I can imagine our musical ancestors during the late Renaissance meeting in an Abby, trying to figure out how to write music as we know it today. Think about a group of 64 musicians, singers, dancers and song writers who were tired of arguing about how to write the divisions of the beat.
It had been a long intense day… So they left the meeting room except for two very hungry math Monks who were members of The Order of the Notes. The two Monks ordered a pizza pie and continued to discuss written rhythm.
When the pizza was delivered, the aroma filled the room and the Monks cut it in half. Before they could take their piece of pie, two more of the group came in and wanted some pie too.
So, they cut it into four pieces, then eight, 16, 32, and finally 64. I hope it was a big pie. They came up with the most famous example of dividing the beat…The Pie Chart. Euclid and Pingala would be proud of them.
So, our modern notation for writing rhythm is a geometric division base two binary math sequence. (Whew… I can’t believe I wrote that) Since rhythm is a division of a whole beat, it can be written and played as numbers. Notes and staffs are not needed to write rhythm.
When I was touring with Country Music bands, I thought about writing some rhythm on truck stop restroom walls amidst all the trucker graffiti. I should have.
While the Pie Chart is an excellent way to demonstrate the binary divisions of a whole, I like to use an Italian loaf of bread. Dividing a rectangle into two equal parts clearly points out the equal halves of the beat. With the first and second halves of the beat clearly defined, I can easily explain divisions of the Down Beat and Up Beat. View The Order of the Notes
The Order of the Notes will help you understand what I mean about the binary division of the beat and writing rhythm as numbers.