Rhythmic games

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Something I've always been drawn to in music - I admit in a slightly geeky way - are rhythmic patterns that appear to be have the downbeat in one place, when it is actually somewhere else entirely. In both the following examples, it appears clear where the downbeat is, but once the full ensemble kicks in you realise it is somewhere completely different. It's just a bit of fun, but for some reason I can go back to these examples and enjoy them again and again.

The first is from the Brand New Heavies self-titled album, and is called simply BNH. Here the downbeat clearly seems to be on the first of the bass drum notes, whereas it's actually on the last. A little game to try is to beat 4 in time with either of these 'downbeats' and try to continue throughout - very difficult!

Many years ago, I took this example to one of George Benjamin's all-day-Sunday classes (at RCM), he listened with interest, then after sampling the rest of the album he said "It's not uninteresting harmonically". Well all then fell about laughing that this would make a great quote on the album cover from an esteemed professor of the Royal College of Music.

The second is from a great album I stumbled across earlier this year from Orchestre Baka de Gbine recorded when members of the group Baka Beyond recorded an album with the Baka on a mobile solar-powered studio in the rainforests of Cameroon. The entry of the bass drum in this throws me every time (this rhythm, incidentally, inspired the final dance in my piece Gumboots). Gloriously, this song is called 'Boulez Boulez' - I'd love to know the translation, which I suspect is probably not a double homage to the composer of Le Marteau sans Maitre, nor an invitation to play the favourite French pass-time.



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