Friday, January 18, 2013

A Twitch in Time

Studies into folks who have Tourettes's and are musicians have revealed some very interesting findings. We develop "musical tics".  Tourette's "invades our music" in the form of rhythmic patterns.  These tics become recurrent rhythmic themes that are inserted into virtually all pieces played by a musician with Tourettes.  Like all other tics, they are unplanned, and many times unnoticed by the person having them.

Most of you already know where this is going.  Over the last few years, I've discovered them in my own playing.  Until learning of the research, I never gave much thought to the rhythmic patterns that just seem to 'show up' in my bass lines.  They are brief and subtle, but have become an unmistakable part of my "voice" on the instrument.  

I'll try to keep this as clear as possible for the "non musical types" who are reading.  First a quick background.  Timing in most music is counted in figures of twos or figures of threes.  It goes something like this.  Figures of two are counted as one-and,  two-and,  one-and, etc.  It feels like a march. Left, right, left, right, etc.  Figures of three are counted one-and-uh, two-and-uh, etc.  These feel like a waltz.  

I've noticed that I use very quick figures involving these patterns in almost everything I play.  Interestingly enough, many times they appear in contrast, or counterpoint to the time feel of the song.  A two figure will pop in when the song is counted in a three figure and vice versa.  Even when I make a conscious effort to keep them out, they bubble to the surface.  I've made a mental game of  keeping them out at times.  They always sneak in.  They win.  

My voice as a musician is therefore a product of my having Tourette's.  Is it a good thing?  Ask my clients.  I don't believe I can be objective about it.  For better or worse, the tics are an inextricable part of my playing and what people hear when they hear me.  

As usual, Tourette's has found a way to have a say in every area of my life.  In this one case, I don't think I mind.

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