Saturday, October 12, 2013


There is precious little music written in a 5/4 time signature, or something analogous. Even rarer are those pieces in 5/4 that sound natural. We tend to hear music in rhythms of two, three, or four, so five just doesn't sound right. Nevertheless, some composers manage to pull it off -- or get as close as possible. The most obvious example is Dave Brubeck's Take Five.

Another well-known tune in 5/4, but less appreciated, is the theme from Mission Impossible.

A third example is Toccata, the first tune off Fresh Aire 3 by Mannheim Steamroller (who I mentioned  before here). There are some sections in the middle that break into a more standard 3/4.

So far we've spanned jazz, popular theme songs, and new age music. Now let's move on to heavy metal. I present for your listening pleasure Soundgarden's My Wave, which someone once described to me as being a serious assault on the 4/4 - 3/4 hegemony. Soundgarden is particularly brilliant with alternate rhythms like this. Other bands, like Rush, often break into 7/4 (i.e. one measure of 4/4 followed by one measure of 3/4), but Soundgarden really pushes the limits.

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