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Careful in the Guardian

A fantastic article by Guardian journalist/leukaemia warrior Hannah Partos on the Arts Council-funded project Careful  – which focuses on the lives of 4 nurses – written by Alex Mermikides, and with music (based on the sounds and rhythms of the hospital) by Milton Mermikides.

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Swing Friction in Johnny B. Goode

Swing friction is a term I coined in my PhD thesis and is defined as the differential of swing values between individual performers (or groups of performers). If the swing friction is significantly large and consistently maintained, it may form a characteristic of ensemble feel.

Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode (Berry 1958) provides an instructive example of swing friction. Berry, often considered the father of rock n’ roll, was instrumental in ‘straightening out’ the blues 12/8 shuffle rhythm into the archetypal electric guitar riff. Johnny B. Goode features this ‘straight 8th’ guitar rhythm, as well as equally straight lead playing juxtaposed with a stubbornly bouncy drum, bass and piano feel. Heavily swung quaver values occur in the ride cymbal pattern, often near the 67% mark, a significant deviation of over 52ms from the straight quaver at 170bpm. The guitar rhythm part however remains resolutely straight rarely venturing beyond 52% swing. This already large 15% discrepancy of swing value is exaggerated with the guitar part often sitting on top of the beat (ranging between 0% and -4% latency) leading to a mean separation of about 17% (≈60ms). The lead guitar is equally straight, although not pushed, and occasionally falling behind the beat. Piano interjections are loose but quavers are generally quite swung, mainly in the 60-67% range and repeated quaver triplets prevail. The bass plays mainly crotchets, with the occasional quaver (usually ≈67%). A representative extract from the track can be heard here:

Figure 1 shows a composite two bar template for the lead, rhythm, bass and drum parts, with time-feel components added. There is a huge gap between the swing values of the guitars and bass and drums. The vocal track tends to fall in between these two extremes.  In order to hear the effect of swing friction, This example contains electronic sequences of this section with varying time-feel values: 1) as from Figure 1, 2) all instruments at 67% 3) all at 52% 4) all at a middle ground of 60% and 5) back to the ‘true’ values for comparison.

Picture1

Figure 1. Composite swing and latency values for guitars, bass and drums in Johnny B. Goode.

 

The sequences have been rendered with MIDI instruments on purpose; although the section would sound better with human performers, but the elimination of the inflection they would inevitably provide allows focus on the power – and limitations – of the SLW model. Mean values for swing and latency have been provided, but the standard deviations of these values introduce the component of looseness or tightness, again different between players. Weighting elements also occur, (the cymbal has a slight emphasis on offbeat quavers for example,) with both mean and standard deviations). This extract plays the sequence first as Figure 1 then with swing, latency, weighting standard deviations from Figure 2  introduced, which add a clearly-defined randomness to each of three time-feel elements, and instruments, individually. There is a subtle but appreciable difference between the sequences; attention to the cymbal pattern, for instance, will reveal a slight offbeat emphasis and looseness.

 

 

 

Lead Guitar Rhythm Guitar Bass Drums
µs= 51 ∂s=1.5  µl= 2    ∂l=

µw= -3 ∂w= 2

µs= 52 ∂s=1

µl= -3 ∂l= 1

µw= -3 ∂w= 2

µs= 67 ∂s=2

µl= 0    ∂l= 1

µw= 4   ∂w= 2

µs= 67 ∂s=2

µl= 0    ∂l= 0

µw= 2   ∂w= 1

Figure 2 Mean and standard deviation values of swing, latency and

weighting (measured as dB level)

An averaging out of time-feel components over the entire track runs the risk of over-generalization and may incorrectly group specific mechanisms that occur only occasionally. There are for example, brief moments when the bass seems to join with the rhythm guitar’s straight quavers. There is also the assumption, with a single matrix per instrument, that all beats of the bar are the same, which ignores the emphasis on crotchets 2 and 4 in the drums. Matrices could be provided for beats 1 and 2, and beats 3 and 4 separately, or even weighting at the crotchet level, for greater sophistication when needed.

Despite these acknowledged limitations, the discretionary use of this type of analysis allows for an instructive and parsimonious description of ensemble time-feel elements.

Noorderzon Festival

Am looking forward to this event and the opportunity to do something different and fun with the excellent Ensemble Montage.

Milton Mermikides & Ensemble Montage | Hidden Music

What does the skyline of New York sound like? How can you make a composition from your sleep patterns or blood cells? Music can be made from anything we find around us, from our names or birth dates to our cells, from atoms to stars. Composer and guitarist Milton Mermikides presents the fascinating origins and history of data sonification – the translation of information or patterns into sound and music – as well as a selection of his own compositions derived from sleep cycles, viruses, paintings, exoplanetary moons, traffic patterns and other ‘non-musical’ data. In addition, a string trio of the Ensemble Montage will demonstrate how these data sound and perform a new composition based on ‘the hidden music’ of Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival. Discover how music can reveal the patterns in the natural world, and give us both a theoretical and aesthetic appreciation of everything around us.

For students and subscribers of Studium Generale tickets are € 5,- 

TedX Groningen: Everything We Do is Music

How to Make (and maybe complete) a To-Do List

How to Make a To-Do List

IGRC2016 Timetable and Booking Now Open

The 2nd International Guitar Research Centre Conference (March 18-23, 2016) has attracted speakers and performers from every continent, and guitar style. It’s a fantastic line-up, and timetable shaping up.

Booking now open…

Alexia Coley – Drive Me Wild

The fabulous Alexia Coley, for whom its an honour to work has a video out for her great soul tune: Drive Me Wild

That. Voice.

Spiegel Im Spiegel on a Postcard

The most succinct analysis I can make of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel (a stunning and elegant work). Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/track/3rlqTqUOzu0zDwQFJe44gk

Spiegel Analysis

Palindromic scales and their modal groups

I’ve had this insight about palindromic scales, modes, modal groups, and the Euclidean (and sometimes maximally even) distributions of 7 notes in a one octave scale. This is what it looks like in my head. I really like that the ‘central’ scale of a group is not the traditional figurehead (Ionian, melodic minor etc.) but the palindromic parent. Nice to see the patterns emerge diagrammatically, and I will aim to use Melodic Phrygian and its modes in composing/improvising!

Palindromic scales

 

Pendulum Music

Translation of pendulum waves to music using a simple pitch translation system on a 5-limit Yo scale. Watch the right hand edge and all will make sense! This little experiment turned out so well, I think it deserves a whole project. My head and ears are spinning.

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