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25 March 2008

Comments

cbj smith
1.

Yup, this is an order of magnitude easier to read (and feel!) than the original notation. I was actually able to sight-read this version, whereas I was still puzzling over the original notation and mis-counting for several minutes. Assuming it conveys the appropriate information to the musician, I would go with this notation if I ever had to write something like this.

Tim
2.

Seems like a good solution to me too. Interesting, because switching everything into triple time like this is a common trick in, say, John Adams, so I wonder why Gordon didn't go with that in the first place?

matthew wengerd
3.

Ah, yes! This is it!

andrea
4.

actually, i have to disagree. i find the gann-esque 2/4 and 2/3 version more readable because it retains the two-ness of the phrasing. i know barlines don't have to show phrasing (god knows they rarely do in my own music!), but it's nice when they can. i think once you get how to count a n/3 signature (and it's not like that takes hours to explain), it's actually not so horrible.

DJA
5.

i find the gann-esque 2/4 and 2/3 version more readable because it retains the two-ness of the phrasing.

But we could do that as well! Same note values, but barred as:

| 6/8 | 8/8 | 6/8 | 6/8 | 6/8 | 8/8 | 6/8 | 8/8 |

That's effectively the same thing as the 2/4 + 2/3 example from the last post, except it uses standard time signatures.

Of course, either of the rebarred versions would make some of the other parts in "Trance" more difficult to read. It's probably something you'd write in pencil above your own part to help you count it, not something you'd put in the ink.

My goal with the 12/8, though, was to come up with a notation that was easy to sight-read for players not already versed in this stuff, and to and made the relationship of the pattern to a steady pulse easier to hear (especially in mm. 2-4). In his original post, Kyle Gann said: "I can't imagine maintaining a 4/4 beat through the Trance example above" (referring to Gordon's original incomplete triplet notation) and he's right, that is really hard.

But if you just subdivide the beat in 3 (as above), it becomes much, much easier.

This is important because (as I said above) some of the other parts in "Trance" kind of need to be in 4/4. But the nice thing about the 12/8 notation is that you could actually get the best of both worlds, without resorting to unconventional time signatures or incomplete tuplets.

It seems to me the best solution is to simultaneously have 12/8 in one part and 4/4 in another (dotted quarter = quarter, natch), you can go back and forth within a single part as necessary, and no one would get too freaked out. The pulse is the same, the conducting pattern is the same, the bars are the same length -- it's just that some people are subdividing in 3 and some people are subdividing in 4.

DJA
6.

Also -- I neglected to normalize the new click track, which made it hard to hear. I re-upped the normalized version, which should be at the same level as the others.

It actually makes for a pretty cool drum pattern in its own right, even without the bassline.

matthew wengerd
7.

Darcy -

I've had to redo my RSS feed entirely - a full new up of the website and maddening FeedBurner issues. Could you stop by, subscribe, and tell me if anything goes awry?

Patrick
8.

Am I alone in thinking that Gordon's original notation best conveys his intent and, in fact, is the easiest to read? Then again, my composition teacher bitched me out for doing Ligeti over the barline groupings and later vindicated himself with the Graduate SQ reading (although, I say familiarity makes anything easier). Perhaps as I am very used to reading that notation it's no problem where as someone else never encountering it might balk? Perhaps my unfamiliarity with "irrational" meters is clouding my judgement? Who knew notation would be such a prickly subject....

Kyle Gann
9.

Well of course you can solve the incomplete triplet problem by using dotted 8ths and quarters instead. But then if you want another layer of nested 3:4 or 3:2, as Gordon and I usually do, then you either have to resort to additional triplets anyway, or to one and a half dotted 8ths, which comes out like dotted 8ths tied to dotted 16ths (Gordon ends up with a lot of those in Four Kings Fight Five, as I do in Paris Intermezzo). The notational problem starts when you want to layer one 3:2 relationship over another one (the same pulse being the 2 of one and the 3 of another).

I never meant to imply that there was anything lacking about Gordon's notation for the music he was writing. My point was that if you want to go any further with the idea than Gordon does, and not be locked into 4/4 (or, alternatively, 12/8) boxes, you're better off resorting to non-power-of-2-based meters.

Kyle Gann
10.

I just looked at the score to Trance, and the whole point is that the rest of the orchestra is playing dotted quarter notes over the bass line's 8th-notes - which, to fit your notation above, would have to be renotated as dotted 8ths tied to dotted 16ths (or, worse, quarters tied to 32nds).

Kyle Gann
11.

Correction: "the rest of the orchestra is playing dotted 8th notes over the bass line's 8th-notes..."

DJA
12.

Hi Kyle. Thanks for your comments here.

I just looked at the score to Trance, and the whole point is that the rest of the orchestra is playing dotted [eighth] notes over the bass line's 8th-notes - which, to fit your notation above, would have to be renotated as dotted 8ths tied to dotted 16ths (or, worse, quarters tied to 32nds).

Yes, I know. However (as I already said in the comments above), one way around this problem would be to employ simultaneous 12/8 and 4/4 -- 12/8 for the instruments playing the bass line, and 4/4 for the parts with the dotted eighths. I think that would be a reasonably practical way of giving everyone a standard common pulse. People can then subdivide that pulse basic pulse in 3 or 4, as needed.

I never meant to imply that there was anything lacking about Gordon's notation for the music he was writing.

Nor did I, to be clear!

Mainly what I liked about the 12/8 solution is that it made the bassline rhythm easier to hear over a steady pulse, which I think is especially important given the nature of the other parts in Trance. It's not even that I'd want the part renotated in 12/8 -- it's more something to keep in mind when confronted with unattached triplets in 4/4 -- "oh yeah, if I just try to feel this figure in 12/8, it sits a lot better."

Also, once I saw it in 12/8, the similarity with Maria Schneider's Buleria struck me immediately -- this is a connection I'd never previously even considered. When I have more time, I'll post an example, but basically Maria juxtaposes 12/8 bars divided in four (i.e, the normal way) with 12/8 bars divided in three, to great effect.

My point was that if you want to go any further with the idea than Gordon does, and not be locked into 4/4 (or, alternatively, 12/8) boxes, you're better off resorting to non-power-of-2-based meters.

Yes, understood -- although compound (X/8) meters do give you a lot of possibilities -- see the 6/8 + 8/8 solution above in comments, which is the compound meter analogue to your 2/4 + 2/3 solution.

mclaren
13.

The really important point for those of us without access to humans capable of playing this sort of stuff is that we can easily enter this version into Finale or Sibelius and get the program to play it.

Dan Schmidt
14.

2 years out of date, but: there's a section like this in Amok! by Evan Ziporyn (a colleague of Michael Gordon's). It alternates between "quarter notes" and a non-divisible-by-3 number of "quarter note triplets", or, using your method above, between dotted quarters and quarters. Ziporyn notated it the latter way, in 12/8 with occasional n/4 bars, and I actually found myself unable to feel the correct groove until I renotated it into 4/4 with occasional n/6 bars. (There were additional issues in this case having to do with having to simultaneously play 16th note rhythms in the right hand and triplet quarters in the left).

You can hear the results (and decide how you hear the pulse!) at http://artofthestates.org/cgi-bin/piece.pl?pid=69 ; it's Part 2, and the 16th notes come in at 2:39.

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