Nov. 2, 2017

Switching Gears

“In which Pooh and Piglet discover that there are more time signatures than just Simple Duple, Simple Triple, and Simple Quadruple time.”

Compound Time! Divisive Rhythms! Palindromes! And more!

Now, in Compound time, the two numbers that we have always known will tell us the number of beats in the bar, and which note gets a beat, don’t mean anything! No, that’s not exactly true. Here’s a little breakdown of what I understand Compound Time really is, and how it works.

First of all, Simple Time Signatures have a top number that is either equal to 3 or can be divided by 2.  By contrast, Compound Time is when the top number is greater than 3 and can be divided by 3. That is very helpful! Secondly, the beat is usually denoted with a dotted quarter note. I then found myself asking what the bottom number meant… it now really refers to the Pulses you’ll feel. When it’s an 8 for instance, this makes sense, because if we are feeling the rhythm in 3’s, there are three 8th notes in a dotted quarter!

I love it when the little light comes on. So, Divisive Rhythms are Simple and Compound in nature ~ they can be ‘DIVIDED’ by a certain methodology. I know now, that in identifying Compound Time and working with it, we will most often find rhythms and notes appearing in groups of 3.

Here’s a great little rundown that explains everything very clearly:

Last week I mentioned Compound Time and how much more fun it seems to be. The fun doesn’t stop there!

In addition to exploring Compound Time very thoroughly over our next few Theory Classes, Musicianship Workshops, and listening to examples in our Music and Cultures class, we are also learning about Palindromes, which are patterns in music that mirror themselves ~ they are the same rhythm going forward as it is going backwards. I get this ~ it’s like an Autocad image that we mirror! Or, like the word RADAR, which is also called a Palindrome. [And you thought music was just a bunch of random notes put together that sound pretty.] There are actually some very famous compositions that base themselves on the Palindrome idea. A ‘Crab Canon’ is one type of Palindrome, wherein the music is reversed and also transposed. A Retrograde is when the music is simply reversed, without being transposed. Have a listen to a tutorial on Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’ to hear what a Crab Canon sounds like. Now listen to the actual piece, performed with Baroque instruments. How delightful!

Rhythm, again to state the obvious, is the essence of life. As soon as a heart cell first divides, it has a pulse, and each divided cell after that follows this pulse, and it ultimately grows into a heart, our basal rhythm. We want rhythm in our world, we are drawn to it, it makes us feel alive. I was overjoyed in a Musicianship class last week that has us beating out patterns written by fellow students, using a Kete Bell and drums…when I got the rhythm and it took hold, I did not want to stop, and the grin on my face was the biggest ever! We each got a turn to present our work to the class and put it all together.

The Kete Bell or Gankoqui bells are of African descent, and are interesting because they provide two sounds, which are used at different intervals, to identify a strong and a weak pulse.

In examining the roots of Rhythm, West Africa has all the answers. Quite often, bell patterns are divisive rhythms, however, they are also sometimes felt in an ADDITIVE rhythmic form. This means that another beat pattern is added to the original one, you get a more complex rhythm. We experimented in class by speaking them out loud in two groups, with a Ta Ka Di Mi approach and ended up with a 7 beat rhythm on top, with an implied beat of 5 under it. The ‘Takadimi’ method helps us to find the pulse because of its pronunciation and it is easy to find where the stress is. Here is the 7 over 5 Rhythm.

Ta Ka Ta Ta Ka Di Mi      Ta Ka Ta Ta Ka Di Mi      Ta Ka Ta Ta Ka Di Mi..
Ta Ka Ta Ka Ta               Ta Ka Ta Ka Ta              Ta Ka Ta Ka Ta             Ta Ka Ta Ka Ta..

From African rhythms we ventured NorthEast and to the rhythms of South India, where we learned of a new term, Solkattu, and linked to this is the term Adi Tala. Solkattu refers to a drumming language, an ‘onomatopoeic’ drum syllable (the Konokol language, an art unto itself) which corresponds to a hand gesture system, and Adi Tala (part of the Tala System) means ‘primary clap’ or ‘primary rhythm’. Tala literally means to clap or tap. We never think of clapping any differently than the way that we know how, to show appreciation and yes, to keep a beat, however, in this system, we learned that the clapping involves both using palms together, and also, the back of one hand onto the palm, which creates a lighter sound, and therefore allows variation to be heard within the clapping rhythm. More rhythmic sounds are added with the voice, or with cymbals and bells, and of course, the drum.
Tala and Raga together are the two foundational elements in Indian music.

Here is an example of how the Solkattu rhythmic ‘language’ is derived. It begins with a phrase and a syllable is removed with each iteration. In other examples, syllables are added back in. Joined with the clapping, it can create some very interesting and complex rhythms:
Ta di toom kitataka terekita toom
    di toom kitataka terekita toom
        toom kitataka terekita toom
                kitataka terekita toom
                   tataka terekita toom
                      taka terekita toom
                         ka terekita toom
                              terekita toom
                                 rekita toom
                                    kita toom
                                       ta toom


We also touched on Chakradhar, which is a concept in Hindi relating to a wheel within a wheel, and also a Hindi musical term, literally meaning “one which lends itself to repetition.” A Chakradhar beat must be 3 or more cycles long. It invariably speeds up as the 3’s become tighter and tighter. 

I’m not going to lie, I find this type of beat to be extremely difficult to analyze and confusing to follow, but deeply satisfying.

Here is a link to a YouTube Video where you can hear an example of Chakradhar beat.  Perhaps it would be good to get in touch with my own deep rhythms.