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<  'Ellipse' Discussion  ~  Time Signatures

DavidB
Posted: Mon Aug 24, 2009 12:32 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Jul 2009 Posts: 1203 Location: London
I think Immi said on the vBlogs that three of the tracks on Ellipse were in 3-time. Earth and Canvas are two of them, but which is the other? Does anyone remember if Immi mentioned this?

'Between Sheets' could be interpreted as 3/4 with a fast tempo, but it sounds to me more like 4/4 with triplets in the piano part. I'm not sure about 'The Fire', as there are long pauses and tempo changes in it, but it sounds like 3/4 towards the end.

I'm not an expert musician, but I like to know about these technical things. Can anyone help me out?
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AvantGuy
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:11 am Reply with quote
Joined: 12 Feb 2009 Posts: 117 Location: New York
DavidB wrote:
I think Immi said on the vBlogs that three of the tracks on Ellipse were in 3-time. Earth and Canvas are two of them, but which is the other? Does anyone remember if Immi mentioned this?

'Between Sheets' could be interpreted as 3/4 with a fast tempo, but it sounds to me more like 4/4 with triplets in the piano part. I'm not sure about 'The Fire', as there are long pauses and tempo changes in it, but it sounds like 3/4 towards the end.

I'm not an expert musician, but I like to know about these technical things. Can anyone help me out?


I'd agree with you: Canvas, The Fire, and Earth (sort of) are in three, at least in part. So often there are several equally "correct" ways to notate a stretch of music, but I'll offer how some of Ellipse's tunes feel to me...

<warning, painfully pedantic>

Canvas: three beats for sure!! After that squarish-metered intro, we have a waltz time that Johann Strauss would envy. 3/4 is my bet. It's a swingin' three as well. Her vocal entry is syncopated (off the beat), and that adds a lot of extra coolness and makes it a wee bit harder to decide where the bar line hits. Imogen so cleverly shifts the accents around (the whole tune has all kinds of way-cool syncopation), but I think the 3/4 is held throughout.

Earth has a triple feel, but I'd say it'd likely be notated as six (maybe a fast 6/8), which is often explained as six beats-per-bar divided as two groups of three beats, with every alternating one getting a slightly heavier accent (at the bar line). If you cut the time, it can be felt as a slow 3. If I were to notate it, I'd make it a fast 6/4 time, because the accenting feels pretty even except for the heavier accent every six beats. Caveat: It's not totally clear, because not every bar has the same beat stress. This is a *good* thing.

Up to 1:15, The Fire may just as well be thought of as unmetered, then it goes to a definite three-feel.

Besides those examples in three, Ellipse is loaded with cool time:

First Train Home could be seen as a two-beats-per bar (2/4, 2/2...). This gives it a march-like feel, perfect for the evocative choo-choo-train onomatopoeia she creates!

Yes, I feel Between Sheets just like you do: Four-per-bar with a continuous triplet "decoration".

Wait it Out might be the trickiest of all, time-wise. There are a few places I can't decide whether a beat is added or removed (or if it's just tempo manipulation), thus making the predominant 4/4 into a bar here and there of 3/4 or 5/4. There are places where the 4/4 is undisturbed, but the tempo is pulled so much that the bar line falls like tripping over the crack in a sidewalk. I like that.

Dig it: In Little Bird (I love that song), I feel a medium-fast eight-per-bar. Eight has sometimes been used in jazz to sensational effect. So, shall we call Little Bird 8/4 or 8/8? :--)

</warning>

I've never heard a pop album with such fluidity in time, metre, tempo, and inflection. Half Life is a marvel. It's "only" a loping 4/4, but Imogen's playing with that beat - going behind it often, is just so lovingly sinewy. Along with that, the simple tune and accompaniment nearly bring me to tears.
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DavidB
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:39 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Jul 2009 Posts: 1203 Location: London
Hooray - I'm glad someone else likes Little Bird! It is musically one of the most adventurous things she has done - just try following the chord progression. And the counterpoint in the backing vocals is brilliant. And as for Earth, there must be about 20 vocal parts....

I think Immi said in a vBlog that Canvas has the music (instruments) in 3/4, but the vocal in 4/4. I've tried counting out the vocal line, but I keep getting pulled back to the three-beat rhythm of the instruments.

I didn't realise Wait It Out was so complicated, but I will listen to it more carefully now.
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AvantGuy
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:12 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 12 Feb 2009 Posts: 117 Location: New York
I'd say Wait It Out is tricky, but maybe not complicated :-)

And, oh Great Jove yes, Little Bird is fantastic! Like I wrote in her Soundcloud page for that track, those chord changes slay me. Some day when I hear Ellipse enough times to really settle into it, it could become my favourite, although Half Life sure does tug on me at the moment. I don't think I'll ever really pick a fave, and perhaps not even a top three. I couldn't do it with S4Y (I will revise that: As for videos related to S4Y, that live studio show of Just for Now with Zach What's-His-Name hosting is one of my favourite music performances of all time, and that includes Miles Davis on So What!).

Yeah, it's interesting about Canvas: I just now listened to it again to be sure, and after that brilliantly elusive intro, I hear nothing but three. In the intro I'm not sure what I'm hearing time-wise. I just enjoy the ride.
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DavidB
Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:49 am Reply with quote
Joined: 02 Jul 2009 Posts: 1203 Location: London
I was watching vBlog 29 again, and found the part where Immi mentions the time signature of Canvas. Check out especially from 4m20s onwards. She says that the instrumental music is in 3/4 but the vocal (or at least the chorus part beginning 'but I just can't find the strength') is in 4/4. She even plays that section of the song while counting out the 4/4 rhythm. Part of the trick is that the tempo of the 4/4 is slower than that of the 3/4. But unless my ears deceive me the vocal must have been re-recorded after the vBlog, because the version on the album seems to have a slightly different rhythm, which fits in better with the 3/4 backing. I think it can still be counted in 4/4, but it is not so obvious.

There are various other unusual things about the rhythm of Canvas, but I won't bore on about that now.
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TómasAlexander
Posted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:34 am Reply with quote
Joined: 16 Nov 2009 Posts: 331 Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada
I think you'll find it easier to count if you put Canvas in 9/8 and Between Sheets in 12/8. That'll make the phrasing work a little better.

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