Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Very occasional quote(s) of the day: consecrated and desynchronized

A couple of quotes from the pianist Ethan Iverson.

From blog post Rhythmic Folklore:

“Consecrated jazz drummers have less accurate time than rock and fusion drummers for a reason. The beat is connected to the cycle of life and playing with an ensemble. It has warp and woof and slip and slide.”

Article from The Threepenny Review, Hands & Feet:

“Magic happens at the drum kit when the four limbs are slightly desynchronized. Any truly swinging or funky drummer does not always place the articulations of the two hands and two feet at exactly the same time (even though it may look simultaneous to a lay person). These complex techniques are not covered by the European tradition of music notation; the groovy result is often simply called 'feel.' The tradition of 'feel' is at its most exalted in various hand-drumming languages of Mother Africa, the continent where most of the rhythmic motifs in American music come from. A drummer with 'good hands' may not have exceptional 'feel.' Naturally, the very greatest drummers have both.”


  1. I was once asked to give a lecture on jazz rhythm at the musicology department in Cologne. Since I'm no musicologist, but a mere jazz drummer I tried my best to explain why in jazz rhythm section there usually is a gap between bass and the ride beat and sometimes even between the limbs of a drummer. After the lecture the head of the musicology department told me they had spliced recordings of drumming groups from Western Africa and quantized them with the result that you couldn't hear anything since the phases erased everything. After that they started to measure the gaps in different drumming traditions all over the world to see how long that gap between two events could be to still be recognized as connected. Turned out that Korean drumming has the widest "beat". I found that information quite enlightening and I don't feel guilty anymore about not syncing up in a "contemporary" way.

  2. I get the feeling there's a rebellion forming. People who don't know keep imposing these standards-- everything's got to be synced, there's got to be a metronomonic pulse from start to finish, etc. And drummers are insecure enough to believe them. Then you listen to people who are good, and stuff moves all over the place-- sometimes. They play music like it's a living thing, anyway.

    That's a totally insane project, by the way-- quantizing african drumming. It's interesting information, but my God, I do not want to be those people, haha.

    Do you have a link for a good example of that Korean thing?

  3. Anonymous5:42 PM

    I just saw Eric Harland has been doing a quarantine web series of interesting masterclass/interviews with drummers and other musicians. The most recent one was with Louis Cole who has made an ultra consistent (dynamically, rhythmically) playing approach his *thing*, ands he talks about how he wants to play like a cyborg. He’s great, and I dig his playing, but he does contrast his approach with someone like DeJohnette’s freer conception of rhythm. Some rhythmic elasticity or ‘rub‘ in a performance can create a sense of mystery or depth that’s present in a lot my favorite music.

    I don't know why hyper consistent/"accurate" playing thing seems to have the norm.. I'm wondering if it's spread in part by the internet. I agree that insecurity does seem to play a role. If we measure drumming ability by "rhythmic correctness", maybe that helps to avoid having to recognize subjectivity, and gives us a clearer "ranking" of where players stand by providing measurable certainty. Timing becomes a quantifiable issue, rather than focusing on other aspects of music that are more difficult to address.

    Slightly related - my old music theory professor at UCSC, Ben Leeds Carson, did research into rhythmic perception and our tendency to hear rhythms with simple/complex ratios as ‘pulsed’ or ‘unpulsed’. He has some interesting software on his website to test his ideas, but I remember I couldn’t get the software to work correctly when I tried it. Oh well

  4. I don't know what it is, kind of a pervasive drum corps type of thing, where people are hearing really busy, high pitched, extremely polished percussion. I'm kind of in a different sphere from that, seeking some kind of magical Milford Graves African type of groove... when I can get away with it.

    A checked out some of Cole's stuff-- he's great. All these guys are great! And I can't really listen to them. I don't get off on the intricacy, I don't feel an immediate connection to it, and I don't really have the patience to sit down with their stuff and figure out what else they have going for them. It's not criticism, I just have to give priority to stuff I'm already interested in.

    Again, if you have a link to Carson's thing, I'd like to check it out.

  5. Anonymous1:57 AM

    Here's Ben Carson's page -
    There are links to several pages where he discusses that project on the left sidebar, under 'Hearing Time Freely'