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By djembefeeling
#28867
djembeweaver wrote:I think it's probably better to stick to existing terminology rather than try to invent a new one: 'Pulse' refers to the number of beats in a bar and each pulse beat can be split into 32nd (demi-semi-quaver) notes, 16th notes (semi-quavers) or 8th notes (quavers).
bkidd wrote:I've also learned that some people (so far only Germans in my limited experience) use 16/8 as a signature instead of 4/4.
This is a very important subject for me, to clarify the terminology. There is such a chaotic variaty of terms out there that communication about african music is often disturbed by multiple misunderstandings. it would be good to come clear about it. Ethnomusicologists also couldn't agree yet on a common terminology. I am by no means completely in knowledge of these things, because I don't read that stuff every day, so it might be good to come to an agreement as a community about it and share work and readings for that purpose. Here is my current state of knowledge/ignorance about it:

Ethnomusicologists for african music haven't been well equiped for their studies with the tools provided by classical western musical terminology. I don't exactly know all the reasons why, but I am willing to learn more about that, because it goes to the core of what is different in the music we all still learn. One thing I know of is that those ethnomusicologists had a hard time to put rhythms with drums in western notational systems. they couldn't always figure out where to begin, they couldn't really deal with polymetric forms and stuff. last but not least, they couldn't reproduce the music. for a long time, african music was supposed to be "wild" and "chaotic", not regular and orderly, because the generations taking part in colonialism simply couldn't see the structure that we today know is there. when those biases where slowly overcome by some pioneers, they admired the exactitude of drummers. it seemed to be free from our heavy counts or emphasis on the beats ('pulses'), especially in polymetric forms.

Richard A. Waterman explained that in 1952 with a metronome sense, a sense for regular elementary pulses that africans are supposed to feel as a grid for orientation and exactitude. Though all empirical studies till today have failed to provide evidence for such a metronome sense, Watermans model had a strong impact in the community. I guess the notational systems we use by counting beats with two or three dots like Brian showed above is a result of Watermans theory. It is way easier to understand and read notation in this sytem than in the classical western system.

Important for those systems is the finding of ethnomusicologists of african music that this music has a cyclic form and smallest or at least predominant elementary pulses. for percussion instruments in general, manipulation of the length of a sound is very limited, so terms like quarters, 8th, 16th, or, on the other hand, quavers and the like, are considered irrelevant in this field. The most important German speaking ethnomusicologists like Gerhard Kubik and Alfons Michael Dauer regard this music in cycles with a number of the form. Thomas Ott, who wrote his book RHYTHMS AND SONGS FROM GUINEA with Famoudou Konaté in 1996 (in German), states that it has become common practice to understand such a smallest or predominant elementary pulse as a 8th whenever we put the music in classical western notation (p. 34. of the german version). Thus comes the unusual labeling of those forms as 12/8 = 12 elementary pulses of 8th or 16/8 = 16 elementary pulses of 8th.

In the German community of djembe drummers it has been established to call the subdivision of a cylce in 4 the beat, while the subdivision of beats into 3 or 4 elementary pulses has been reduced to the more convenient pulse. This is a clear terminology, alas it's so inconvenient to learn that you guys can use beat and pulse alike.

got to go, hope to continue later...
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By djembefeeling
#28871
I got most of the stuff above from Martin Pfleiderer: Rhythmus. Psychologische, theoretische und stilanalytische Aspekte populärer Musik. Bielefeld 2006 (Rhythm. Psychological, theoretical, and analytical aspects on style of popular music). Pages 137-154 he discusses rhythms in (west)african music and some research that ha been done on the subject. Mostly westafrican music has been studied, because ethnomusicologists had a predominant interest in the roots of the music of the westafrican slaves in America.

Pfleiderer mentions Waterman (1948, 1952), Arthur M. Jones (1959), and Joseph Nketia (1963, 1974) as pioneers. In the 70s, this reseach has been deepened by James Koetting (1970), Hewitt Pantaleoni (1972a, 1972b), John Miller Chernoff (1979), and David Locke (1982). Simha Aarons has done a comprehensive study on rhythm in Central Africa (1991) As other important studies on rhythm in Africa he mentiones Gerhard Kubik (1962, 1988), Alfons Michael Dauer (1983), and Robert Kauffmann (1980). New aspects and accents have been set by Kofi Aguwu (1987, 1995), Willie Anku (1997) and more on the theoretical side by Jeff Pressing (1983), Jay Rahn (1996), and David Temperley (2000).

perhaps some of you would also like to read some of those studies, we could have a study group and discuss our readings here? I think we would gain great insight in the matter and would perhaps come up with a clearer vision on what is special about African rhythms and could clarify terminology for us as a djembe community???
By djembeweaver
#28895
This is a very important subject for me, to clarify the terminology. There is such a chaotic variaty of terms out there that communication about african music is often disturbed by multiple misunderstandings. it would be good to come clear about it. Ethnomusicologists also couldn't agree yet on a common terminology.
Yes that's a constant bug-bear of mine too.
I guess the notational systems we use by counting beats with two or three dots like Brian showed above is a result of Watermans theory. It is way easier to understand and read notation in this sytem than in the classical western system.
Agreed and I have no problems with that. Scoring drum solos with classical notation is a nightmare and as you rightly point out: the sound produced by most drums doesn't have a duration as such so you are really representing the space between notes rather than the length of the note itself.
Thomas Ott, who wrote his book RHYTHMS AND SONGS FROM GUINEA with Famoudou Konaté in 1996 (in German), states that it has become common practice to understand such a smallest or predominant elementary pulse as a 8th whenever we put the music in classical western notation (p. 34. of the german version). Thus comes the unusual labeling of those forms as 12/8 = 12 elementary pulses of 8th or 16/8 = 16 elementary pulses of 8th.
Actually that makes a lot of sense. In 4/4 the echauffement beats would be 16th notes, but if we re-score in 16/8 (you can quite happily notate the same rhythm in either 4/4 or 16/8) the echauffement beats become 8th beats. That's a nice way to standardise your smallest beat since it means that echauffements always consist of 8th notes regardless of the time signature (16/8, 9/8 and 12/8).
In the German community of djembe drummers it has been established to call the subdivision of a cylce in 4 the beat, while the subdivision of beats into 3 or 4 elementary pulses has been reduced to the more convenient pulse. This is a clear terminology, alas it's so inconvenient to learn that you guys can use beat and pulse alike.
Ah...well if I understand you correctly that's pretty much the exact opposite of the classical system, where 'pulse' refers to the number of beats in a bar (where you would normally tap your foot). This makes a lot more sense to me because 'pulse' refers to the heart beat: if your pulse was racing at 12/8 echauffement speed you wouldn't last very long!

What should we do then? I think we agree on everything except 'pulse' and 'beat'. I'd be most happy talking about 8th or 16th beats within a puilse.

Jon
By bkidd
#28896
My two cents:

To me, 16/8 is confusing because I'm so accustomed to seeing binary rhythms in 4/4 notation so it requires mental work to read them and communicate the pattern. Also, a typical cycle for an accompaniment is often 4 beats (or 1 bar in length). This is consistent with how 12/8 and 4/4 are set up. Switching to 16/8 makes the notation logically consistent in terms of having 8th notes be the unit, but requires one to notate any 4 beat phrase (1 bar) in 4/4 as two cycles rather than one, which is extra writing. 16/8 seems to be born from having the system be logically consistent with ternary patterns that are more common in West African music rather than parsimony in notation. I said typical above because 9/8 and 18/8 rhythms are rare in my experience --- I can only think of three konkoba (18/8), kortedjuga (9/8), and seli karo (9/8) out of the ~150 rhythms that I've notated.

The beat/pulse separation in the German djembe community is interesting. I'm with Jon though on this that they should stay synonymous. This is the agreed upon usage of these terms in music theory and it's what Wikipedia has to say on the matter (not that this is the final say, but it's a good guide for common usage).

To take a step back, what are we clarifying the terminology for? I find it very uncomfortable to be confused and spend a large amount of time trying to clarify terminology, ideas, etc. This is especially important in teaching situations. I just wanted to check in because I generally assume that teachers have done this for their students. So are we discussing this in hopes of coming up with clear/agreed upon terminology to facilitate better communication on the board, or aiming for something larger such as "standards" for teaching djembe music that other teachers might adopt?

Now an aside:
The fascinating part about notation is seeing how many systems there are and what different teachers use. People like Mamady (Uschi Billmeier) and Famoudou (Thomas Ott) have had a large influence over teaching and notation systems. People who follow Mamady use the system from his book that was laid out by Billmeier and those who follow Famoudou use the system that was put in print by Ott. Tober Schorr from the rhythm reference project is yet another system. In my area, Babatunde Olatunji had a certain influence so people write down phonemes on a grid.

Sorry, this got a little long and maybe off topic.

Cheers,
-Brian
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By michi
#28898
People like Mamady (Uschi Billmeier) and Famoudou (Thomas Ott) have had a large influence over teaching and notation systems. People who follow Mamady use the system from his book that was laid out by Billmeier and those who follow Famoudou use the system that was put in print by Ott. Tober Schorr from the rhythm reference project is yet another system. In my area, Babatunde Olatunji had a certain influence so people write down phonemes on a grid.
I believe I've seen most (if not all) of the notation systems that are/were used by various teachers and books. To me, the one in Mamady's book is unbeatable. Not because of the system (which is used by many other people, such a box notation, where each "box" or "slot" represents a 16th note), but because the font is very readable. In contrast, many of the notations that use triangles, squares, circles, and so on are nowhere near as easy to read (even though, in concept, they are they same).

Michi.
By bkidd
#28903
I totally agree that the font developed by Michael Petters in collaboration for Mamady's book is extremely clear and easy for trained and un-trained readers to follow patterns. What makes it work for me is making the symbols represent something that has to do with sound in a more intuitive manner. Other symbolic systems use symbols that are not as obviously linked to djembe sounds and therefore require some memorization or key to connect symbol and sound. There is always a mental cost in translated between symbolic and sonic, and the djembe font seems to have the lowest cost for me other than the system that I use (I started using my current system before I came across Mamady's book).

I've included the symbolic notation that I use by showing the notation for one of the djembe accompaniments in djagbe, which can be called the passport plus (chosen because it has a bass, tone, and slap). What I like about the system I use is that it has much greater flexibility and control for creating symbols to represent other flams and muffs, as well as odd timing, swing, rolls, etc., and finally that I can visually represent hand patterns by whether a note is above or below the staff line. Plus, I've created templates so entering new rhythmic patterns is simple.

Cheers,
-Brian
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By djembeweaver
#28914
To take a step back, what are we clarifying the terminology for?
I thought Jurgen was suggesting that we come to an agreement here on the forum, so we can talk about rhythms using a shared language. Otherwise you have to define your terms every time you post and it gets very tiresome. If my pulse is your beat and vice-versa the whole discussion can be quite confusing.

Jon
By bkidd
#28915
Okay, I think that bounds the discussion nicely. Let's pick the most confusing terms to start with,(beat and pulse and microtiming would be my vote for what to tackle first), define those, and then once we're satisfied we can immortalize the definitions of those terms in the glossary http://djembefola.com/glossary.php. Then we can reference the glossary in future posts talking about timing, beats, etc. This last bit seems important in reducing confusion for people who join the forum later or who weren't part of this discussion.

Best,
-Brian
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By michi
#28917
To me, pulse and beat are synonyms. At least, I've never come across a technical distinction between the two in English literature I've read. However, I know that Johannes Beer (in the liner notes for Rhthmen der Malinke) talks about pulse as the subdivisions that divide the beat. So, to Beer, as 12/8 ternary rhythm has 4 beats and 12 pulses. I'm not too fond of that personally, because there are many other "pulses" that can be perceived simultaneously in some rhythms, such as the 3-, 4-, and 6-pulse in Kakilambe, for example.

Michi.
By bkidd
#28925
To me, pulse and beat are synonyms. At least, I've never come across a technical distinction between the two in English literature I've read.
Agreed. This is been my experience and what Jon was suggesting above as well.
However, I know that Johannes Beer (in the liner notes for Rhthmen der Malinke) talks about pulse as the subdivisions that divide the beat. So, to Beer, as 12/8 ternary rhythm has 4 beats and 12 pulses.
Jürgen's description of this distinction was the first I had heard of this, but clearly Beer and others have found this separation to be useful.

Shall we agree for the purposes of discussion on this forum that beat and pulse are synonymous? Any objections from Jürgen or others?

Best,
-Brian
By djembeweaver
#28937
To me, pulse and beat are synonyms. At least, I've never come across a technical distinction between the two in English literature I've read.

Agreed. This is been my experience and what Jon was suggesting above as well.
Hmnn...not quite. A pulse is a beat but a beat is not necessarily a pulse.

To a classical musician the pulse is a theoretical function of the time signature (many rhythms exist in which the pulse is merely implied rather than played). 'Beat' is often used synonomously with 'pulse' but it has also been used to refer to any subdivision of the bar. In fact 'beat' has been used to mean so many different things it has become fundamentally problematic

So 'beat' on its own doesn't tell you very much. I propose we use the terms 'pulse' (or pulse beat), 8th beat, 16th beat etc (the problem with this is the 4/4 - 16/8 one mentioned above)
So, to Beer, as 12/8 ternary rhythm has 4 beats and 12 pulses. I'm not too fond of that personally, because there are many other "pulses" that can be perceived simultaneously in some rhythms, such as the 3-, 4-, and 6-pulse in Kakilambe, for example.
Yes that's the system Jurgen was describing. I am also not too fond of that. I wish ethnomusicologists had just used existing definitions, rather than taking a classical term and giving it a different meaning.

To me rhythms like Kakilambe have multiple pulses. That's more or less the definition of polyrhythm.

Jon
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By djembefeeling
#28952
I've been in Berlin for a couple of days for my groove teacher apprenticeship I am attending this year. Nice to find the discussion took off.

to the minor points first: I also agree on the "font developed by Michael Petters in collaboration for Mamady's book". it is clear almost without explanation for everybody. I use it for my handwriting, it is much easier to notate with characters than squares and triangles. I decided to go with the abstract geometrical symbols for my official notation, because it has one advantage for me: I can see the symbols even if my sheet of paper rests on the floor. the usually rather small characters are hard to read in band rehearsals. if you go for bigger characters, you can't put much on one sheet. so, when I share notation of excercises or transcripts, I don't mean to set different standards. I am just to lazy to redo it for this board. I think as a reference for our discussions, "s", "t", "b" and the like have done their job really good.

jon is right about clarifying terminology for this board. If every teacher has his/ her own standard of terminology, sharing our experiences and music on the board and elsewhere can be tiresome. It means a big effort in beginning to clarify terminology, but it pays off in the long run (just as clarifying sound is an arduous effort in the beginning but pays of in the long run ;) ).

There seems to be no consent on beat and pulse even among native speakers on this board. I just learned from Rainer Polak that among the English-speaking community of ethnomusicologists David Locke differentiates beat and pulse just like Gerhard Kubik and Johnannes Beer. Polak, in his great article on Rhythmic Feel and Meter does the same:

http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16. ... tml#FN7REF

I would rather go with the terminology of the experts in the field than with classical terminology that failed in providing a useful terminology for african music in those aspects. I cite from Polaks article:
2. Metric type and rhythmic feel

Analytical studies of African rhythm commonly assume a fast, single-track pulse of isochronous time spans to represent a time grid at the lowest (subdivision) level of meter: a basic time-unit or “orientation screen” (Kubik 1994, 42) that helps “performers maintain precise timing” (Locke 1982, 221) and “from which rhythmic patterns are composed” (Temperley 2000, 70). This concept was introduced in English under various terms such as “fastest pulse,” “equal-pulse base,” and “density referent,” in German as “Elementarpulsation,” and in French as “valeurs opérationelles minimales.”(4) Nobody has revealed its existence among the theories or experiences of African musicians or audiences (Merriam 1982).

Some authors suggest the fastest pulse to constitute the sole or main level of metric reference.(5) The mainstream research on West African music, by contrast, assumes a metric system of three hierarchical levels, with the medium (tactus) level as regulative metric reference:(6)

the fastest pulse at the level of beat subdivision
the main beat at the medium level, which is subdivided by two, three, or four fast pulses
the cycle, which is commonly divided by four beats (or multiples of four)

In the following, I will often designate the “subpulse” (pulse at the metric level of beat subdivision, or “fastest pulse,” in Africanist theory terms) simply as “pulse.” The term “beat” will refer to the medium level of the metric hierarchy; “binary” (by twos), “ternary” (by threes), and “quaternary” (by fours) describe the number of pulses that subdivide a beat.

(footnote 7. Here, I follow David Locke’s stringent terminology for the analysis of rhythm and meter in West African music, as developed in his studies of drumming traditions from Ghana (Locke 1982, Locke 1987, Locke 1992, Locke 2009, and Locke 2010). Doing so, I deviate from using “pulse” synonymously with “beat;” compare Justin London’s entry on “pulse” in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.), or the Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online [accessed January 15, 2010]).)

By “metric type,” I mean the hierarchically coordinated set of numerical relationships between metric levels of pulse, beat, and cycle (London 2004, 73–77).

In jembe music, two metric types, one of ternary and one of quaternary beat subdivision, are prominent:

a 4-beat/12-pulse cycle (often represented as 12/8 in staff notation)
a 4-beat/16-pulse cycle (often represented as 4/4 in staff notation)
(seems that 16/8 didn't make it in recent literature, Brian) But, to be fair, consent hasn't been reached in the field, yet. I think the term "subpulse" is very clear. What about agreeing on cycle for the complete form, pulse for the division of four (or six as in konkoba and the like), and subpulse for the divsion in 12, 16, and 18? (Could we use beat exclusively for strokes on the drum???)

As for as the term microtiming, I think it is pretty clear what that means: it concerns the level of timing beyond the subpulses, every timing that deviates from an isochronous time grid of equal pulses. Two different aspects could be adressed by this: the typical feel of rhythms like Mendiani, Wassulunka (or DJa, Soko, and the like), Sunun, Madan/Djagbe on the one hand and the playful deviation from this non-isochronous time grid that is particularly up-to-date in modern style ballet drumming with it's frequent use of triplets and the compression and inflation of patterns within time.

Other terms in need for some consent seem to be polyrhythm and polymeter, polyrhythm just recently discussed on another thread of this board. 2 or 4 on 3, 3 on 4, and the like seems to be referred to as cross-rhythms in recent literature. to cite Polak, again:
A topic of some controversy in Africanist music theory is metric ambiguity. Consistent off-beat phrasing and “two-in-the-span-of-three” cross-rhythm, two striking principles of polyphonic ensemble texture in West African music, amount to systematic displacement of rhythmic grouping and metric beat, and can allude to various alternative metric interpretations.(8) Africanist theory previously discussed these principles of polyphonic texture under the term of polymeter. The idea that one might simultaneously sense music through two or more distinct metric frameworks, which polymeter implies, has come under criticism.(9) Today, most authors agree that there is usually one particular cycle of regulative beats felt by encultured performers and listeners, which underlies the performance and listening even of those polyphonic textures that offer potential for metric ambiguity.(10) This cycle commonly counts four beats, as in the 4-beat/12-pulse and 4-beat/16-pulse metric types of jembe music, or counts a multiple of four.
I like Brians idea of having a glossary of those terms on the board. what do you think about pulse and subpulse, microtiming, and crossrythms?

jürgen
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By michi
#28954
the fastest pulse at the level of beat subdivision
the main beat at the medium level, which is subdivided by two, three, or four fast pulses
the cycle, which is commonly divided by four beats (or multiples of four)
I didn't quote the other passages that more less say the same thing, namely, that there is a "fastest" pulsation sequence, equally spaced, on which the rhythm "sits".

Just to throw a spanner in the works, last month in Bali, I learned Sewa from Mamady (one of his own composition). Well, it sure looks like Mamady has just gone and put paid to all that research, because there are several parts (both on dunun and on djembe) that are partly ternary and partly binary. I'm not talking about micro-timing here, or about feel. I'm talking about the fundamental pulsation sequence switching between binary and ternary in the middle of a part, sometimes more than once per cycle.

For example, the kenkeni cycle has four beats, the first and third of which are binary, and the second and fourth of which are ternary. The djembe 1 accompaniment has an eight-beat cycle. The first three beats have a binary sub-division, and the five final beats have a ternary sub-division.

I thought I'll mention this just to make matters more interesting! :)

Michi.
By bkidd
#28957
Yeah, Sewa is a fun one that switches between the two timing midway. If I remember correctly, the dununba follows the djembe so it switches as well.

Jürgen, I like what you wrote and will respond more thoughtfully later. For now though, beat, pulse, subpulse, microtiming, and crossrhythm seem like a nice set of terms to work with. Maybe it's the Goldilocks set --- not too many, not too few, but just right. ;)

-Brian