03 November 2016

Reductionism Lurks at Every Turn

In what goes for recommitment to tuba playing in my world these days, I decided at the beginning of the summer to return to an old incomplete project: the quintuplet, and making it feel and sound natural. This chicken scratch is a (very) rough record of the tasks I devised as they occurred to me.


(Perceptive music-schoolers and others with a taste for flash-and-trash will detect that the Monti Csardas was also on my stand at the inception of this endeavor. Beyond that general confession, I claim the 5th.)

Within the first few days I realized that I'm a very long way from being able to play entire passages in "5 time" against the 2, 3, or 4 time of an obstinate metronome. The need for simplicity and baby steps necessarily led me away from bits of "real" music and precipitously toward material chosen and constructed strictly for it's articulation of the desired rhythmic groups and not at all for its intrinsic qualities as music. And that is to say that this old bugaboo, about which I've spilled so much virtual ink already, applies to rhythm and time as well as it does to pitch material, something I hadn't really stopped to consider until now.

This much should have been obvious, but of course Classical musicians are infamously disinclined to give rhythm its due (specially appointed timekeepers notwithstanding), and even then too often in a mechanical, unaesthetic way. Even in spite of an early interest in jazz, timefeel as an isolable area of inquiry beyond the enforced literalness and rationality of Classical training somehow managed to elude me completely until my brain was no longer plastic enough nor my extremities unbiased enough to facilitate speedy progress. Jazz bass functions have served as a humbling and practical lens through which to attempt improvement, but one very much tied to particular historical styles which I drift in and out of and, sadly, have precious little opportunity to perform. And so in wrestling with fundamental metric modulations vis-a-vis "small whole number ratios," I hope not only to clean up the pulses themselves but also to sear them into my tempo memory as conceptual guideposts between which more fudgy in-between speeds might be located, the latter task being, to me, potentially much more interesting than the Tyranny Of The Grid which seems to prevail among most others who have taken the time to give this kind of thing the attention it deserves.

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