So based on the original post and the responses, a few other questions/thoughts!
My understanding is that thinking of timing in terms of the kinds of rhythmic groupings discussed above is often about figuring out where to put accents i.e. where to play harder/louder for emphasis. If that’s the case, then are rhythmic cell note-groupings equivalent to swing? I guess that it might be that what we’re talking about relates to the larger concept of ‘feel’ maybe? Like ‘swing’ is a subset of ‘feel’?
As someone who is used to working with machines, I’m kind of haunted by @Gahlord 's comment:
It’s obviously the case that it’s a norm in sequencer design that all rhythmic events are generated in relation to a regular pulse. Is it the case that the notion of “the step” as a rhythmic unit is somehow problematic in that it suggests non-fractal rhythmic relationships where local variations are not related to global variations? I think that part of the reason that something like the Pulsar 23 feels like such a breath of fresh air is down to its potential to play with or ignore this (the regular pulse).
The sequencer I’m working on will stick with the regular pulse for now. This is partly because of the decision to allow the music-maker to pick arbitrary bar lengths/counts. Keeping to a regular pulse seems to me to be the only way to ensure that things remain synchronised. The sequencer will also implement a custom permutational algorithm, so that brings its own complexities. It’s also because I personally like that machine-swing sound.
One thought that does recur for me in relation to this though is captured by @kbit 's comment about ‘musicality’:
Regarding @wheelersounds thought of multiple swing patterns superimposed, something simple could be a “rotate” parameter like many euclidean pattern generator eurorack modules have, but in my experiments with this kind of thing using Teletype, the variations are quite subtle unless very heavy swing is used, which can quickly become “non-musical.”
@wheelersounds idea of “beating” (in the sense of beat-frequency) swing amounts or schemes against each other is something that really appeals to me and relates to @Gahlord 's comment about the way that Jazz musicians play off each other’s timings. I think those kinds of subtle temporal slippages and resolutions can be super-powerful from a compositional/feel perspective.
I know that this is deeply subjective but in the process of designing this device, I’ve been thinking about the penchant within the modular community for music that consists of multiple rhythmic/melodic loops of different step lengths and what the implications of introducing the (potentially complex) rhythmic offsets we’re discussing here into that mix might be. I wonder about the degree to which is makes sense ‘musically’?
I know that this risks opening a huge can of worms on a very subjective topic! I’m interested in music that grooves (i.e. that notion of entrainment) and music that does things to time perception. Ideal music for me exists in the overlapping of those two ideas.
That said, maybe there’s something to be said for just creating the tools to allow these ideas to be explored and letting the musicians figure it out for themselves?