Ladies and gentlemen, Track Two of Imaginary RPG Deluxe: ‘What’s Going On?!’
This one was a lot of fun; I started out with just the idea that I reaaally wanted to write something in 13/4. I have no idea why, it’s one of the weirdest time signatures ever. I don’t even know if there’s anything else out there in 13/4, but there should be.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with the rhythm, by the way, think of it like this. When something’s 4/4, you count ‘one two THREE four one two THREE four’ and so on. 3/4 is ‘one TWO THREE one TWO THREE’. Strauss’s ‘Blue Danube‘ is one of the most famous examples of this time signature (skip to about 1:32 in the linked video to hear the ‘one TWO THREE’ pretty clearly). 13/4 can be split up into one bar of 7/4 and one of 6/4. The 7/4 can be split into a 4/4 and a 3/4, and the 6/4 down into two 3/4s. So what you end up with is ‘one two THREE four one TWO THREE one TWO THREE one TWO THREE one two THREE four one TWO THREE one TWO THREE one TWO THREE’.
Basically, I like weird time signatures, and I’m really sorry for how confusing this might be to your ears if you’re not familiar with jazz or… I dunno, Tim Minchin (he’s done some musically weird stuff). If you want to warm up your odd-time sensibilities a bit, ‘Take Five‘ is a really great example of an accessible tune in an odd signature. It’s in 5/4, which it accomplishes by splitting each bar into three and two beats so it doesn’t sound too peculiar. Or, if you’ve seen the movie Whiplash – highly recommended, if you haven’t – the pieces ‘Whiplash‘ and ‘Caravan‘, which appear in prominent scenes, are both a bit peculiar time-wise.
So, ‘What’s Going On?!’ I see this as being a theme that might play when the protagonist and his crew/ party first encounter a roguish type, who might be called Alan. He’s probably one of those guys who’s initially a bit of a jerk, though at the same time kind of goofy, and he would be sort of morally neutral. Eventually, of course, he would join the gang in their quest to save the universe, or whatever the plot of this game ends up being.
It starts out with a bit of a drum solo in an effort to establish the weird time signature, then brings in a fast-moving bass. Alan’s a speedy type. There’s also a glockenspiel which makes the occasional ‘ping’ over the top, just for fun. About halfway through, the piece shifts for no good reason into the perfectly standard 4/4, and at this point the rhythm of the bass owes a lot to WWE wrestler Seth Rollins’ theme music. It’s not quite as metal as all that, but the speedy triplets were inspired by the breakdown at about 0:35. Then, just for fun, we head back into 13/4 for a quick reprise of the opening drums, and done.
It’s a short piece, but I think it captures a goofy yet perhaps dangerous sort of spirit. Alan the rogue could be a serious threat if he wanted to be, but tends to come across as bumbling – partly on purpose so as to ensure he’s always underestimated.