Friday, November 25, 2005

A theory of rhythm

Apologies for the delay...

I've this week been busy preparing a workshop on rhythm for the Point Moot by the sea Community Music Project. My intention is to try and "untrain" the musicians so that they can freely abandon (when they want to) the often restrictive concept of Time Signature for a more cross-spectrum understanding of "open" concepts such as beat, pulse, pattern, phrase & groove and the possible ways of constructing rhythmic music through the interactions of each.

These concepts may be explained thus:

BEAT: The smallest necessary counting unit. Best explained using "box-notation" for cross-rhythms.
PULSE: The foot-tapper generator. Much slower than beat, and (almost) always steady & regularly spaced like a heartbeat. Not necessarily an aural part of the music.
PATTERN: What is actually played. Each note in a pattern is separated by any defined number of beats. IE 2-2-1-2 is a single line pattern over 7 beats with notes struck on beats 1, 3, 5 & 6.
PHRASE: Related also to melody. A phrase is a statement on top of a pattern, but not necessarily of the same length. IE In the pattern above there are four notes over seven beats. A six note phrase could be played over this repeated pattern isorhythmically, giving a series of phrases that phase between 2-2-1-2-2-2 and 1-2-2-2-1-2 beat cycles. This would give a "phrase pair" of eleven plus ten beat lengths. This is an example of 3 pattern cycles phased against 2 phrase cycles. (Note: This concept has to introduced gradually to avoid confusion)
GROOVE: The relationship between the pattern/phrase structure and the pulse. A strong groove occurs where the pattern and phrase reinforce the pulse. No real rules exist for creating a strong groove, and each musician may feel a groove in different ways. Some tweaking of phrase and pattern structure often helps strengthen a groove. IE the rigid pattern and phrase as defined above may need to be modified by shortening or lengthening a note of a pattern, or entire phrase every now and then to help the development of the groove. Note that weak grooves may sometimes be more effective than strong ones.

It is intended to spend part of the workshop introducing a modified notation system where each of these concepts can be readily identified within any transcription.

I am hoping to be able to construct a suitable analogy to give each participant a visual reference as a mnemonic device. A concept map may be handy as well.

Suggestions for the above would be appreciated. As would comments/criticism of my definitions and theory in general.


The Point Moot Lighthouse has claimed its first victim with one employee failing to make the grade for our increased workload. The poor fellow. Luckily I passed my assessment with no worries and am now settling in to my newly redefined position controlling two harbours.

Ships everywhere! Lookout mermaids! Owen's in the tower...

Monday, November 21, 2005

A report of some kind

Well, 'tis done. The newly renamed Point Moot lighthouse now has control over two harbours.

Strategically positioned between the mouths of two rivers, Point Moot by the sea has long held an important place in maritime business. With the township spreading wide along the banks of Little River, the Little River Lighthouse has stood tall over the village for nigh on three centuries. It is our beacon, both literally and metaphorically. A guiding light that is close to the heart of all village residents.

As a contrast, Big River, to the South, wends upstream to the oh-so-obviously-named Capital City, and that is the reason why the "Capital City Waterway" Lighthouse has long been regarded as an older sibling. Indeed, a lot of the best Little River Lighthouse employees have ended up working there. Some have even regarded this town as merely a stepping-stone to promotion.

But times change.

The discovery of precious minerals at Yellow Bend 27 Miles upstream from Point Moot led to an exponential increase in shipping traffic starting six years ago, and suddenly The Little River Lighthouse was seeing more traffic than its big brother.

And then the powers-that-be decided it would be logical and economical to rationalise the two locations, and lo-&-behold Point Moot reaps the rewards. The folks in Capital City are furious! Though they will calm down with time.

So, a bottle of finest Thalan D'ow Nun-Däghrian Champagne was broken on the walls of the lighthouse (now named after the town to avoid confusion as to which harbour it controls) on Sunday, and all is changed forevermore.

Nerves were high for that first shift, and will continue to run high over the coming weeks until we acclimatise to our new role. Luckily for me I will be easing into this newly redefined position over the next week. So far, however, everything looks as though it will be just fine.

The Harbour Masters seem to be adjusting swiftly though, and that is the main thing. God bless those on the ground! We depend on you up here in our ivory-coloured tower!


Unfortunately all this real-job business is distracting me from the Busking Ensemble. And they need my help desperately at the moment. Apart from a couple of tentative (possibly hoax) offers from some foreigners I've had no luck finding the musicians I need to complete the line-up.

And it's not just the Busking Ensemble who are feeling my absence. My entire role as Artistic Director of the Point Moot by the sea Community Music Project (CMP for short) is under pressure and I will have to work very hard to ensure the integrity of the CMP is not further compromised.

Very hard indeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A bright pink letter day

Tomorrow is a red letter day.

Well, more of a bright pink letter day really. My personal red letter day isn't for a week or so, but with tomorrow begins the final stage of preparation. Most of the others involved have to dive in at the deep end, but I get to wade with my floaties for a bit.

Lucky me, eh?

Point Moot by the Sea will never be the same again.

A report of some kind will follow no doubt.

Friday, November 18, 2005

To scratch an itch

MackJay-o'-the-Moors asked for a photo of this author. Not wanting to upset either the punter himself or anyone's stomach contents I offer this image of part of me (left) as found in an online archive. I hope that scratches his itch satisfactorily.

Elsewhere: The entire nation of Thalan D'ow Nun-Dägh is in celebration today following a man's ability to move his leg forward with precision. "Hooray!" says I.

Still looking for those elusive musicians. I have considered rowing the boat out to sea and posting a notice for expressions of interest on the offshore lands, though the natives are somewhat heathen savages. However, I believe with thorough dedication on my behalf they may be broken in enough to meet the group's requirements.

All offers will be considered.

Moving forward!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Point Moot Amateur Busking Ensemble (Training Band) needs you!

Today the almost forgotten sounds of the Point Moot Amateur Busking Ensemble (Training Band) gently woke me from my slumber.

Joining the group for breakfast (Poached Haddock and Eggs Benedict with a Halal Galangal & Chickpea salad) I was struck with a vision. This group needs a Trombonist and a reed player, possibly a Bass Clarinetist or a trio of Shawms, before they will be ready for public launch. Unfortunately I realise that I may have to look beyond the village limits for suitable players of such instruments, even possibly venturing as far as Moot Central City itself.

Applications can be made to the usual address.

The future beckons.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

“When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he's in no position to run.”

Words of infinite wisdom from Cary Grant. Follow this advice and everything else will seem simple.

Oh, and I just started this blog. Its use will become apparent over time... hopefully.