Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Triangulation Adulation - The small, the mighty

Last night I finished the track for my spoken word thing that I'm doing for my church this weekend. It is pretty simple, really, composed mostly of loops and effects from Garageband (the program, not the previously mentioned website), which is, of course, a standard fixture on my wife's Mac laptop.

As a composer, one of my very favorite instruments is the triangle. It is a very unassuming, seemingly simple device. It looks like it would be easy to play and is just about as uncomplicated in design as anything one could imagine.

Even a caveman could play the triangle!

This is not true, however. The triangle, like the humble shaker, actually requires great physical skill, keen sense of rhythm, and zen master-like powers of concentration. It is capable of a tremendous variety of subtle tonalities. In an orchestral setting, the triangle is sometimes played in a manner as shown in the picture above. In more rhythmic applications, i.e. Latin or other "world" musics, it is typically held in a way that enables the player to use his palm to alternately mute and unmute the triangle as he strikes it. It is only very occasionally played in the style of the chuck wagon cook who is calling the ranch hands in to dinner.

The triangle completely and absolutely dominates in the frequency spectrum that it performs in. There are a few other noteworthy cymbal-type percussion devices that also thrive in that part of the spectrum, but they do not rule the kingdom like the triangle does. It is really an especially powerful sound when played in a driving, rhythmic beat. It creates a relentless, irresistable pace to the beat, energizing a groove like nothing else. It adds a special kind of shiny high-gloss sheen to the sound, but it can also be the glue that fuses together the various elements of a groove. From a compositional standpoint, much of this is true of electronic, sampled triangle sounds, as well, although I always prefer the real thing when possible.

This is the kind of thing that makes me happy.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

That is really interesting! I remember the triangle from music class. I never got to play it much, but I always thought it was really neat.