Room 19

Polyrhythms--no, they don't have anything to do with parrots! It's when two rhythmic figures happen simultaneously as when three eighth notes are played at the same time as two eighth notes. You can get a feeling of the shifting back and forth between three and two if you sing the opening line of the song America from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story--that is,

(I like to) (be in A)
(O--k--by)(me in A)

We'll listen to a musical example that explores the idea of three notes against four a number of times. It's the third movement (Lento) from the Nuzerov Quartet No. 5 by Hayden Wayne.

Here are the times that various things happen.
:00 opening
:16 3 against 4 3 notes in violin against 4 notes in low voice
:36 even rhythms no polyrhythms
:53 half notes
1:18 3 against 4 high part in violin, 4 notes in low part
1:38 even again
2:13 3 against 4 middle part in viola
2:34 even rhythms
3:38 like beginning again
3:54 3 against 4 high part in violin
4:12 coda


Pretty slick, eh? Now that you know what to listen for, you'll hear it in other pieces too.

If you're curious about this recording and Hayden Wayne's other music, follow this link.

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