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Monday, March 29, 2004
Absolutely killer post over at The Rambler extended the serialist notion of "Klangfarbenmelodie" to modern pop production, calling it "Klangfarben-beats." (Zing!)

The result of Klanfarbenmelodie composition is a kaleidoscopic, fractured sound world, where conventional continuities no longer exist. Structure, musical differentiation, is heard sequential, almost note by note, rather than horizontally between longer, interacting layers. The more familiar format of a melody, played on a single instrument, naturally, and an accompaniment has been abandoned; now every instrument is an equal partner in constructing a single, ever-changing continuity. If you just try listening to one instrument at a time in a piece of late Webern or early Stockhausen, the music won't make very much sense. For it to do so, you have to take an aural step backwards, take the whole in at once.

A similar effect can be heard in Timbatunes-esque stuff of the moment. Sonically everything is working towards the beat, the groove. Bass, drums, chords, melody - these distinctions no longer apply. Take 'Hey Ya', an example everybody knows, even if it's not actually a Timbaland/Neptunes job. There are a handful of elements (guitar, bass, snare) that work as one layer, certainly - but try pulling those apart. They're just components of a larger whole. Over this, you could say there's the vocal stuff (including interjections etc.), but this again is so tied into the beat that it's hard to really disassociate it (see the 'Shake it' section). We're not working with melody and accompaniment, or rap and beat, or even different voices in counterpoint. Just as Webern's Klangfarbenmelodie style conflated individual instruments into one super-instrument, so the components in the mix of 'Hey Ya' conflate into one super-beat. It's a homogenised unit. The 'Klangfarben' bit comes with the fact the it is the passing of the beat between instruments and parts that creates the texture, the overall effect of the track. So, as Klangfarbenmelodie is a melody with a shape and effect determined through shifting instrumental colours, so too Klangfarben-beat: the beat (which can be a straightforward 4/4 stomp) achieves greater definition and differentiation in the way sound is used to articulate it, to give it light, shade, variety, depth.

Yes yes yes yes yes. Great stuff, especially in pointing out the way a simple beat can be quite complex when you try and analyze it. Go read the whole thing.