Monday, May 20, 2024

One note / two notes

A little rhythm project, building rhythms based on sequences of one and two notes, spaced in a natural way for one hand— bell rhythms, essentially. It's a good approach for teaching people who are new to Latin rhythms, and not very skilled at reading complex rhythms. And good for anyone to grasp those kinds of rhythms more directly, without the interloping notation and counting.

Let's notate some simple combinations without time signatures, as single long notes, and short/long doubles.

⦿ = short note / 8th note, ⦾ = long note / quarter note

1-1:  ⦾  ⦾

2-2:  ⦿⦾  ⦿⦾

1-2:  ⦾  ⦿⦾  

1-1-2:  ⦾  ⦾  ⦿⦾

1-2-2:  ⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦿⦾ 

1-1-2-2:  ⦾  ⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦿⦾

If you count those out, you'll notice we found a natural entry to some odd meters; though a lot of people will round those rhythms out to fit in more conventional meters. The 1-2-2 group makes the familiar cinquillo rhythm.

The same rhythms notated normally: 

Longer combinations create a number of odd meters; I'm most interested in the rhythms that resolve to 4/4 or 12/8, like:

1-2-1-2-2:  ⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦾  ⦾  ⦿⦾

If you displace that so the second beat is the 1, you get the African “long” bell rhythm, with one of the doubles crossing the barline on the repeat, ending on the 1:


The same thing happens with a similar pattern metered in 4: 

1-2-1-2-2-2: ⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦿⦾  ⦿⦾

If you displace that so the last note falls on 1, you get a Mozambique rhythm, again with one of the doubles bridging the barline on the repeat: 

And inverting the cinquillo rhythm— the 1-2-2 pattern— so each of the doubles end on 1, we get a couple easily recognizable Latin rhythms, or roots of Latin rhythms: 

So, some Afro/Latin bell rhythms are composed out of single notes and doubles, with the metered beginning of the pattern often falling on the second note of a double— a clue about how we should be feeling those rhythms. The idea of a “1” seems to clearly be an import from a European metering conception.

The 1 is important to us now, to the way music is understood, played, written, and arranged— it's just deceptive. It's the beginning of the the rhythm visually; musically the rhythm may start more naturally from the pickups, before the 1:

Or we could treat the 1 as the end of the rhythm, and the natural beginning is after the 1, which happens to be the same form as the original 1-2-1-2-2-2 rhythm above:  

So there's a little ambiguity there, having the start of the pattern being felt as a syncopation, different from the metered 1. Good to remember when learning these types of rhythms on the drums— don't always start on the 1.  

And just as a rhythm study we can sense its evolution as a multicultural thing— a complex intersection of natural and formalized rhythm; simple sequences of singles and doubles comfortably played with one hand, combined with a walking or dancing pulse, resolved into a European-style metered structure. 

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