Posted January 02, 2004
With Christmas behind us and a New Year ahead of us, I'm feeling creatively
inspired, so it's time to update my cool ass bio page with my musical
feelings (and so on..)
Odd time signatures, hip musical tool, or a stigma for nerdy musicians?
While I was in music school, I didn't go to too many parties---we just
didn't have too many of them---not because chord jockeys don't drink like
champions, but because there were no large social communities. The ones I
did manage to find were most-often predominantly male (hooray) and someone
was always spinning the hip shit---Mahavishnu Orchestra, Frank Zappa, Gentle
Giant---or at least that was the general concensus. For a while, that was
every party I went to, and then one time my roommate Morgan and I were
invited to a party at Tufts University. When we got there we were stunned,
it looked like a "USA Up All Nite" flick...complete with hundreds of
scantily clad young women, a disco ball, and a gigantic tub full of beer.
We were dumbfounded. We had walked into the college experience the TV had
told us about for years. And in his inimitable comedic style, Morgan turns
to me and says "Wow. The music is in 4/4." I laughed my ass off at the
time, but in retrospect, it kind of depresses me. I love odd time
signatures. So I've decided that I will educate you, my bio page readers,
on the coolness of odd times.
A time signature in music dictates the pulse of the song. The most common
in popular music is 4/4 time. (That's why when musicians count off a song,
it's usually: one, two, three, four...[song begins].) Odd times are
musical phrases or pulses which are either uneven in terms of beats per
measure. (7/8 for instance, which would indicate that there are 7 eighth
notes in a phrase) or numerically even phrases that shift around in terms of
pulse. (4/4, 2/4, 4/4) Examples of these can be found in popular music
(even on the..gulp...RADIO.) Here are some fine examples:
Peter Gabriel's "Solesbury Hill" is in 7/4 time: Meaning that the pulse is
the typical quarter note (like 4/4 or "four on the floor") but there's seven
of them. This often goes unnoticed because it fits perfectly with his vocal
phrases and it still has an even thumping feel.
1 2 3 4 (5)climbing up(6) on (7)Solesbury (1)Hill 2 3 4
I don't know the guy, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that Peter
got plenty of lovin' during his music career. Odd times are not that scary.
Peter is scarier than many odd times.
Outkast's "Hey Ya" which gets airplay in every club on every format of
radio station and evokes grinding of an almost perverse nature on many a
dancefloor, is, you guessed it, an odd phrase. In this instance, the number
of beats are even, but they're divided into varying chunks.
(1)Hey 2 3 4 (1)Ya 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3
4 1 (2)clap (3)clap (4)clap
So that's three measures of 4/4 one measure of 2/4 and then two measures of
4/4 again. Now that's cool. And again, I don't know Andre 2000, but I bet
few cold nights transpire in his bed. Odd times are not that scary.
Andre's hair is scarier than many odd times.
The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" Is odder than tits on a bishop. Here we
have 6/8, 5/8, 4/4 and 7/8 in one fun, incredibly singable phrase, that
(1)Sun 2 3 (4)Sun 5 6 (1)Sun 2 3 (4)here (5)it (1)Comes 2 3 4 1 2 3
4 5 6 7
Now, for the record, I just read a bit of the Beatles Anthology book, and
these guys were the kings of rock n' roll. They got cooler with every new
thing they tried. Where did we as a music-consuming culture lose our way?
Why do the odd timists of the world get hidden away like some shameful child
born out of wedlock that gets locked in the cellar for his or her lifetime?
Odd times are really not that scary.
So the next time you find yourself in a dungeon somewhere where they let
musicians experiment and try new things, give him or her a kiss. (Or
whatever you enjoy.) They'll appreciate it. Especially if they've been to
PS In the Blivit song "Not Mine", the solo section is in 15/8. (or 4/4 and
7/8 depending upon how you feel the rhythm.)
» Jeremy Dyen :: keyboards and lead vocals
» Jay Horvath :: drums
» Dave Palan :: bass and vocals