Musical Idea 32: Shadowing — Introduction

05.17.2014 § 3 Comments

If a rhythm is considered as a repeating set of strikes and the intervals between them, then its shadow rhythm is the set of strikes that exactly bisect the rhythm’s intervals. A shadow rhythm has the same number of strikes per repetition as its source rhythm, but a rhythm and its shadow will never strike sameltimeously.

The idea of a shadow rhythm comes to me from Jay Rahn’s 1996 paper Turning the Analysis Around, via Gotfried Toussaint’s 2013 book The Geometry of Musical Rhythm.

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Let’s look at an example. A rhythm with three different intervals that repeat over and over: 2, 8, 4, 2, 8, 4, 2, 8, 4… Its shadow rhythm is 5, 6, 3, 5, 6, 3, 5, 6, 3 … To explain, begin by placing a new onset in the center of the 2 and one in the center of the 8; the new interval in the shadow rhythm will be the length of half of the 2 and half of the 8, 1 + 4 = 5, because it’s the sum of the half of the 2 toward the 8 and the half of the 8 toward the 2. In other words, if you recall the clapping example from the ken idea, the shadow rhythm is the points where a clapping hand changes direction from coming away from the previous clap and moves toward the next clap.

We could say that to shadow a rhythm would be to transition from it into its shadow. You could do this instantly, or you could take varying amounts of time to fade one in while you fade the other out. You could shadow the shadow of a rhythm, and shadow that rhythm in turn. To unshadow a rhythm would be return up from a shadow rhythm to its original rhythm.

Next shadowing topic: Funky Shadowing

See also:

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