What Are Negative Time Signatures?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by The Omega Cluster, Apr 24, 2018.

  1. The Omega Cluster

    The Omega Cluster n00b

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  2. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer Contributor

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    The clickbait image at the top of your article ruins it. I didn't want to read anything you had to say after seeing that. Especially the backpedaling caption.

    But I did read it, and watched the videos and all I can say is, "Why?" This level of philosophizing on something that ultimately has no real fortitude in music just doesn't make any sense to me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    A piece of music should be transcribed in whatever way it is clearest understood. I think that basically rules out negative time signatures.

    Take everything I say here with a grain of salt, as I'm merely sharing my opinion.

    Time signatures are a method of measuring out time. A strong accent, followed by weaker accents. 4/4 time is ONE two three four, or, if counted in eighths: ONE and two and three and four and, etc. There is also an implied quantization of accents in music in general, that subdivisions of pulses get a structure of stronger and weaker dynamics based upon their size relative to one another, except half and whole notes, so 4/4 time has a different feel than 8/8 time, but the differences are getting subtle to a casual listener at that point.

    Time, as it is perceived by humans, only moves one direction: forward. A negative time signature implies something about time going backward, and that concept is difficult to parse into anything concrete, thus the sudden surge of articles about "negative time signatures" that seemingly disagree with one another.

    I strongly disagree with Adam Neely's assessment, which surprised me as well, since his content is generally exceptionally good. Although I think 12tones's concept and your concept are both much less problematic, I don't think either addresses the main issue I stated in my first sentence in the post. Something as abstract as negative amounts of time really don't have a place in transcription, in my opinion.
     
  4. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    slipped into a negative time signature and double posted
     
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  5. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Part-time Elon Musk impersonator

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    I don’t understand the occasional surges of people using the theory subforum for all their clickbait links: Traffic-mining aside, if one is posting a thread for a message they can’t be bothered to post (or even summarize), why should anyone be bothered to read it?

    To reiterate Bostjan’s criticisms: If one can somehow manage to overcome the basic conceptual problems inherent in integrating a qualification of a quantification of a nontemporal meter into western notation, I’ll take it seriously. In the meantime, I dismiss this Youtube-manufactured chicanery out-of-hand.
     
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  6. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    if you use both hands and are respectful of the people sitting next to you, this circle jerk has enough dicks for everyone.
     
  7. The Omega Cluster

    The Omega Cluster n00b

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    Sorry for the clickbait image haha, I guess this was my attempt at parodying Youtube's clickbait problem. Apparently it didn't go so well even after my more honest caption and following text. Oh well...

    I agree that negative time signatures probably never will be accepted as a valid musical concept. I think I said as much in my original post. They're either too confusing or simply useless with the options we're given, mine included.

    That being said, I just like thought exercises in general, and I thought that this was a good opportunity to make one. Basically, after listening to both videos, an idea sprouted in my brain that was different from those two, and I decided to write this post to dig into it and see where it would lead me. It didn't lead me to any convincing answer, but that doesn't mean that the exercise was pointless or fruitless. If we're approaching music from new and different angles, if it doesn't lead to new musical concepts, it can at least lead us to a better understanding of current musical theory.

    Also, perhaps negative time signatures will be a useful concept in the future. Probably not, but I don't think it has a 0% chance of happening. In that case, perhaps we're helping shaping the future definition of that term by eliminating the wrong ones first.
     
  8. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Part-time Elon Musk impersonator

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    What if the chances are less than zero? *X Files theme*
     
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  9. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I enjoyed Neely's video about "irrational time signatures" which was brought up in another thread, but, strictly speaking, 7/12 is not an "irrational" number. It's an odd time signature for sure, but "irrational" means "cannot be expressed as a ratio." So anything of the form X/Y would, by definition, not be "irrational," but that's just me being nitpicky. Any time signatures with a base not as a power of two are honestly on the fringe of our understanding of music theory. Expanding your counting to give incomplete sets of tuplets seems like the most reasonable way to do such time signatures, to me. But there is an application for that, as we saw in Neely's video. What I'd like to see next, though, would be some explanation for how to actually count out a truly irrational time signature, like (two times the square root of two) - four, or something [it'd be just a hair of a beat over 11585 / 16384). Honestly, I have no idea how to count that, but I know that there would be a way to approximate it with a computer (although, since computers work based off of binary, they could not *exactly* count it). Anything like that, no matter how you slice it up for academic discussion, is going to sound extremely weird to any listener who is apathetic toward the concept (which, I imagine, would be >99% of listeners).
     
  10. The Omega Cluster

    The Omega Cluster n00b

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    The "irrational" time signatures you refer to are actually less confusingly called "non-dyadic". Irrational would be something like pi/4. But non-dyadic time sigs are already a concept that's understood, even if really not used as much as it should be.
     

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