Tweaking A Beat


The beat could be anything,
or something quite simple.

The beat was for nothing,
or for being interesting in itself,
for creating a mood.

I choose the kit at random
and found its kick and snare:

boom – – – kah – – boom – – boom – kah – – –

A generic a place to start,
a beat heard so many times,
in so many iterations,
that it feels like finger-tapping vernacular.

The computer loops my four bars and I listen.

The rhythm is generic
because it’s a classic design –
three kick hits and two snares,
with different spaces between them.

I listen to the four bars and wonder:
How would I change them
but keep the form intact?

The looped listening turns my ear
to the sounds and my wishing
for more difference.

The kick could be lower,
or softer,
the snare could be higher,
or louder.

But we don’t know what we want
until we hear it.

I tweak the onscreen knobs,
changing the parameters,
changing the sounds.

Playing the beat is one gesture
complete in itself,
tweaking its sound is another,
layering changes
upon the rhythm like a scrim.

Rewind the tape:
we don’t know where to go
when we begin a project,
but initial moves
set up what comes next.

I adjust the Delay
to hear what happens,
the beat multiplies,
quoting itself
in a stereo bounce.

I hear the layers of change—
the beat,
the pitch and timbre tweaks,
the bounce.
What else can be done
if there’s no end to the doing?

The beat could be anything,
or something quite simple.

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