Using “Polyrhythms” in Language

23 Jan

Some people who bought and have read Short Lean Cuts have written to me, as well as in some reviews, about its interesting rhythm. And a small number of these wonderful people, all musicians in some capacity or another, have particularly recognized a sort of polyrhythmic flow to both the dialogue and the narrative.

When I wrote the different (pig) parts of Short Lean Cuts, I was very deliberate in the construction of the narrative and, as a drummer, worked like one who is taking a 4/4 beat and subdividing it into threes. Part of the “experimental” idea of Short Lean Cuts was its rhythm. I was extremely interested in giving it a certain flow, in addition to the subject matter at hand. True, there is not a whole lot of plot involved in the 15,000-word novella, but that was also my intention. As was the length: I felt that the “polyrhythmic” nature of the entire book would be taxing on the reader if it went on any longer.

The book and all of its parts lend themselves to be read aloud quite nicely; the sentences are short and (I think) powerful. I would love to hear other people read the text aloud; to hear their interpretations of how pauses and spaces are utilized in their own opinions or cadences. I often look for good rhythm in new, contemporary, or experimental work. What most people deem “experimental” or “edgy” for me turns out to be incoherent, undeveloped material hidden under the “modern” or “radical” or “innovative” labels.

Here’s the brilliant musician Jojo Mayer speaking more eloquently on how beats are sub-divided into polyrhythms. I tried to apply the same philosophy to my writing in Short Lean Cuts and I think it came out quite well.



3 Responses to “Using “Polyrhythms” in Language”

  1. DAMM 23/01/2013 at 10:53 AM #

    Very intriguing. I also enjoyed the pace and rhythm of SLC and this was a cool read/footnote to it. Thanks.

  2. Lx 23/01/2013 at 10:55 AM #

    Thanks Steve. If you have time, watch Jojo’s 10 minute “clinic.” He explains subdivisions much better than I can. He also SHOWS/PLAYS them much better than I.

  3. Jennifer 24/01/2013 at 6:41 PM #

    How interesting! Except now I have to go read it again . . .

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