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  • The Digital Verses Conventional Music Debate

    If your a musician, or perhaps even an avid music enthusiast no doubt at some stage you have either had, or overheard the digital verses conventional music debate, which of course despite having different nuances, generally boils down to...

Tag Archives: Hip Hop

The Pulse of Life & Primary Beats

One could sit and ponder for hours from a musicology perspective on all the reasons why electronic music has flourished so strongly in recent years and so to why associated genres such as rap, hip hop and rnb continue to flourish, what is it about this style of music that speaks to people so much? Is it simply a change of interest? Is it the sound specifically, is it that it carries some particular message or motif that people resonate with? or is it that it is simply the music of a particular generation, or a combination of all or more factors?


Truly, I don't know, but then again, the same could be said of any genre or style of music and while it certainly could be said that at times no doubt the lyrical content and melodic content resonates with people on different levels, be they inspirational or reflective of emotions, what I do see, or rather hear in the music consistently, is the very thing that ties it all together, no matter whether cutting edge experimental electronic or old school rap and hip hop…

What keeps it all together? Why the beats of course.

The beats in large part set the tonality and establish the pulse of the music itself, no matter what dynamic or melodic pattern is layered on top of these it ultimately always comes back to the primary beat or the primary rhythm, and while a rhythm or beat may in-fact be set or established by non percussive instruments, it is a common role for the percussive section to take as they are extremely suited towards it.

Now why is this relevant to think about at all? Well, if your not a musician, composer or producer yourself, admittedly it might not be something you have ever thought about, however if you listen to a lot of music and you have ever found yourself swaying your head to the song, if you have ever been on a dance floor moving about, and in fact, if you have ever been exercising to music and find your steps starting to syncopate with the song, your actually moving and responding to that primary beat and pulse, acting in accordance with it.

Interestingly, at times, even in the case of a solo instrumental piece, even in the complete absence of an auditory rhythm or pattern, you will still hear and feel the beat in complete silence, as it is reflected through the clear sense of timing surrounding the melodic pattern itself.

Is it this nature of dynamic pulse and clear rhythm that makes electronic music so powerful? Is it this strong backing of beats that allows rap and hip hop artists to express strong spoken word poetry in the form of lyric, curiously in rap music you will also note that the words are also not only articulated in accordance with the beat, but maintain there own pulsation in the very flow of them being spoken as well, sometimes in a secondary rhythmic pattern or melody and is this the reason why these genres attain and maintain such popularity?

Probably not, because if you look through all genres of music, from classical symphonies, to free form jazz, to modern day pop tunes, and literally everything in between, if you listen you will feel a pulse, you will feel a beat, even if one is not overtly heard, of course percussion and beats can be used for melody also, but the purpose of this written piece is to think about the primary beat.percussion_drums

As a matter of interest, stop and put on any piece of music that is currently trending in the top charts, in any genre, look at say, the top ten for what ever category you care to review, now I have not checked ahead of writing this article, but with some degree of certainty I would imagine that if you stripped away all the vocal and the melody, underneath it would be a well established primary beat, and it is that with which you find yourself moving to and dancing to, and while taking radically different variations throughout the past, the same has been true of nearly all western music (I cant speak for others as I have not studied them extensively) from its historic beginnings, through to now, from the beauty of Brahms through to the experimental brilliance of Venetian Snares.

Don't misunderstand, I don't think anyone would simply think its just the primary beat that makes or breaks music, because its not, as any music teacher or musicologist will tell you, there is far more to it than that (I mean I will tell you that, but I don't particularly feel like writing war and peace today) however when it comes to these very heavily beat orientated musical genres such as modern electronic, rap and hip hop, there is no escaping the power of the primary beat and pulse.

Its philosophically insightful to think about in a way, as just as music often contains this primary pulse and beat, so to does our very life, the heartbeat, the pulse, keeping everything together and moving in time, life its own symphony, or perhaps an electro-set for the more contemporary reading.  

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