Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

This business of x/16 music

As I begin life as a composer, I seek to revive or resuscitate my knowledge of the Theory of Music, an essential for the job. If a composer does not have a complete mastery of the understanding of music, and of how it is structured, he or she cannot hope to compose with any real competency. I might also add that in much music, composed or played – meaning bands that do not hew to the staves and simply put the music together in an aural way,  that we listen to and much that I have published on this blog, is characterised by a paucity of musical ideas. I have them in spades and truckloads but we’ll see what I do with them in the weeks and months that follow.

I studies Music Theory in South Africa for 6 or 7 years but have not studied it since nor used it in any sense. The long period of depression can account for this. In fact, the lifting of a life long depression is the very reason I can play or compose at all. I will never be a performer however. I lack the skills and practice to do so. Besides, few composers have and do.

So I think it will be fun to explore these Fundamentals of Music on this blog, and share this pathfinding with those readers who might find it interesting. I don’t set out to be didactic. I am not teaching Music Theory but merely sharing my rediscover of the knowledge I had and my extension of it. All of this excites me. Maybe it will you.

Given Fripp’s 17/16 time signature, I though to explore this unusual signature. Signatures that are the most common are variations of four beats; 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 and so on. Other common signatures are those over 8 or 12 beats. Sixteen is not common, as I say. I have no doubt that somewhere lurking in the musical universe are works of 32 beats or some simply arcane form, and certainly jazz specialises in peculiarities of rhythms, often hard to follow.

So – love this word so, a dreadful characteristic of mine – perhaps we can find some music in various varieties of the sixteen beat form of time signature. The next post features such an example. And who else would that be but Frank Zappa, another favourite of mine, put aside the dreadful singing and often awful songs. The band members who take on the vocals are not up to suff as singers. And I do not share Zappa’s sense of humour. But then I am English through and through. A serious people, right?

Frank Zappa is without doubt one of the most prolific of what might be termed serious music in the latter part of the twentieth century, and certainly one of its better composers. The reason he did not work with symphonic orchestras was that he simply didn’t find them disciplined enough. A viewing of his rehearsing his own band will bear out the point.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 August, 2017

Parenthetically I would add: how much more pleasurable is the music if you understand what is going on.


Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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