Musical Idea 26: Interruptlets

04.02.2014 § 1 Comment

“Tuplet” is the general term for the rhythmic device where a beat is divided into a number of equal subdivisions, generally used when the traditional method of dividing a beat by powers of two will not do. Specific terms like “quadruplets,” “quintuplets”, take the prefix of the particular number of divisions. “Interruptlets” is just my silly name for the disorienting effect you can create by using tuplets, but not in a durational amount equal to a whole number of beats (or divisions of them by small powers of two).

For a simple example, after a series of quarters, throw in two triplets, then keep doing more quarters, so that the second set of quarters will be a triplet off. Or you could use like eight septuplets; even though it’s bigger than one, and thus that seventh septuplet will still align with the steady pulse, it can have a disorienting effect since eight is a power of two and it may feel instead like thirty-second notes with a tempo change.

You can also do this in pitch, like say if you throw in some accidentals that appear to be adding up to an interval that has been existing in your tuning, but then you don’t go far enough or go too far and just stay in that offset place.


§ One Response to Musical Idea 26: Interruptlets

  • The Gavrilo Princip of music says:

    Fascinating idea. Continually changing the the divisions of the tuplets produces an ametric composition, yet a piece with a recognizable (even danceable) beat, albeit one that changes over time.

    This kind of ametric music is typically overlooked in the categories of ametric music. It’s paradoxical, since you can hear a beat, but no reasonable time signature suffices to notate it.

    For example: 3 quarter notes followed by (let’s say) two 7:11 tuplets, followed by 3 quarter notes followed by (let’s say) two 9:7 tuplets, followed by 3 quarter notes followed by (let’s say) two 23:17 tuplets followed by 3 quarter notes followed by (let’s say) two 89:71 tuplets will have a clearly definable beat. It has a groove. But just try figuring out and notating the time signature.

    Theoretically, you could do that, but the problem is that any time signature would have to involve something like 7*9*23*89 = 128,961 in the denominator. That’s not really practical.

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