Kawara

A Mix of Rhythm

Musing,

When describing time it’s useful to use musical metaphors. In anticipation of Kawara’s release, here is a mix highlighting contemporary percussion and tracks encapsulating the overlap.

① Alva Noto + Ryuchi Sakamoto, Reverso (2011)

Appropriately, the mix starts with the subtle pulse of an electronically manipulated acoustic impulse. Establishing the cadence for several measures, an excerpt of Leonard Bernstein from “The Unanswered Question” simply states “The answer is yes.” Bernstein’s Harvard lecture series (1973) is a masterclass in the rudiments of music theory, and approaches the subject from a series of analogues derived from linguistics. At one point Bernstein lucidly expands on an “intelligent comprehension of duration.” Indeed.

② Lee Gamble, Quadripoints (2017)

Our BPM slips upwards as Reverso tempo ramps into Quadripoints, similarly structured around a constant sharp metronomic beat. Sakamoto’s piano, as proccessed by Noto, are replaced by pure synthesized waveforms. The tempo is drastically faster.

③ Meara O'Reilly, Hockets for Two Voices: VI. (2019)

In the entire series of seven hockets there are never more than two notes occurring at one time, although there may often be the perception that there are many more. When writing the pieces, O’Reilly drew inspiration from psychoacoustic researcher Albert Bregman, who demonstrated how the limits of our perceptual processes and attention actively shape our experiences of music. First impression may suggest Hockets to exist outside our established motif of rhythm, but upon further listening it becomes clear an absence of constant tempo would result in absolute sonic dissonance.

④ Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, Ritme Jaavdanegi (2019)

The tombak is a traditional Iranian drum known for its wide range of tonalities and striking techniques. Reflecting on his childhood in Iran - where he first learned the tombak and famously surpassed his teacher’s knowledge by the age of 9 - the artist found an 11/8 time signature in the Farsi phrasing for “Rit - me - Jaav - da - ne - gi”.

⑤ Four Tet, Percussions One (2011)

This mix would be amiss if it were to go without acknowledging the context in which rythym is often felt most viscerally—the dance floor. It’s difficult to avoid cliché when describing Four Tet, a staple of clubs over the past decade. “Skittering shuffles” can only be said so many times. Perhaps it’s best to simply listen to this one and leave the pedanticism at the front-door.

⑥ Squarepusher, Do You Know Squarepusher (2002)

While we’re here, we might as well give a nod to the mastermind of electronically deconstructed percussion. The excerpt of Tom describing his process in the home studio is a classic clip.

⑦ Jojo Mayer (1998)

A clip of percussionist Jojo Mayer describing techniques used to emulate the chopped sounds of drum and bass producers’ electronically manipulated samples of acoustic drums. This percussive hall of mirrors reveals the drum sequencer as a discreet collaborator, inspiring new ways of utilizing old acoustic techniques.

⑧ Steve Reich, Drumming Part 1 (1970)

This piece, the first in Reich’s Drumming series, encapsulates many conceptual motifs foundational to Kawara, the clearest being phases—ways in which rhythmic patterns of variable tempo overlap.

⑨ Max Roach, Hi-Hat

We’re ending at the beginning of recent percussive history. Max Roach’s iconic hi-hat solo, and a nod to Papa Jo Jones.

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