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Rhythm Is A Beautiful Shared Lie That Makes Us Human!

Guitarist and Gamelan music expert Sean Hayward shares insights on the importance of rhythm and practicing with the metronome.

Inspiration by Metronome Online with

ARTIST FEATURE: Sean Hayward is a musician carrying many hats. From electric guitar to percussion, from flamenco to classical contemporary, he is one of the main advocates for Gamelan music in the US. We are so happy that he is joining us this week for our regular artist feature! Let’s hear what he has to say about rhythm and time in music!

1) Why is rhythm important?

Rhythm is that beautiful shared lie which makes us human. Relativity tells us that we are each traveling through time independently. Psychology tells us that we each experience time in completely different ways. However, our humanity tells us that we must find a way to connect and communicate. As a species, we have decided to parse out time, dividing it neatly into blocks that we can more or less agree upon. The calendar, the watch, the metronome; these devices allow us to agree on a common framework for our existence. We can move together, feel together, breathe together, play together. Despite our fundamental subjectivity, our utter inability to truly know the complete thoughts and experiences of another person…. we have found a way to connect through rhythm. Rhythm gives us the chance to lose ourselves, to communicate across a vast divide, and even to feel that this divide doesn’t exist. While each culture has different conceptions of time, the goal of rhythm as an organizational tool is nearly universal.

2) How do you practice your rhythm and sense of time?

I enjoy playing with a metronome at times, work closely with percussionists, and practice vocal tala exercises. My favorite thing is moving between different styles. Learning how to pulse consistently through minimalism, and allow for a wide range of push and pull when playing Indonesian traditional music. Working out how to allow for these to exist side by side also allows for some fantastic ear stretching.

" While each culture has different conceptions of time, the goal of rhythm as an organizational tool is nearly universal. "

3) What are your favorite rhythmic exercises?

I like to divide any given meter into all possible combinations of 2 and 3 pulse groups. Practice playing all pulses while accenting the first note of each pulse group. Gradually drop all of the other notes in between until you can feel it as a groove. Then I like to try playing 2 different combinations on top of each other (one in each hand, or one in the hands and one in the voice).

4) Can you name one thing that you like about the metronome on Metronome Online?

I love the flexibility with time signatures and the ability to select a variety of different sounds for the metronome.

VIDEO: Check out Sean’s piece, a mixture of English language and Gamelan music in a theater setting, talking about none other than a “Cockroach” or “Kecoa” in Indonesian.

Rhythm Is A Beautiful Shared Lie That Makes Us Human!

Sean Hayward

Sean Hayward is a composer, performer, researcher, and educator based in both Los Angeles, California and Surakarta, Central Java. His music is a reflection of his wide ranging interests, which include Javanese gamelan, process music, interdisciplinary story telling, Balkan folk music, the contemporary classical guitar, extreme metal, and ancient tuning systems. From 2019-2020, Sean was a recipient of a Fulbright research grant, focused on the bamboo calung ensemble of Banyumas, Central Java. He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Performer-Composer program at California Institute of the Arts where he has also served as a lecturer. Current activities include working as a lecturer in Javanese gamelan at UCLA, composing for documentary film, performing with the Indonesian lute trio Cenglu, and the experimental puppet theater troupe, Wayang Sampah.


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