Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
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By michi
#27651
bkidd wrote:I love it. Michi, do your students ask you where the Frobotz is? :)
No, not yet :)

Actually, I mis-spelled it. It should be "Frobozz". I guess I'm showing my age by posting links to text adventures :)

For those who must know, Frobozz was a province in the northern part of the Westlands, roughly corresponding to the Kingdom of Quendor as founded by Entharion the Wise ;)

Michi.
By bkidd
#27653
Even better now that I know the history of Frobozz. The tagline: "The next step downward to danger" is perfect and could go with some of our discussions. :)
-Brian
User avatar
By e2c
#27655
michi, I think you are missing my point re. "the one." I think the same thing applies when dealing with Indian classical music (complex rhythms with 20+, even 40+ beat patterns) as opposed to Indian movie musical songs. There's a "one" in the latter, but in the former, there is a 1st beat. When the cycle repeats, it ends on the final beat and begins again on the 1st beat (of whichever cycle)... which is very, very different to what most musicians mean when they talk about "the one" and "finding the one."

Arabic rhythms are a lot simpler than what's used in Indian classical music, but even so, I don't think people talk about finding "the one." (at least, I've never heard it put that way, or anything close - it's more like "You start here...") That's what I mostly studied prior to djembe and duns. So even though I'm pretty much OK with playing a backbeat and listening for "the one," I don't apply that idea to most of the music that i play.

But "cycles" is a great word - these pieces are cycles, and cyclical.

*
Question: do non-ballet players use calls?
User avatar
By michi
#27658
e2c wrote:michi, I think you are missing my point re. "the one." I think the same thing applies when dealing with Indian classical music (complex rhythms with 20+, even 40+ beat patterns) as opposed to Indian movie musical songs. There's a "one" in the latter, but in the former, there is a 1st beat.
I'm not trying to be argumentative here, just trying to understand. I'm not sure whether I understand the difference. If there is a "first beat" in one, and a "one" in the other, why aren't they the same? Either way, it's a distinguished pulse that occupies a special spot.
When the cycle repeats, it ends on the final beat and begins again on the 1st beat (of whichever cycle)... which is very, very different to what most musicians mean when they talk about "the one" and "finding the one."
I think I might be understanding what you mean. There are cyclic musical phrases that are perceived as a unit, and what a westerner would call the "one" doesn't occupy the first beat of the musical phrase. That's the case for many rhythms, such as the Soli Rapide sangban or Maraka dundunba, which run 4-3. Is that what you are getting at?

But, even if the distinguished beat on which the call starts doesn't coincide with the first beat of the recurring phrase, it is still a distinguished beat that everyone has to know about. Whether that beat coincides with the start of the cycle or not makes no difference, as far as I'm concerned. It's still a special beat that is different from all the other beats.
Question: do non-ballet players use calls?
Not really, seeing that the calls were an invention of the ballets. In a traditional setting, everyone just falls in one by one. Women start to sing and clap, a djembe joins in, a sangban, another djembe, a dundunba. And when the women stop singing, the musicians sort of drop out one by one, with no defined ending.

But I don't think this really changes anything. Even without calls, there are solo phrases that are ancient and traditional, and placing them wrong will earn you the wrath of everyone. In other words, even when there are no calls, there is still a distinguished beat in the cycle that must be respected. As for the cycles such as Soli Rapide, where the phrase and the western "one" don't start on the same beat, that doesn't mean that there is no special beat in the cycle. That special beat is still there, and solo phrases must be placed correctly relative to that beat.

And it makes sense that way too: without such a special beat, dancers couldn't dance they way they do, especially for circle dances and choreographed dances, where they all must agree on some anchor in the cycle.

Whether the musicians and dancers all "think of" or "feel" that anchor in the same place doesn't matter, because there is no way to know. I can't look into a musician's head with an MRI scanner and spot the "one". But I strongly suspect that they do agree on where the anchor is, for almost all rhythms. That suspicion comes from what I've learned about psycho-acoustics and generally my sense of aesthetics. Music is full of underlying principles that are found pleasing regardless of cultural background, for example, suggesting that the "anchor perception" is almost certainly shared most of the time.

I know of one rhythm where this isn't necessarily true: Sandia (Djelidon). That seems to be a rhythm that was deliberately crafted to remain ambiguous, much like the positive/negative imagery in some of M.C. Escher's paintings.

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By e2c
#27670
michi, I had some people on a jazz board get very angry at me - and then try to discredit me - for stating that in some music, there is not "a one" in the way they talk about it/understand it.

The discussion had to do with this Turkish rhythm, which is called karsilama -

12 12 12 123 12 12 12 123 12 12 12 123...

You don't look for "the one"; you learn the whole (12 12 12 123) and it keeps repeating. The 12 is the beginning of the phrase, but you need to be careful which "12" you're on, or else you'll end up playing something else and throwing everyone off.

Does that make sense?

The other thing I'd suggest is simply to look at some sheet music for a Western pop tune - pretty much any pop tune will do - and see where the bar lines are. The rhythms are made up of extremely short phrases, and there's nothing like the complexity of djembe/dun music, or many Ghanian and Nigerian percussion ensemble pieces, for that matter.

If the basic beat - as in most rock music - is in 4/4, or 2/4, or 3/4, or 6/8 - finding "the one" is a breeze compared to finding the starting place in W. African percussion music. The phrases are so brief. That's not true of djembe/dun music - especially with the dundunba, there are some phrases (in certain rhythms) that are very long.

Maybe Daniel (Afoba) can drop by and help clarify this.

and... nobody who plays djembe music is counting off by saying something like "One, two, three, four..." ;) (in other words, this is about how many beats there are to a bar - or measure.)

Edited to add: if you're playing jazz (and many other Westerns styles), it really is important to be able to "find 'the one.'" But with W. African music, not so much...
User avatar
By michi
#27675
e2c wrote:michi, I had some people on a jazz board get very angry at me - and then try to discredit me - for stating that in some music, there is not "a one" in the way they talk about it/understand it.
I'm definitely not angry with you! :)
The discussion had to do with this Turkish rhythm, which is called karsilama -

12 12 12 123 12 12 12 123 12 12 12 123...

You don't look for "the one"; you learn the whole (12 12 12 123) and it keeps repeating. The 12 is the beginning of the phrase, but you need to be careful which "12" you're on, or else you'll end up playing something else and throwing everyone off.

Does that make sense?
Yes, that makes sense. But, I take it in support of my POV: in that rhythm, there too is a distinguished beat that is special and that everyone has to know about.
If the basic beat - as in most rock music - is in 4/4, or 2/4, or 3/4, or 6/8 - finding "the one" is a breeze compared to finding the starting place in W. African percussion music. The phrases are so brief. That's not true of djembe/dun music - especially with the dundunba, there are some phrases (in certain rhythms) that are very long.
I think I know what you mean. It has happened to me more than once that I started listening to a rhythm I didn't know in the middle, without reference point. I mentally established an anchor and felt the rhythm a certain way. Then, some time later, the soloist places a call, and I realised that my mental model was all wrong and that the real anchor was somewhere else entirely.

Part of the reason that it's easy in western music to find the anchor isn't just the rhythmic simplicity (although rhythmic simplicity contributes too). Instead, the dead give-away in western music are usually the chord progressions. Chords almost always change on a bar line and, moreover, they resolve musically to a particular key. So, the chord progression totally gives the game away.

In contrast, in a purely percussion piece, there are no chord progressions that would deliver this additional information, making it harder to feel the anchor. And, of course, the more complex nature of the rhythms, which often play "around" the "one" and merely imply the down-beat, can make it much harder to discern where the anchor should be felt.

But again, I come back to the fact that everyone who plays a rhythm must know where that anchor is, otherwise they couldn't play the rhythm. There is always one beat in the cycle of beats that is special. That beat may or may not coincide with the perceived cycle of a phrase, but that beat is always there and understood.
and... nobody who plays djembe music is counting off by saying something like "One, two, three, four..." ;) (in other words, this is about how many beats there are to a bar - or measure.)
Right. And, for some rhythms, how many beats there are to a cycle is somewhat arbitrary anyway. For example, Kakilambe and Sorsonet strongly emphasise the 4 over 6 ambiguity, and I can feel each rhythm equally well with a 4-beat cycle or a 6-beat cycle. But, no matter how I feel it, there is still a distinguished beat that is special.
Edited to add: if you're playing jazz (and many other Westerns styles), it really is important to be able to "find 'the one.'" But with W. African music, not so much...
I'm sorry, but I can't agree with that. If I am unaware of the special beat in the cycle, I can't place a call and I can't solo properly. I don't see how someone could play a West African rhythm without this awareness (whether explicit or intuitive).

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By e2c
#27682
I guess all I can say is that the idea of "finding 'the one'"' is felt and understood differently in much Western music.

For one thing, there aren't usually counter-rhythms being played. if something is in 4/4, it's pretty straightforward. Jazz people are especially sensitive to "the one" partly in terms of being certain to accent the "off" beats (2 and 4 in 4/4) to make sure that the music swings. Accenting the 1 and the 3 is... well, kind of galumphing along, at best.

When you start dealing with percussion ensemble music - whether it's from Brazil or Indonesia (gamelan music) or Africa - things change. Of course, this is such a broad-brush example as to be almost useless, but still... the big thing is (I think) that percussion ensembles play melody as well as rhythm. (Something interesting: all the Brazilians I've asked will immediately agree to percussion being both melody and rhythm, but very few N. Americans will - unless they've had considerable to exposure to percussion ensemble music from other culture.)

Re. chord progressions, well... anyone who plays either vibes or marimba with 4 mallets is likely playing chords. ;) After all, people who are good at both (mostly classical and jazz players) are very adept at it! (Listen to a Bobby Hutcherson album - he's one of my favorite jazz vibes players; Gary Burton is the person best known for 4-mallet playing, though, as he popularized the style and technique.)

In the greater scheme of things, I think - as you do - that we can pick any name for the anchor and that works. My main point per differences has to do with the perceptions of people who play music in certain styles, not with djembe/dun music per se.

*
Re. karsilama, again... the 12 12 12 123 is a melodic phrase, and if you only learn or remember part of it, you're in trouble! :) It's amazing to me that there are such things as 40+-beat rhythmic cycles in a lot of Indian music (and sometimes in Arabic and Turkish classical music), but there it is. Even if parts of the cycle contain repetition - as per my example with karsilama - if you deviate from the prescribed pattern, you're probably playing something else and therefore screwing up. (Although all of this music has breaks for improv by percussionists, though not every piece or song will have that...)

I'm truly out of my depth with Indian and S.E. Asian percussion music; it's so diverse and complex - and I haven't studied it. (never had the opportunity.) In some ways, it makes W. African percussion ensemble music look easy! ;)
By JeremyP
#27704
Great discussion!

Having chatted with Mady K about this before (and had others do the same) and walking away with varying replies including: "after one is come one again" and "the one is before the two", and having chewed this over for quite some time, I'm wary of throwing lamp oil on the fire... but can't resist the chance to kick this around further.

Thinking out aloud, I think I agree (for what it's worth) with Michi that the 'one" can be defined as a point of reference or anchor upon which the ensemble hangs. That said, it can be hard to find (esp if trained with a Western music ear - be that formally trained or only through cultural exposure), particularly with what seems to be the West African penchant for disguising and disambiguating the downbeat and/or 'one'/said anchor (which is one of the great things about this music style)!

A concept I've been toying with regarding 'one/not one' for a while is the difference between an external point of reference and a position always in relationship to another... (here comes the oil...) So to clarify (or muddy the waters further!):

If you and I sit with a piece of paper that defines a 'one' (start point) and lists after that our respective parts, and we play them aiming to align ourselves with the timing/points as marked by the notation, then we can synchronise - to my thinking, to an external reference point upon which we both agree all things begin/cycle around: the One. A bit like putting the bits and pieces together and so by lining them up correctly (mathematically) then we can make music - this of course is no guarantee to making good music, or poor music for that matter;

If however we sit and both agree that this point in your part is where I begin, and that point in my part is where you begin, and thus we synchronise relative to each other then a 'one' (or external reference) point seems no longer necessary... I know where I am and should be because I know where you are, and vice versa (again, this still offers no assurance of good or poor music).

For full disclosure I should include that I learn more quickly by ear, and have to work to interpret notation, and that I have had no musical training prior to taking up the djembe; nor am I aiming to link the 'one' concept only to notation, but that the two seem (to me) closely related in western definitions/understandings of music. Finally, I recognise that this probably says more about my own thoughts on the music (or more aptly, my struggles with it!) than any great insight into the matter, but as mentioned earlier I couldn't resist chiming in.

Cheers,
J
(and as an aside, ideally for me a convo like this would take place round a campfire, red wine in hand, djembe between my knees, and when we'd all finished espousing our great truths we would play and play as the night fades away into oblivion...)
User avatar
By e2c
#27710
Just for fun - and *not* intended as criticism - here's a blog entry on "how to find 'the one'" for ballroom dancers -

http://www.dancesportmusic.com/articles ... ebeat.html

and a tutorial on how to count bars for people who are creating electronic dance music -

[video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG8UWfTgATg[/video]

* If you check the "related videos" on Youtube, you'll see quite a few on bar lines, counting, how to create a 16-bar song, etc.

and this page is super-simple for anyone who's ever learned basic notation for Western music, but I think it illustrates some of the concepts I've been trying to explain far better than I have, since it is based on 4/4 time and rhythmic "divisions" commonly used in Western music. (this kind of notation reminds me of doing fractions, not so much of feeling what's going on in the music, but that's another story altogether! Anyone who needs to read sheet music - or write music using staff notation - needs to start here...)

http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~lukivr/RhythNot.html
Last edited by e2c on Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By e2c
#27711
JeremyP wrote:Thinking out aloud, I think I agree (for what it's worth) with Michi that the 'one" can be defined as a point of reference or anchor upon which the ensemble hangs. That said, it can be hard to find (esp if trained with a Western music ear - be that formally trained or only through cultural exposure), particularly with what seems to be the West African penchant for disguising and disambiguating the downbeat and/or 'one'/said anchor (which is one of the great things about this music style)!

A concept I've been toying with regarding 'one/not one' for a while is the difference between an external point of reference and a position always in relationship to another... (here comes the oil...) So to clarify (or muddy the waters further!):

If you and I sit with a piece of paper that defines a 'one' (start point) and lists after that our respective parts, and we play them aiming to align ourselves with the timing/points as marked by the notation, then we can synchronise - to my thinking, to an external reference point upon which we both agree all things begin/cycle around: the One. A bit like putting the bits and pieces together and so by lining them up correctly (mathematically) then we can make music - this of course is no guarantee to making good music, or poor music for that matter;

If however we sit and both agree that this point in your part is where I begin, and that point in my part is where you begin, and thus we synchronise relative to each other then a 'one' (or external reference) point seems no longer necessary... I know where I am and should be because I know where you are, and vice versa (again, this still offers no assurance of good or poor music).

For full disclosure I should include that I learn more quickly by ear, and have to work to interpret notation, and that I have had no musical training prior to taking up the djembe; nor am I aiming to link the 'one' concept only to notation, but that the two seem (to me) closely related in western definitions/understandings of music. Finally, I recognise that this probably says more about my own thoughts on the music (or more aptly, my struggles with it!) than any great insight into the matter, but as mentioned earlier I couldn't resist chiming in.
Great points and analogies here!
(and as an aside, ideally for me a convo like this would take place round a campfire, red wine in hand, djembe between my knees, and when we'd all finished espousing our great truths we would play and play as the night fades away into oblivion...)
That's my preference, too... ;)
By djembeweaver
#27712
Michi & e2c:

While I take your point, Michi, that there is still a one even if you don’t call it a one (in the sense that there is still a place where the signal goes, where the dance steps start etc) I think there might be different and distinct ways to perceive a rhythm.

Here’s a real example that might shed some light on it (or maybe not…)

I have two people in my class who seem to learn dundun rhythms in two distinct ways. The first needs to hear the ‘melody’ her part makes with the other parts. I’ll call her student M (for melody). The second needs to know where the pulse is. I’ll call him student P (for pulse).

Student M was a singer well before she started studying djembe. In particular she was in a Zimbabween choir, so she was quite used to polyrhythms and odd timings and used to orient herself by listening to the melodies. She knows what a pulse is and comfortable talking about 1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s but cannot seem to learn a rhythm like that. She needs to hear the melody and then takes that as her reference point. The numbers are, for her, an intellectual way of understanding the rhythm that is quite different from her experience when she’s playing.

Student P used to play snare drum so is quite comfortable with theory and numbers. He understands rhythms by hearing, and stomping, the pulse. He’s what I call an obsessive foot-tapper. Once he knows where the pulse is he can understand a part quicker than student M. The trouble is when the parts are really syncopated he finds it difficult to hear to the pulse so his timing is a bit off. Student M doesn’t have this problem.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been teaching Dunungbe. Student M has been focusing on the sangban. She learned the part quickly and within a couple of weeks could play it with any of the other parts individually or together (even just the kenkeni or dundun), come in from signal and play the variation I gave her. At some point I mentioned the ‘one’ and was surprised to find that she didn’t know where the one was. I pointed out that it was her closed stroke and she understood, but said that didn’t make much difference for her; she was listening to the melody not the pulse.

Interestingly she can come in perfectly from signal but not at all from a count. You might say that the signal represents the same thing but clearly they are quite different to her.

Student P is quite different. He can come in from a count and knows exactly where each part is in relation to the pulse, but he is so focused on the pulse (he can’t stop trying to tap it even when it’s all going wrong) that I think he struggles to let go and listen to the melody.

Personally I think these two students experience the rhythm in two quite different ways.

I was like P when I was learning. Rhythms like dunungbe forced me to stop relying on the pulse and start listening to the melody.

How do Africans perceive it? Well...it's difficult to say isn't it?
User avatar
By e2c
#27713
djembeweaver - yes!

And I think some people (like myself) orient themselves by both the pulse and the melodic phrases.

I'm an "obsessive foot-tapper, too, though not especially good with any kind of written notation, sheet music or otherwise. I do count when learning Arabic and Turkish rhythms, but not in the way that people who are very tied to Western notation would count - see my example above re. the Turkish rhythm karsilama, which is written in numbers to indicate the beats in the phrase, but is simultaneously composed of fast and slow pulses - crazy, no?! (The 12 12 12 part is fast, the 123 part is slower - Westerners write it in 9/8, but that doesn't even begin to capture the feel of the rhythm.)

In many ways, I think that learning djembe/dun music is akin to learning another spoken language - one where the syntax, grammar, phrasing, intonation and accents are very different to whatever spoken language we grew up with.
User avatar
By michi
#27719
JeremyP wrote:Having chatted with Mady K about this before (and had others do the same) and walking away with varying replies including: "after one is come one again" and "the one is before the two", and having chewed this over for quite some time, I'm wary of throwing lamp oil on the fire... but can't resist the chance to kick this around further.
Hi Jeremy,

awesome post, thanks for that!
That said, it can be hard to find (esp if trained with a Western music ear - be that formally trained or only through cultural exposure), particularly with what seems to be the West African penchant for disguising and disambiguating the downbeat and/or 'one'/said anchor (which is one of the great things about this music style)!
I well remember my bewilderment at the first dundunba rhythms I heard. They didn't make sense. It wasn't until after I'd learned my second dundunba in class that I realized that my perception had been all "wrong."
If however we sit and both agree that this point in your part is where I begin, and that point in my part is where you begin, and thus we synchronise relative to each other then a 'one' (or external reference) point seems no longer necessary... I know where I am and should be because I know where you are, and vice versa (again, this still offers no assurance of good or poor music).
I agree with that. This also relates to some of Jon's comments about student M and student P. There is certainly more than one way to "understand" the music, from the beat, or from the overall melody. Either works. Not sure whether it would be correct to say that one is better or more preferable than the other.

A few of my own experiences that relate to this…

When I first learn a rhythm, I can perceive the overall melody in an instant, no problem. If you play me a loop of the rhythm, starting somewhere in the loop at random, I'll be able to sing and feel the melody immediately, typically after two repetitions, and almost always no more than three.

However, that still leaves the rhythm ambiguous. For all I know, I may have built a mental model of where the anchor is that has nothing to do with where it really is. In other words, if you drop me into the loop at random and then ask me to place a call, there is a good chance that I'll get it wrong (depending on the rhythm—for some rhythms, the anchor is obvious; for others, it isn't).

I vividly remember an experience I had within the first few months of drumming. I was shown this accompaniment without being given any pulse reference or call. Have a listen to the following sound clip. I've deliberately dropped into the loop at an arbitrary point:
Pattern loop
(280.55 KiB) Downloaded 321 times
You may recognize this, in which case it gives the game away, of course. But, to me back then, this pattern was new, and I could not relate it to anything.

Now, here is the same pattern with a beat reference. This is how I perceived it back then:
Pattern loop, beat reference 1
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The bell illustrates how I felt the anchor.

I spent maybe half an hour playing this pattern with no defined reference provided by the teacher. By then, my mental model of the "anchor" had solidified. Only then, when it was too late, did the teacher provide the beat reference:
Pattern loop, beat reference 2
(328.6 KiB) Downloaded 320 times
Of course, this is an accompaniment for Tiriba. Without a beat reference, the equally-spaced slaps strongly suggest that this is where the down-beat is. But, of course, it's not. The down-beat is actually one micro-pulse earlier, and the slaps trail the beat.

I took a few interesting insights away from this experience.
  1. I can play the pattern perfectly with my perception "in the wrong place".
  2. Once my perception is in place 1, it is incredibly hard to shift it to place 2. (I can do it now with ease but, back then, I couldn't.)
  3. With my perception in the wrong place, it is impossible for me to place the call, unless I feel the call with the same wrong perception.
In fact, my perception was so strongly fixed on feeling the pulse on the slaps that it took me months to re-train myself to feel this pattern on "the other side." I remember driving around with a Tiriba CD in my car and listening to it over and over, trying to re-train myself to the correct feel.

As a teacher, I have an iron-cast rule: never teach a rhythm without establishing a beat reference first. This is particularly important for ternary rhythms, which are much easier to "feel on the wrong side." But even some binary rhythms (such as Fankani) are easy to feel on the wrong side, particularly for newcomers who have not yet established sufficient vocabulary to intuitively recognize the down-beat (e.g., from the djembe accompaniments).

One of my teachers has this habit of teaching things without any call or beat reference. Even now, after 8.5 years of playing, he still throws me for six sometimes. He teaches a pattern or solo phrase with no reference whatsoever. I have no idea where to feel the beat. ("Is the first hit a pick-up or a down-beat?") I have learned to "keep my beat perception at arms length" when studying with him because I know that, if I allow myself to feel a beat somewhere else, I might find out 15 minutes later that I picked the wrong spot. Sometimes, I cannot even decide whether the rhythm is binary or ternary when I learn from him.

That's a very African way of teaching, and I've learned something from it. But, didactically, I think it's a disaster: doing this is just needlessly throwing rocks in the path of students.

Another observation about the "student M" and "student P" thing…

For some rhythms, there is a strong conversation between the sangban and kenkeni. For example, the kenkeni "calls" and the sangban "answers". When my mind is in "melody perception mode" and I play sangban, I'm part of the overall melody, and I respond to the cue from the kenkeni, answering back. Now, if the kenkeni player makes a mistake and fails to give me the cue, when I'm in that mental mode, I'm likely to lose it myself: the cue doesn't come, so I fail to respond.

On the other hand, when I play the same sangban part with my mind in "beat perception mode" and the kenkeni player fails to give me the cue, I will almost certainly stay locked in, even though the cue never happened.

The interesting thing is that I can play with better feel when I'm in "melody perception mode" than when my mental focus is more "on my own job". The price I pay is increased dependence on the other musician.

When I first learn a rhythm, I tend to fall more on the "student P" side but, as my understanding of the rhythm improves, I end up firmly on the "student M" side.

I strongly suspect that my playing is best when I manage to keep both perceptions active simultaneously (without thinking). That's "being in the zone." I'm connected to my fellow musicians and respond to their cues while, simultaneously, I'm strong enough to do my own job reliably, giving support to the musicians around me. The awareness is on the other musicians, the overall rhythm, and my own job, all at the same time.

It's sort of providing leadership while simultaneously receiving it…

For "student P" people, as a teacher, I try to encourage them to "let go" and not "hang onto" to the beat as much. For "student M" people, I try to make sure that they understand where the call goes and how it relates to the melody. (Usually, the students who have more problems "getting it" are in the "student P" category.)

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By djembefeeling
#27721
e2c wrote:As far as I have experienced, the sense of "the one" in Western music (of most any kind) is pretty rigid - and clear.
I still don't know what this exactly means. Why is that relevant to the discussion? You may have a point, but I cannot see the implications. What exactly is "the one" in Western music, and why can't we aplly this to djembe music?

I tend to agree with Michi, that we implicitly have a sense for "the one", at least if we are really familiar with a rhythm. I am used to work with notation, so I am pretty familiar with the search for the one as soon as I hear a new rhythm. but I do not completely understand or agree with all the reasoning so far.

there are quite a few rhythms with more than one measures, an extreme example would be bolokonondo. so there is more than "the one". but there is a difference in importance. there is still "the one" where the cycle starts. is the same applicable to Western music?

the concept of the one as an anchor troubles me in some ways. in many rhythms there are points to rely on for every player of an ensemble that are not "the one". we usually start our solos there, but this is due to difficulties of us as students of djembe music. there are lots of solo phrases that rely only to the melody of the duns or the bell patterns, and there are many points where we can change into other phrases, as there are many cuts (or breaks or calls) that do not necessarily start on "the one" or end on "the four". Listening to famouou soloing on soliba/balakulandyian, I can hear all sorts of cuts after an echauffement. Or take the recoring of madan from Rainer Polaks jenbe realbook. The first solo phrase starts on the 3, and this is also the natural point of cycle to hear the phrase, I would argue. it is so powerful, I have lots of trouble not to start the chauff on the 3 or end the chauff with a cut on the 3; I have to concentrate like hell to avoid this mistake. But I do not have any trouble placing the solo phrases on the right place or change between them, for I do know their place relative to the melody of the konkoni.

but then: that we can perceive this music in different ways does not prove that it is nonsense to search for "the one" or that we have it implied. that student M does not react to counting doesn't mean she does not have some implicit awareness for "the one", it does mean only that she isn't used to begin the melody she hears within the framework of abstract beats.

then about melody: can we talk about "the melody" or can different people also have different melodies of one and the same pattern? I can remember how different people of my bands did perceive the melodies in different ways, resulting in differences in microtiming that didn't exactly add up to a beautiful groove of the band...

...but then it could also help: when I struggled with the microtiming of the kensedeni and the dununba for dundunba-rhythms in Guinea, I started to perceive them as if those offbeat oriented instruments actually play towards the beat, as if they play puls 3 and 1. so I didn't perceive "the one" where I should, but this helped me with the groove a lot.
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By e2c
#27723
Jürgen - I said that because of the post I quoted below, which was made just a few days ago. That I disagree with this person's statements is, I think, kind of a given... and I was trying to respond to what he said, but I am not certain that I made myself clear as to that in my 1st response to him.

Also... if finding "the one" (in a Western sense) works for you, that's great. But I do not find it particularly helpful for myself. It confuses things for me, for the most part.

I am not saying that I never look for "the one"; more that my way of learning - and the ways in which I have been taught in the past - do not really focus on it. If they had, I would likely be a big fan of working within a more Western learning framework. :)
amakepeace wrote:Given that we're adults, and that we're from a Western culture, I think asking "Where's the one" is a legitimate way to approach the music. When teaching, I take a fairly mechanical, analytical approach, and I find it quite successful. But that's because I'm teaching adults. If I were teaching little kids, I'd take a different approach: I'd present the music to them largely by ear, and encourage imitation.

By analogy to language, if you are teaching little kids, you don't need to take an analytical approach. You just talk to them, and they grow up learning the language perfectly. But if you're teaching a language to adults, simply talking to them won't succeed. You need to have them examine the language more mechanically (grammar, spelling, contrived sentences, etc).

So it is also with drumming when teaching adults. You need to break rhythms down into chunks, analyse them, and reconstruct them. This includes counting. So "Where's the one" is an entirely reasonable question, at least in this context.