Complex times call for complex time signatures.

This piece of music came from clapping a lopsided rhythm in my car, and then challenging myself to do anything with it.

It goes as follows:

  • Three measures of 7/8 (3, then 4)
  • One measure of 8/8 (4, then 4)
  • Three measures of 7/8 (3, then 4)
  • One measure of 5/8 (2, then 3)

Or if you prefer:

  • It’s in 55/8 time. (3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 2, 3)

It’s a 55 beat cycle. But ideally, you’d never notice.

It’s meant to feel like dance music, compel you to dance, and then punish you for trying.

Or rather, it requires a more deliberate choreography. (Most cultures know how to deal with such music. Mine can only count to four.)

This is not a great way to make friends and influence people.

It is, however, one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re not accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s music.

At the time, there weren’t a lot of tools to accommodate this style of writing.

Working in Ableton Live was especially miserable.

But the process did inform my next tool, which can be found here.

It’s a max for live device, called “Multronome”, which generates MIDI Clips of simple rhythmic pulses in compound meters.

Running those through a drum kit will serve as a metronome, and a discovery tool to help you find rhythms you like. And then, those same clips can be reused as a starting point on your other tracks, marking your beat ’cause the bar lines won’t help you.

This is the interface. You speak to it in numbers, and it adapts to your pattern.

This would have saved me so much time.

You might recognize those numbers, in fact. That’s the song above.

Fun fact: the bottom text turns green if your cycle is a prime number, and red if it’s a multiple of four!

Anyway, that’s a free download. It’s not perfect, but it does serve a need that no one else was covering. If you have max for live and this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and check it out.

If you do NOT have max for live, I would recommend checking out “Beat Scholar” from Modalics. It’s not free, but it is a lot of fun, and insanely powerful. Well worth exploring. (Also, go subscribe to their youtube channel. They’re good people.)

I think the two compliment each other, in that you can use Multronome to quickly plot your initial strategy, and work faster in Beat Scholar as a result.

This unlisted video documents some early experiments which eventually became the song. It’s pretty unrefined by comparison, but that’s the process. We curate from chaos, and then sculpt that into something more deliberate.

The chord progression was literally a series of d6 dice rolls, and it hasn’t changed since (though I think I did vary things up for the B section). This had a profound effect on my writing, as the melody I came up with had to not clash with those chords.

Just saying… collabohedron.

“White Elephant”





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