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golden ratio in the amen break
March 12, 2008 7:09 PM   Subscribe

The Amen Break and the Golden Ratio by mathematics educator and author, Michael S. Schneider. Schneider, having already researched and written about the golden ratio extensively, noticed it right away when hearing the the amen break for the first time (amen break previously on the blue). While some composers have been known to intentionally incorporate fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio into their works, perhaps this is just another one of the many instances of the ratio showing up in nature.
posted by p3t3 (27 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Enter Lateralus.

Excellent post, thanks p3t3!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:19 PM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Every time I hear about the golden ratio, I think back to 6th grade and "Donald [Duck] in Mathemagic Land." Cool stuff.
posted by PhatLobley at 7:20 PM on March 12, 2008


Fun post, thanks! But see also Donald E. Simanek's Fibonacci Flim-Flam
posted by finite at 7:30 PM on March 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Neat idea, but he's totally overanalyzing. The Amen is (was, it's considered a bit cliche now) so popular because it can be easily cut and it sounds awesome due to the dirty lo-fi recording and the heaviness of the drummer. It doesn't have much to do with the rhythm, it's usually completely resequenced and twisted anyway in jungle/dnb/breakcore (especially).

Amens are overrated anyway. The Apache, Tramen/Firefight, Ashley's Roachclip, etc. breaks are almost or just as popular, but you never hear about them outside of breakbeat aficionados.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:31 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Head to about 6 minutes in if you'd like to see the "golden proportion," as they call it, explained in a way a kid (or an adult like me) can understand and enjoy. It's mainly about the golden rectangle.
posted by PhatLobley at 7:32 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree, DecemberBoy, that it's a stretch to equate the ratio/rhythm with the reason people like/use the sample, but interesting nonetheless.

And thanks Pastabagel for the Tool link; hadn't seen that one yet. The Donald Duck one is a classic!
posted by p3t3 at 7:38 PM on March 12, 2008


That makes about as much sense as Erich von Daniken talking about the Great Pyramid
posted by bhnyc at 7:47 PM on March 12, 2008


finite writes "Fibonacci Flim-Flam"

A must read indeed
posted by elpapacito at 7:49 PM on March 12, 2008



That makes about as much sense as Erich von Daniken talking about the Great Pyramid


But at least this guy isn't using his observations to try to prove the existence of aliens or anything; he mostly just comes off as a bit over-passionate about his field of study (and wanting to see geometric relationships in everything).
posted by p3t3 at 7:58 PM on March 12, 2008


The Golden Ratio is a spatial proportion. it seems to me rather a stretch to claim that it is also relevant to sound and time.

That said, I've always liked the proportions of the 9 volt battery. When I learned about the Golden Ratio some years ago I wondered if it was proportioned this way. When I measured my Duracell just now, I come up with the following values:

Width: 1.021"

Depth: .660"

Height: 1.728" (not including terminals)

So yes, it kind of fits, but to what degree of precision? I don't have the statistical background to take the analysis to "the next level", so I don't exactly know.

I see the attraction of looking for the golden ration in nature and the manufactured world but I think healthy skepticism is very much in order.
posted by Tube at 8:02 PM on March 12, 2008


The Golden Ratio is a spatial proportion. it seems to me rather a stretch to claim that it is also relevant to sound and time.
No, the Golden Ratio is not "spatial". It's a unitless ratio. Spatial dimensions are merely often used to demonstrate it.

However, I agree that this particular case seems questionable at best. I bet the two peaks he chose as a "start" and "end" are not what a human listener would naturally choose, and I bet that his rough match (which he admits is rough) is merely because 2/3 of something really looks pretty much like 1.618/2.618 of something when you're just eyeballing it.

I find it difficult to believe that something conforming to such a steady and obvious beat has a transcendantal ratio between peaks.
posted by Flunkie at 8:32 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, the Golden Ratio is not "spatial". It's a unitless ratio.

Yes, of course...

*rubs math owie*
posted by Tube at 8:58 PM on March 12, 2008


rubs math owie

Better hope his wife doesn't find out!
posted by Afroblanco at 9:01 PM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks for doing the dirty work for me, finite (or at least for finding somebody else to do the dirty work for us). I thought I was going to have to do some debunking again. Though Simanek goes me one further and points out that the intersection of number theory and biology found with interlocking spirals that I described in that comment is really more of an intersection of number theory and geometry.
posted by ErWenn at 9:54 PM on March 12, 2008


This thread has been up for three and a half hours and no one's quoted π yet?

Good.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 PM on March 12, 2008


i thought it was gonna be about the space between the end of a prayer and the amen. this is cool too though, good post.
posted by MNDZ at 10:52 PM on March 12, 2008


I, too, see meaningful patterns in things. It's how I navigate the terrain. Personally, I use the Fibonacci sequence to find my way to the local library.

Some guy I used to date used the fibonacci sequence to pick stocks. He's a crackhead now, says he's happy with his choices. I believe him.

For other ways of getting around, you can lick your finger and stick it in the wind.
posted by eegphalanges at 11:15 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems a bit silly to think that a drum break, played in fairly straight 4/4, would be divided up by the golden ratio. It might look sort of close to 1.618../2.618... (~0.618), but doesn't 10/16 (0.625) seem like the more likely ratio in the context of 4/4 music?

DecemberBoy: It doesn't have much to do with the rhythm, it's usually completely resequenced and twisted anyway in jungle/dnb/breakcore (especially).

Except that this break (and many other breaks) were used extensively in hip-hop as direct samples. The cutting-up of the sample in dnb, etc. generally came after the direct use in hip-hop, so I don't think it would be much of a stretch to say that the Amen break was used in dnb, etc. because it was already popular (not that the sound itself isn't also important).
posted by ssg at 11:18 PM on March 12, 2008


I think I might have had my first orgasm from simply reading the text of a post.
posted by loquacious at 11:54 PM on March 12, 2008


When you start having the same ideas as "notable Usenet personality" Archimedes Plutonium it's probably time to take a holiday.
posted by plant at 12:04 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Golden Ratio Ruses (via Simanek).
posted by progosk at 12:44 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Golden Ratio is a spatial proportion. it seems to me rather a stretch to claim that it is also relevant to sound and time.

Pi is a spatial proportion which is also relevant to sound and time along with everything else.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:44 AM on March 13, 2008


progosk writes "Golden Ratio Ruses (via Simanek)."

Interesting ! Yet the guy surely could use a photographer, I was about to call the police!
posted by elpapacito at 3:38 AM on March 13, 2008


The Fibonacci Flim Flam article is so busy debunking that it misses the point almost as much as the silly notions it tries to take down. I'm reading Philip Ball's The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature which explores why we find this and other amazing patterns. It's excellent. Check it out.
posted by wobh at 6:13 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems a bit silly to think that a drum break, played in fairly straight 4/4, would be divided up by the golden ratio. It might look sort of close to 1.618../2.618... (~0.618), but doesn't 10/16 (0.625) seem like the more likely ratio in the context of 4/4 music?

Why not 39/64 (0.609)?

In any case, in practice the difference between 0.625 beats and 0.618 beats is unnoticeable. The song Amen break is played at about 136 bpm, or 2.267 beats per second. At that speed, a sixteenth note lasts about 0.0275 seconds. A hit at 9/16 would occur 0.248 seconds after a first hit and a hit at 10/16 would occur .275 seconds after a first hit. A hit at the golden ratio would occur 0.2726 seconds after the first hit. In other words, the golden ratio is 0.0024 seconds before the hit at 10/16, an interval which I don't think most people's ears can detect. If someone wanted to drop the golden ratio into a rhythm deliberately, they' probably exercise some artistic license and accent things 5/8s apart (rather than trying to nail the ratio it precisely).

A more salient critique is that 10/16 is just an eight note behind the half. I'd defy anyone to find a single fast rhythm break in funk or rock that didn't have two loud hits 5/8s apart, especially if you consider all the rhythms that heavily use ride cymbals and hi-hats.

Nonetheless, it is interesting, if only because it raises the idea of music as a dataset in which naturally recurring patterns could be sought.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find it difficult to believe that something conforming to such a steady and obvious beat has a transcendantal ratio between peaks.
Transcendental? x2-x-1=0.
posted by edd at 9:20 AM on March 13, 2008


edd, I meant irrational. My point stands unchanged.
posted by Flunkie at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2008


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