Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, January 17, 2004


High school students run a public radio station in Seattle -- "C89, Seattle's Hottest Music." Uptempo dance dance dance music. I'm hopelessly behind-the-times, and couldn't tell you the names of the dance music genres of the last 15 or 20 years, but this station is true to its slogan -- it's HOT. Great beats, powerful singing, almost all songs about that great pop staple, that staff of life: Lust. Though once I heard a song there, the chorus of which was a chorus of cheerfully masculine men chanting, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Go, Little Engine, Go! Another song I heard there had a driving beat and a diva wailing, "Remember me? I'm the one who had your baby." Those were the only words of the song, sung a dozen or more times with galvanic dance music riffing between. It made me cry.

One of the modern dance genres -- I'm guessing it's techno or house, not electronica, but as I said I'm not sure -- often creates a wonderful rhythmic power by crossing 5/4 rhythm over the basic 4/4 dance beat, the 5/4 usually being played by an organ/sythesizer with the bass and drums keeping the main 4/4. West African music and its myriad North and South American stylistic descendents have always had a 3/4 over 4/4 cross-rhythm power move, but I'd never heard (or maybe never noticed) a 5/4 over 4/4 cross-rhythm. The 5/4 over 4/4 rocks me!

5/4 is a cool meter. There's the lovely Desmond/Brubeck "Take Five," of course, and some stray songs by the Byrds and Led Zeppelin. I recently read, in Constant Lambert's terrific book "Music Ho!" (written in the 1930s, a history of modern European-institutional ["classical"] music by an English composer), that the early 19th century Russian composer Glinka (whose music I've never knowingly heard) was the first "classical" composer to introduce the 5/4 meter. A middle movement of Tchaikovsky's great 6th Symphony, the "Pathetique," is in 5/4. I want to know more about 5/4.
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