Rubato and Freedom

rubato,  in music, subtle rhythmic manipulation and nuance in performance. For greater musical expression, the performer may stretch certain beats, measures, or phrases and compact others. The technique is seldom indicated on a musical score but may be utilized according to the performer’s discretion. Rubato may affect only the melody (as in jazz) or the entire musical texture.

In an article about rubato, “The Practicing Musician” explains, “There is a misconception that rubato fights the pulse rather than works with it.” While the Italian word literally means ‘to rob,’ the time is not truly stolen. Overall, the tempo stays consistent, and there is still a sense of pulse. In true rubato, strict time that is stretched for one note is paid back in the shortened duration of another.

Striving for complete freedom through ignoring the rules, the structure of the music, causes a musician to lose her sense of it, its organization—what holds the music together. The Oxford Music Dictionary says, “Done badly, rubato merely becomes mechanical.” The disregard of musical laws in the desire for creative liberty ends in failure. The musician then misses goal of rubato, that feeling of freedom, and instead becomes emotionless.

The foundation and structure of the world was set by God. Life runs according to His rhythm and pulse. Just as an understanding and acceptance of musical laws allows for greater and more meaningful creative expression, an understanding and acceptance of God’s laws grants freedom from sin and a lighter way of life, full of peace, like the natural and easy sound of true rubato. Matthew 11:30 says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” John 8:32 says, “The truth will set you free.”


2 thoughts on “Rubato and Freedom

  1. So, in a sense, is rubato a musical version of give and take? But, only within the confines of an overall structure or system? This would require more understanding, not less.

  2. Yeah exactly! I started thinking about this when an orchestra director told the group at a rehearsal this same idea, that you have to understand the underlying framework of the music to accomplish successful rubato. So sure you can do rubato without that, but it won’t sound very good. And similarly I think that we can live without an understanding of God’s framework for life, but it works a lot better to live with an understanding and integration of His laws.

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