Granelli & Sompa and basic rhythms

Photo: Jazz drummer, percussionist, Jerry Granelli

Student: (Rhythm.. rhythms)

AG: But – wait a minute – but, if you did a little bit of work with Titos Sompa [Congolese-Californian teaching at Naropa] and [jazz-drummer] Jerry Granelli in analyzing, not analyzing, just learning, the basic Afric rhythms that they use ( you’ve heard them play, haven’t you?)

Student: (Sure).

AG: Have you heard Titos Sompa? – What are their names, Titos and..?

Student: Bemba..

AG: Bemba..  They are teaching basic African rhythms, (which are not very different from this kind of five.. five-beat rhythms – in fact, what they are are, yeah, I was talking to them the other day about just that point, and I was amazed how close it was to the classic Greek rhythms of being two-,three-, four-, and five-beat sequences – ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba  (known as “mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy“). Then there’s “shave-haircut-six-bits”, “shave-haircut-six-bits” – one, two, no, one, two, three, one two, one, two, three, one two – “shave-haircut-six-bits” ( one, two, three, one two), and that’s called..that’s a Cuban, Afro-Cuban rhythm, that’s a five-beat rhythm – bon-bom-bom bom-bom (Brazilian also). And the blues is one-two-three-four-five.. one-two.. I don’t remember, I can’t quite..’s something like that -it’s a space in front and then… And then, there’s a three-foot rhythm – “ding-a-ding, ding-a-ding, ding-a-ding, ding-a-ding” – “suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, ding-dong, suck-a-dick” . Then there’s the paradiddle which is.. the famous paradiddle, which is a real thing, what is it? (Allen illustrates by hammering on the desk) and then there’s the paradiddle diddle (right..left… Allen again illustrates by hammering)…something like that – the paradiddle. Well, the thing is there are mnemonic devices for these rhythms  –  “mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy”, “shave-haircut-six-bits, shave-haircut-six-bits, shave-haircut-six-bits, shave-haircut-six-bits” ,suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick”. So, what is the point of that? – that the ancient rhythms, the ancient African rhythms, (which are the oldest we know, and probably did come up through Egypt, you know,through Afric sort of, wherever they came from, and they hit Greece at some point or other), were also linked with speech forms, with phrasing. See, the speech and poetry, music and song, chant, always went together. It was all a human activity, to begin with. It was all a human activity, to begin with (da-da-da da-da da da-da-da – da-da-da- da-da da-da da-da da, da da da) . So there’s basic rhythms, which then you can exteriorize as a drumbeat, as a drumbeat (“suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick, suck-a-dick” or “mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy, mom-and-daddy“). There always was speech to begin with. There always was the human body, or some function of the human body, or one of many functions, or as (Ezra) Pound pointed out, as (Basil) Bunting pointed out, a certain exquisite..  Persian rhythms, he (Bunting) only understood when he heard women walking up this mountain path with their breasts slapping against…their tits slapping against their breast, putting a sub-rhythm in the walk, that they were going (Allen atttempts to demonstrate the rhythm – something like that) – He mentioned it when he said he finally understood a certain Persian work rhythm as a function of bodily activity. So that all rhythms are variable functions of bodily activity and very often vocalized as speech. So, in answer to your question, more specifically, the bebop rhythms that (Jack) Kerouac heard were derived originally by Charlie Parker from speech-rhythms that he heard on the street corner (like the Signifying Monkey poem, or the “dirty dozens” (“Your mama’s got a body like a ..dat-dat-dat-dat ..up your ass! – so there!) – And then, the saxophone riff going on in the same, going along in the same, metric. So the Western classic way of measuring all comes from Greek

Student: So, if you’re getting technical about it, is prose ever analyzed like poetry like this…?

AG: If you’re writing imperative heroic prose (and (Jack) Kerouac did, and so did Thomas Wolfe, and so did some people, you know, like (Herman) Melville, you could analyze it and find correlations and correspondences between Greek classic poetic meters, like the Greek meters in this. You don’t need to, because it’s done by the ear anyway, you don’t have to.. The only reason to notice is that you know you’re doing something. It’s like meditation practice, you’re breathing all the time anyway, it’s just if you become mindful of the breathing. Yet somehow it sort of clarifies things around and you can…or.. I’ve used this kind of metrical paradigm – (P-A-R-A-D-I-G-M), outline, when I write – even in writing “Howl” or writing “Kaddish” – when I’ve come to some spot where the thing stumbles,where the dance-rhythms stumble, or, you know, I haven’t quite got it out on what it is (last time I did it, I had to analyze “Over your dreadful vibrations this measured harmony floats audible” (ba-ba-da ba-ba-da ba ba-da ba-ba ba ba-ba-da ba ba-da-ba) -“Plutonian Ode” – there was something wrong with the line and I couldn’t get it . I finally analyzed it,wrote it down and realized that it was primarily dactylic – “Ov-er your/dread-ful/vibrations/this/measured/harmony..” – “measured harmony” – “floats audible/These jubilant tones (da-da da da da-da), “These jubilant tones are honey and milk and wine sweet water poured on the stone block floor” – In order to arrive at that, I had to.. I did have to become conscious of the direction of the meter. I broke the meter. I broke the dactylic form…. [ audiotape stops in media res ]

{Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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