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Title:The study of African rhythm as a model for understanding rhythm in two representative twentieth-century American works
Author(s):McLane, Alexander B.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nettl, Bruno
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This paper explores a model for the analysis of rhythm in music, based on theories drawn from the Western experience of African rhythm. It is proposed that the attention paid to broader issues of musical context in a tradition which is not Western may offer new systems of categorization. Here, categories derived from theories of African rhythm suggest questions to ask about rhythm in a different musical culture: the 20th-century American art music tradition, represented by two works--the Piano Sonata of Aaron Copland, and the String Quartet #2 of Milton Babbitt.
Eight categories are proposed: (1) the importance of rhythm in the music, (2) the degree to which aspects of rhythm are universal throughout the musical culture, (3) the effect of percussiveness on rhythm, (4) the interrelationship between rhythm and other aspects of culture, such as speech and dance, (5) the consistency of fundamental structural principles at different levels of time in the music, (6) the nature of pulse organization, (7) the degree to which time in the music is multi-dimensional, and (8) the relationship between composite, resultant rhythm to individual parts in the music. Each of these categories is applied to the analysis of rhythm in the pieces by Copland and Babbitt, prompting descriptions of the pieces in the terms offered by the categories. Comparisons are made between the two pieces, and between these pieces and those characteristics of African music which generated the model, searching for consistencies which would allow general characterizations of time-organization in this musical tradition.
While most of the categories permitted a detailed look at the two works, not all were equally useful in the attempt to describe a cultural attitude toward rhythm. The categories involving universality and the rhythm/culture interrelationship were difficult to apply here, although they were considered valid with respect to African rhythm. On the other hand, the discussions of percussiveness, pulse organization, and multi-dimensionality were helpful in articulating observations about musical time which might not have found their way into a more conventional analytical method.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 McLane, Alexander B.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9236540
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9236540

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