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Re: The meter of the Jewish zhok
- From: Fred Jacobowitz <fredj...>
- Subject: Re: The meter of the Jewish zhok
- Date: Thu 17 Oct 1996 15.32 (GMT)
OK, I see the reference to seven now. However, using Occam's
razor, the simplest solution is the best. Five is easier than seven to
count and to deal with melodically. And, you can definitely play, notate
and understand the five while the seven seems to be an imaginary way to
envision the meter. Do you play an instrument? Have you ever seen any
notation in 5/16? I'll be happy to send you a copy of some so you can see
how applicable it is for yourself.
Clarinet/Sax Instructor, Peabody Preparatory
On Wed, 16 Oct 1996, Solidarity Foundation wrote:
> Khaver Jacobowitz,
> The question is not an easy one.
> Although I have never thought the zhok meter was 5/16, when 7/16 was
> suggested to me (by tsimbalist/accordionist Joshua Horowitz), my reaction was
> similar to yours. In discussing the matter with him, however, I have come to
> realize that there are many subtleties involved.
> Let me try to clarify my position. First, it is of course true that the
> zhok is sometimes played in a more or less straight 3/8. But we at least agree
> that there is an "aksak" (Turkish for "limping") form, even if we disagree on
> precisely what it is. We also agree that the aksak is the older of the two and
> the 3/8 is a simplification of it. But let's put aside the simplified form for
> now, because the question doesn't relate to it.
> Second, please note that I specifically said the zhok is not FELT as
> seven. There are not really seven beats, in the sense of actual pulse, and if
> I tried to count it out as seven while playiong it, I'm sure I could not do
> This is in contrast to the fast Bulgarian dances you mention, in which one
> really feels seven beats. In saying that the zhok is "metronomically" seven, I
> meant only that the meter is proportionately divisible into seven equal units.
> But these are units of time only. One actually feels this metric figure as a
> pulse of three, the elements being in the time-proportion 2:2:3. It is only in
> this "stopwatch" sense that I call it seven.
> Now comes a further wrinkle. Assuming this triple meter, in which the
> third element is a little longer, if you listen to the very pronounced beat
> in the accompinament to a zhok, it always comes on beat one and beat three --
> beat two is always silent. (This is true even when the zhok is played in
> 3/8.) That means that only TWO beats are actually played, of which (coming
> to the proportional division into 7) the first comes on ONE and the second on
> FIVE. These divide the bar into TWO parts, in the proportion 4:3. So in this
> two-meter, the FIRST beat is a little longer than the second.
> The fascinating thing about the zhok is that BOTH things are going on
> at the same time. The meter is at one and the same time a three with a
> prolonged third beat, and a two with a slightly prolonged first beat. The
> resulting effect is like a slightly limping two superimposed on a slightly
> limping three.
> And that is just the basic pulse. Above this is the melody, which often
> syncopates into varioous proportionate subdivisions of seven, such as 1:2:4
> or 1:3:1:2, AGAINST the basic pulse. And sumetimes the accompaniment figure
> varies as 3:1:1:2 (where, in A minor for example, the notes would be AECE,
> with the next downbeat landing back on A.
> Finally, let me emphasize that these are analytical observations only.
> I don't believe it's possible to play any of these figures, or at least play
> them with the right "feel," by literally counting out the units. Just as with
> jazz, it is possible only to feel the various groupings in the right
> proportions and syncopations.
> In practice, I have always felt the meter as a slightly limping two
> superimposed on a slightly limping three, as explained above. But if you
> analyze it out, I think you'll find the proportional basis is seven. (I've
> tried it with five, but it doesn't work as a zhok.) A related but faster kind
> of zhok, popular today in Romanian music but not found in Jewish music, uses
> a rapid accompanying figure in the tsimbl that also shows the basic
> 7-structure: a dotted 8th and 16th plus three 16ths, the dotted eighth being
> very short, the first 16th being a pickup to the next 3.
> I'd be very interested to hear other people's views on this.
> Itzik-Leyb Volokh (Jeffrey Wollock)