Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rhythmic Mediation at the Border

After I posted yesterday's musing about putting the American and Canadian anthems together (in spite of one being in triple meter and the other duple), a Facebook friend (thanks, Paul!) asked about the possibility of putting both tunes in 6 and using tied dotted notes to keep the original rhythmic values intact, while also aligning the barlines. That seemed like a lot of trouble until I remembered that Lilypond, the quirky but powerful notation software I prefer, makes it incredibly easy (assuming you've gotten used to Lilypond) to notate polymetric music. I'd never had a chance to try this out, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Essentially, this makes it possible to combine the tunes in the most basic (but also complex!) way, with the phrases lining up perfectly. All the downbeats arrive together, but within each measure the beats clash, sometimes as simple cross-accents and sometimes as if the two parts have nothing to do with each other. Because The Star-Spangled Banner is a bit longer in terms of phrases, I decided to expand the final phrase of O Canada to make the ends meet, but otherwise this is less composition than simple overlay.

When I first listened to the output, it sounded pretty hopelessly garbled, even with very different instrumental colors assigned to the separate voices:

Then it occurred to me that I could soften the effect by using the gentle, more pointillistic sounds of plucked guitars. The result is less jarring, though still pretty disorganized:

In the previous post, I proposed the idea of a third contrapuntal voice as a kind of mediator, but as the big problem here is a rhythmic one, I decided to toss a drum kit loop into the mix instead. It turns out that rhythmic mediation makes a big difference, even if it mainly just serves to affirm where the downbeats are. For me at least, what had seemed relatively random sounding now had acquired a cool veneer that makes the points of rhythmic contention come across more as intricate detail than mindless mashup.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but as "found composition," I think this is pretty charming. It allows, as good counterpoint and good mashups do, the opportunity for one's musical perception to enjoy multiple points-of-view at once.

I still have a more successful example of combining two independent melodies to share, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Stay tuned!

See also:

1 comment:

Rebecca M said...

I think I prefer the version without the drum kit loop, actually. The accentuation of the downbeat interfered with my processing of the dissonances--I think. The lines in mm 18 to 22 are natural bedfellows. Fun stuff!