I believe irrational meter is the way of the future. Too long have we allowed the sixteenth note to be the underlying current of every work. Most music can be subdivided into eighth, sixteenth, or thirty-second notes. Irrational meter is meter in which the denominator is not a multiple of 2 (2,4,8,16,32, etc.) Examples would be 5/6, 7/10, 6/7.
Irrational meter is not as hard as it looks. Consider the 4/4 bar. It consists of four quarter notes or eight eighth notes or sixteen sixteenth notes. It can also be seen as consisting of six quarter-note triplets because one quarter note triplet (consisting of three quarter notes) of course takes two beats and there are four beats in a 4/4 measure. This is where we get the concept of 6/6.
Now what would happen if we were to take just part of a 4/4 bar much like a 7/8 bar basically robs a 4/4 bar of an eighth note. In a 7/8 bar though you can keep a constant eighth note pulse. The idea behind irrational meter is to take away the steady pulse of underlying subdivision, thereby freeing the performer and listener from what can be seen as a prison of time. If we look at a 4/4 bar as a 6/6 bar why can't we just take away one of the six thereby making it a 5/6 bar?
By this process one can manipulate time in practically any matter without using new tempi. The rhythms of these bars in (Don't) Be Flat are the bare bones of irrational meter. The most commonly used irregular time signature is 2/6. The images below show how this can be interpreted.
Here are some more examples of irrational meter that I would never scare a band with. Thanks for reading!
Nicholas Perry Clark is a music composition student at The University of Texas at Austin writing about relevant musical topics.