January 09, 2006


One of the best CDs I’ve purchased in the past few months is Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. It’s understated and different, but still completely listenable. Looking at her you’d assume she’s a gum-popping popstar, but she’s far from it.

She apparently had run-ins with Sony Music over the content of her stuff. They wanted her to conform, and the CD is full of lyrics fighting conformity, like from “Please, please, please:”

Give us something familiar
Something similar
To what we know already
That will keep us steady
Steady, steady
Steady going nowhere

But what’s really interesting about the recording is that more than half of the songs are written in 6/8. Pop music generally churns out songs in common time, and few artists stray to compound rhythms. I’m frequently attracted to songs in 6/8 (e.g., REM’s “Everybody Hurts,” The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” . . .).

I’m also drawn to pipe tunes in compound time and I don’t think bands use 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 enough in their medleys. When played on the beat these tunes roll, especially, obviously, in jig time. Some bands that are masters of jigs interestingly are usually not so great at 2/4 marches and strathspeys.

It’s always nice to be positively surprised by new music, especially when it makes you think about how it can be applied to your own experiences.





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