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    Godfried Toussaint

    I just found out that Godfried Toussaint died while at a conference in Japan this past July.

    Another pioneer is gone. His main contributions were in the field of pattern recognition.

    I'm posting this here partly as a follow up to Rick Cohn's recent question regarding teaching rhythm & meter. I'm not at all sure how many appreciate or take advantage of (or even know anything about) Toussaint's contribution to a theory of maximally even rhythmic structures (which he conceived of as 'Euclidean rhythms' - a distinction without a lot of difference) that extend Clough, Douthett et al's contributions in max even sets which, due to C&D's  nomenclature (hyperdiatonic, etc.), seem to be taken mostly as pitch scale theory. The abstract interval-string math supporting both pitch and rhythm applications is identical.

    He wrote a book, The Geometry of Musical Rhythm, that, in my opinion, is flawed by trying to connect Euclidean rhythms to what makes a 'good' rhythm good. A more straightforward introduction to his work is here:

    'The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms'.



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    • 3 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
    • That's quite a loss. The Geometry of Musical Rhythm is a wonderful book. The aesthetic value he ascribes to the tresillo, well, you can take it or leave it, and if you choose to leave it then it's still a fantastic book with a wealth of ideas, excellent explanations of concepts like entropy, and great visualization. It's the sort of book everyone should read, and pretty fast reading, too.

    • I am very sorry to learn of Godfried Toussaint’s death. Thank you for this posting. Toussaint’s ideas of rhythmic-metrical “geometry” offer kaleidoscopic angles on rhythms and durational patterning and their abstract relationships (the tresillo as 3-3-2 or 10010010 in binary notation where 1 depicts the onset, 0 no sound, and each character represents an “equal span of time” —vs. e.g., the  Cuban clave son)

      His The geometry of musical rhythm: what makes a “good” rhythm good? (CRC Press, 2013) is, indeed, a wonderful book!  The issue of “Euclidean” (maximally even) rhythmic patterning does not so much suggest an “answer” to the question in his subtitle, as perhaps an equally interesting question of whether these sets of articulations arise from their distributional properties and/or from the particular melodic, bodily, and movement contexts of their performance. 

      At what “grain” of experience or analysis does parsing, discrete counting/measuring, give way to gesture, analog movement, flow?  Or vice versa?  More than chicken/egg questions – both angles, and their differences, can be productive and suggestive. 

    • Steve, thanks for making me (us) aware of his passing.

      I'm currently teaching a readings lesson with an undergradaute student this semester during which she is reading all of Toussaint's book. I've assigned it in part to train her in critical thinking -- "of which parts are you skeptical; of which parts are you complimentary?" There's a number of both in the book.