Continuous rhythms in Welcome (to my nutso garden)
Welcome (to my nutso garden) is a recent piece of mine. The title was inspired by a friend who said it sounds like “demented children’s-show theme-music.”
As you may have guessed, this piece was a collaboration between me and my computer. The main thing we were experimenting with was “continuous” rhythms.
What are continuous rhythms? Well, most if not all, human music uses “rational” rhythms, where the durations are small-integer ratios of one another.1 For example, a quarter-note is 2 times an eighth-note, 3 times a triplet, 4/3rds of a dotted eighth-note, and so on.
But computers don’t need to restrict themselves in this way! If the rhythms in this piece sound a bit unusual, a bit spastic, or a bit hard to grok, it’s because in choosing its rhythms, the computer here is arbitrarily chopping up the number line, rather than sticking with small-integer ratios.
You can read more about small-integer ratios in human music in this wonderful article: Nori Jacoby and Josh H. McDermott. 2017. “Integer Ratio Priors on Musical Rhythm Revealed Cross-Culturally by Iterated Reproduction.” Current Biology 27 (3): 359–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.031. ↩
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