This weekend I went to see the LA Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program opened with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 2, followed by his Piano Concert No. 2, performed by the very kind-looking Emanuel Ax. The second half of the show was a contemporary piece called "Sirens" by Anders Hillborg.
Hillborg's piece was interesting because, although Salanen was conducting in a very regular pattern throughout the entire performance, I don't think I would have been aware of any rhythm at all if I had closed my eyes. It was an atmospheric piece with rushes of sound followed by long sections of eerie singing and humming and whirring. I admired it for it's free form, but I kept asking myself if I was enjoying it as much as I enjoyed the Beethoven earlier.
Comparing the two made me think about rhythm and patterns, not only in music, but also in writing. I wondered how necessary they were.
After all, our lives as living things are full of rhythms and patterns: the seasons change fairly regularly, the sun sets and rises, we sleep and wake, we breath in and out, our hearts beat. Maybe there is something about regular patterns and rhythms that feel more natural to us.
In writing we often break up our stories into chapters and paragraphs and sentences. The regularity of starts and stops, at least for me, serves as a rhythm that helps me to rest and catch and my breath. Is that required for me to enjoy the book, or is it just something I'm used to? Possibly, something more free form would be just as cool once I got the hang of it.
More and more when I write I work to have variety in my paragraph lengths and my sentence structures. But sometimes a rhythm will just feel wrong. It'll bug me until I change it to suit some inner metronome that I don't really understand. It could all be random. I'm not sure.