Belles: An Experiment in Marathon

An idealized visual representation of the rhythms in “Belles”. The vertical axis represents the beats of the composition and the horizontal axis the time at which each note is played inside the rhythmic pattern. Each colour represents a different note in the piece.

Ever since I started visually representing microrhythms, for example in my last post about Marathon, I’ve had the idea of creating rhythms based on visuals, instead of the other way around. For this experiment, I was thinking about the full extent of the Gnawa rhythm going back and forth and overlapping with itself to create this kind of trellis pattern, as you can see in the graph above.

I didn’t take this experiment really far yet, but I wanted to show what kind of results you can expect by using Marathon freely. What I did was to start off with a Gnawa preset that morphs from -497 to 247 % (the practical limits of the pattern in the program). What this sounds like is one note, at first, which is then joined by two others who grow while the first one shrinks. Eventually, the first note disappears and we’re left with only two notes. Then, the pattern reverses and the shrunk note expands again, which leads to a transitory three-note passage until the two previous notes shrink back into nothingness and we’re left with only one note. This cycle can be seen in the graph as one “X”, and it repeats over and over again. Each “X” is one cycle, and each colour represents a different note. I’ve offset each track so that there are multiple morph values playing at the same time, but you can hear then ebb and flow, wax and wane, grow into apparent disorder and settle into a simpler rhythm and grow chaotic again. However, nothing here is truly chaotic, as each note is precisely computed according to some equations, and they all fit perfectly inside a regular time grid.

As you can listen in the second half of this track, from Bastien Jouvin’s project Rïga, Marathon can be used quite easily to create really odd rhythms that fit well inside a regular composition but would be otherwise near impossible to play or write. With the program’s latest update, it’s possible to turn a pattern with any number of notes into one with any other number of notes. With successive iterations inside the program and a bit of planning, you could go from a ten-note pattern to a two-note swing by making notes disappear progressively. I haven’t been this far yet with my own explorations, but “Belles” provides some proof of concept.

Hopefully, you enjoyed and this catalyses your musical inspiration and gives you some incentive to try out Marathon!

On June 4 2019, this entry was posted.