Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Proxy Time: 19/8, and The Math of the Hard Count

There are a few bands writing songs whose forays into time, for whatever it's worth, sometimes border on the steel-trap brain approach...

Rusty Cage, by the late-great Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, is one of those songs. The performance, from composition, to recording to the final cut, is really just a spectacular song. 

Towards the end, the band goes into this 19/8 count riff easiest expressed as two @ 6/8 and one @ 7/8. There is no disputing whatsoever: that is what is happening. 

But besides the subdivisions one can make of those 19 eighth notes, I want to remind you that there is another, maybe far simpler way to do so. Plus, it is every bit as legal. And this is what the old jazz guys used to call a "hard-5/8 count", because basically, it features a slow count of four beats, with a fifth beat existing accounted-for by the triplet phenomenon. 

And the hard count, as it applies to Rusty Cage, is easy to lose due to the obvious 5/8 subdivisions moving through the relationship between the hihat, and the bass, and snare.

The reason I bring this up is because both counts are mathematically correct, therefore interpreting/fleshing out a test riff can sometimes seem to deprive the liberation from expectations of western music, and force everyone into this micro-timed format, which, let's face it, all guitarists hate.

But the old jazz guys who invented the hard count did so not because they couldn't wrap their minds around the subdivision concept, nor because they couldn't keep up: they did so simply because they were asking the drummer for a more melody-friendly firing-soution. Voila, the mother of invention.

Due to Rusty Cage having an extremely slow hard count, the knack can be difficult to get. But it is far easier in 19/16 time.

And though 19/8 time exists, the hard count is a good argument for the non-existence of 19/16, due to the "Cardinal Rule of Time Signatures", they always belong in the path of least resistance. This makes 19/16 the proxy time of all proxy times.

Of course, Home, by Dream Theater also features a denoument at 19/16. But it perfectly conforms with the hard count 5/8, and the reality is the guitar sounds to me like this is his count. Not 19 16th notes, but a measure of common time 16ths, plus a triplet of sixteenths, which is exactly the hard count 5/8. For this reason, I stand with those whom point out that 19/16, by the law of keeping simplicity primary, does not actually exist. And there is a 50/50 split in this debate, and normally it is due to the fear one might have for the nuances of recording. Personally, and for my teachers, too: if this is the reason you are engaging this time, you may be missing the point of the hard count, melody.

As I said, this was created not due to a lack of understanding the concept, but due to jazz being technically defined as a genre featuring total ad lib, communication between instruments, and each member has a solo at some point in each number. So the emphasis was melody, with the drums providing almost the entire rhythm constant.

But, Home features a drum part cautiously written in 19/16 which leaves no room for slop, while the interaction with the hard counting 5/8 ryhtmic/solo type guitar makes for a match of melody and harmony/rhythm which makes  piece really stand out. I do not necessarily disagree, but it is a clear time to use 24 16ths and five for 29/16. But a hard count is enough for me as long as its 19/16.

The 19/16 parts are near the end, and some of them are easier to detect than others due to the downbeat happening on the snare. You can hear the definite hard count... particularly in the guitar part. It has kind of a Turkish type of Locian/Phrygian mode thingie happening.

Mike Portnoy looks kinda like my friend, Blanko Fejss. But, that doesn't matter.

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