So I’m reading a really good book about modern musical theatre comparing and contrasting Webber with Sondheim and explaining their strengths and weaknesses as well as their contributions to modern musical theater with a minimum of snottiness (which is nice. You get the feeling that he likes both in different ways).
Anyway, the author is very taken with how kewl the weird-ass time signatures that Sondheim apparently uses are. I vaguely remember my music classes from grade school, but not well enough to have half a clue as to what he’s talking about.
FIrst, I have no idea what the bottom number in a time sig is for. I understand that the top number is number of beats so for 3/4 time, you count:“ONE two three” for the top number but what’s the “4” do?
Second, how do you know how to…accent the beat? Why isn’t it: “one TWO three”, for example.
Next, what’s the difference between 3/4 and, say 6/8? It’s the same number and (as far as I can tell) you count it the same way: “ONE two three FOUR five six”. How is that different from “ONE two three,ONE two three”?
For that matter, how do you know where the accent goes?
Looking at the book, Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story is 6/8 but is counted “ONE two THREE four FIVE six”. Why? Shouldn’t that be 2/something? (Besides, isn’t he counting it wrong? The song goes: “I like to BE in A-MER-i-ca!” If he were right, it would be phrased “I like TO be IN A-MER-i-CA!”, wouldn’t it?
Ditto with “Send In The Clowns”–12/8? Why is it 12/8? It doesn’t “count” that way–“ISn’t it rich? ARE we a pair? ME here at LAST on the ground, YOU in mid-air” I’ll be damned if I can get any consistant beat out of it, let alone 12/8.
I’m fascinated by this stuff, but I freely admit I’m completely lost.
Can anyone help? (Examples where you “count” (ONE two three) would really help)