Thursday, December 06, 2012

Take 86

Mainstream breakthrough jazz legend Dave Brubeck died yesterday at age 91.  I was lucky enough to see him perform live in the mid-1970's, already gray-haired and with at least one of his sons in his band.  He had tremendous graciousness as well as grace, and his music was surprisingly accessible, per this Ashley Fetters post in The Atlantic today:

There's another reason why the popularity of "Take Five" is remarkable: It's performed in a musical structure that people in the Western world often show cognitive resistance to.

Most Western music is dependent on a structure with two, three, or four beats in a measure—or some multiple of those—with even spaces between the emphasized beats.
"Take Five," though, is written and performed in a 5/4 time signature, as my jazz-fan colleague David Graham mentioned yesterday—meaning there are five beats per measure. (Hence the title.) When there are five, seven, eleven, or almost any number of beats in a measure that doesn't divide evenly into twos or threes, the beats can become non-isochronous—meaning the emphasized beats, the ones you would tap your foot along with, aren't evenly spaced. For example: Try clapping along with the intro to the Mission: Impossible theme, which is also in a 5/4 time signature.

Time signatures like these are often known as "irregular," "complex," or "asymmetrical" time signatures.

Here's that very number, performed in 1966, seven years after it's initial release.  Brubeck had a relatively early racially integrated combo as well.  Right on, Dave:

Timeless cool.