Liner Notes: The World and Me. 8/12
What’s your time signature? If you’re not familiar with the term you’ve probably seen a time signature; it’s those two numbers stacked on top of one another at the beginning of a piece of sheet music. The top number is the number of beats in a measure and the bottom is which length of note is counted as a full beat.
The most common time signature is 4 / 4. That’s four beats and the highly recognizable quarter note as the unit of common measure. The quarter note’s the one that looks like a golf club. Or a ladle. Four beats – four quarter notes.
Of course, you can fit more notes in the same span of time, you just play them faster. In the same space as a single beat you can have two beats (pun-pum) or three beats (tri-pl-let) or four beats (one-e-and-a). Or if you’re a superstar dj in Ibiza with the moon high above you and a undulating sea of hot bodies in front of you you can do that thing where the beat gets cut up faster and faster and faster until it’s just this buzz and then stops altogether and is silent for a second until a super deep voice says something like “get busy one time” then the beat drops and everybody just goes crazy. And there’s fog cannons.
Anyway, a time signature lets you know what’s happening and then when it’s happening, like a work calendar with those little half hour slots to plan out your day.
Which have never worked for me because my problem is that half hour slots aren’t small enough. I can have four or five things happen in half an hour and there’s no room in that little rectangle to write all that; even when I use the calendar on my phone it keeps reminding me “you already have something scheduled at this time” as if I didn’t know that already and then it’s sort of reticent (even for a computer) when I insist that yes that is happening but this is happening also. (When artificial intelligence thinks my schedule is nuts it’s probably time to use some real intelligence to kinda fix that.)
I’m a little worked up because I’ve watched some composers online. They all seem to have sun rooms, rooms with just, lots of sun, and they have these wide desks made of red stained wood and cups of what I imagine is single estate coffee. And you’d think I’d really want that situation, that those circumstances would be desirable to me, but none of that matters nearly as much as the fact that they all say things like:
“Well you know in the morning when I wake up… I never get really started until late after lunch, then I work through until maybe 8 and when we have supper, then maybe come back around 11PM to try some things until 1 AM or 2… some days you know I just walk from room to room trying to FEEL the music…”
Walk? They walk? I am constantly running, jumping up from the table to get another fork or catching a train or trying to get the kitchen garbage bag down four flights of stairs before the molecular cohesion of the plastic it’s made of gives up the ghost and coats the stairs with what probably should’ve been composted anyway. My days accelerando to presto and stay there. When I wave I lose the time I save because my fuzzy whiskers took me too much time to shave.
I’m writing from 11 at night until 2 in the morning, but then I wake up to start my actual day, long before Hans Zimmer is enjoying his fresh melon and rainfall shower. I’m always trying to “fit stuff in”. And I live in the age of absolute miracles. Phone calls: used to have to wait for the dial to turn all the way back before you dialed the next number… where’s all that saved time? That should be, like, two days extra every year. I don’t have to look things up anymore with Siri around, still have to do dishes but now we’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, my commute’s only 35 minutes and I’m too tired to meet up, club-hop, hang out, or party. I should have time in a bottle. Several bottles. I should have a wine cave filled with time bottles.
There is more to watch, but less time to watch it. I used to binge HBO shows back in the day, rocking the DVD sets; now we have to dutifully schedule YouTube shows that are only 12 minutes long. I’m at an endless buffet but I’m standing on one of those moving sidewalks from the airport. Lucky to grab a cherry tomato at that pace.
Ok, I’m unravelling, I can feel that, I’m not denying it. I just can’t see the bridge from here to there; from this wonderful tiny room I’m in in Brooklyn to our sprawling beachfront heavily windowed yet feels-so-secluded space that I’m constantly WALKING through and not running. Ok, only 12 people in the world have that reality, I know, and they’re all on YouTube, ‘cause I’ve spent 12 minutes watching each of them so I could have saved THAT 144 minutes and used it for something I guess.
The thing about quote unquote classical music is that it really does take time to write. Pop music talks about time a lot, but at its essence each song is around under 5 minutes.
Time Is On My Side
Time In A Bottle
Times Like These
Wonderful songs about time that don’t take up that much of it. Except my favorite tune about time, “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers. It is a sprawling melon of a song, a nearly 12 minute long psychedelic masterpiece of rock and roll with a callback to “The Little Drummer Boy” and more cowbell than Blue Oyster Cult could ever imagine.
I guess I don’t care if I have one of those crazy time signatures like 7/4 or 19/16 as long as my rhythm’s steady. That’s what I find most important, because no matter the pace it’s always the rhythm moving us forward. I may not live a life that one can amble through loconically, but it’s got a good beat and I can dance to it.