He ain’t got rhythm

Or should that be “he ain’t got no rhythm”?  I fear I am no expert on the demotic or the language of the streets (and I don’t have Mike Skinner’s contact details to hand).  I should also probably stop referring to myself in the third person, as that way lies the road to Kanye West (for Kanye East, please exit at junction 11), for I am the poor, benighted chap who is bereft of rhythm.

I’m sure that for many fellow sufferers, the lack of rhythm is of minor consequence but I have musical aspirations and I feel it is holding me back.  I suppose I must have some rhythm as my heart has recently passed a range of tests including its regularity – but somehow this underlying beat fails to translate into conscious, musical output.  I am able to diagnose at least two separate issues:

1.  I suspect I may have a consistent internal beat, however, its performance is impacted by the rate of CPU usage.  The harder my brain is having to work, the slower this internal beat appears to flow to everyone (and any clock) that exists outside my head.  This may be because I am so incredibly dense that the gravitational impact on spacetime means that for me time really is going more slowly than for the more distant observer.  Or, more positively, perhaps my thought process are so fast that time dilation effects are manifesting and the impossibility of simultaneous actions which is enshrined in General Relativity is adversely affecting my performance.  Interestingly, when my body is under very heavy physical load – e.g. when hanging upside from a bar – time for me goes much more quickly that it does for the rest of the world.  I can easily count my way to 78 (including the associated bag of potatoes) within 2o seconds.

2.  I am also very strongly drawn to a beat, if at least one exists.  This makes syncopation very hard to maintain (and frankly, quite hard to start) as my brain insists on locking to the beat.  This also means that when at the piano, the left hand tends to follow the right (or vice versa) with slavish devotion depending on which hand is getting most timeslice on my internal CPU.  This makes polyrhythms a complete no-no for me.

I have for some time been the proud possessor of a metronome – the proper kind, not some modern electronic facsimile – bought for me by a grateful team (possibly grateful for the fact that I would soon be leaving them in peace).  I have tried to use this, but I find it hopelessly confusing and while it is ticking (or tocking) I seem to lose the ability to do anything musical or rhythmic at all (and there is some risk that I may also lose the ability to stand-up or breathe).  It may be that I just need to persevere longer, but the car-crash that ensues whenever I attempt to bring it into play means that I may never find out whether the sunlight uplands of being a tempo will ever be mine.

As a result of my disability (one for which no “park-wherever-you-like permit” seems to be offered) I am perhaps foolishly impressed by those that clearly can handle rhythm.  Last night the assembled few of the London Sinfonietta were, thus, particularly impressive.  The evening charted some of the key points in modern classical music from 1918 to 2005, mostly from composers I barely knew (or didn’t know) and with no pieces that I knew at all.  As I waited in the foyer for proceedings to begin, I was quite impressed by how brave (or drunk) I must have been feeling when I booked the evening.  Complex rhythm, syncopation and polyrhythm abounded – apparently effortlessly – which I found particularly impressive on the piano (if only because I know this is basically impossible and clearly some sort of sorcery must have been involved).  Despite my mis-givings, drunk-me clearly knew what he was doing as it was a wonderful night of music – aided by the spoken introduction given to each of the pieces explaining a little about them and how they were constructed.  I left finding myself unexpectedly impressed by Ligeti (who I had previously pegged as a composer of noise pollution) enjoying both his Cello Sonata and Musica Ricercata and Thomas Adès and his Court Studies from the Tempest.  I also loved Iannis Xenakis’ (a composer I knew slightly through a mathematics lecture by Marcus du Sautoy) Rebonds B an incredible percussion piece played so powerfully that the end snapped off one of the drumsticks.  That’s what I call serious drumming (and not a bleeding finger in sight)!  However, there was something enjoyable to find in every piece – an outcome I would have bet heavily against before the evening started.

I feel my musical horizons have expanded unexpectedly far from a single evening out (and a £10 investment).  Now if only some of that rhythmic ability has rubbed off on me, perhaps my career in music and/or dance can finally take flight.  Failing such a magical transference of ability, perhaps it’s time to acquire a safety net and an artificial respirator and give the old metronome another go…

Feel free to continue the lunacy...

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