What’s this music thing called? And where can I find more?
February 12, 2021 12:58 PM   Subscribe

What’s this little move called in music? Where it goes from kind of frenetic and jammy and drops suddenly into a slow fluttery bit? Both a quick tempo change and key/mood change. I associate it with 60s sort of jam-psychedelic-blues-rock music, but this convention must exist elsewhere, too?

An example is here, around the 1:15-1:20 mark. (I think, broadly speaking, this is a bridge, but I love the feeling of the simultaneous big tempo drop with key change). I’m sure there are others in this genre, and I’d like more from other types of music, too. Thanks!
posted by stillmoving to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I mean, this seems really common as something from 70's rock and jam bands. maybe try phish? I've heard my morning jacket do it, but can't remember where. It also kind of reminds me in a way of Guns N Roses "november rain" but my brain is weird. Oh, and I think the Doors did this kind of thing too.
posted by evilmonk at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: I'm a musician, and there's really no name for that kind of thing that I can think of. I also can't think of any other specific examples (although I've certainly heard it before).

There's no key change at that part, but the time signature changes (from 3/4 back to 4/4/ (although the 3/4 has more of a slow 6/8 feel), and the tempo only drops slightly, and main the first time at 1:20, and less so the time after that. So part of what you're hearing is probably the result of them being a VERY loose band.

I guess one thing I can think of that's SORT OF along the same lines is Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk"

Another SLIGHTY similar thing is Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" which moves between a latin feel and a swing feel .
posted by jonathanhughes at 1:32 PM on February 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, Urban Gentleman 
(slow swing-time bridge starts one minute in)

Sleater Kinney, What's Mine Is Yours
(guitar solo freakout around 2:00, then slow/heavy break around 3:00)
posted by miles per flower at 2:06 PM on February 12, 2021

Best answer: Think of most of the song as 4/4.
They subdivide into groups of 3 foreshadowing in a 12/8 the 3/4 they're going to switch into.

The eighth note pulse stays the same (moire or less, it's the GD...) but switches from
4 groups of 3/8 making 12/8 ( !..!..!..!.. ) to
3 groups of 4/8 making 12/8 ( !...!...!... )

...although I also heard 4 groups of 3 eighths followed by two quarter notes making 16/8.
( !..!..!..!..!.!. )

Blue Rondo A La Turk was my first thought for showing how threes and twos counted by the same pulse can go together.

Waltz For Debbie by Bill Evans shows a transition from 3/4 to 4/4 into the solo that's simple but not easy.

Heart Of The Sunrise by Yes shows the 16/8 feel I mention above just before they go back into the vocal "swing" section.

And there's no key or mode change that I heard.

So... basically what jonathonhughes said, but I'm saying it more confusingly with more words. I apologize that I lack the time to make this post shorter. :)

Now that you're listening for it, you'll hear it pretty frequently in the last many centuries of western music, and even longer in other traditions of music. Clave is found in African and Latin music a lot, and what western music calls "odd meter" is huge across eastern europe in many traditions. The edit window is closing, bye!
posted by lothar at 2:29 PM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's several complex rhythmic things going on here.

First, in the main part of the song (the jammy part), there's a syncopated rhythmic pattern happening against the framework of a steady, driving 4/4 beat. I hear the beat as quarter note = about 160, with the ride cymbal playing a constant stream of fast eighth notes (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +).

At 0:19, the guitars/keyboard/bass play a string of hits, which groups the eighth notes in this syncopated pattern called a hemiola. A hemiola contradicts the main beat by grouping the subdivisions differently, as lothar was describing: you can hear this spot as an additive string of eighth notes punctuated by the hits: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 2. That makes 16 eighth notes, which means it lines up with two measures of 4/4. You can feel this yourself if you keep your foot tapping quarter notes (1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4) while you try and clap along with the guitar hits creating the hemiola. It's fun.

This pattern of [two hemiola measures + two straight measures] continues until 0:42. At this point, a different hemiola replaces the first one. The first hemiola regrouped eighth notes; this one is regrouping quarter notes. The music feels suddenly slower because the ride cymbal eighths drop out, and because suddenly the guitars are emphasizing every three quarter notes. In fact, they're emphasizing groups of three quarters so strongly that it really feels like half-time triplets; or in other words a 3/4 time. The quarter note isn't any slower (you can keep your foot tapping with the same pulse); but we're feeling the measures differently here.

So there's two measures of 3/4 time. But the problem is, if the band continues in 3/4, they can't just switch back to 4/4 at any time without creating a disorienting feeling that the beat has skipped. We (the Grateful Dead*) want the disorienting feeling that time has shifted for *just these two measures*; and we want to keep our pattern of [two syncopated measures + 2 straight measures] going.

So it's a math problem. How many times can I do this big group of three beats in the time of 8 beats? the answer is, two times, and then you have two beats tacked on to get out of this half-time 3/4 feel and back to the driving 4/4 (where the ride cymbal comes back in). And the two following bars back in 4/4 are more like the original hemiola pattern (3+3+3+3+2+2 eighths).

An additional complication is that the beat is lightly swung in the 3/4 bars; that's why the driving ride cymbal drops out. What we're hearing at 1:15 is the quarter note beat staying the same, but regrouped into a pattern of 3 + 3 + 2 quarter notes, while the subdivision changes from straight eighths to swung eighths. The swung eighths REALLY makes it feel like we've slowed down for those six beats. But we haven't really. The quarter note is constant through the whole song.

lothar is also right that the hemiola grouping of eighth notes 3+3+3+3+2+2 helps to prime our ears to hear the 3/4 section as a hemiola. It's grouping the eighth notes differently (but, again, also masking those eighth notes with the swing feel).

This was a lot of explaining. Hopefully helpful! I do this for a living!
*I am not actually a member of the Grateful Dead
posted by daisystomper at 4:05 PM on February 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, these are incredibly detailed and informative answers! I’ve learned so much—thanks! And thanks for clarifying about no key change; I guess I associate key change with mood change.

A follow-up question for Jonathan Hughes, what does it mean to be a “loose” band?
posted by stillmoving at 5:37 AM on February 14, 2021

Response by poster: And, sorry—one more follow-up question, if I may (and if anyone is still reading this?)—am I right in describing this as a bridge, or is that something else completely? Thanks again!
posted by stillmoving at 5:46 AM on February 14, 2021

Best answer: I don't think I would describe this as a bridge. A bridge is a unique transitional part of a song, and it's usually a way to get from the chorus to another verse or another chorus.

This song doesn't really have a chorus, as far as I can tell. It's more like verses broken up by long instrumentals that kind of take the place of a chorus. If you think of it that way, the half-time swing part does kind of function like a prechorus: that's a shorter transition from the verse to the chorus. The prechorus is different in that it always leads to the chorus, and it can happen more than once in a song. A bridge would be longer (like its own section) and would probably only happen once in a song.
posted by daisystomper at 10:00 PM on February 21, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks, daisystomper!
posted by stillmoving at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2021

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