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Thread: Checking accuracy of New Complexity rhythms

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Default Checking accuracy of New Complexity rhythms

    This dissertation used a computer to check the accuracy of rhythms in several Ferneyhough and Dillon recordings, using a recording of John Williams playing the Bouree from BWV 1009 as a control

    http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/807043/8/8...ter%205%20.pdf


    As one might expect, there is more varation from the 'true' rhythms in Ferneyhough and Dillon, but not by as much as one might expect relative to the Bach recording

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    This strengthens the suspicion I've always had about this music...if you need a computer to check whether the rhythms are right, what's the point of writing the rhythms in such exacting detail? Couldn't you achieve the same aural result in a notation that is more naturally comprehensible by human performers?
    Last edited by isorhythm; Aug-22-2019 at 17:15.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    This strengthens the suspicion I've always had about this music...if you need a computer to check whether the rhythms are right, what's the point of writing the rhythms in such exacting detail? Couldn't you achieve the same aural result in a notation that is more naturally comprehensible by human performers?
    A) the rhythms are generally right
    B) Ferneyhough does not expect perfect accuracy, but the struggle and concentration to credibly attempt them is part of the aesthetic he wants, just telling the performer to improvise on a set of pitches with irregular rhythm would not have the same result.

    I am no great virtuoso, but have played the first movement of Kurze Schatten II and the rhythms both make sense and some times not. All the subdivisions add, but you will also see things like notes held over some nested tuplet duration followed by a rest past the point when the actual guitar sound has decayed. Ultimately the proof that it 'works' is the body of great performers that have been drawn to the work

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    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    A) the rhythms are generally right
    Sure, but you could write a bunch of different specific rhythms that would be equally close to the result.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    B) Ferneyhough does not expect perfect accuracy, but the struggle and concentration to credibly attempt them is part of the aesthetic he wants, just telling the performer to improvise on a set of pitches with irregular rhythm would not have the same result.
    I was thinking more specific instructions than that. But yes, that's how I've heard the aesthetic explained to me before, I don't personally find it compelling.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    I am no great virtuoso, but have played the first movement of Kurze Schatten II and the rhythms both make sense and some times not. All the subdivisions add, but you will also see things like notes held over some nested tuplet duration followed by a rest past the point when the actual guitar sound has decayed. Ultimately the proof that it 'works' is the body of great performers that have been drawn to the work
    I certainly won't argue with the many people who like his music!

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    When you start looking closely at some of these nested rhythms, what it amounts to is the effect of gradual slowdowns, speed-ups, and tempo fluctuations. The net result is a way of precisely notating "gestures" of rhythm, which do not in themselves convey "precision" but instead an organic fluctuation. The "accuracy" is no longer as relevant or even perceptible as a more normal rhythm with a pulse is.

    Thus, the issue becomes an aesthetic one, not one of scientific accuracy. The computer version might be useful as a teaching tool, to hear what some of this sounds like.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Aug-22-2019 at 18:33.
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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Good timing for this thread. I was just looking yesterday at a piano work of Ferneyhough's. I remember defending him on TC before when someone was criticizing his approach, but I feel now that criticism is justified. He is making music more complicated than the human ear can really detect the differences from simpler combinations, and not only that, but from actual performances analyzed in this study. A lot of his ratios within bars are really approximations of a simpler fraction or ratio, especially how he changes the ratios between some beats of a bar. It is contradictory that he would not expect the rhythms be played with exact precision to his markings which detail precise or very minute deviations from more regular ratios, which would make the notation much less complex. The overall timings of passages being very close to the theoretical is not surprising since the performers have an innate sense of beat and tempo. It's the timings within bars which are more illuminating, if extrapolated to a larger scale. I see it as an elaborate marketing campaign to draw more attention to their New Complexity music which is actually less complex in real terms to the human ear. I noted a conflict/discrepancy in a bar of his Quartet No. 6 in another thread, which has him using markings more complex and redundant than it should be if that conflict was resolved one way or another.

    It's natural he would get away with it in a progressive artistic community, but not from those with a mathematical background.
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Aug-26-2019 at 01:56.
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    Quote Originally Posted by isorhythm View Post
    This strengthens the suspicion I've always had about this music...if you need a computer to check whether the rhythms are right, what's the point of writing the rhythms in such exacting detail? Couldn't you achieve the same aural result in a notation that is more naturally comprehensible by human performers?
    It's this kind of writing that has caused many people to ignore and trash "modern" music. It's more mathematics than music. I've played some of this style with the composers conducting and it becomes obvious that even they can't get it "right", nor can they identify when players screw up. It's ugly, and not worth anyone's time to learn to play. That Downie example is just ridiculous. And modern composer wonder why their music is so unpopular and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky thrive. If you need a computer to "get it right", then what's the point?

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    And yet serious musicians have devoted their careers to playing this music

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    Senior Member Red Terror's Avatar
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    For me, the music of the New Complexity composers is a well gone dry.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    All of you people here need to study modern art. Your opinions on recognized performed & recorded composers is...embarrassing. I don't see any real intelligence at work in the replies.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-12-2019 at 13:51.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    As always, the main stumbling block to contemporary music appreciation is the emancipation of rhythm (that phrase again Phil) a bigger obstacle for a general audience than timbral and atonal freedom. Rhythm, the great unifier, subjected to quantum time and stripped of its familiar beats, music reduced to a seeming randomness (of course nothing is further from the truth).

    I've sometimes questioned the point of a series of long held notes that are notated in fractions of nested tuplets, rather than 'on a beat' - notation that would have the same musical effect for all intents and purposes. There is of course a psychological effect on the performer that one could argue is essential for the correct approach to the work in question, but sometimes the accuracy is not possible and practical deviations do no harm to the music. The performer(s) might also feel a natural rubato in the line(s) thus imprinting their own aesthetics into the music.

    FWIW, I know of one recording artist in a quartet who told me that sometimes the feel is all they go on in extreme complexity, after much rehearsal it's literally heads down, concentrate, count like a f***er and hope the tutti sfz down the line works out....ok he was joking, but only partly.

    The stuff of music - especially it's emotive trait - is remarkably durable and a composer's rhythmically complex message will not generally suffer because of slight and often perfectly natural deviation. Besides, it's exciting to not be beholden to rigidity in a beat as a composer, even if ironically, the beat has to to have the regularity of a Swiss watch for great ensemble playing away from it.

    I tend to agree with a lot of Phil's post above.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-12-2019 at 14:20.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Music, from a composer's standpoint and a listener is different. The nested tuplets don't matter.

    bokks2 200 dpi 1.jpgbokks3 200 dpi .jpg
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-12-2019 at 16:31.
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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Music, from a composer's standpoint and a listener is different. The nested tuplets don't matter.
    or matter only in that the performance conveys the composer's artistic intentions, if BF wanted perfect execution he could always write electronic music, but he is not interested in that

    There is no difference here between Xenakis and Haydn. The criteria for aesthetically adequate
    performances lie in the extent to which the performer is technically and spiritually able to recognize and
    embody the demands of fidelity (NOT ‘exactitude’!) [Sic]. It is a not a question of 20% or 99% ‘of the
    notes’...The fake issue of ‘unperformability’ is really a red herring...Where literally impossible (or at least:
    unlikely) actions are called for, I specify this in context, so that the relevant indication forms part of the
    actual score...the performer has to remain relatively conscious of the need to be always re-evaluating
    visual, contextual and sonic correlates


    Brian Ferneyhough “Duration and Rhythm as Compositional Resources (wish I could get the whole piece, but its behind a paywall, the quote is in this: https://hbelling.files.wordpress.com...009-word03.pdf

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    https://youtu.be/CmV3Bf2veAg



    These kinds of rhythmic complexities are being conquered by drummers as we speak.

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