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Groove Fascism

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” A great quote from a great man … but one that electronica composers seem to have taken all too narrowly. For the Duke, swing was not simply drums or the rhythm section. It was the way that beat, meter, tempo, melody, harmony, phrasing, and silence played off one another. Its power derived not from exact repetition or quantization, but from organic flow, musical breathing.

These days, downtown, grass-roots electronica is beset with “groove fascism.” It’s groove über alles, baby; a sorry state of e-musical affairs.

Abandoning groove is not the solution. Stepping out from under the yoke of groove fascism is. There are lots of ways to get started. Dare to thwart the ‘Thou shalt write in 4/4’ commandment by throwing in some odd meters, unexpected accents and missed or extra beats. Develop your melodic and harmonic skills and feature them in your pieces, instead of just using them as foils to the almighty groove. Push your beats beyond their (and your) comfortable borders by using unconventional percussion sounds, varying tempo, layering polymeters. Listen to Autechre, Murcof, Richard Devine, Venetian Snares, Twerk, Webern, Stravinsky, Bartok, Stockhausen.

Or, take the truly dangerous leap from the metronomic to the linguistic. Model your rhythmic flow after the subtle, non-quantized, and very expressive rhythms of spoken language. Zappa said it best: Make your music speak.

Posted on December 27, 2011 at 11:40 am by rachmiel · Permalink