In the first place
Though I still get letters from disgruntled readers in Finland demanding to know whether it will be reprinted in some form, my association with MT's long-running 'On The Beat' series is something I've deliberately tried to consign to the past since taking over as Editor of this august organ. It is not, I must stress, that I now consider myself above such matters, merely that I've forgotten many of the rhythm patterns I wrote and though still on disk, the collection is spread across two computer formats and at least three different software programs. And OK, I admit it, my file and disk labelling system isn't perhaps all it might be.
But old habits die hard and I still find myself paying particular attention to the rhythm track of any new piece of music I listen to in the hope of hearing something new and original. Over recent months, I've been particularly impressed with the use of ambient sound as a rhythmic device - especially where this is used in preference to the recognised instruments of the drum kit. It was always one of the constraints of the 'On The Beat' series that I was unable to use non-specific sounds to construct rhythm patterns, knowing that the majority of readers would be unlikely to have the same palette available to them as was available to me.
I must, however, express my infinite regret over the continued dominance of four-to-the-bar bass drum programming across virtually all styles of music with leanings toward the dance floor. The rhythmic straitjacket this imposes consistently undermines experimentation and does nothing to further the cause of this (still) undervalued component of contemporary music.
Though clearly an essential element of house as it emerged in the late '80s, four-on-the-floor rhythm has, like any device used to excess, lost much of its impact and now serves only to deny breathing space to the other instruments in the mix. It goes beyond personal taste; there's an awful inevitability about the arrival of that thud, thud, thud, thud after eight or 16 bars which has long ceased to be an inducement to the feet and now reveals only the point at which a brake has been applied to the creative process.
But, please don't make me write another 'On The Beat' series to prove it.
Editorial by Nigel Lord
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