July Challenge - Irrational Songs

June 30, 2011 5:16 AM

(unSane here using a sockpuppet as I've used up my talk quota for the week) In math, an irrational number is one whose fractional part doesn't repeat. For example, pi. Your challenge for July is to record an irrational song or tune - one which has no parts which repeat. Read on for more info...

All music relies on repetition at some level. From a drum beat to looped samples to a signature riff to a repeated refrain to the repetition of whole sections in the music of Bach and Mozart.

But what happens when you remove the repeats? Let's find out.

You can either write a new song or record an irrational cover of an existing song -- removing all the repeats. So instead of the following structure:

Intro - Verse - Chorus - Verse - Chorus - Bridge - Solo - Chorus - Outro

you'd have

Intro - Verse - Chorus - Bridge - Solo - Outro

And maybe not the solo if it's over a repeated part.

You can take this as far as you like.

Level 1
Lyrics don't repeat So your choruses, for example, must be different each time.

Level 2
Sections don't repeat. One intro, one verse, one chorus, one bridge, one outro. This is probably the easiest way to do a cover.

Level 3
Chord sequences don't repeat. So if you play C-Am-F-G on the first line of the verse, you can't play it on the second. You could however mutate it in some interesting way.

I'll leave it to you if you wish to drill down any further than that or come up with your own definitions of irrationality.

Erik Satie is probably the most familiar practitioner of irrational music - grab a CD of his solo piano music for fantastic examples. He never repeats a section.

There's all sorts of wiggle room here for looped things like drum patterns. Because of course if you play it in manually or on a real kit, you *can't* play it the same way twice. And if you want a sequencer part, that's fine, you're just going to have to mutate it.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing familiar songs turned irrational and anything else you nutters can come up with.

Once again this idea is inspired by Major Dundee.

One final note - I had promised to choose one of the June salon entries and hand the baton on to the composer to choose the July challenge but we had a late slew of entries which I have not had time to listen to, so I'll try to get to that in July and nominate someone for August.
posted by sweet mister (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Commenting to get this on my recent activity and prove that it really is me posting it!
posted by unSane at 5:20 AM on June 30, 2011


I'm game... It'll be an instrumental though.
posted by drezdn at 6:10 AM on June 30, 2011


Yeah, should have made it clear that instros are totally sought.
posted by unSane at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2011


This sounds awesome. I'm going to try to make something good enough to submit.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:28 AM on June 30, 2011


Quite, quite splendid. In July I will have plenty of time to actually take part in a challenge for the first time in many months.
posted by MajorDundee at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011


One thing that my original suggestion incorporated was that we fix the bpm (and on reflection we'd need also to fix the time signature at 4/4). The reason for this is that it would be cool to link all the submitted irrational parts together into one mega-irrational track, none of which repeats.

Or we could produce a mash-up of parts plundered from different posts: to be named "A Ration of Irration" perhaps.

I like the idea of fitting a booster like this to a challenge so that, shamelessly mixing my metaphors, it has a second wave.... it's like a musical BOGOF (that's an acronym for Buy One Get One Free in case anyone's been living in the third world - you know, like England or somewhere - for the last 20 years).

It might even feature on a MeFi music podcast (and when did we last have one of them? - must be on the WWF Endangered Species list by now).
posted by MajorDundee at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2011


It's irrational, tell the sun to leave the sky, it's just irrational
It's irrational, ask a baby not to cry, it's just irrational...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:12 PM on June 30, 2011


Challenge is up! I have ideas. IDEAS.

It might even feature on a MeFi music podcast (and when did we last have one of them? - must be on the WWF Endangered Species list by now).

I'm gonna do another one of those Any Day Now, promise.
posted by cortex at 2:05 PM on July 1, 2011


As someone who's terrible at writing second verses, I approve of this challenge!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:15 PM on July 2, 2011


(and on reflection we'd need also to fix the time signature at 4/4)

That would ruin my plan to make my challenge track have a different time signature for every verse.
posted by The World Famous at 4:46 PM on July 7, 2011


(and on reflection we'd need also to fix the time signature at 4/4)

Blasphemy!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 PM on July 7, 2011


Just to pump up the math nerdiness here, you could consider irrational decimal expansions that have a bit more structure than pi. For instance, 0.123456789101112131415... is irrational. So is 0.1011011101111011111011111..., where the number of 1's increases by one after every 0. If each 0 and 1 correspond to a particular piece of song, your song in total could well be considered irrational, but would still have some recognizable and easy to work with repeatable structure.

Of course, this all assumes your submission is infinitely long.
posted by grog at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2011


anti ep by autechre works with this theme - when they were cracking down on dance music in the UK, the law stipulated a "succession of repetitive beats" so they made this ep where the first 2 tracks had repetition, but the last track "flutter" had no repetition in the beats :)
posted by symbioid at 11:44 PM on July 10, 2011


I have a dancey track I made a while back where part of my internal goal was to have a random or semi-random bassline. It wasn't made for the challenge, but I'll stick it up here (it's being released this week on a compilation anyway).

The trick to that track's bassline was to actually use an arpeggiator for the bassline which selected random notes, so though there is some repetition in note-to-note feel (and the rhythm) it's difficult to pin down any pattern.
posted by chimaera at 10:41 PM on July 18, 2011


Listening to it again, it does have a repeating pattern. Luckily it repeats in 3s while the track is built on the standard 4-on-the-floor house beat.
posted by chimaera at 10:53 PM on July 18, 2011


man, I'm bummed I couldn't get it together to submit something for this one. i wrote the tune early on (an A/B/C/D songform) and had a lot of it worked out in my head, but just couldn't squeeze in the time to record it. Still gonna try. It's called Big Train Coming, and it's vaguely reminiscent of (and inspired by) that A/B/C/D masterpiece, Happiness Is a Warm Gun.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:40 PM on August 2, 2011


Yezh, I've still got an idea for this too, Flapjax. I'm thinking we should keep the challenges open for more than a month -- don't really see why they need to expire, so much as fade from view.
posted by unSane at 3:59 AM on August 3, 2011


I'm thinking we should keep the challenges open for more than a month

Two months! I vote two months!

I mean, hell, why not, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:25 AM on August 3, 2011


I think maybe the second month of those two would work best as a "you know, no one is going to tell you not to post it even if the challenge is already over" thing. That way we keep along a month at a time, people who are late can still be On Time in the only way that really matters (if it gets on tape, it gets on tape), and we can extend it to three, four, or eighteen months by the same principle on a self-serve basis. I say this as someone with at least a dozen ideas-that-never-got-done that I shouldn't use "I missed the window" to avoid doing after all.

I'm not sure if the challenge playlists are time-bound by what they allow; if so, I can check with pb and see about having them generated specifically just by tags instead so that late entries get properly included in the lists, since that seems like the only really pressing issue regarding stragglers.
posted by cortex at 7:13 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah I think it makes sense. Often by the time I've come up with something, the deadline has already passed. Especially for the more interesting challenges, it takes a while to gestate something.

So how would it work? Would the challenges go bimonthly, or would they remain monthly but you'd keep them open for two months, so you'd always have two open challenges?
posted by unSane at 9:31 AM on August 3, 2011


I may be underthinking this, but I feel like it'd be sufficient to just make sure challenge playlists aren't timebound and then maybe reframe the presentation on the Challenges page to emphasize like "the latest challenge" vs. "the current challenge".

Maybe find a simple way to prompt a couple of older challenges as well.
posted by cortex at 9:39 AM on August 3, 2011


I may be underthinking this, but I feel like it'd be sufficient to just make sure challenge playlists aren't timebound and then maybe reframe the presentation on the Challenges page to emphasize like "the latest challenge" vs. "the current challenge".

That sounds really good to me. We probably don't want to go down some needlessly confusing path involving layered deadlines and such.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:34 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Band Politics   |   Shiny New Guitar Make It All Better?? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments