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--- Oct 18 2006 Go to category
Subject: Odd Meters
Category: Composing
From: Charlie Olvera (Carmel, IN, USA)

Hello Pat. My name is Charlie Olvera, and I am a 16 year old drummer and guitarist. I was introduced to your music two years ago by my high school marching drumline instructor. He, like most of the marching music community, was completely taken with your music, particularly the songs "First Circle" and "Electric Counterpoint", the latter of which was my introduction to the fascination world of modern classical music. The first song of yours I really heard was "First Circle", which, as a drummer, immediately caught my attention due to its odd metric structure. As I explored more of your work, I noticed that many of your compositions, such as "45/8", "5-5-7", "Have You Heard", and of course "First Circle", have odd metric schemes. As an aspiring composer, I wondered if, when you write, you set out with a plan to use a specific meter, or if you just let the feel or melody of the song dictate the metric scheme?

Thank you for helping to fuel my love of writing and playing music, and always giving me a higher musical standard to which I can aspire. Your music inspires me to reach new musical heights every day, and it is a constant reminder that I always have something to learn.

Pat’s Answer:

hi charlie,

when something is in an odd meter it is often a surprise to me. usually an idea has a certain dna that almost encapsulates all the ways it can be developed. if the basic idea (which could be a melodic or harmonic one as well as a rhythmic one) happens to be irregular in some way, it is often a benefit. in the case of first circle, that, in fact started as a rhythmic idea - but i quickly found that it was irregular, it wasn’t just the same pattern over and over again. and it was only after the idea had emerged and i was in the process of notating it that i noticed that it was shifting meters so much. i think it is always good to just let the music be what it seems to want to be. there are times that a more formalized compositional approach can be a great entry point (i.e. finding a rhythmic pattern to work with that may or may not be in a certain meter), but i find that once i am in there under the hood, all bets are off.

best from pat