Note: This post is a quick self note about what I’ve learned from Malcom Braff’s lectures. Check the resources / youtube for the details of the theory.
Western notation is terrible at notating microrhythm. Effectively, it doesn’t even have a way to notate small variations in time, or at least not a practical one. Western notation is focused on linear, 2-exponent representations of rhythm (
tuples are rare to come by). This doesn’t represent the diversity of rhythms out there - for example, one would have a hard time repressenting a gnawa triplet in western notation.
This also makes microrhythm a topic that can be hard to practice consciously - in a certain way, since it’s not formalized in scripture, it can be hard to incorporate to your vocabulary conciously, and only arises through listening and performance expertise. Microrhythms do occur in performance, but they are almost always implicitly learned.
However: one can learn to morph metric units from 0 to 100% phasing, in any given direction within a set of metric units (or a beat). One can conciously learn to slowly morph these units in performance, leading to a more concious control of the variation of the micropulse.
- Malcom Braff s website. There’s also a lecture in youtube, and an album where this concept is applied (Crimson waves).