussy's zero beats--pure rhythm.
Let's say a beat is a thump or a tap or a thwack or a pfff--something percussive plays beats. Music is created around beats--
Nowadays it's all four beats. Any kind of colour inside the four, but locked into four beat repetitions (counting in fours--four fours are sixteen but it's One two three four, Two two three four, Three two three four, Four two three four, One two three four...)
So cycles, rhyhmic, with an aspect of memorability, the ability to anticipate and act and react inside the beat, to hear and also to feel the rhythm, stamping on the ground, clapping hands--vast soundwaves of different sizes reacting with your body--its sensitivity to them.
I'm hoping to lay out the twelve basic beats, give you a feel for each.
--I'd like to leave that to the end. Let's start with:
--everyone knows two beats. Two beat is the basis of...hypnotic power of music...endorphin rush...below ideology and therefore indifferent to and...party music! If you listen and count out the beats, if you hear One two One two, or One (and) Two (and) One (and) Two and...
Dance music, jig and reel--well, I can't dance very well so I'm sure I'll get the beats all muddled up and the names of the dances, so...
I thought: the thing about dancing to a two beat is: nazis do that! You can't tell you've got grace and style from a two beat--it's just music.
Two tribes and their dances. And I was thinking there'll always be the two who don't realise--or forget about--the conflicts between the two tribes; and they'll play and dance two beat, no need to think and ponder--it's music!
For the musician, all beats (in my experience) have their particular aspects. A good musician will get inside those beats and explode them--and everyone goes, yeah! Wow! Amazing!
And then the tribehead kicks in, which I think I just made up after having watched the next video--I'd never seen it before, it's from the film Deliverance (I was looking for duelling banjos), the real two beat action kicks in about 2:16 ("Come on, I'm with ya.")
And the final section at 4:00 ("Goddamn! You play a mean banjo.")--
'Deliverance' - 'Dueling banjos' scene (4:11)
The great walzes, the great composers composing great waltzes, the great and the good dancing great walzes, and the country folk--when not playing two beat music--play and dance to three beat music. One two three, One two three--
There's something ploddy about the waltz, and I'm going to develop the idea that threes go to sixes and nines and twelves as twos go to fours and eights and sixteens--
So two and three (and one) are building blocks.
I watched and listened to some waltzes. Jazz waltzes, rock waltzes, folk waltzes, classical waltzes....classical waltzes. The thing I'd like you to do (everything else I write will make more sense if you do)--is to count out the beats, just softly in your head, and try and tap out the rhythm on your upper thigh--just enough so you're sure you can hear it. The reason I ask you to do that is so your ears can listen to how the percussion sounds--work in and out of that beat, sometimes dropping in early, sometimes holding back, and there's this sense that there is a beat--you're tapping it out on your thigh; and there is a specific number of beats--you're saying them quietly to yourself in the background--can slip back into that if you need to--I mean, it's an exercise in adjusting the ears to new rhythms, so if you know all the rhytyms backwards--you'll know how to count them and tap them.
Then she approached the place from where the voice was speaking. Once she reached it, she saw a genius sitting on a small termit mound. He was beating a drum. In those days, people didn't know what a drum was. The genius's drum spoke nicely, and the woman said, "What? What are you doing with this thing?" The genius replied, "With us, we dance to this thing. If I beat it, you'll dance and its voice from here all the way down there." The woman exclaimed, "Off you go!" The genius beat the drum and the woman began dancing
Tonight I'm thinking that the three beat is that woman, no, it's what the genius was playing; it's not as obvious as the two beat, you can hear it, but it has an internal rhythm, it's unbalanced in some way.
Ravel, Piano Concerto in G - Mov II: Adagio assai (8:55)
I want to suggest that the enemy-if-taken-in-overdose that is the pop-four--I can't even explain it--it's like sugar or cocaine. I'll be enjoying a piece of music and then inexplicably it'll sound a bit same-y, or it sounds maybe simplified in some way, and then One two three four, One two three four, it's doing that round and round business but without the tranceblissexcstacy--
So I'll suggest that the four beat is really a ONE beat, with a repetition of the theme every four ones. It's a limited frame, everything happens in four beats and then repeats--maybe there's a longer melody over the top but the basic pattern is a four beat loop...
Playing inside the four beat loop--jazz, which (for me) starts Poom...., plays off the first beat; and four four rock plays Poom....tank; Poom...tank--filling in with high hats Poom chi Tan chi Poom chi Tan chi--that's looking like a two beat--a four can be two twos....ach...this is another song where (for me) tapping along helps to concentrate on all the contrasting rhythms internal to the basic poom poom poom poom:
In the meantime, back at the camp, her husband asked himself, "The wife who went off into the field, why hasn't she come back yet?" He said to his son, "Go and look for your mother and tell her the sun is sinking. As we are far from the village, to get a move on so that the night doesn't catch us by surprise, and we can get back to the village." The son set off. He reached the field and saw his mother dancing. He said, "Mother, you came to gather gombo leaves. What are you doing?" She replied, "Son, come here. Here's the bunch of gombo leaves. Take it back to your father." Just as he was getting close and tried to take hold of the bunch of gombo leaves, he began dancing with his neck, then with his arms. He had just got there when was already dancing with all his body. He cust some manioc leaves, he waved them in his hands as fly-whisks and danced. He and his mother carried on dancing like that for quite a while.
Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 "Zombie" (10:01)
When I've tried playing five beat rhythms, I've found I play too fast--there's that missing last note and I'm falling into the next beat too quickly and I end up adding a compensatory note and losing the five rhythm--
The following video is a lesson in the 5/4. The reason I'd like you to watch is that he explains clearly how a specific five beat rhythm works. His explanation starts at 0:56 and ends at 1:25.
5/4 Odd Time Beats (5:34)
One two three Four five One two three Four five--
How funky can a person make that sound?
Listen to the drummer!
george benson - Take Five 1976 (9:10)
--more complexity so less sim-ple thump sim-ple thump. It's two threes, with something happening across all six.
Here's the slow-dance version:
Beach Boys - In My Room - 45 rpm (2:16)
Here's the fiendishly complex and eminently relaxed version:
Gerardo Nuñez, Sevillanas (2:34)
(I say this is in six, but it's no doubt in twelve. The reason I place it here is that the main melodic line is in six)
The seven beat! Bulgarian music uses seven beats, fives and sevens--we've heard how smooth the five can go, but how about the seven?
The seven is swift, but long enough for a four beat and maybe a three or a two and a one, or maybe a six and a one, or a three and two twos...
Here's a classic with a six-one pattern:
All You Need Is Love - The Beatles
(The chorus reverts to fours)
And here is one I think DoDo and Nanne might enjoy, this uses 4-2-1
Broken Social Scene: 7/4 Shoreline
When is an eight beat not a four beat?
One and two and three and four and--
That's four beats--
I'll propose a theory that the eight beat is the riff-machine of rock. The eight is the length of the basic riff, maybe quick tempo, but it's longer than a simple trance on boom boom boom boom; it could be called a One two Two two Three two Four two, there's a hi-hat tapping out One and two and three and four and--the riff plays around the eight beats...ach!
AC/DC - Riff Raff
Working on the principle that longer beats means longer melody line, the nine beat is built of three groups of three:
One two three Two two three Three two three One two three...
The melody line is (up to) nine beats long:
Prelude in C Major (9/8), BWV 547 - J.S. Bach
Ten beats is great, but I couldn't find many examples on youtube.
btw, many thanks to ceebs for offering me these two links:
from one (or both of which) one name kept appearing across many different time signatures: Radiohead. They must have hit the fourbeat wall a few years back. Since The Bends they've been looking for different numbers of beats around which to wrap their melodies and harmonies. Here they are doing a ten beat (though through the chorus they move back to fours)
Radiohead "Go To Sleep. (Little Man Being Erased)
Back at the camp, the father said, "What is happening? My wife went to gather gombo leaves, then my son went to look for her and they're both still there. As that's how things are, I'll go and see for myself." He set forth. When he reached the field, he saw his wife and son dancing. He said to his wife, "You know too well that today we're due to go to the village. You went to get gombo leaves for the sauce and you've decided to stay here? As you didn't come back, I asked your son to look for you. Seeing as he has stayed too, I've come over myself." The wife said, "All right, seeing as you've come too, go round the other side of the tree trunk and come closer." But instead of climbing over the fallen tree the man, once up on the log, stopped and began dancing with his neck. When he got down on the other side, he started dancing with his arms too and then with is whole body. He went to cut manioc leaves to wave them dancing all the while. He bent over and straightened up again, bent over and straightened up.
...all the possible combinations. I've chosen the following piece because of its fluidity--I'd like to show that all rhythms can be fluid--or spiky; it depends what you want to play or hear. It's a harder one to tap out, but there are first note pumps--where it sounds like the beginning of something--if you catch one and start counting--Pump two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven you'll hear the cycle. In the middle the rhythms seem to change--
Riff in 11/8 - Tracy Scott Silverman (6:47)
Flamenco patterns are twelve beat patterns.
One two Three Two two Three One two One two One two
One two three Four five Six seven Eight nine Ten 'levn twelve
Fiendishly complex mixes of threes and twos--three fours are twelve; four threes are twelve, two threes and three twos, one four, two threes and a two...
The undercurrent is twelve--which makes it hard to count (but not to hear the various rhythms)--the melody lines don't necessarily follow the twelve pattern.
Bulerias Manuela Vargas (7:56)
Dance and rhythm...first the neck dances, then the arms, then the whole body. And the mind, listening to the harmonies and melodies wrapped in with the rhythms--and the rhythms themselves--
Endless comings and goings, departures and returns.
Stravinsky - The rite of spring - Sacrificial Dance (4:24)
North Indian Classical Violin
(Hat tip to rememberinggiap)
Does the Debussy piece just have the one beat, starting with the first breath and then everything just an extension? Or is that the Fela Kuti? Or the Stravinsky, where the beats come at you as a series of ones with accents moved at will?
I hope you enjoyed the journey!
So now: I'm looking forward to hearing what you've found on your travels--one or two (compare and contrast!) videos per comment seems to work--either with an explanation of why you've chosen it or them; or just the music if it explains itself.
As I've written before, these diaries are experiments. I don't think they make much (or as much or little) sense if you don't/can't watch the videos, so I'm hoping as many of you can and do--
A Journey into Sound Part II
A Journey into Sound Part I
The hunter asked, "How do you do it, how does this thing speak like this?" The genius said, "You fell a tree and cut it. Then you kill an animal and take the skin to cover the wood. Then you attach the skin. When the skin dries, its voice becomes beautiful. Then you beat on it. We spend the whole day with the drum and anyone who wants to do good (give presents), does." The hunter said, "Seeing as that's the way it is, we'll take this thing that speaks back to the village." The genius said, "No, I don't want that. This thing doesn't go anywhere." The hunter said, "Well" and said nothing more. His gun was loaded. He shot at the genius. The drum fell to the ground. The hunter said, "Pick up the drum and take it to the village. Instead of dancing here in the field, take this beautiful thing to the village so that we can dance down there." They [the villagers] picked up the drum and they all went back to the village. Once they reached the village, they gave everyone this advice: "Anyone who wants to have a good party, let she or he do it with the drum. And we'll dance." So it was that we got the drum. Then we learned to make more. At festivals we pick them up and dance.
--Zemp, Hugo. Musique Dan, Cahiers de l'homme Serie XI