I thought the main part of Annie B’s argument was about non-rhythm, the arrhythmic. The point wasn’t to consider what rhythm is, but the thing that isn’t it, and that thing’s merit. It’s a similar question to the harmony versus dissonance debate in music, although pretty much everyone now agrees on their intertwining. I think it’s much better to think of these conceptual poles as tendencies rather than ideals to be upheld.
When rhythm is considered tonally, the aberrations from harmony and the rhythmic tendency imbricate one another. For example, John Cage’s “String Quartet in Four Parts” exhibits an inharmonic tendency that orients the listener to find rhythms. James Pritchett’s liner notes to the Mode recording of the Arditti Quartet’s performance describes it well:
In the quartet, each chord is expressed all by itself, and the power of harmony is neutralized by Cage’s having refused to connect them, by having his remained silent in the spaces between chords. Although not including extensive silences (those would appear in his music soon thereafter), the quartet provided Cage with the compositional silence he sought: a freedom from the need to place sounds into compelling relationships.
The non-relationships make for compelling listening–a pensive, melancholic plodding like falling into the pipes in a Mario Brothers video game.
Annie-B–from your perspective, does dance have analogous operations? or is movement absolutely singular in some respect we haven’t discussed yet?
[editor’s note: Marc Etlin is a dramaturg and playwright in untraditional theatre. He lives in New York.]