Entry 133, August 3rd, 2011, 11:58pm (GMT +2)
We're starting to get used to the new cast. It is interesting to see where all the dancers feel the time. They're just like musicians – some of them feel it ahead, some a little farther back. My favorite dancers in both casts have been those that feel it a little behind, like Elvin Jones (the longtime drummer in John Coltrane's famous quartet). It creates a little bit of tension – they aren't behind, and they certainly aren't lacking in energy or drive, but they create a little bit of rhythmic dissonance that can be beautiful just like the Basie band's horn section laying back into the time (although they don't take it to such extremes as the Basie band!).
Maybe that's what swing is. Swing is a style, of course, characterized by certain repertoire and such, but it is also a quality that a music can possess regardless of genre. I've heard jazz musicians refer to music that isn't “swing” as “swinging,” and it makes sense. Swing is rhythmic dissonance.
That is the major difference between much modern music and the music that jazz musicians love to play. Most modern music avoids this rhythmic dissonance – everything is together in the same place. You can't really create rhythmic dissonance with a drum machine; sure, you can put something on a really strange subdivision, but swing is more subtle than that. It changes, it fluctuates slightly, it has certain rules as to the application of rhythmic dissonance . . . you really need musicians playing against one another to make it happen.
There is a lot of modern music I like, don't get me wrong. Electronica, house, reggaetone, etc., can all be cool, but I like them for what they do with timbres and for the raw ferocity that they attack the listener with. Rhythmic dissonance (swing) is on a whole different level of sophistication.