Reprint: RPPW 14 – Rhythm Production and Perception Workshop, and The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II

In June of 2013, I received a Yahoo Society of Ethnomusicology groups e-mail regarding a call for papers and presenter for RPPW 14, Rhythm Production and Perception Workshop, hosted this year by the University of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England. I had never heard of the workshop but was immediately excited at learning of their existence.

One of my long-term goals is to share my books, The Elements of Rhythm Volumes I & II, with the academic community. The comprehensive list of fundamental building block rhythm patterns and the indexing system used to number and identify them could be applied in many areas of study and research, so, I submitted an abstract of my books and theory to see if there might be an interest.

There was!

rppwjpeg14I was invited to be a poster presenter at the conference, which meant I needed to create a 4’ x 3’ poster to be displayed on a board in a room filled with other presenters. The poster had to convey what my books contained, so I condensed the two volumes into two sections on this:

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The left side shows the logical progression of a beat divided into parts, and then the parts being assigned 0’s for silence and 1’s for sound to. This illustrated that rhythm patterns could be created and roughly depicted at any beat division level.

Below that table, the possible number of combinations per beat and beat division level were calculated. Then, the 0’s and 1’s were shown being combined with each other to create the actual number of possible patterns. In this case, it was for beat division level 2. I refer to these combinations as Absolute Sound Shapes.

Next, rest and note shapes replaced the 0’s and 1’s to create the notation version of the Absolute Sound Shapes. This is the approach to rhythm pattern theory introduced and explored in-depth in The Elements of Rhythm Volume I.

The second portion of the poster presented the Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System.  I developed this simple system to number and identify the Absolute Sound Shapes within each of the combination tables. In this example, a measure of 4/4 is divided into four parts (quarter notes) and assigned four different rhythm patterns. Below each pattern is its Binary Indexing Number (BIN). Those BIN’s are highlighted in each of the four combination tables found at the bottom of the poster, showing how the patterns evolves sequentially in each table.

On of the greatest honors for me was inclusion in the official RPPW 14 programme, which got used quite a bit during my three-day visit!

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After a 10-hour flight and gracious re-cooperative hosting by my friends, Bob Gentry and Tilly Casson, I left London by train and headed to Birmingham, two hours north. I hadn’t been back to Europe since I was in high school, and this was a lifelong dream to both return and to present my books and theory to the academic world. From September 11-13, I was completely immersed in the environment of some of the top rhythm perception researchers in the world. Surreal hardly even begins to describe the level of intelligence I was surrounded by.

Poster presenters were each given one minute to introduce themselves before the group each morning, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the first day. After listening to several Ph.D’s and Ph.D candidates give their 60-second summaries, I offered my books and theory as something that came from the layman’s world but could be applied to many levels of academic research. As far as I know, I was the only non-academic presenter at the conference.

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After the morning lecture sessions, we broke for lunch in the poster presenting room. Mine was at the very furthest end, but quite a few curious and interested individuals found their way by to check it out and ask me questions. For the next two hours, I lived a dream I’ve had for thirty years: being able to show a unique and finished product and entertain questions and discussion about it.

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Some of the people who came by included Dr. Andreas Daffertshofer, a researcher from the University of Amsterdam who specializes in human movement. Dr. Guy Madison is a research professor at Sweden’s Umeå University and is also a drummer, as was Dr. Carl Haakon Waadeland, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Daniel Cameron is a neuroscience researcher and Ph.D candidate from the University of Western Ontario and drummer/percussionist who even joined me a few days later in a drum set/hand drumming event I presented for local group of kids and parents through Tourettes-Action UK, a support group.

But I’d say the highlight honor was meeting and speaking with the host of RPPW 14, Prof. Alan Wing. In the world of rhythm and timing research, he is the big dog rock star. He co-wrote a paper forty years ago that has remained the standard by which timing and rhythm perception questions are largely measured. I thanked him for the invitation to present and gave him a copy of my books, something I’d wanted to do for years.

My plan is to keep attending such conferences, make contact with the academic world, and work to bridge the gap between science and the arts. Our world as drummers is fascinating and relatively unexplored by science. I want to encourage this and hopefully offer my books and theory as source material to enhance that exploration.

To this end, I’m going to be collaborating with Dr. Gareth Dylan Smith, a drummer and head of the Percussion Studies division at  London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. We are going to specifically work to promote the drum set as an instrument of academic study across many platforms. Gareth is also the author of I Drum, Therefore I am (Ashgate Press), and I wrote a short blog piece about him here two years ago.

I can’t really describe what it’s like to see a dream that took so long all the way through other than to say this: it’s worth every minute, every struggle, every sacrifice, and every step you take to finish what you start. When you do, you learn to live and keep living. It’s huge, and it’s fuel for much more to come…

(Originally published in David Aldridge’s Drumming Blog, October 10, 2013)

Finale Music Interview, The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II, April 2013

I wanted to share an interview with Finale Music for this site that readers might find of interest. It was a massive undertaking to complete both volumes of The Elements of Rhythm, and I made my way to the Finale booth at the 2013 NAMM show to share my books and express my deep gratitude for their product and its publishing power.

Here’s the link to the Finale interview:

http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/creating-anything-you-can-imagine-with-finale/

I posted a similar link on my related site, David Aldridge’s Drumming Blog (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/finale-music-and-the-elements-of-rhythm-vols-i-ii-cyber-ink-on-steroids/)

When I saw them at this past NAMM (2015), I was introduced to SmartMusic and its capability for creating lessons that used interactive materials. I can create lessons, send them to students who have a SmartMusic subscription, and they can play along in real time. If they play incorrect notes, the examples are marked for review.

I am really looking forward to exploring this capability for teaching The Elements of Rhythm in both volumes. I’ll post more in the future to show where this has gone, but for now, I hope you enjoy the interview with a great company that I cannot say enough positive things about. I do not receive any discounts of free materials from them, by the way. I just like what they make, because it helps me make more of what I like.

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– David R. Aldridge

Binary Rhythm Indexing System from The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I

One of the key and unique components to The Elements of Rhythm series and its introduction of binary rhythm pattern theory is the way in which we classify and catalog the fundamental building block rhythm patterns. I recall showing the book draft to Peter Erskine several years ago, and one of the most important questions he could have asked me was, “What are you going to do with all of those 0/1 combination tables?” I told him I didn’t quite know yet but that I was sure there was an application that either myself or someone else would come up with.

Shortly after that conversation, I discovered some work by mathematician/musician Vi Hart, where she gave a presentation regarding a simple way to identify basic rhythm patterns using 0s and 1s. It seemed we were on a similar path, so I contacted her and asked how far she’d worked out her system. Vi replied that she had only down a little work, so I expanded on her idea and came up with the Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System.

The idea is that we can classify and catalog each of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns by their event point level grouping and the sequence in which they logically and naturally occur.

The Binary Rhythm Pattern Indexing System is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it doesn’t exist anywhere in music theory or rhythm research, at least not as far as I was able to find at the time I published The Elements of Rhythm in 2012. Secondly, it can be used by anyone who is interested in systematically researching rhythm patterns and wanting to somehow identify their fundamental essence.

It’s a system that’s in its infancy, waiting to be explored as a tool and modified as needed. For now, it can give you a basic idea of how to catalog and classify the basic patterns for up to eight event point levels (beat note groupings or beat note divisions). I hope it can prove to be of use in your work, and please feel free to submit comments on its use, application and improvement. My special thanks to Vi Hart for the inspiration to find meaning in the numbers. She’s amazing in that way, and I invite you to explore her own works further, at http://www.vihart.com

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(excerpts reprinted with permission from The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Rollinson Publishing Co., 2012)

What Is Binary Rhythm Pattern Theory?

When you look at a piano keyboard, you see every note you will be able to play on it. All the tones you’ll be experimenting with are right there in front of you. The same idea applies to a guitar fretboard. There’s no mystery as to where the tones are that you will use to create with.

When we study music theory, we learn about the relationship those tones have to each other, and how they can be combined to form chords. We learn about the intricacies of harmony, counterpoint, and all the elements of tonal music we’ll need to advance our knowledge of composition and song construction.

But what is binary rhythm pattern theory? Simply put, it’s the equivalent of music music theory for rhythm pattern development and evolution, based on the systematic combining of 0s and 1s to create a complete list of all the building block rhythm patterns that are then re-written using conventional rhythm notation.

And, it’s what The Elements of Rhythm series are fundamentally based upon.

If you visit the website (www.theElementsofRhythm.com), you can see Sample Pages from Vol. I that introduce a look at the essence of our approach to rhythm pattern theory. Unlike a piano keyboard or guitar fretboard, musicians have not had a source they could reference and study to actually see how rhythm patterns are formed and how they evolve… until now.

There have not really been classes available to explore rhythm pattern theory for the same reason: the source material never existed… until now.

So what we’re really talking about is an aspect of music theory that has not been able to be explored… until now. This is significant, because most musicians you talk with will not have any real reference to the subject. It’s going to take some time, maybe quite some time, for the idea and the application to find its way into the music education world.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger, more complex patterns are constructed from. There’s an incredibly elegant and logical organization to how these patterns evolve, and there is irrefutable (and simple math) proof that this order exists. It’s every bit as logical as the study of tones in music theory, and every bit as useful for advancing our knowledge of rhythm pattern composition and advanced pattern construction.

Besides providing the basic list of patterns that can be studied and mastered, rhythm pattern theory lets us approach the subject of polyrhythms in a way never really seen before. By mastering the polyrhythms in simple formats, such as 5/4, we can go on to recognize their sounds and shapes in 5/8, 5/16, and 5/32. Then, when these shapes are encountered in more complex rhythmic environments, they are already familiar to the reader to some degree.

We will be providing many examples in future posts to give readers realistic application of the patterns presented in Vols. I & II.  For now, we first need to introduce the term and the concept. We hope you will share this post with other musicians to let them know that rhythm pattern theory exists, because it holds great potential for expanding all players’ grasp of what it possible in the world of measured time.