When people first hear our music, they are 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 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 whenever we heard Drupad, it was always the alap that appealed to us the most, and once the music sped up and the other instruments joined in, it 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, 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.
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.
By contrast our suspicion is that being able to play fast and loud has almost nothing to do with music, and is really just a performance skill which has led to most music being totally cluttered up with unnecessary trills and ornamentation that add nothing and only detract from the beauty of the overall sound shape.
Since when performers strain brain and fingers to play a million unnecessary surplus notes, there’s no way they can do as good a job exploring a piece’s subtlety. ( Practice )
Another striking feature of our music is it tends to be very low pitched.
And here too, Drupad music may have been an early inspiration…..
Or it may just be that we’re relaxation junkies… because like slow music, low tones can only be produced by relaxation.
Because of this music that’s both slow and low has a completely different effect on the listener from the fast high pitched stuff which dominates contemporary music.
Indeed by producing the slowest most consistently low pitched music that anyone has ever heard, we feel we’re doing our part in the battle against the out of control speed which almost defines modern 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 will help them slow down enough to think clearly, to be creative, and to open to beauty.
When you are speeding along a highway at 90 mph, all you see is the road, whereas when you are ambling along a path, there’s time to admire the trees, flower, and birds.
Also it’s probably worth noting that there’s a built in inverse relation between low tones and fast music, since it’s technically much more difficult for a musician to play a succession of fast low notes than one of fast high notes.
So our preference for low pitched tones is obviously related to our love and fascination with slow music.
…… and varied
There’s a third and very important way that our stuff differs from almost everything else that’s out there, which is that our music is not tied to any rigidly unchanging rhythm.
And it’s very interesting trained musicians and ordinary listeners tend to react to this freedom in quite different ways.
Ordinary listeners who have not been trained to think musical sounds must march in a kind of lock step, do of course notice that what we’re doing is rhythmically unusual, but it doesn’t bother them. So if they comment on it at all, they usually say something about how our music flows like “nature sounds”, that it reminds them of running water or the singing of birds, or even that we “sound like whales ( which naturally we take as a great compliment ).
Trained musicians, on the other hand, often criticize our free and flowing 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, but we suspect that what they are 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 undeniable that much beautiful music has been created on this foundation. So it’s not surprising many musicians have come to see conventional music’s lack of variety as a virtue, or even as an important part of the definition of music.
Many trained musicians probably would not be pleased to hear 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 are at most a handful of melodies and rhythms which repeat many times throughout the composition, and even when they are twisted in imaginative ways, all of their various permutations must be related in a strict nearly mathematically determined way.
While in much “popular” or “folk” music there’s even less variety since often the repetitions are almost exact. Of course here we’re just talking about written versions of the music, because good performers automatically take the liberties necessary to breath life into their music. ( Notation )
However we’ve come to suspect this dependence of conventional music on repetition, rather than being a necessary characteristic of music, is actually just an historical accident related to its takeover by written systems of notation.
Because we’ve been able to create beautiful music which does not find its structure through rigid repetition, that instead unfolds through time as a continually varying series of sound shapes which are connected to each other by their inner meaning, somewhat 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.
On our notation page we talk about how musicologists have claimed that two tones played at the same time sound “sweet” only when their fundamental frequencies are related in certain simple ways.
And while it’s true that “notes” related in this way do indeed sound “sweet”, we point out that singers and instrument players had been producing “sweetly related” notes long before the first music theorists appeared to invent ( define? ) their “notes” and to speculate about their necessary frequency relationships.
That is to say it is the experience of “sweetness” not the theorists’ attempt to explain it with frequency relationships which is primary, and those who forget this are mistaking their 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 “perceived unity”.
So long before the coming of musicologists, humans were creating pieces of music, and certainly one of the things that made these creations hang together as individual pieces was their distinctive “rhythmic” structure.
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 proscribed by music theory.
More probably they were related to naturally irregular processes like breathing, walking, and swinging one’s arms.
So we would like to suggest those trained musicians who are uncomfortable with the lack of repetition in our music, are in a sense perceiving it as damaged deficient rhymed poetry ( compared of course to their own strictly rhymed and regular products ), when they would 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 prime source of musical creativity…. though this would of course demand they acknowledge that rational elaboration should have 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.
2,500 years ago it was an interesting development when Apollonian devotees of clear thought infiltrated music, and the light they brought with them probably was a useful corrective, but over time they went way too far.
Because in the process of chasing the last remaining darkness out of music, in the process of making intuition and emotion less and less important in its creation, they also managed to banish a huge chunk of its soul.
We’d also like to suggest there is in fact lots of repetition in our music, it’s just it isn’t strict repetition, because that we try to avoid.
We’d also like to point out that the absence of strictly repeating themes in our music, means that in one very real sense there’s more music in one of our pieces than there is in a conventional composition of the same length.