Simanaitis Says

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IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE ODDEST OF TIMES

MY NEW T-SHIRT reads “These are difficult times.” But before we yell “Right On!” or get all Trumpery about it, the T-shirt is referring to musical signatures.

Though I love music of all sorts, I confess to being musically illiterate. I know the location of notes on a scale has something to do with pitch. And, largely through auditory trial and error, I vaguely understand the concept of time signatures: The fraction a/b implies “a” beats to a measure; the “bth note” gets one beat. Thus, probing the depths of my ken, waltzes are in 3/4 time; marches in 4/4.

Thanks to The Dave Brubeck Quartet, in 1959 I learned a lot about odd times.

Time Out, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Columbia/Legacy, 1997.

The Brubeck album Time Out features the well known “Take Five,” written in a jagged but jazzy 5/4 time. “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is in 9/8. “Everybody’s Jumping” and “Pick Up Sticks” are, mostly, in 6/4. “Strange Meadow Lark” is traditional 4/4 after a gently meandering piano solo of no particular time signature. “Kathy’s Waltz” starts in 4/4, but introduces double-waltz time, then combines the two. My favorite, “Three to Get Ready,” begins as a waltz and then alternates between this 3/4 and 4/4. All in good, if difficult, times.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Dave Brubeck, piano; Paul Desmond, alto sax, Eugene Wright, bass, and Joe Morello, drums.

The full album can be heard at several YouTube locales, including this one. “Blue Rondo à la Turk” opens the album. “Three to Get Ready” is at 19:44.


Odd Times, Classical and Otherwise are cataloged by Wikipedia. For example, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, No. 26, has 18/16 for one hand played against 3/4 in the other. Then it exchanges hands at intervals until the last five bars with both at 18/16.

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Movement II, has a portion written in 12/32. Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9, Movement II, is in 11/8.

The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” has a particularly intricate 29-beat pattern repeated in its main verse, two 7/4 measures, a single bar of 8/4, followed by one bar at 7/4. Verification: (2 x 7) + 8 + 7 = 29.

Derek Bourgeois’ Serenade is my all-time favorite piece of difficult times. Bourgeois (who pronounced his name Brit-fashion “Burgess”) wrote many pieces for brass and wind ensembles. These include Serenade, 1965; another one titled Blitz, 1981, and a third called Metro Gnome, 1999.

Derek David Bourgeois, 1941–2017, English composer, lecturer in music at Bristol University, director of National Youth Orchestra, director of music at St. Paul’s Girls School, London. Image by Alan Rusbridger for the Guardian.

In a 2009 4barsrest.com interview, Bourgeois said “Why does nobody play Metro Gnome? I think it’s a much better piece than Serenade.

Metro Gnome, pun intended, is certainly jaunty, however my affection for Serenade is its charming 11/8, then 13/8, then back to 11/8.

Bourgeous wrote Serenade as an organ recessional for his own wedding, purposely set as a challenge for an orderly exit.

Wind Band Literature offers two YouTube renditions of Serenade, one in its original organ version, the other for concert band. It’s particularly fun to watch the organist at work.

Serenade certainly gets me through difficult times; and thanks, Karen, this T-shirt is the timeliest of all. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

3 comments on “IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE ODDEST OF TIMES

  1. brnwgnd@aol.com
    December 30, 2018

    Dennis, someone is using your identity on Facebook again in an attempt to get a hook into your friends. It’s a friend request with no sender photo or info other than your name. Brian Wiegand

    • simanaitissays
      December 30, 2018

      Thanks, Brian. This all started yesterday when FB disabled my account “for pretending to be someone else.” My acct, mind; not the other one(!?!) I’m currently dealing with FB to correct its error. FB wants me to provide government-authorized photo ID to establish my identity as Dennis Simanaitis. Given its careless handling of this matter, I refuse to provide a scanned license or passport or such. I directed FB here to SimanaitisSays as an example of my photo, email, and continued presence since 2012. It’s up to them whether I even bother keeping an FB presence. I’ve posted information on this matter at two other social media, Twitter and Linkedin.
      Again, thanks for your alert and just ignore any “Dennis Simanaitis” FB postings until I report the matter clarified.

  2. rulesoflogic
    December 30, 2018

    Love the shirt and love Time Out as well.

    Facebook is a criminal organization. Probably not the same person, but I used to work with someone named Brian Wiegand.

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