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#2376386 - 01/21/15 05:51 PM "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack...
slowtraveler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
at this basically unanswerable question in the first episode of “MusicHeads,” a new radio series she is hosting for WDCB public radio in suburban Chicago.

http://wdcb.org/new-media/music-lounge.php?id=87

Kind of like a much more cerebral Piano Jazz (minus the sociable chit-chat), with excellent playing by Barber and her guests. Amazingly serious and un-dumbed-down for a radio program ostensibly aimed at general audiences, I thought.

I liked the very clear demonstrations of the way note subdivision, articulation, and accents all contribute to swing feel; and how rhythm section players settle into a groove together.

Cheers,

B.

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Piano & Music Accessories
#2376663 - 01/22/15 11:43 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 668
Loc: Chicago
Thanks. I'll definitely check this out. (Hello fellow Chicagoan!)

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#2376734 - 01/22/15 01:43 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Nahum Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Israel
I play jazz for the past 52 years, and just don't know how to explain what is a swing. You can treat the symptoms of swing, but it will never be exhaustive. Somebody tried to explain the New York's accent in English? .These Phenomena are in the same category!
Really - who researched in depth relationship American English and swing feel , its timing and articulation ?

https://soundcloud.com/jazzman1945/talking-satchmo

https://soundcloud.com/jazzman1945/satchmo-trumpet-voice


Edited by Nahum (01/22/15 01:45 PM)

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#2376757 - 01/22/15 02:33 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Yeah, pretty much everybody (including Barber) who tries to define swing ends up admitting that it can't be fully expressed in words.

A few years back I heard Cassandra Wilson give a really good explanation of swing in some TV interview, but I can't find a link to it now.

Interesting idea, the similarities between a native speaker's use of language and swing feel in music!

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#2376760 - 01/22/15 02:38 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: jjo]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Originally Posted By: jjo
(Hello fellow Chicagoan!)

Hi, jjo! Glad you liked the link.

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#2376767 - 01/22/15 03:01 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Nahum Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Israel
slowtraveler ,Thank you for the opportunity to hear other approaches to the issue .
As can be seen the relationship between English and swing more noticeable to foreign ears smile. Off-beat as a phenomenon of English:

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#2376919 - 01/22/15 10:40 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Happy Birthday ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1865
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I haven't listened to this program yet, but I look forward to doing so.

Patricia Barber is a very impressive performer. I spent many nights at her shows at the old Gold Star Sardine Bar in Chicago (a fantastic small venue sorely missed by its many fans). I'd love to see her play and sing again soon.


Edited by ClsscLib (01/22/15 10:41 PM)
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2377048 - 01/23/15 08:20 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: ClsscLib]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
Patricia Barber is a very impressive performer. I spent many nights at her shows at the old Gold Star Sardine Bar in Chicago (a fantastic small venue sorely missed by its many fans). I'd love to see her play and sing again soon.

The Sardine Bar! Haven't thought about that place in quite a while. I was only there a couple of times--it closed not too long after I discovered it. It was the first place in Chicago that gave Barber a regular gig, wasn't it?

She's at the Green Mill on Monday nights now when she's in town, with a quartet. Her bassist and drummer are guests on this episode of the radio show.

Cheers,

B.

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#2377097 - 01/23/15 10:25 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Happy Birthday ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1865
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: slowtraveler


...She's at the Green Mill on Monday nights now when she's in town, with a quartet. Her bassist and drummer are guests on this episode of the radio show.

Cheers,

B.


Thanks -- I was hoping she still had the Green Mill gig.

Unfortunately, I now live 600 miles from Chicago. Hope to be back and catch a performance there, though.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2378182 - 01/26/15 12:57 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1630
That first 20 minutes was disappointing... barber can barely swing, she offers so little insight into "what is swing
"... the bass player swings but he cannot seem to analyze what swing is (fail)... the drummer does a nice job of demonstrating swing's evolution without getting particularly scientific... barber is clueless with her crackpot blossom of the sound after the attack theory, lol ... the sax player does very well demonstrating off beat accents.

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#2378586 - Yesterday at 07:17 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Greener Online   content

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1306
Loc: Toronto
The most famous quote I recall was the response from Fats Waller. I remember the quote, but did not remember who made it. I Googled it and found out it was from Fats.

When asked, what is swing? His response ...

"If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It!"

Although the response was rather abrupt and likely bordering rude, the answer made a clear point to a topic that was otherwise very difficult to explain in words.

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#2378587 - Yesterday at 07:27 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: Greener]
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1377
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: Greener
When asked, what is swing?

One can also approach it the scientific way.
_________________________

I never play anything the same way once.

https://soundcloud.com/chrisb/sets
https://www.youtube.com/user/djboing/videos

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#2378604 - Yesterday at 08:23 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: Greener]
EM Deeka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/13
Posts: 265
Originally Posted By: Greener


"If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It!"



But who said "You'll feel it, when you hear it"

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#2378654 - Yesterday at 11:11 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: chrisbell]
Greener Online   content

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1306
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: chrisbell
Originally Posted By: Greener
When asked, what is swing?

One can also approach it the scientific way.


There is always a bit of a dichotomy between Art and Science.

Swing is visceral. Study and analysis may help in understanding the concept of swing. I have grave doubts though, that it could ever be taught this way. Of course, I was only being the messenger of the Fats Waller quote, but perhaps this was the basis of what he was attempting to convey. That is, it is hard to answer a question of the heart with the head.

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#2378658 - Yesterday at 11:16 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1630
Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal © 2002 University of California Press
Abstract:

The timing in jazz ensemble performances was investigated in order to approach the question of what makes the music "swing." One well-known aspect of swing is that consecutive eighth notes are performed as long-short patterns. The exact duration ratio (the swing ratio) of the long-short pattern has been largely unknown. In this study, the swing ratio produced by drummers on the ride cymbal was measured. Three well-known jazz recordings and a play-along record were used. A substantial and gradual variation of the drummers' swing ratio with respect to tempo was observed. At slow tempi, the swing ratio was as high as 3.5:1, whereas at fast tempi it reached 1:1. The often-mentioned "triple-feel," that is, a ratio of 2:1, was present only at a certain tempo. The absolute duration of the short note in the long-short pattern was constant at about 100 ms for medium to fast tempi, suggesting a practical limit on tone duration that may be due to perceptual factors. Another aspect of swing is the soloist's timing in relation to the accompaniment. For example, a soloist can be characterized as playing "behind the beat." In the second part, the swing ratio of the soloist and its relation to the cymbal accompaniment was measured from the same recordings. In slow tempi, the soloists were mostly playing their downbeats after the cymbal but were synchronized with the cymbal at the off-beats. This implied that the swing ratio of the soloist was considerably smaller than the cymbal accompaniment in slow tempi. It may give an impression of "playing behind" but at the same time keep the synchrony with the accompaniment at the off-beat positions. Finally, the possibilities of using computer tools in jazz pedagogy are discussed.

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#2378663 - Yesterday at 11:21 AM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1630
All that jazz
New Scientist vol 168 issue 2270 - 23 December 2000, page 48

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. But what is swing?

WHEN the musical West Side Story opened in London in 1958 the producers had a real problem. They didn't know who should occupy the drum stool. Leonard Bernstein's score was hard. And it was jazzy. At the time most of Britain's jazz drummers wouldn't do because they simply couldn't read music well enough. The classical percussionists, though flawless readers, also had an irredeemable failing. These "straight" musicians, as the jazz world calls them, just couldn't swing.
Swing is at the heart of jazz. It's what makes the difference between music you can't resist tapping your feet to and a tune that leaves you unmoved. Only now are scientists beginning to unravel the subtle secrets of swing. Even today, many drum instruction manuals lay down a rigid formula for swing, based on alternately lengthening and shortening certain notes according to a strict ratio, says Anders Friberg, a physicist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, who's also a pianist. But these rules are misleading. "If you took them literally you would never learn to swing," says Friberg.
The fundamental rhythmic unit in jazz is the quarter note. When you tap your feet to the music you are marking out quarter notes—or crotchets as they are called in Britain. Superimposed on this basic beat are melodies. Often melody lines consist of eighth notes, which last half as long on average as a quarter note.
But no one plays music exactly as it is written, just as no two people would read a passage from a book the same way. If you want to hear music played exactly as written there are thousands of Midi files on the Net which are direct translations of sheet music. And very tedious they are too—convincing proof that computers don't have a soul. Real musicians shorten one note, lengthen another, delay a third and accent notes. It is all part of creating an individual style.
In jazz this interpretation is taken to extremes—and the way jazz musicians play their eighth notes is one of the keys to swing. Faced with a row of eighth notes on a sheet of music a straight musician plays a series of more or less equal notes. A jazz musician plays the eighth notes alternately long and short. The long note coincides with the basic beat, the note clipped short is off the beat. There is a similar but less pronounced tendency to play notes long and short in folk and baroque music as well as in popular music.
Many drum instruction books say that the long eighth note should be twice as long as the short one. But you simply can't lay down a rigid formula for swing, says Friberg. It all depends on the tempo of the piece you are playing. Although professional musicians are largely aware of these complexities—or can at least feel how to swing—inexperienced musicians may not be so lucky. Friberg points out that many contemporary rock drummers may pick up bad habits because they practise keeping time by playing with drum machines, which may rely on the simplistic swing formula.
Friberg measured the ratio between the long and short notes, the swing ratio, of four drummers on a series of commercial recordings. They included some of the best drummers in jazz, such as Tony Williams who played with Miles Davis on the My Funny Valentine album, Jack DeJohnette, part of Keith Jarrett's trio and Jeff Watts, who played with Wynton Marsalis.
Friberg used a frequency analysis program to pick out the distinctive audio signal of the drummer's ride cymbal from a series of 10-second samples from the records. In modern jazz, drummers normally play a pattern of quarter notes and eighth notes on this cymbal with their right hand. He found the drummers varied their swing ratio according to the tempo of the piece. At slow tempos the long eighth notes were played extremely long and the short notes clipped so short that they were virtually sixteenth notes. But at faster tempos the eighth notes were practically even. The received wisdom of a 2 to 1 swing ratio was only true at a medium-fast tempo of about 200 quarter-note beats per minute. "The swing ratio has a more or less linear relationship with tempo," says Friberg.
Although this relationship between the swing ratio and tempo held true for every drummer, there were some notable stylistic differences. "Tony Williams, for example, has the longest swing ratios," says Friberg. This is partly his style. But jazz is also a cooperative style of music—you have to fit in with those around you. "It's partly a matter of who he is playing with," says Friberg.
Friberg backed up his findings by creating a computer-generated version of a jazz trio playing the Yardbird Suite, a theme written by Charlie Parker. He then played the piece back to a panel of 34 people at different tempos and asked them to adjust the swing ratio. He found that the listeners also preferred larger swing ratios at slow tempos while at fast tempos the ratio was closer to 1.
The results are impressively consistent—and they also give a clue to the split-second accuracy that jazz musicians have to achieve if they are going to keep the listeners tapping their feet. At a relatively slow tempo of 120 beats per minute most listeners prefer a swing ratio somewhere between 2.3 and 2.6.
Part of the reason for this relationship between the swing ratio and tempo, says Friberg, may be that there is a limit to how fast musicians can play a note—and how easily listeners can distinguish individual notes. At medium tempos and above, the duration of the short eighth notes remained more or less constant at slightly under one-tenth of a second. The shortest melody notes in jazz have a similar minimum duration. Friberg thinks this should set a maximum practical tempo for jazz of around 320 beats per minute, and very few jazz recordings approach this speed.
He points out that there's a limit to the speed listeners can process notes. When the tenor saxophonist John Coltrane made his first solo recordings in the late 1950s jazz critics began referring to his fast succession of notes as "sheets of sound". "This is what you hear if you don't hear the individual notes," says Friberg.
Just as jazz musicians have a standard repertoire of tunes, so there is a similar repertoire of jokes. One has a member of the audience asking: "How late does the band play?" to which the answer is: "About half a beat behind the drummer." That joke turns out to have more than a grain of truth in it.
In his latest research, Friberg went back to the same recordings and looked at the timing of soloists, such as Miles Davis, to see if they used the same swing ratios as the drummers. He found that the soloists' swing ratios also dropped as the tempo increased. More surprising was the fact that the drummer always played larger swing ratios than the soloist they were playing with. Even at slow tempos soloists rarely had swing ratios greater than 2 to 1.
The difference helps to explain why a soloist can seem to be so laid back on a particularly toe-tapping number. When playing a note that nominally coincides with the basic quarter-note beat, the soloist hangs back slightly. "The delay can be as much as 100 milliseconds at medium tempo," says Friberg.
This tendency to hang behind the beat goes back to the musical ancestors of jazz. In the introduction to the 1867 book Slave Songs of the United States Charles Ware, one of the editors, observed that when they were rowing a boat, the oars laid down the basic beat for the slaves' singing. "One noticeable thing about their boat songs was that they seemed often to be sung just a trifle behind time," he said.
Members of the audience synchronise with the band by tapping their feet to the basic beat. But musicians have a more subtle strategy. "If you generate a solo line with a computer and delay every note relative to the cymbal it sounds awful," says Friberg. "The funny thing," he adds, "is that there is a distinctive pattern that most musicians are not aware of. They synchronise on the short eighth note."
He says that this off-the-beat synchronisation of the soloist and the rhythm section is crucial in keeping the band from falling apart. Effectively the musicians synchronise their internal clocks every few beats throughout the piece. When the off-the-beat notes are synchronised, says Friberg, "you often don't realise the soloist is lagging".


How the written and played music differ

So how did the producers of West Side Story resolve their drumming dilemma? Even after 42 years musicians still tell the story. At the time Britain's best jazz drummer was Phil Seaman, who was a good reader. But he had a problem. Or to be precise, two problems. One was alcohol and the other heroin. But after some dithering, the producers gave him the job. All went well until one matinee, when the regular conductor took the day off.
Seaman had a habit, half-affected, half-genuine, of appearing to doze when he wasn't playing—and during one pause in the music, his head began to nod. Fearing that he had dropped off and wary of his reputation, the conductor gestured frantically to the bass player to wake the dozing drummer. The bass player reached across and prodded Seaman with his bow. Startled, Seaman stood up and fell backwards over his drum stool, straight into the Chinese gong—which reverberated around the theatre and stopped the show.
Seaman stood up, cleared his throat, and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served." The management promptly sacked him.

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#2378720 - Yesterday at 02:14 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: rintincop]
Nahum Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 414
Loc: Israel

Originally Posted By: chrisbell
[quote=Greener]
One can also approach it the scientific way.
It's horrible, I feel like an android !

Originally Posted By: rintincop
Finally, the possibilities of using computer tools in jazz pedagogy are discussed. [/b]

With a swing feel it simply will not go !

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#2378794 - Yesterday at 05:15 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
KlinkKlonk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/09
Posts: 389
Kinda futile to describe a feeling scientifically don't you think?
I think the interesting thing about swing lies with it's practitioners, how it could survive in a truly dreadful oppressed environment for about 300 years. If you listen to the earliest jazz recordings of that dirge blues, the beat is marvellous. Why and how did they play it like that? It's staggering, I think… It would be truly amazing to have heard the predecessors up until the first recordings.

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#2378820 - Yesterday at 05:56 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: rintincop]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Louisiana

Quote:
... so there is a similar repertoire of jokes. One has a member of the audience asking: "How late does the band play?" to which the answer is: "About half a beat behind the drummer."



Heh, heh, heh ... good one.
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#2378889 - Yesterday at 09:04 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: rintincop]
slowtraveler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Originally Posted By: rintincop
barber can barely swing... barber is clueless with her crackpot blossom of the sound after the attack theory, lol

Au contraire. Her discography speaks for itself. (Admittedly, she doesn't gravitate towards playing or singing mainstream, straight-ahead jazz.)

I didn't really get the "bloom of sound" idea, either, I have to say. When you're not playing a percussion instrument like drums or piano, maybe the placement of your tone production relative to the underlying pulse is a little more flexible or ambiguous, but I wouldn't say that quality is essential to swing.


Originally Posted By: rintincop
Another aspect of swing is the soloist's timing in relation to the accompaniment... [The] swing ratio of the soloist and its relation to the cymbal accompaniment was measured from the same recordings. In slow tempi, the soloists were mostly playing their downbeats after the cymbal but were synchronized with the cymbal at the off-beats.

Yeah. This is the kind of useful insight you can get from empirical analysis. As a student, I find it opens up my my understanding of the phenomenon a little bit more. I think it's worthwhile to have this kind of information, even if one can can't, in the end, define swing by dissecting it.

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#2378909 - Yesterday at 09:36 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: KlinkKlonk]
slowtraveler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/12
Posts: 246
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Originally Posted By: KlinkKlonk
Kinda futile to describe a feeling scientifically don't you think?

Agree. I think swing has basically to do with the willingness to experience a flexible rather than a strict relationship between the underlying pulse of the music and the particulars of one's own performance. So it's a conceptual (and in a group context, consensual) thing, not an empirical one.


Originally Posted By: KlinkKlonk
I think the interesting thing about swing lies with it's practitioners, how it could survive in a truly dreadful oppressed environment for about 300 years.

My brain has a hard enough time understanding swing as a musical phenomenon. I'm not big on trying to unpack its sociological significance, if any. That's very slippery ground, IMHO.

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#2378935 - Yesterday at 10:45 PM Re: "What is Swing?" Patricia Barber takes a whack... [Re: slowtraveler]
Happy Birthday ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1865
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
I've always wondered about the family relationship between swing in jazz and some classical (and folk) music where, by tradition and expectation, rhythms played differ from what is notated.

The best example might be Viennese waltzes, which don't really work if played exactly as notated. But if played with a slightly accelerated second beat as intended, well... they float in a magical way -- Viennese swing? I've always thought so, anyway.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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