Microrhythms and Microsounds in African-American Popular Music

I always love to hear Anne speak. Alas, I live-blogged her entire hour-long keynote today, complete with examples, and due to a horrible WordPress browser fail (including no success with autosave reversions) I lost all the text and examples!

So to recreate it from memory, Anne discussed some of the musical characteristics of black popular musics, as articulated by Wilson (1983), and then used these to trace a 50-year timeline of rhythmic accuracy in African-American popular music, particularly focusing on the cusp of digital tools (from early 1980s). Trends were traced, from the quest for super-accurate grooves (e.g. Prince’s Kiss), through the muddying/blurring of the beat (examples include Snoop Dogg, D’Angelo, Destiny’s Child, Tyler The Creator).

For more on this fascinating field, take a look at Anne’s researchgate profile and RITMO/UiO profile, and her various books and publications on micro-rhythm in popular music.

 

 

PopMAC day 1: Temporality and Microrhythm in Groove-Based Musics. #popmac

Temporality and Microrhythm in Groove-Based Musics. Analytical perspectives. Anne Danielsen, University of Oslo.

[abstract] The state of listening to groove-based music has been described as a condition of heightened presence in the musical here-and-now. This experience is often ascribed to the rhythms’ circular structural design and the groove’s repetitive form, which can last from several minutes to several hours depending on the context. However, also the presence of subtle microrhythmic features is crucial to the experience of groove. How can we analyze microrhythm in groove-based musics? And what can be said about form in groove-based music, which often seems to be completely devoid of form in the traditional sense? Last but not least, how can the analyses of temporality and micro rhythm inform us about the particular experience of time linked with dancing and listening to a groove? I will start with a discussion of previous empirical and theoretical work on rhythm within musicology, ethnomusicology and music psychology. Then I present a framework for analyzing groove-based music inspired by the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, and apply it to various groove- based musics. Here, I propose to engage with rhythm as an interaction between two analytically separable levels—virtual reference structures and actual sounds—that evokes the interaction between syntax and actual speech or writing in linguistics. I will use auditory analysis and various visual representations of sound, such as waveform curves and spectrograms, to explore the rhythmic design in detail. Finally, I touch upon how digital music technology has changed the feel of contemporary groove-based music.

Anne Danielsen is Professor in Musicology at the University of Oslo. She has published widely on rhythm, groove and music production in post-war African-American popular music and is the author of Presence and Pleasure: The Funk Grooves of James Brown and Parliament (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), for which she received the Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music. She is also the editor of the anthology Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction (Ashgate, 2010).

Anne’s opening question (inherent in much of her research) ‘how can we analyse micro-groove?’ and although she focuses on musical analytical perspectives today, she asserts that this does not preclude a cultural analytical approach. She starts with a brief discussion of previous work in musicology, ethnomusicology and music psychology. [Read more…]

IASPM day 2: Authorship and originality

IASPM outdoors[this session included my own paper which I will post separately with slides]

Authorship and originality. Chair – Anahid Kassabian

Authorship in the age of Digital Reproduction. Anne Danielsen (University of Oslo, Norway)
[abstract]
In the field of music, authorship traditionally resides in the musical work. In practice, this notion relies on the possibility of separating the performative aspects of music from the pre-composed. Authorship has thus been linked to the ‘frozen’ aspects of the musical process, to the structure that is left behind when the performance is over, either in the form of a notated score or a memorable melody. With the advent of recording techniques, the importance of the performance-related aspects came to the surface since in a recording also what were traditionally regarded as expressive means were fixed and thus possible to repeat. Previous to digital music production it was not possible to extract such performance-related aspects from the totality of the recorded sound. In the age of digital music production, however, this is different. In this paper I will discuss some examples of musical practice where the question of authorship is complicated, either because the creative contribution made by a specific author has not been acknowledged as part of the protected work, or because there are difficulties related to the very act of identifying wherein the authorship lies.

[Read more…]