Music in context; Tuplet based rhythm & cracking Dor Levin’s WTF Grooves


Concept & Tuplet Rhythm

If you’re on Instagram or Youtube and are prone to scourging the depths of their respective catalogues for the most experimental and forward thinking musicians and compositions, then there is a chance you might have discovered WTF Grooves already.

I discovered WTF Grooves through Instagram originally about a month or so ago and was thoroughly blown away by these videos. Needless to say I had to get in contact with the brainchild of the operation, Israeli composer and artistic genius Dor Levin.
Dor, like a fountain of knowledge, imparted so much of his musical and living philosophy, his mission, and was all round a pleasure and an inspiration to talk to.

WTF Grooves is an educational community project set up to challenge groove based music and the way we think of rhythm in music.
Based on a simple enough concept; Dor Levin’s grooves revolve around dividing tuplets and using an incomplete number of tuplets.
Check out the written example below. The first bar is totalling at 28/6/4; a very alien concept even compared to common odd meters, but how it is broken down is, the dotted quaver & semiquaver are 1 beat, the second set of quavers are beat 2, and the remaining 8/6/4 are the two groupings of 4 sextuplets.
The way these are to be tackled is; 6 sextuplets is equal to 1 beat, the remaining 2 then become 1/3 of a beat.

Exemplary tuplet breaking composition by Dor Levin

In a way, since these sextuplets are consecutive, it would be correct to alternatively notate this bar as 31/3/4; but for convenience of counting 2 sets of 4 sextuplets instead of 1 set of 6 sextuplets and an additional one of 2.
It may be a tricky concept to grasp at first, but the overall point of the composition is to both teach and symbolise the fact that time is completely fluid and time feel does not always have to be complete or even in feel. It can in fact be divided as many times as possible, limited only by the imagination of the player or composer.
This does tend to be largely an acquired style of composition and playing, and reserved in most cases for the most virtuosic of musicians, but there is definitely something to be said for the act of creatively pushing the boat out, dissecting the meter and observing it from within and assessing the more scientific nature of musical possibility.

The Science of Perception; WTF Grooves

Given WTF Grooves dives into unusual time signatures and rhythmic feels; I’m assuming you studied music? Where did you study?

I studied music at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, there my main focus was composition and arrangement. I studied there for five years between the ages of 19 and 24 (I don’t have a diploma because I failed one of the courses).
At the age of 24 I studied composition with Oded Zehavi (an Israeli composer) which totally changed my view on “what is music” and musical relationships.

The last assignment Oded gave me was to write a string quartet. I have always used time signature changes in my compositions but this time I wanted to break the pulse even more.
After a few days thinking about it I came up with the idea of breaking Triplets. I understood that in order to do this I needed to pretend as if the last Triplet note is in fact the beginning of a new bar.
After sitting for an hour or so near the piano I managed to play it smoothly and fill it as a time signature on its own (not yet mastering it, but playing it correctly)
This moment holds the Core Idea of what became WTF Grooves six years later.

Or Cohen Accad’s take on Groove no.1 is super awesome, hard as it is for an instrumentalist too feel a pulse as odd as this; it’s even tougher for singers. This take is so seamless; I would love to see more vocalists tackling this.

When did you get the idea for WTF Grooves, and what is the main goal or mission of this project?

After I finished writing the quartet, I showed my rhythmical concepts to my teachers and colleagues. Almost every one of them said that the concepts are either not practical or sound very similar to already existing forms of notation. A few months after that I moved back with my parents at Eilat city.
In Eilat I stopped composing music and got focused on perception change, learning about other cultures/philosophies/relegions/ and exploring meditation and many non musical aspects of living.
For four years I didn’t conceder myself a musician (I still don’t). When I play music or write music it is for the sake of exploring my body/mind connection.

Two years ago I wrote the very first WTF Groove. I wrote it because I wanted to try my rhythmical concept as a groove. I sent it to three of my musician friends which I thought will dig it (Yoav weinberg, Yadin Moyal, Yoel Genin) then through the course of two years I would write a groove every time I had another idea for a rhythmical concept.
I felt like these grooves give a better sense of “what is music”, helps you remember that the musical pulse is made up. It does not exist. Helps you remember that some of the boundaries we face are imagined and shaped by our own perception.
These grooves ask you to revisit your perception of “what is rhythm” and “how does rhythm work”, asking you to get in touch with your imagination and open your mind to new possibilities even within the realm of the already known. So in the musical sense WTF Grooves just adds another way of using and interpreting rhythms, creating new musical textures and new ways to invoke emotion through music.
In the macro sense WTF Grooves is an invitation to revisit your own paradigms about what is and what is made up.

I cannot recall why I filmed the first WTF Grooves video on January 21st this year. At the beginning it was just this one video, not public. I shared with a few friends asking them if they want to film their own take to a groove.
Yoel Genin was the first to film his own take and then Yoav Weinberg filmed his.
After I had these three videos I thought it would be cool to share it as an educational tool.
Since then, I’m keeping touch with musicians from all over the world asking them to take part and share their own interpretation to the grooves.

Dor Levin; the man, the myth, the legend

Who are your own biggest musical influences and did any of them inspire this project?

I don’t look at other musicians as inspiration rather as mediums to what is possible.
I like very much the music and concepts of Avishai Cohen, Igor Stravinsky, Zedd (the house music dude, Love him), Ravi Shankar (and a million other awesome Hindu musicians), I broke my robot, John Cage, John Adams.
I think the most musically inspiring artist for me is Ferran Adria. Ferran is a Spanish chef with amazing ideas and perception about food. In a movie about him Decoding Ferran Adria he said “If you want to get strong emotion you need new techniques”. I thought if I could treat music the same way he treats food, that that would be something.

Have you any ongoing side projects you are working on?

Not really.
I played and recorded drums for a few Prog-Metal bands and Rock bands but it was more as a favour, not something I consider “my work”.

If you want to check out more of Dor Levin’s compositions and WTF Grooves check out the links below

Also if you wish to give the grooves a go and add your own improvisation to them as your own personal challenge then definitely get in contact with Dor through any of the links above.

As always, I hope you guys enjoyed reading and if there is anything you want me to cover in the next post hit me up in the comments section or send me a message through my new, flashy contact page.

While writing this article I listened to Coltrane’s Blue Train and Giant Steps albums. I might have also played the track Countdown about 40 times on a loop; it’s way too short and the drums are amazing. The bass solo on Spiral is also killer. Paul Chambers is my dude.


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