Originally Posted by Sticktrick
Last thing I have to say is about your comment on Planet X and mathematical music. You can trust me, that I am DEEPLY into that kind of stuff - I was a student of Ralph Humphrey and he is the godfather of oddmeter drumming. I also took lessons with a tablamaster from India and know some of the concepts of their music. I have a quite solid collection of indian classical music and some great stuff with Trilok Gurtu on it. In other words: I know what I'm talking about - not wanting to be arrogant here, don't get me wrong. But all this music is not about showing off. Plant X sounded to me like it was. Thats what I didn't like.
I'm with Sticktrick here. Missed that comment originally, but while Sticktrick is arguing from the Indian angle I'll take the Balkan one. I play with a guitarist from a Croatian family, and through him I've been exposed to quite a lot of the concepts used both in balkan styles and also some of the middle-eastern (mostly Islamic) music where a fair bit of that has filtered in from. One thing that's worth mentioning about the balkan/middle-eastern approach to rhythm is that while it's certainly very odd (I'm working at the moment on a piece in 11/8) it is also very deliberately structured to be musical and easy to comprehend. If you listen to balkan 4/4 playing it's actually not that different from the 11/8 playing or whatever, in that both approaches are clearly constructed from identifiable rhythms and for the most part aren't particularly angular.
The ultra-angular approach to odd-time playing seems to be something that is more of a feature of Western progressive music, it doesn't really seem to have a basis in any ethnic tradition I've yet encountered.
Probably the nearest I've heard to taking the kind of rhythmic concepts you'd see in an ethnic environment and adapting it to extremely conceptually dense Western heavy music would be something like Meshuggah (or Fredrik Thordendal's other work), there's a very clear effort going on in that music to make things both complex yet musically accessible. Parts that sound incredibly complex often unravel to be actually just heavily syncopated 4/4, while odd-time parts overlaid sound more often than not like exciting syncopations. You can hear the two perspectives, but there's a definite effort to make viewing them from either direction a musical experience rather than just a technically impressive feat.
Rhythmic concepts and time signatures are, in my view, just a canvas for an artist to work on. If you envision 4/4 as a standard, say, A4 (or similarly dimensioned) piece of paper then 11/8 could be a piece of paper that is slightly too tall or narrow. Changing the dimensions of the canvas doesn't automatically grant the art merit, but it does change the compositional rules in a way that makes you have to think about them. Unfortunately many people who play in odd times just seem to take the lazy approach of adding or subtracting notes from common-time bars, which IMHO is actually compositional nonsense and has no real shape unless you hit on something purely by accident. Donati hasn't done anything that I've managed to see interesting new compositional concepts hiding inside yet - either I'm too dumb to spot them or I'm smart enough to realise they're not there. Or, third possibility, it's all subjective and I just don't like his approach.
Either way, doesn't do it for me.