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Free Groove

Groove, defined conventionally, is a rhythm whose notes conform time-wise to a periodic pulse grid that specifies which beats are permitted and which are verboten. You can tease the grid, play ahead of it, play behind it, speed it up, slow it down, syncopate. But you must respect it and, ultimately, adhere to it. This is particularly true in dance music, where stepping outside the grid is like breaking a sacred contract between composer and audience.

I’d like to expand the definition of groove to include any rhythm that “swings” – that has vitality, complexity, intelligence, musicality, beauty. For example: the rhythm of spoken language (conversation and recitation), the rhythm of abstract electronica (think: Ryuji Ikeda), the rhythm of freeform improvisation (free jazz), the rhythm of natural phenomena (a forest, thunderstorm, city street), and so on.

For clarity, let’s call rhythms that adhere to a periodic grid, pulse, meter, etc. grooves and rhythms that don’t free grooves. And, rather than thinking of these two rhythmic species as mutually exclusive, let’s think of them as two poles of a groove continuum, with an infinite set of groove gradations in-between.

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 7:45 am by rachmiel · Permalink