This week’s post will most likely be enjoyed by musicians interested in the technical inner-workings of “Periapsis,” however please don’t get scared off! Over the next year we will post a wide variety of conversation-starters for music lovers of any knowledge level and will begin each post with our modest guess of what demographic might enjoy it most. So here it is again for this week: “This week’s post will most likely be enjoyed by musicians interested in the technical inner-workings of ‘Periapsis.’” – Nick
Of all of the songs on our album, “Red-Handed” certainly wins the award for “most rhythmically intricate.” For the most part, while the rhythmic component of the song is extremely involved and syncopated, its skeletal structure is actually quite repetitive, and can most easily be witnessed in the bass as a series of rhythmic values, the most common of which is [five] (sixteenth-notes). The first half of the repeating form is as follows:
5 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 3 – 3 – 6 – 3 – 4 – 4 – 6
And the second half, quite similar but mussed up a bit in the middle:
5 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 6 – [2 – 5] – 5 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 4 – 6
These rhythms fall into surprisingly simple metering:
Taking this rhythmic skeleton and “muting” certain values during the verses created some breathing room in the arrangement to divert attention to the vocals while preserving the syncopated style of the music. Below, the numerical values in parentheses are muted, however still present:
5 – (5 – 5) – 5 – (6) – 7 – 3 – (3 – 6 – 3) – 4 – (4) – 6
5 – (5 – 5) – 5 – (6) – 2 – 5 – 5 – (5 – 5) – 4 – (4) – 6
That’s it for the numbers, don’t worry. Translated into written music:
There are a number of textural and orchestral layers added on during the chorus, so the continuation of the rhythmic sequence is not all that apparent. It is quite similar to the structure preceding it, but eventually departs as most developmental music inevitably does. You can hear it most explicitly in the modulating electric piano hits. Most of the changes and development upon the base rhythm were simply consequential from the stretching of the structure over a (gasp!) backbeat. This thread of musical material exists alongside the primary elements of the chorus as an interlocking yet independent element rather than an orchestrational or complementary one. Its inclusion was crucial to a feeling of continuity between the chorus and verse both because of the striking stylistic differences and the very different key areas of each section. Even though “Red-Handed” is quite section-al, the continuation of the layer helps to mask this potentially unsavory characteristic by creating the illusion of a continuous flow.
The section after the chorus, which we so appropriately refer to as the “post-chorus,” undergoes a slightly more rigid and note-worthy development. Here is the first portion of our skeletal structure depicted as a rhythmic grid (TUBS., anyone?):
We took the entire rhythm, copied it, moved it two 16th’s later, and dropped it back on top of the original (figuratively, of course).
At the beginning of the post chorus, this rhythmic counterpoint takes place largely between the voice and the bass.
As you’ll notice, in the second half of the post-chorus, the counterpoint exists between two layers of vocals separated by an octave, but the lyrics flow continuously over it:
“the MEANS, the MO – tive, AND the, OP – por – TU – ni-ty
E – ven MORE – so IF you RE – fuse to deny!”
Yes, it’s a bit hard to make out the lyrics in this section if you don’t have them sitting in front of you. But it sounds wild and kind of cool, right?
So the big question remaining is, “Why did Nova go to the trouble of weaving these patterns and development into the music in the first place?” The answer is quite simple: Because we wanted to! But to avoid a complete cop-out, here are some other things that we were not thinking at the time, but are nonetheless true:
- Human intellect recognizes patterns and complex development both consciously and subconsciously, so it doesn’t really matter if you actually “hear” the rhythmic development.
- We want the rhythmic aspect of our music to be a living, breathing, and growing element rather than an obligatory layer so often taken for granted in popular music.
- The complex, albeit organized rhythmic structure of the verses highlights the novelty of the backbeat in the chorus.
- The relatively complex rhythms make the music inherently different than a lot of other music that sounds sonically similar.
- It posed a challenge to record, which kept us interested, to say the least.
Question of the week: From a distance, “Red-Handed” appears to be dance music, and we have always pictured it as such. What do you think? Please comment and give us your thoughts…or talk about something completely different if you wish!