Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rhythm in Life

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to share with a child the experience of a live performance of something that is timeless in character. We heard Dave Brubeck play live last week. He’s an outstanding pianist, and surrounds himself with equally outstanding musicians.

He's best known for music of different rhythms: Take Five is in 5/4 time, Blue Rondo à la Turk is in 9/8. These are unusual rhythms, common time being four beats per measure. Both Take Five and Blue Rondo are (for most people, anyway) intrinsically appealing, even if the source of the appeal remains a mystery to most.

Recognising what makes these pieces unique is itself a form of meta-awareness. Rhythm, like harmony, isn’t always something we notice. Rhythm isn’t the centerpiece of music. It isn't even in the background. It just is.

So it is in life. We encounter people who "march to the beat of a different drummer." We may hold them out to be oddballs, or we may find them mysteriously appealing. The question remains whether we see everything there is to see about a person so that we understand why it is we see them the way that we do. We don't usually look for "rhythm," so we don't always recognise it in other people. Something that forms a significant portion of our impression of other people is below the radar. It’s just there. It takes meta-awareness to notice it at all.

It isn’t clear yet whether my daughter even marginally appreciates the experience of hearing Dave Brubeck perform live. Maybe the next time she hears “Take Five” on the streaming audio server at home she’ll notice what isn’t there: the improv of the live performance that isn't in the studio recording. Perhaps she’ll be aware of the music she doesn't hear.

Or perhaps not. She's only 6.

But she will know what is in the frame, snapping her fingers as she counts out the rhythm while Dave and the band play: 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5 …