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Number of women I've kissed seriously: 4

May 17, 1999: when did you realize that you'd never be free

Monday

Some music geekiness today

I was just reading my hidden away Index of Meters page (cataloging odd time signatures in the music I own) and decided to update it, but I'll update it here rather than on that page.

First off, I didn't bother characterizing my music. I have a lot of pre-demo-quality instrumentals, none of which have names, so I'll stick to more well-defined stuff, or things with lyrics.

I'm really proud of the music to Simpler Times. The music is a pun on the lyrics, whose chorus starts "I'm wishing for simpler times" in reference to a relationship situation. The verse to Simpler Times uses the time signature 7+7+7+5/8, grouped in sets of threes (as opposed to four, as in most music). When the chorus comes in, it drops down to a straight 6/8--except that the chorus progression is nineteen measures long, broken into sections of seven, seven, seven, and five measures.

The reason I decided to make this journal entry, though, was because I was just listening to the album Fairytales of Slavery by Miranda Sex Garden. There is a lovely moment of odd time signatures with the line I quoted for my title: the song is in 5/4, but the line is sung in 6/4, three quarter notes of words, three quarter notes of rests, repeated four times, but structured melodically and accented in 5/4. I had listened to it numerous times, always finding interesting the way the sung melody had shifting accents and altered phrasing, without ever realizing that it had this simple underlying structure.

For pure odd times, though, nothing that I've ever heard tops The Monk Song from this album. It consists of a series of extremely simple vocal melodic fragments of varying lengths, strung together with essentially no pattern. This description might sound it's some sort of standard non-western technique (e.g. African), but it sounds very Western, just very... unpredicatable.

The fragments consist of either three notes or two notes. The three-note fragments are always identical, and have a rising melody, while the two note fragments are pitched higher and have a falling melody. But you have no idea where it's going as you listen to it. You just start to hear patterns and then abruptly have them swept away....

2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 3 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 3

Because no two three-note fragments ever sound next to each other, it might be natural to simply use the 3-note sequences to delimit measure boundaries. Then I could simply list the total measure lengths as a much shorter series of numbers, which makes it easier to spot patterns. I'll number these by having the 3-note sequence end each measure.

5
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
5 11 7 9 7 7 13 13
7 7 11 7 7 7 7
5 11 7 9 7 7 13 13
7 9 7 7
9 9 9 9 9 9 11

This reveals an obvious structure: a pickup, establishing a steady rhythm, then running a bizarre random sequence, then doing the steady rhythm with one moment of variation, then the same bizarre sequence, and then a winddown.

However, the above representation misses the experiential aspects of it. An 11 takes a lot longer to unfold than a 5. Indeed, it takes so long for the complex stuff to unfold that I never identified that the pattern repeated until I sat down and wrote out the numbers above. They do also repeat melodically at the same time, but it's not the sort of melody that's easy to remember that way. So while it's interesting as a compositional device, it may not be the best way to focus on it.

So, instead, I'm going to walk back through the raw numbers, and describe how I experience it when I hear it.

2 3                   a pickup
2 2 3 2 2 3           establishes a repeating melodic phrase
2 2 3 2 2 3           repeats it
2 2 3 2 2 3           repeats it
2 2 3 2 2 3           changes the melody
2 3                   used to rhythm, so the 3 comes as a surprise
2 2 2 2 3             keep expecting the 3 to come a lot sooner
2 2 3                 back to the pattern after rhythmic variation
2 2 2 3               melodic variation makes rhythm change no big deal
2 2 3 2 2 3           back to the pattern
2 2 2 2 2 3           goodness, when will it end?
2 2 2 2 2 3           and doesn't use the normal 7 refrain in response
2 2 3 2 2 3           there it is
2 2 2 2 3             ok, we're well and mixed up
2 2 3 2 2 3           oh, wait, we're back to the pattern
2 2 3 2 2 3           ok, yeah, the pattern
2 3                   ack, another 3 coming sooner than expected
2 2 2 2 3             big drums enter
2 2 3                 back to pattern
2 2 2 3               deviation, drums make it seem more different
2 2 3 2 2 3           back to pattern
2 2 2 2 2 3           when will it stop?
2 2 2 2 2 3           ok, wait, this is seeming familiar
2 2 3                 ah, back to the patt...
2 2 2 3               ack, wait, I was tricked!
2 2 3 2 2 3           ok, wait it is the pattern
2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3       oops, no it's not
2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3       ok, new pattern
2 2 2 3 2 2 2 3       ok, we're winding down
2 2 2 2 3             eek!

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attribution dammit: A Fairytale about Slavery Miranda Sex Garden