Friday, January 25, 2013

Finicky Rhythms

(from Brout met Flilleken for solo flute (2013))
My notational pony is more likely to scratch than show or place — let alone win — in the rhythmic complexity derby, but sometimes I do find myself  venturing into rhythms that look, on the page, if not complex, well, finicky, if not picayune. 

As a rule, this happens in one of two cases: The first is when I'm after some precise ensemble rhythmic proportions that echo the relationships found among pitches in an extended just intonation, thus twos against threes, fives against sevens, and so on.  When I require such ensemble complexity, I do it because I want to hear the specific composite rhythms; I won't do it simply to create an opaque density (there are much more efficient ways to do that!) The second case can be found in an individual instrument or voice when I'm after a supple line, a curve with a lacy edge, a kind of written-out rubato with the precision of the notation guaranteeing some crispy attacks along that curve.  An alternative approach, simplifying the notation* and writing "rubato" over it and/or some combination of accelerandi and ritardandi OR by using some spatial notation would neither give me the precision I'm after nor would it likely lead to the crispy variegation I'd like, indeed it would run the risk of becoming indistinct, even muddy.

* Yep, in the first example above, the four triplets could have been cancelled out by the 4:3 bracket and written as a passage of 16ths with an 8th and a 16th rest at the tail, but that would have required a kludge of accents and/or breaking the beams into groups of three to get the tempo and metric foot accent sense I was after. (And wouldn't have been as much fun.) In the way I've written the measure, a possible interpretive connection is made for the player from the series of triplets to the triplet on the last quarter of the measure, with the distinction lying in a change of tempo.

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