un-even ground

Polkas, Waltzes, Gallops, Gigues, Jigs, Reels – all just a few once-popular dance forms, now primarily relegated to weddings and rennaisance fairs.

That’s all I know, as a classically-trained musician and semi-curious (and semi-optimistic) consumer. But after spending a little time traveling in Hungary, I’m inspired to investigate further.

I’m not an ethnomusicologist, so I don’t have specifics — but it’s amazing to hear the many varieties of rhythms and beats to be found in my native Eastern Europe alone. How many dance forms in Transylvania, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldavia, Croatia, Ukraine? Hundreds of exciting, brilliant ideas for moving your feet to the music. Unfortunately, you won’t find little of this music on the radio — there, you’ll mostly find the trashiest Europop and major-label rock/hiphop/R+B from the US.

I am shocked and appaled that no popular music I know of has thusfar embraced any of the wonderfully angular and playful rhythms of folklore.

99% of the music I inadvertently hear is in what is known as “Common Time” – or 4/4 – four beats to a measure. To a large extent, a kid growing up today could only be exposed to a singular musical genre, and reject all others. I’ve met these kids – 100% techno, all the time. They think they’re “eclectic”, because they reject rock-n-roll. Their only exposure to any shift of pulse and emotion is in the cinema (though even there, with movies becoming vehicles to sell the soundtrack compilation album, that is also changing).

Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of major names which come to mind as made an effort to bring uneven music to the masses:
The Beatles
Billy Joel (“She’s always a woman”)
Goran Bregovic

Others? Not really. Why not? I haven’t the foggiest clue, other than songs and dances in 4/4 are easier to learn… though I have a suspicion that if Shakira recorded and made a video of a 7/11 tune, the next day everybody would want to learn the steps. (Everyone except me – would I watch Shakira?!)

It has to change. It will change. Before the decade is out, I want to see this on MTV — and I don’t mean Magyar Televízió – though that could be even more fun.

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