Liminal music
October 2, 2018 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I want to read/listen to things about the musical concept of playing between the notes or the silence between the notes (or anything similar about using liminal space in music).

I haven't been successful at researching this because I'm lacking specific language (and would love to learn the appropriate words). But I was thinking about how in some music genres--usually jazz iirc--there's the idea that musicians should play the cracks between the notes.

I also want to read/listen to a kinda similar concept of looking at the silence between notes. There's a quote to that effect attributed to Mozart, and of course there's Cage, but I'm sure there are more writings or pieces of music that are relevant.

I'm looking for readings of any kind that touch on either of those. I'm neither a composer nor a musician but I can follow a lot of music theory. I'd love to read about either of those in context of specific musicians' work, or from a theory perspective, or neuroscience, whatever. I'd also love to listen to works that are really notable for either of these. (I don't need to listen to every piece that uses one or the other, but if there are pivotal pieces for either, then please do mention.)
posted by mermaidcafe to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise by Michel Chion is fantastic. Of course, Silence: Lectures and Writings by John Cage treats your questions pretty explicitly, and in his very idiosyncratic way.
posted by salt grass at 9:38 AM on October 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

If the quote you're referring to is the one about music being the space between the notes, that's generally attributed to Debussy (although 5 minutes of searching didn't turn up a verifiable citation).

There's a modern musical movement called wandelweiser that is very explicitly about the relationship between sound and silence. Here are a couple of articles to get you started (Alex Ross in the New Yorker, short history by Michael Pisaro) and there are plenty more out there too.
posted by dfan at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

As far as things to listen to, check out Eva-Maria Houben; she is on the wandelweiser label, and also some performance of her work is on Bandcamp.
posted by salt grass at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Time and space between notes is very important in funk music.

...Space? You wanna talk about space, you could rent out the space between the kick drum and the snare drum in New York for fifteen hundred dollars a month.

Jack Stratton on minimalist funk arrangement, start at 2:42 for the quote in context.

He has a whole series of shorts called Holy Trinities, most of them have some interesting mention of concepts of time between notes, with lots of good sound clips.

Bootsy Collins also has some interesting words on the time between notes.

You would try to fit... how you felt in between that
...and that’s the Funk: however you feel, you just have to fit it in that little space you got
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would look into Korean (classical?) drumming - iirc from a talk I attended, the times in between are as important as the beats.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2018

I can +1 on the Cage recommendation above. I'd also recommend Kenny Werner's "Effortless Mastery," where he discusses approaches for improvisation. There's quite a bit covering the process for inserting space into music, citing Miles Davis as the touchstone. Further videos.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2018

Best answer: Duh, I kinda forgot about blue notes.
posted by mermaidcafe at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2018

I'd also love to listen to works that are really notable for either of these.
Classic Jamaican dub is a genre where I've found a lot of this -- many (most?) dub tracks started as a simple instrumental or vocal recording and were then manipulated to stretch or compress parts, drop out bits, etc. In the hands of an inventive dub master the alterations from what is expected become the core of a new work, derived from the starting track, but with a spirit of its own.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:11 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Victor Wooten's book The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music has a few things to say about this
posted by davejay at 7:46 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

You may be interested in what's called "lowercase." As I have understood it, and I've listened to some of it, this is a genre that's a mix of minimalism and musique concrete, often with heavy electronic elements, and often referred to as ambient. It's definitely a genre where there is a lot of space in the music, and where that "negative space", or the space between notes, is central to the music, is an essential part of the whole piece.
posted by OmieWise at 11:16 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure If it fits your interest but grace notes are pretty much literally little notes between the notes.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2018

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