Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seven Four

Waiting on the subway platform at 14th Street for the F train to Brooklyn, I heard a young woman in full-Williamsburg hipster regalia playing the accordion.

Her selection? "Ring of Fire" from Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

I love this song for so many reasons, but leading them is the instrumental refrain in seven-four time. Count it out. Once the entirely unexpected Mariachi trumpet passage starts, the song is in seven. (Da-dut da dah dah dee dah daaa - 5 - 6 - 7, Da-dut da dah dah dee dah daaa - 5 - 6 - 7) I'm not sure which is more surprising the meter or the orchestration.

Maybe fifteen years ago, I heard Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at Irving Place. Wonderful, amazing concert. They came with the best sidemen in the biz; country-western 2/4 back beat was elevated to poetry.

If you listen to June Carter and the Carter Family, you'll find a flexible metrical music that easily moves through odd-number bars and playfully skips over an eighth-note here and there.

Seven-four on the subway platform. I love New York City.