Sound Examples: Teasers

Rhythm and Transforms is accompanied by a CD-ROM that contains many sound examples in .mp3 format that are playable in iTunes, Windows Media Player, Quicktime, or almost any other audio program. The sound examples are an integral part of the book. You will miss many of the most important aspects of the presentation if you do not "listen along." This page presents a few highlights, tidbits of sound that suggest some of the results and sound manipulations that are possible using beat-oriented audio processing.

One of the primary examples used throughout Rhythm and Transforms for sound demonstrations is the Maple Leaf Rag, a ragtime masterpiece composed at the start of the twentieth century by Scott Joplin. The Maple Leaf Rag became the most popular piano tune of its era, selling over one million copies of the sheet music. A reproduction of the cover of the original sheet music is shown below along with a portrait of Joplin. Joplin's music enjoyed a revival in the 1970s when the copyrights expired and his work entered the public domain. Because there are no legal complications, it is possible to freely augment, manipulate, expand, and mutilate the music. Ragtime literally means "time in tatters," and I would like to imagine that Joplin would not be offended by the temporal shredding and rhythmic splintering that follows.

The idea of tracking the beat can be heard in the Maple Tap Rag which superimposes a brief burst of white noise at each detected beat point. It is easy to hear that the process locates times when listeners might plausibly tap their feet. The technology needed to accomplish this task is discussed in Chapters. 5 - 6 - 7. Once the beat locations are found, there are many kinds of processing that can be done. It is possible to remove some of the beats, leading to the Maple Leaf Waltz. It is possible to employ signal processing techniques in a beat-synchronous manner as in the Beat Gated Rag, the Make It Brief Rag, and the Magic Leaf Rag. It is possible to remove all the tonal material, leaving only the transients as in the Maple Noise Rag or leaving only atonal material in each beat as in the Atonal Leaf Rag. It is possible to map all of the harmonics of every note to a desired location: Sixty-Five Maples maps every overtone to a harmonic of 65 Hz while the Pentatonic Rag maps all overtones to scale steps of the five-tone equal tempered (5-tet) scale. The Make Believe Rag alternates among a number of different n-tets and the different mappings play a role analogous to chord changes, even though it is the underlying tuning/temperament that is changing. Rag Bags #1 and Rag Bags #2 create hybrid sound collages that merge 28 different renditions of the Maple Leaf Rag.

Julie's Waltz by Mark Schatz provides a detailed case study in Chapter 11 of how beat-based feature scores can display detailed information about aspects of a musical performance (such as timing and timbre) that are missing from a standard musical score.

The little-known song Soul (written by Phil Schniter and Ruby Beil) and performed by the (now defunct) Ithaca-based band Blip is also used extensively to demonstrate the various techniques of sound manipulation in a vocal rock context. Successful beat-tracking of Soul is demonstrated in SoulTap. The Soul Waltzes show that hard driving rhythms need not be confined to 4/4 time signatures. Atonal Soul, Noisy Souls, and Frozen Souls demonstrate the removal of all tonal material, the elaboration of the noise component, and textural changes due to spectral freezing. The effects of the processing on Beil's voice are often remarkable: sometimes silly and sometimes frightening. These examples give only a taste of the possibilities.