The Others & Me: Polyrhythms in Lesvos

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My project started falling into place after completing an interview with a Mytilini-based musician that Georgios, Ero and Male provided to me. One of the things he proposed in the interview was that I should come see his theater play on Saturday. I want to go there and film the performance muted, then put the audio recording of him recommending it to me on top of it, accompanied with my own original music.

I will spend my remaining time here asking the locals to recommend me places or things to do that are dear to them, and not necessarily the tourist attractions. Then I will travel to these places and film them.
I am open to suggestions to what other questions and approaches would be interesting in this sort of project!

When I got back to Mitochi I couldn’t help but notice the sound of the crickets, and especially their rhythm. Every time I hear crickets I’m amazed by their steady sense of consistent rhythm, but this time it was two different rhythms happening at once that would meet every 5th beat. The one side would hold a steady «1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3» feel whereas the other went «1, 2, 1, 2» and they shared the «1» between them. This is something that is called 3 over 2 and is categorised as a polyrhythm (poly=more).

Sadly it’s a bit difficult to hear in the recording I made, the ones that count to three are a lot louder than the ones that only counted to two.

This made me think of the different «rhythms» The Ethnographer and The Other are playing with, yet somehow are often able to find a middleground, much like polyrhythms are sharing the «1». When I travel to these places I am going to bring a different rhythm than the person I talked to did when they were there. So I’ve decided to make this specific rhythm the basis of my composition.

To those interested I’ve provided a youtube video of this polyrhythm below. Notice how each of them are holding a steady beat without taking breaks or considerations for the other, yet manages to meet (this is uncommon).

1 Comment

  1. Tormod Wallem Anundsen

    Sigbjørn, I enjoy reading these reflections and hearing the sounds (and with the crickets, it might be technically possible to boost other frequences if you need them in your composition or soundwork – I guess?). I promised you to give you a text on ethnomusicology – I checked Bruno Nettl’s introduction to The study of ethnomusicology, but when I read it today it seemed very dated (i.e. old-fashioned). Bonnie Wade’s introduction to Thinking Musically seems to be more opening, though, to the way we may think about music in different ways, which I think are the exercises we do when trying to do musical (or other) ethnographic research, tuning in to different contexts. That does not mean we are studying ‘traditional music’ of every place, but rather what music (or sound) could mean in that place, or in engaging with that place (as you do). I added the text to the library, so you’ll find it there (Or see link).

    There is also another interesting thing here, for everyone to consider, which is the place of artistic practice in ethnographic work. It seems to me that you use music to respond to or reflect on your impressions. Others may use their practice (artistic or other types of practices) to engage with the context. Others, again, perhaps create a new practice in the context, together with the people they encounter. Expanding this list may be something that we can use to develop our exploration of what arts-based ethnography could be;
    – to engage (or even collaborate) with (a context / people)
    – to respond to … (going from from experiences to some kind of reply? To whom?)
    – to reflect through (artistic practice as a way of understanding what we have experienced)
    – to bring your practice into an encounter with contexts and people (thus both creating dialogue, interest, and perhaps collaboration)
    – to present your research (artistic practice as a ‘language’ to publish your research / explorations / experiences; film, artwork, poems, music, multimodal expressions, live encounters / social art, performance etc. as means of publication / exhibition / staging of project results)

    OK, this just got me going on some reflections to what you all are doing, so I’ll cut and paste some of this into a separate post

    Wade Thinking Musically

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