Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rational

Just a terminological note. I've recently read a couple of articles dealing with "new complexity" composers. In both articles, mention was made of metres in which the denominator was a number other than a power of two, e.g. 2/3 or 7/12 or 4/5. In both articles, these metres were described as "irrational". Such metres may be unusual or unfamiliar, or even conceptually difficult, but they are not irrational, as they are perfectly normal ratios of whole numbers. Let's save the term "irrational" for relationships that really are irrational, okay?

Now that that's settled, wouldn't it be nice if Finale or Sibelius would allow one to have non-powers-of-two demoninators in their time signatures, or at least allow it without some elaborate kludge? (This is not an obscure request, and certainly not one predicated on a particularly complexist musical ideology. Imagine a piece bopping along in half notes in 2/2 time, it switches to triplet halves, and then one measure of 2/3 time is filled with two of those triplet halves (that is, thirds), before continuing on in a new 2/2 time with the new half equal to one old third. Nothing sophisticated, but a lot of work with an off-the-shelf notation program.)

2 comments:

Matthew said...

I haven't tried this on Sibelius, but I used to be able to do this sort of thing in Finale with multiple voices and hidden rests, taking advantage of the fact that, for example, a single quarter-note triplet is pretty close to an eighth note tied to a 32nd note tied to a 128th note. (This came about trying to recreated Barraque-style incomplete and overlapping tuplets.) It seems like a pain, but I recall getting used to it to the point where it was pretty fast for a clumsy workaround.

James Ross said...

Agree completely. First, that non-power-of-two meters are not that complicated a thing--Henry Cowell was writing about these kinds of meters in "New Musical Resources," published something like 80 years ago. It's another way of notating metric modulations. Second, that it would be great to have this as a feature in Finale. But the cool thing about Finale is that there's nearly always a way to finagle it. Maybe it's no coincidence that "Finale" and "finagle" are so close ...
Dig the blog, by the way.
jr