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Jim Besser

Theme Of The Month For April, 2014: Beyond 4/4, 6/8 And 3/4

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And now for something a little different.


We all know tunes in 2/4, 4/4, 6/8 and 3/4 , but there’s a world of intriguing tunes out there in different time signatures just begging to be played on our concertinas.


Plenty of Irish players know some 9/8 slip jigs, and there are the 3/2 hornpipes you sometimes encounter in English country dance music; Brian Peters has recorded a wonderful one - Downfall of the Ginn -- which I have been playing around with. 7/8 is a fairly common rhythm in some Eastern European traditions; strangely enough, my Morris dance group does a dance in 7/8 in the Bledington tradition. Last I heard, Bledington is nowhere near the Balkans.


Recently someone told me about an English dance tune in 9/4. And over on Melodeon.net, there was a lively discussion last month of a tune in 25/8 posted by Anahata.


I think my head may explode.


So here’s a chance to break free of the everyday and step outside your comfort zone. The challenge for April: find, learn and record a tune in something other than 2/4, 4/4 , 3/4 or 6/8.


Alternately, find and learn a tune with changing time signatures - like a Zwiefacher, which alternates between 3/4 and 2/4.


Don't be timid; it doesn't have to be perfect. You can bet my entry won't be.

Edited by Jim Besser

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can I play in 24/7?

 

With enough coffee, sure.

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And over on Melodeon.net, there was a lively discussion last month of a tune in 25/8 posted by Anahata.

 

Also discussed a bit on here on the http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=7837&page=25&do=findComment&comment=155102 Something For The Weekend thread. I never did get around to recording it, maybe I'll revisit that for this Theme Of The Month once I've got Zelda sorted for the TOTM ...

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Those who like strange rhythms need to get a copy of the Don Ellis Big Band recording called "Turkish Bath." Not only will you find lots of interesting meters, but Ellis has a trumpet the plays Quarter Tones! Highly recommended.

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Here's a tune our Morris group uses for a Bledington dance.

 

In 7/8 time, more or less.

 

The tune (and dance) were written by our foreman, Andrew Marcus, a prolific and really creative tune writer. The dance is called Plumb Boogery; here's what it looks like, with Andrew playing with me.

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Here's a tune our Morris group uses for a Bledington dance.

 

In 7/8 time, more or less.

 

And here's another 7/8 tune that I just quickly recorded, Yerakina, a Greek dance tune that also has words (which I haven't learned). Interestingly, during the '60s folk revival it was in the repertoires of both The Limelighters (with English words) and The Weavers (with Greek words). Here's the Weavers' version on YouTube.

 

A note for those not familiar with these "uneven" rhythms, of which 7/8 is one of the simplest: Mostly, the first number in the time signature is not the number of "beats" in a measure. Instead, it's the total number of subdivisions of those beats. This is similar to 6/8 jigs, which really have two beats, but where each beat is thought of as being composed of three unstressed subdivisions. But a major difference in "Balkan" rhythms is that there are two different kinds of "beat", with the "long" ones having three subdivisions and the "short" ones having two subdivisions, but all of those subdivisions being of equal length.

 

So a tune like Yerakina really has three "beats", with the first being longer than the other two, i.e., long-short-short (in the ratios 3-2-2). (Also, the longer beats usually get a stronger stress than the shorter ones, hence the bold face.) The Bulgarian dance daitchevo reverses that, with short-short-long (2-2-3), and being quicker, its time signature is often written as 7/16 rather than 7/8. The time signature for the dances known as gankino or kopanitsa is usually given as 11/16, but it's really five "beats"... short-short-long-short-short (2-2-3-2-2).

 

Individual tunes can have more complex and even unique repetitive patterns of long and short beats. The Macedonian dance known (at least in Balkan folk dance circles) as Sandansko Horo would be written in 22/32. And that twenty-two isn't a repeating eleven the way a 6/8 jig is repeating threes. No, it's 2-2-2-3-2-2-2-3-2-2 (short-short-short-long-short-short-short-long-short-short), or ten beats, of which two are long.

 

A word about 9/8: Traditional tunes in 9/8 are found in Britain and Ireland (where they're known as slip jigs), but they always have three beats of equal length, subdivided 3-3-3. A common 9/8 Balkan rhythm, though, has four beats, short-short-short-long (2-2-2-3).

 

So if someone has told you the time signature of one of these "irregular" tunes (as Jim B. and I have), don't waste your time trying to pick out all seven (or eleven, or whatever) little subdivisions, but try instead to feel the long and short of the stronger pulses. I suspect it will be both easier and more enjoyable.

Edited by JimLucas

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Very instructive explanations, Jim!

 

And a jolly recording of that Greek tune with a bit of Scarlatti touch in the harmonies to it - really like it that way!

 

Best wishes, and see you soon - Wolf

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Nice description Jim. Once one gets used to the idea of short and long groups finding the pulse is not really that much different from reels and jigs...just different.

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From the same book ('Macedonian Folk Music' by Linsey Pollack and Philip Griffin) as Dvajspetorka, I've recorded Postupano which is in a mere 13/8.

 

https://soundcloud.com/sfmans/postupano

 

The Pollack book is unique in my sizeable collection in being organised in order of increasing time signature - the first tune, on page 8, is in 2/4, the centre staples are in the section of 5/4 and 7/8 tunes, and by the final page of music we have arrived at the aforementioned Dvajspetorka in 25/8.

 

Recorded on my trusty Wheatstone 48 key treble EC at (would you believe) slightly *slower* than the tempo marking given by Pollack. By no means a flawless rendition but (IMHO) a decent 'feel' to it - no overdubs or post-processing apart from a bit of hiss reduction.

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Now a return to England. My next contribution (like Yerakina, recorded in one go here in my living room, using the built-in capabilities of my little computer) is one of those "3/2 hornpipes", where the syncopated rhythm seems to shift back and forth between three "short" beats and two "long" beats per measure.

Knives and Forks is an English country dance tune of the Playford era. I've played it through three times:

  • The first time is at a moderate ("genteel"?) tempo, which seems to be how many folks these days prefer to do anything "Playford".
  • The second time is pretty much the same, but with just a few more staccato notes.
  • But the third time is at a much brisker tempo, with more staccato notes and accents, to give it a spirit more like a New England contra. I think that while I might consider dancing at the more genteel tempo "enjoyable", I think of this one as "fun". And that, you might guess, is the way I personally prefer it. ;)

Here's the MP3 sound file.

Edited by JimLucas

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Nice playing Jim. l know that tune as "Punchinello's Hornpipe" or "Three Rusty Swords." But that has probably been discussed out here somewhere...

 

I like the tune in the crack between your two tempos, but I've not seen it danced, so I don't really know.

Edited by cboody

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l know that tune as "Punchinello's Hornpipe" or "Three Rusty Swords." But that has probably been discussed out here somewhere...

I seem to recall Alistair Anderson playing it under a different name and maybe even with the parts reversed (starting on my B part), but that was oh so long ago that the details are fuzzy.

 

I like the tune in the crack between your two tempos, but I've not seen it danced, so I don't really know.

Here's the dance for you... and I think at that intermediate tempo you prefer. Great band, too, with a much nice improvisation around the basic tune. :)

 

It's lovely, though I myself still prefer it a bit more lively. I wonder if that might be because Alistair played it quickly? I don't know if there's a contemporary dance to that tune in Northumberland, but I do recall Alistair saying that Northumbrian dances "start off at breakneck speed, and accelerate from there." ;)

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Nice playing Jim. l know that tune as "Punchinello's Hornpipe" or "Three Rusty Swords." But that has probably been discussed out here somewhere...

 

I like the tune in the crack between your two tempos, but I've not seen it danced, so I don't really know.

 

Rusty gulley or 3 rusty knives. Played along with dusty miller and My cat has kitted

 

I was going to put this set into the pot. (3/2 is about as far as I can manage !) I may still do since it's a bit different from Jim's.

Otherwise, I might attempt Kissing tree lane, a lovely 5/4 by Ron Harbron which is played at one of the local sessions.

 

... or rather better than I can manage, here

 

http://kerrfaganharbron.bandcamp.com/track/kissing-tree-lane-i-wish

 

Chris

Edited by spindizzy

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Here's my contribution. A Swedish polska, called Dampolska, in approximate 9/8 time, like a slip jig, which is what I believe the time signature of polskas is equivalent to.

 

http://soundcloud.com/aeolaman/dampolska

 

Chris

 

Nice tune and lovely playing and sound.

 

 

Here is a 7/8 tune composed by Andy Cutting. "Spaghetti Panic...."

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MYPTWxpKp0&feature=youtu.be

 

 

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Here's my contribution. A Swedish polska, called Dampolska, in approximate 9/8 time, like a slip jig, which is what I believe the time signature of polskas is equivalent to.

 

http://soundcloud.com/aeolaman/dampolska

 

Chris

 

Nice tune and lovely playing and sound.

 

 

Here is a 7/8 tune composed by Andy Cutting. "Spaghetti Panic...."

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MYPTWxpKp0&feature=youtu.be

 

 

 

 

Amazing version.

 

Here's Andy playing it (on melodeon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vfjg3d5g-PY

 

I learned the version apparently reworked by Alan Day (Alan, correct me if I'm wrong) as a jig, like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrUQK1zbNbw . I don't see a version of Alan doing this on concertina.

 

Like all of Andy Cutting's tunes, this is just great.

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Thanks for "Dvajspetorka" - it fits a 10-hole ocarina pretty well, so I've reposted it to an ocarina forum:

 

http://theocarinanetwork.com/topic/7666752/

 

BTW another tune in a non-Western metre that AnnC posted here after I introduced her to it, the Arabo-Andalusian "Lamma Bada" in "sama'i" rhythm:

 

http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=7837&page=11

 

There's a bit more to that than simply being in 10/8. The idea with tunes in that "muwashah" genre is that you have an unvarying drum pattern behind it, comprising both heavy ("dum") and light ("tek") beats. So for this one the cycle goes:

 

dum - - tek - : dum dum tek - -

 

It's sort of (3+2)+(2+3), but the two heavy accents at the start of the second half are what distinguishes it. They aren't always obvious in the melody. The Latin American "clave" system is similar, you have independent rhythmic backing patterns that form a system of metric modes.

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