Another reaction game, this time with a musical signal. You will hear music in a meter of 4 (e.g. 4/4). If you hear a division of 3 on the 4th beat, the next measure will be in a meter of 3 (e.g. 3/4), for one measure only.
There are many possible ways to interact with this recording. If moving through space, try stepping on 1 and lightly playing drum, sticks, etc., or just silently clapping, on the other beats. For more of a challenge, do the reverse: play/clap on 1 and step the other beats of the measure. Be sure to take advantage of all the space (high, low, diagonals, back, front…) around you. If sitting, you could assign these roles to your left and right hands or simply conduct.
One note of warning: I did quite a few takes of this recording, many of which I liked but each of which contained at least one error. I finally decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This means that there will be at least one place in the recording that you will wish to give me “the fish eye”.
Measures of 5 are most often broken up into groups of 3’s and 2’s. (The classic model is Brubeck’s “Take Five”.) In this activity, I play with length and placement of those groupings. The simplest way to interact with the recording here would simply be to keep track of 1 within the measure of 5 beats by stepping, clapping. Better yet, move the entire length of the measure taking full advantage of the space around you (up, down, sides, diagonals, etc.)
You’ll hear me call out numbers. For a further challenge, as you step on 1 acknowledge the number I call (2, 3, 4 or 5) with a hand clap, a tap on a drum, or maybe even a toss of a scarf. Want more fun? Use a balloon. 🙂 If using the scarf, aim to catch it on the next downbeat. (This might take some practice for some of the numbers.)
Here’s the recording:
And here’s a playlist of tracks in 5 from different genres for more exploration of music in 5.
Here we play with beats of 2, 3 and 4 divisions. I start with 3, which I am playing with a swing feel on the recording. At “hip” I take a way a division (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 2), at “hop” I add one (e.g. 3 divisions becomes 4). I am playing in a measure of 2 or a duple meter. “Return” signals a change back to 3. It could be notated in 6/8 with a dotted quarter beat for “3”; 2/4 with a quarter note beat for “2”, and 2/2 with a half note beat (and eight note subdivision) for “4”. The eighth note is kept at a constant tempo–or at least that is my intention! This is known as a “reaction” game or activity in Dalcroze parlance. In this case the signal is verbal (they can also be visual, musical or tactile).
Try bouncing and catching a ball on the beat. Bounce from one hand and catch to the other, alternating hands each time. It becomes a short study in the relationship between time, space and energy.
It is common practice in jazz to move between 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, however most often the beat stays constant (rather than the division or subdivision). I do remember Wynton Marsalis experimenting with this device on a couple early albums from the 1980’s, however. I’ll see if I can find it and update this post if I do.
Or… maybe you have an example in any genre of music you’d like to share?
In a measure of two beats, the length of beat can change from as low as two divisions (e.g. two eighths with a quarter note beat) to 6 divisions (e.g. 6 eighths with a dotted half note beat). I call the number of divisions right before each change. You could:
Simply step, gesture or conduct the beat (always in groups of 2; only the length of the beat changes).
Step the beat, gesture or silently clap the divisions. Also the reverse.
Step the division on 1 and the length of the whole beat on 2.
Toss a scarf (if not a scarf, it will need an object with some sort of air resistance unless you are outside or have very tall ceilings!) on the first beat, catch it on the second.
Same as above but also step the division on 1 and the full length of the beat on 2.
Plenty more ways you could get creative with this.
We’ll work with this activity (among others) in the Open Class Wednesday morning, October 6, 2020. This is a free Open Level Drop-in Dalcroze class I’m offering online during October and November. Send me your info through the contact form and I’ll put you on the list.
This is the first of a series of posts for adults interesting in practicing eurhythmics on their own. The following is a known as “Reaction Game” in Dalcroze parlance. In a reaction game, a signal (auditory (musical or non-musical), visual, verbal or tactile) tells the participants what to do to explore a given musical subject. In this case, the subject is “Changing Meter”. See the instructions below for suggestions on how to use the lo-fi home recording I recently made. Better yet, make up your own variation!
Divisions of 2 on the last beat of the measure call for duple meter (e.g. 2/4); 3 call for triple meter (e.g. 3/4); 4 call for quadruple meter (e.g. 4/4). Suggestions: gesture the measure freely; step the beat or measure and conduct; toss a scarf on 1; clap the measure and step the beat, being careful to use space to express the measure grouping.