Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rhythm as signifier

I just watched a new political ad by the Democratic National Committee, showing how John McCain has changed his estimates of how long American troops will be in Iraq. No new information, but the background music is fascinating. At first I thought it was in an asymmetric meter, or more likely a changing meter, with 12/8 as the predominant meter mixed up with a 2/4 or 9/8 to make it sound clumsy. But it is more subtle than that. The music stays in 12/8 for the whole time. What gives this insidious feeling of incompetence is the use of syncopation. The upper strings at points sound like they are slowing down, though they always end on the right beat. The bass line at a few points shifts to an almost duple, but it isn't exactly duple, thus making it even more uneasy. But what is truly amazing is that the musicians demonstrate a real skill in playing complex rhythms that purposely sound wrong. Thus they are really good at sounding bad. I want to know who wrote this music.


Peter (the other) said...

Holy kamoly (technical term, that)... :-)

That has to be a music edit mash-up, maybe the makers think that the stumbling is appropriate (and it kind of is, considering). These kind of edits can happen when non-musicians are doing it, and the editor squinches up his/her face and goes "see, it works, I really think it does!" It seems as if they were focusing on getting the violin motif into certain spots, and the bass motif in others, and figured that no one listens to music when people are talking... do they? The only other theory I can come up with is that there is a film out there, some where, with wild visuals that this music was born for. Then these guys licensed it.wau

Patty said...

It sounds like very twisted Shostakovich to me, on some sort of loop. Sort of like "this is Shostakovich on mega-loopy drugs. Or something.

But then I know nothing. So oh well.