Slow, Low, and Varied

Doing Music Differently, Notation, Performance, Work in Progress, Help Us Pay the Rent
When people first hear our music, often they are struck by how incredibly slow it is.
But to us,  even more amazing is the astonishing and we feel hysterical speed of almost all conventional music.
We first formed this opinion nearly 20 years ago at a time when we were living in India and listening to lots of  “Drupad” music, a lovely archaic style in the Indian classical tradition which starts off every piece with a  longish very very slow solo called an “alap”.  Quickly we realized that whenever we heard Drupad,  it was always the alap that appealed to us the most,  and that once the other instruments joined the music and its speed picked up,  it seemed to lose its magic.
Well since then nothing has happened to change our opinion that when music goes too fast, much is lost.
Indeed, in our own playing we often allow ourselves short periods of playing fast “just to get it out of our system”  so then we can settle down to a properly relaxed pace which allows for the creation of real beauty.
But somehow composers,  performers, and their audiences have convinced themselves it’s absolutely vital to be able to play many notes per second,  which of course is as stupid as believing that it’s the facile loudmouth who has the most to say.

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Slow……
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When people first hear our music, they’re often struck by its incredible slowness.

But to us, even more amazing is the astonishing and we feel hysterical speed of almost all conventional music.

We first formed this opinion more than 20 years ago when we were living in Varanasi listening to lots of  “Drupad”, a lovely archaic style of Indian classical music which starts every piece with a longish very very slow solo called an “alap”.  Quickly it became clear whenever we heard Drupad, this alap was what appealed to us the most, that once the pace picked up and other instruments joined in, the music seemed to lose its magic.  ( The Indian Music Scene )

Well since then nothing has happened to change our opinion that when music goes too fast, something very important is lost.  ( Music and Magic )

Indeed, in our own music we often allow ourselves short periods of playing fast “just to get it out of our system” before settling down to a properly relaxed pace which permits the creation of real beauty.
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Somehow composers, performers, and their audiences have convinced themselves it’s absolutely vital to be able to play many notes per second, though this of course is as stupid as believing it’s the facile loudmouth who has the most to say.

By contrast our suspicion is being able to play fast and loud is really nothing more than a performance skill that’s unfortunately led to most music being totally cluttered with distracting trills and ornamentation which add nothing to the beauty of the overall sound.

Not to mention that when performers strain brain and fingers to play a million unnecessary surplus notes, something has to go, and usually that something is emotional and expressive subtlety.  ( Music and Magic, Practice )

low……
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Another striking feature of our music is it tends to be very low pitched.

And here too, Drupad could have been an early inspiration…..

Or maybe we’re just relaxation junkies…. because like slow music, low tones are best produced by relaxation.
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Music that’s both slow and low has a completely different effect on listeners than the fast high pitched stuff constantly bombarding our poor modern ears.

Indeed by producing some of the slowest most consistently low pitched music anyone has ever heard, we feel we’re doing our part in the battle against the out of control speed which defines contemporary society.

And it’s not just that people need music which will help them go to sleep ( though our music does do this beautifully ), they also need music which slows them down enough to think clearly, to be creative, and to open to beauty.

When you’re speeding along a highway at 90 mph, all you see is the road, ambling along a path there’s time to admire the trees, flowers, birds, and sky.
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Also it’s worth noting there’s a built in inverse relation between low tones and fast music, since it’s technically much more difficult to play a succession of fast low notes than of fast high ones.

So our preference for low pitched tones is obviously related to our love and fascination with slow music.
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…… and varied
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A third and very important way our stuff differs from almost everything else out there, is our music isn’t tied to rigidly unchanging rhythms.

And it’s very interesting trained musicians and ordinary listeners react to this freedom in quite different ways.

Ordinary listeners who have not been disciplined to think musical sounds must march in a kind of lock step, do of course notice what we’re doing is rhythmically unusual, but it doesn’t bother them.  If they comment on it at all, they usually say something about our music flowing like “nature sounds” or reminding them of running water and singing birds.  ( Check out the “99%” section at the bottom of our Doing Music Differently page. )  Once someone was even sweet enough to say we sounded like whales.

Trained musicians, on the other hand, often criticize our free and ever changing rhythm as something that makes our music “vague and boring” or ( if they’re trying to be kind ) “rambling”.

Now it’s difficult for us to understand these critics, because to us our music sounds neither vague and boring nor rambling, so we suspect what they’re really expressing is their feeling that there isn’t enough repetition in our music.

Which to them must seem like quite a reasonable complaint, since more than any other art form conventional music is built on repetition, and it’s true much beautiful music has been created on this foundation.  Unfortunately it’s only a short step from there to seeing this lack of variety as a virtue, or even as an important part of the definition of music.  ( Music and Magic, Notation )
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Many trained musicians won’t be pleased to read what they do described as suffering from a lack of variety, but the facts speak for themselves.

In a conventional musical piece ( even a long one like a symphony ) there’re at most a handful of melodies and rhythms which repeat many times throughout the composition, and even when these are twisted in imaginative ways, all their various permutations must be related in strict almost mathematical ways.

While in most  “popular” or “folk” music there’s still less variety and often the repetitions are nearly exact.  Of course here we’re just talking about written versions of such music, because skilled performers automatically take the liberties needed to breathe life into even the simplest music.  ( Notation )
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However we’ve come to suspect the over-dependence of conventional music on precise repetition, rather than being necessary is actually just an historical accident related to the takeover of music by written notational systems.  ( Music and Magic )
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On our Notation and The Conventional Theory of Chords is Just a Special Case pages we talk about how musicologists have claimed two tones played at the same time sound “sweet” only when their fundamental frequencies are related in certain defined ways.

But though it’s true “notes” related in such ways do indeed sound “sweet”, singers and instrument players had been producing “sweetly related” tones long before the first music theorists appeared to define the standardized notes of the standard scales and then to speculate about their necessary frequency relationships.

That’s to say the experience of “sweetness” is more fundamental than the attempt to explain it in terms of frequencies, and any expert who forgets this is mistaking his self-created map for the territory.

Well the situation is very much the same with rhythm, except here the primary experience is not “sweetness”, it’s something more like “groove”.

So long before the coming of musicologists, humans were creating pieces of music with distinctive “rhythmic” structures.

But at that point, since arithmetic had not yet been invented and even counting was rudimentary, these early rhythms could not have been like the rigid ones dictated by music theory.

More probably they were related to naturally somewhat irregular processes like breathing, walking, and swinging one’s arms.
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Of course as well as being one result of music’s having sold its soul to its notational system, the repetition in Western music also serves a function, it’s one method of binding the separate parts of a piece into a single perceived unity.

But our music proves this isn’t the only way to do this.

Because we’ve created beautiful music which does not find its structure through rigid repetition, that instead unfolds through time as continually varying series of sound shapes connected to each other by their inner meaning, a bit like words are related to and follow each other in a piece of well written prose, or like steps follow each other on an irregular mountain path.  ( Work In Progress Frozen mp3 Blog )

Not only is this a more subtle way of forging a perceived unity, we like to think compared to the relatively rigid repetition of conventional music, our organic approach is more powerful.  Rather than being glued together by repeating themes, our pieces hang together like flowing developing living creatures.

One could even say they’re held together by magic.  ( Music and Magic )
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There’s lots of rhythm in our music, it’s just it’s continually evolving rhythm.  In fact our music has groove and beat powerful enough to slow your pulse.  You can hear it.  You can feel it.  Does it matter you can’t count it?

Similarly though our pieces are not built around small sets of specific themes and melodies, this doesn’t mean they don’t have melody.  It would be more accurate to say they’re pure melody unbrutalized by the need to fit some rigid structure, melody free to be ecstatic, lyrical and exquisite.
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In line with all of this, we’d like to suggest those trained musicians made uncomfortable by the lack of repetition in our music, are misperceiving it as damaged deficient rhymed poetry ( compared of course to their own strictly rhymed and regular products ), when they’d be closer to the truth if they opened their minds and learned to hear it as a type of ecstatic prose.

Or if they prefer psychological language they could try seeing our music as the result of restoring intuition to its rightful place as the most important source of musical creativity…. though this would of course demand they acknowledge rational elaboration properly deserves only a supporting role.

Or if they’re happier with mythological language they might try viewing our music as a return to music’s Dionysian origins.

Certainly it was an interesting development when late medieval and renaissance devotees of Apollonian clear thought infiltrated music, and the light they brought with them was perhaps even a useful corrective, but over time they went way too far.

Because in the process of chasing the darkness out of music, in the process of using their notational system to demote intuition and emotion to less prominent roles, they managed to banish a huge chunk of its soul and by so doing to turn Western music into a virtually magic free zone.  ( Music and Magic )
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Finally we’d like to point out the absence of strictly repeating themes in our music, does in a very real sense mean there’s more music in one of our pieces than in a conventional composition of the same length.

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Doing Music Differently****Music and Magic****The Indian Music Scene
Notation****Performance****Practice
The Conventional Theory of Chords is Just a Special Case
Home****Work In Progress Frozen mp3 Blog****Buy Our Music

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