3+3+3+2+2
February 27, 2014 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Fiedel was at heart an improviser... he first set up a rhythm loop on one of the primitive, early-’80s devices he was using. He recorded samples of himself whacking a frying pan to create the clanking sounds. Then he played melodic riffs on a synthesizer over the looped beat. Amid the throes of creation, what he hadn’t quite noticed—or hadn’t bothered to notice—was that his finger had been a split-second off when it pressed the button to establish that rhythm loop. What is the time signature of the theme from The Terminator?
posted by mannequito (35 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Coool!
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:29 PM on February 27, 2014


du-du-nk-du-dunk.
posted by dabitch at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2014


13/8, split as 7/8+3/8 but it's possible to think of it in different ways. I loved this rhythm when I was a kid and it always annoyed me when other rip-off composers would have a "simpler" version of this rhythm (omitting the extra 8th note). For me, in the 13/8, the critical extension occurs on the 4th eighth note, an extra skip in the beat which turns the rhythm from a very basic pattern into something very "futuristic" indeed. Although, this kind of compound time signature exists in infinitely more complex variation all over certain folk musics from around the world particularly Bulgaria or India.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:31 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hmm, this is actually helping me figure out the other time signature mystery that has plagued me for years, Slippi by Animal Collective. Listening to them now I think Slippi might be in the same 13/8 or 13/16 or possibly 15/8 or 15/16.
posted by capricorn at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2014


It's so funny.. in making fun of rip-off composers, I now realize I was criticizing Fiedel for simplifying his own rhythm! Here, in the Terminator 2 Theme, you can hear how he omits the 4th eighth-note and creates a simpler more conventional thing.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2014


Slippi by Animal Collective

2-2-3-2-2 in the verses, so you are right, it's in 13 beats. Whether they're 8ths or 16ths doesn't matter but let's say they're eighth notes. Also the song goes into straight quarter notes a couple times.

And also, my god do all Animal Collective songs sound like this?? ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 12:46 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, if you can get a two-page article published in Slate about trying to figure out a pretty easy-to-divine time signature, I think I've got enough stories to keep me employed as a columnist well into the thirtieth century. I guess divisive rhythm really spoils people for figuring out additive rhythms. It's funny, because I think the difficulty of conceptualization increases much faster with the complexity of divisive rhythms than it does with additive rhythms.
posted by invitapriore at 12:54 PM on February 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's true that the Terminator 2 theme is a simplification in some sense, but I'm a sucker for hemiola, so I can't get too bothered by it.
posted by invitapriore at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


As the article hints at but doesn't quite appreciate, the original theme doesn't have a "time signature" per se because there are only an approximate number of beats in every phrase (say 13.5 +/- 0.2 "beats").

I guess a lot of people hear it or count it as 13 (with one beat a little too long), but I've always heard it as 14 (with one beat a little too fast). If I were playing this song on an instrument with other musicians, I'd definitely want to count it in 14, since to my ear speeding it up to 14 rather than slowing it down to 13 captures the anxiousness of the piece (slowing down is just too plodding of a feel for me).

But it's a matter of opinion, not music theory fact, in how you wish to count the song, because the original performance was put to tape with an extra half-beat or so tacked on.

What was most interesting in the article for me was that the T2 theme was re-written in 6/8. I remember being so confused, listening to the "Terminator theme" once, thinking "This is much more straight ahead than I remember, I could have sworn it had an odd time signature..." It turns out I was confusing two different pieces of music all along!
posted by grog at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hahaha I spent the last 10 minutes trying to count T2 in 13 for the same reasons... what a hot mess T1 is in comparison.
posted by yoHighness at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


ReeMonster: "And also, my god do all Animal Collective songs sound like this?? ;)"

I'm reminded of an incident that happened a couple of years ago when both me and my roommate at the time had to be up earlier than usual for work. I had my ipod on shuffle while cooking breakfast and she was quietly sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal. Panda Bear's Good Girl / Carrots came on, one of my favorite tracks by him so I didn't think much of it. It played for 2 or 3 minutes and suddenly my roommate spat a mouthful of cereal back into the bowl and screamed at me "OH MY GOD TURN IT OFF THIS MUSIC IS MAKING ME FEEL INSANE!!!"
posted by mannequito at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Love the epilogue to the article.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait till this guy finds out about Chopin's Mazurkas.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2014


If dropping acid has taught me anything, it's that the secret rhythm of the universe is in 13/8 time.
posted by twirlip at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Weird audio trick. My brain keeps wanting to think of it in 7/8, even after following along and confirming that it's 13/8.
posted by naju at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I remember when my band got into old-world folk music. Set out on a journey that started in Scotland and gradually progressed eastward. The further east the music went, the more bizarre and insane the time signatures became.
Eventually, somewhere around Turkey, we were trying to learn a zeybek - and we had to have someone stand in the middle of the group and shout out the time signature, and it always devolved into 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-3! 1-2-1-2-1-2-3! 1-2-3-1-2-3-NO-DAMNIT-NO-1-2-1-2-DAMNIT-DAMNIT-okay forget this.

We got as far as klezmer and no farther did our journey go.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:17 PM on February 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I kind of want to chop that third 3 out of the T1 theme now and mash it up with Brubek.
posted by cortex at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


craycray J-harp

there's something here

Sorry abt derail
posted by bird internet at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's no longer enough to not read below the scroll. Slate's page design has now plucked the "top comment" from the murky depths and placed it in the middle of the actual damn text. This comment reads:

What a waste of time this post was! To think that so much time would be wasted decoding the beat of the intro song to a stupid sci-fi movie.

This is given the same space, emphasis and presence as I'd normally expect from a pull quote from the article itself. Nowhere is safe anymore.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


sARAH cONNOR?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:31 PM on February 27, 2014


I remember back when I was into U2 and Larry Mullen recorded the Mission Impossible theme for that first Tom Cruise movie and... changed it into 4/4.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


For a second i thought the article was about Fiedel from the group MMM...but their beats are very straight forward.
Terminator
T2
posted by nikoniko at 3:01 PM on February 27, 2014


Okay, since this thread is here: the one thing I have never been able to count out is the bridge in Porcupine Tree’s Halo. It's almost but not quite evenly divisible, and I think the base unit is what was previously a 16th note in the 4/4 sections.
posted by spitefulcrow at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2014


This story, Heart of a Killing Machine, retells the story with added details.

I'd say while 13/16 is as good a call as any, it sounds more like something like that! Pretty neat that a film about a relentless machine has a theme no machine could replicate.
posted by Twang at 3:44 PM on February 27, 2014


my opinion is that it's straight 4 with polyrhythmic syncopations that suggest 7 and 13 - i had no trouble counting 4 against it at all
posted by pyramid termite at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


11/8, 13/8 and 15/8 are all great time sigs and surprisingly easy to play when you subdivide them in threes and twos. 15/8 is a particular favourite of mine... I drop into it all the time by accident.

If you want to count them easily, just use 'elephant' to count the threes and 'tiger' to count the twos and add them up to the number you need. So my favourite 15/8 is

elephant elephant elephant tiger tiger tiger (3+3+3+2+2+2)

but you could also count it as

elephant elephant elephant elephant elephant (3+3+3+3+3)

or

elephant tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger (3+2+2+2+2+2+2)

Once you get your head around time sigs not always being in even multiples of 2 or 3 or 4, it opens up a whole new world.
posted by sweet mister at 5:24 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did I miss something, or is there no link to the soundtrack? I read two pages, with links to all kinds of other stuff as so-so examples of other time signatures, and no link to the actual theme?

I mean, I found it easy enough, but god-DAMN.
posted by notsnot at 6:08 PM on February 27, 2014


There's an embedded video of the theme after the first paragraph.
posted by mannequito at 6:17 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tried playing it back in my head before listening to the clip in the article. I guess the T2 version has supplanted the original in my head because I was having trouble finding 13/16.
mannequito: “Panda Bear's Good Girl / Carrots came on, one of my favorite tracks by him so I didn't think much of it. It played for 2 or 3 minutes and suddenly my roommate spat a mouthful of cereal back into the bowl and screamed at me "OH MY GOD TURN IT OFF THIS MUSIC IS MAKING ME FEEL INSANE!!!"”
Since I own and enjoy Afro Celt Sound System records, I thought I could hang. I lasted 15 seconds. I guess I really am just a 4/4 back-beat rocker at heart.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:26 PM on February 27, 2014


The thing that makes this hard to count is that while the drum track is in 13/8 (or 13/16), the melody is just sort of freely improvised over that, and doesn't seem to be in any particular time signature.

I've always used "chewbacca" and "wookie" to count 3s and 2s.

chewbacca wookie chewbacca wookie wookie wookie

Also, this article was pretty poorly written, is this what music journalism has come to these days? While the second half of this article was kinda interesting, the first half made a huge freaking deal over a pretty trivial question. "What time signature is this?" is not a hallowed mystery, it's a something any semi-professional musician should be able to figure out in about 30 seconds.
posted by speicus at 10:21 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pretty neat that a film about a relentless machine has a theme no machine could replicate.

Au contraire - the composer just slightly messed up the sampling of the percussion loop, making the signature almost 13/8 but not quite. So a human error in programming a machine created a relentless mechanical soundtrack that no human brain can quite cope with.

Now *that* is so apt as to be perfect.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:24 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, this article was pretty poorly written, is this what music journalism has come to these days?

Well, I mean, it's a somewhat tongue-in-cheek bit of pop culture puff journalism, from someone who readily acknowledges their lack of musical expertise as part of the setup; I think judging the state of contemporary music journalism by it makes little sense, though I totally feel you if you were hoping for a deeper critical/theoretical take on the whole thing.
posted by cortex at 10:34 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Meshuggah link.

Also, critical error in the article:

First, a quick primer on time signatures for the uninitiated. Most straight-ahead rock songs are written in 4/4 time. You can count “1-and-2-and-3-and-4” with the bass drum thumping on the 1 and 3 and the snare drum cracking on the 2 and 4.

1-and-2-and-3-and-4 is 7/8, not 4/4. He forgot the very last "and" after the 4, which divides that beat in half.
posted by gucci mane at 2:01 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


spitefulcrow: That Porcupine Tree bridge is a 17-beat phrase. 5/8 + 3/4 + 6/8 for a total of 17/8. They're doing lots of tricky things to make it sound more confusing in the guitar part, but that's probably how I'd tab it out based on the drum phrasing.
posted by spielzebub at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2014


Yeah, it's a little thin, but I thought it was interesting that the time signature turned out to be a happy accident.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:31 PM on February 28, 2014


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