[Ardour-Dev] Tempo Maps and Complex Meters

Fons Adriaensen fons at kokkinizita.net
Wed Mar 18 17:10:26 PDT 2009

On Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 06:28:53PM +0000, Ben Bell wrote:

> [1] Actually, anything written with any denominator is musically
>     identical when rewritten with a different denominator. It's just a
>     mapping to the tempo.

I've quoted only this footnote, but will comment on more
than that. 

But first this footnote, and some of the other remarks on
tempo notation. Is 3/5 the same as 3/4 ? When you look at
either in isolation, maybe yes, In a context where both
occur or alternate could you see 3/5 as 3/4 with a tempo
change ? Technically yes, but musically probably not (see
below). And of course even mathematical equality does not
imply the same in musical terms, the simplest example being
3/4 vs. 6/8. This is just a convention, you could notate
a waltz in 6/8, but it's not done since 6/8 is supposed
to convey the intention of a bar divided in two, not three.

The term 'intention' is the key one here. Contemporary
production techniques are blurring the dividing line,
but there is traditionally a very clear distinction 
between a musical score, and a rendering of a score.

The score conveys the intentions of the composer, and
can do this even without being an exact representation
of the intended result - in almost all cases it isn't.
In other words, a score is something that is meant to
be interpreted, and this remains true even if many
aspects of such an interpretation are dictated by e.g.

So when a composer writes something in 3/4 and in the
middle of that piece you have some bars in 3/5, what
does that mean ? It is not just a change in tempo.
If written like that, it could very well mean that 
somehow the original tempo is still supposed to be
present in the 3/5 part, and that this part should
be played in such as way as to express this. How to
do that is left to the player, the composer just 
knows it is possible to do this.

The *result* of all this you can probably reduce
to a common denominator, but that is just the 
result, or more exactly, one of the many possible
results of interpreting such a score. The *intention*
is lost by doing this, so there is in fact no point
in ever using such a reduced notation.



Laboratorio di Acustica ed Elettroacustica
Parma, Italia

Be quiet, Master Land; and you, Professor,
will you be so good as to listen to me ?

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