Is John Cage’s 4’33” music? If not, what about the silences (“rests”) in the middle of a song? Here’s an interview with Cage in which he challenges common assumptions about music. An interesting contrast to the definition I proposed–“music is the art of organizing sound in time”–is made by him here: “If music is the “enjoyment” of “sound”, then it must center on not just the side making the sound, but the side listening. In fact, really it is listening that is music. As we savor the sound of rain, music is being created within us.” –“In this time,” http://www.livingworld.net/shop/john-cage/
Carnatic classical music from south India uses a collection of rhythmic structures called tālas. Each tāla is cyclic and organizes time in a particular way, including the number of beats per cycle. In this video, the performer’s hand gestures indicate the tāla. These same gestures could accompany any piece using this tāla. Compare also the hand gestures used in the American tradition of shape-note singing and this over-the-top classical conductor.
James Brown, “The Godfather of Soul,” discusses grooves in his music in this 2005 interview with Terry Gross of NPR (starting around 3:00). He compares two versions of the “I Got You” groove. He also describes how his groove shifted with his 1965 song “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.”
Philip Glass wrote Knee Play 1 for his 1976 opera “Einstein on the Beach.” Glass has said that numbers were sung to help the chorus learn the difficult rhythm patterns. He intended to eventually replace them with other lyrics, but changed his mind.
The guitar and drums play what’s called a 3-against-4 polyrhythm in Led Zeppelin’s 1975 song “Kashmir.” To practice it, count “ONE TWO three” with the guitar while a friend counts “one two THREE four” with the drums. The upper case letters indicate claps and the lower case letters indicate taps or silence. The resulting pattern repeats after twelve beats. (Variation – add an extra clap between beats ONE and TWO in every other repeat of the first pattern, so you’re clapping ONE-AND-TWO three FOUR FIVE six.)
Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” uses a single repeated rhythm pattern. The two players start by clapping the 12-beat pattern together in unison. After eight measures, one performer shifts the pattern forward by one beat and they clap the new pattern for eight measures. This process is continued until the two patterns align again. Here’s a visualization. Reich says that the piece was inspired by the clapping patterns in traditional flamenco music of the Roma people in Andalusia, Spain.