Skip to main content
×
×
Home

New Riffs on the Old Mind-Body Blues: “Black Rhythm,” “White Logic,” and Music Theory in the Twenty-First Century

  • TOM PERCHARD
Abstract

Contemporary music historians have shown how taxonomic divisions of humanity—constructed in earnest within European anthropologies and philosophies from the Enlightenment on—were reflected in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theories of musical-cultural evolution, with complex and intellectualized art music forms always shown as transcending base and bodily rhythm, just as light skin supposedly transcended dark. The errors of old and now disreputable scholarly approaches have been given much attention. Yet scientifically oriented twenty-first-century studies of putatively Afro-diasporic and, especially, African American rhythmic practices seem often to stumble over similarly racialized fault lines, the relationship between “sensory” music, its “intelligent” comprehension, and its analysis still procedurally and politically fraught. Individual musical sympathies are undermined by methods and assumptions common to the field in which theorists operate. They operate, too, in North American and European university departments overwhelmingly populated by white scholars. And so this article draws upon and tests concepts from critical race and whiteness theory and asks whether, in taking “black rhythm” as its subject, some contemporary music studies reinscribe what the sociologists Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva have called “white logic”: a set of intellectual attitudes, prerogatives, and methods that, whatever the intentions of the musicologists concerned, might in some way restage those division practices now widely recognized as central to early musicology.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Agawu, Kofi. “The Invention of ‘African Rhythm.’Journal of the American Musicological Society 48/3 (1995): 380–95.
Alland, Alexander. Race in Mind: Race, IQ, and Other Racisms. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
Alwakeel, Ramzy. “IDM as a ‘Minor’ Literature: The Treatment of Cultural and Musical Norms by ‘Intelligent Dance Music.’Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 1/1 (2009): 121. https://dj.dancecult.net/index.php/dancecult/article/view/268.
Benadon, Fernando. “Time Warps in Early Jazz.” Music Theory Spectrum 31/1 (2009): 125.
Benadon, Fernando and Ted Gioia. “How Hooker Found His Boogie: A Rhythmic Analysis of a Classic Groove.” Popular Music 28/1 (2009): 1932.
Bent, Ian with Drabkin, William. Analysis. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987.
Bispham, John C.Rhythm in Music: What Is It? Who Has It? And Why?Journal of Music Perception 24/2 (2006): 125–34.
Bjerke, Kristoffer Yddal. “Timbral Relationships and Microrhythmic Tension: Shaping the Groove Experience Through Sound.” In Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction, ed. Danielsen, Anne, 85101. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010.
Bohlman, Philip. “Erasure: Displacing and Misplacing Race in Twentieth-Century Music Historiography.” In Western Music and Race, ed. Brown, Julie, 323. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Born, Georgina. Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Butterfield, Matthew W.Race and Rhythm: The Social Component of the Swing Groove.” Jazz Perspectives 4/3 (2010): 301–35.
Cateforis, Theo. “Performing the Avant-Garde Groove: Devo and the Whiteness of the New Wave.” American Music 22/4 (2004): 564–88.
Christodoulou, Chris. “Renegade Hardware: Speed, Pleasure and Cultural Practice in Drum ’n’ Bass Music.” Ph.D. dissertation, London South Bank University, 2009.
Collier, James Lincoln. Jazz: The American Theme Song. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Conyers, James L. Jr., ed. African American Jazz and Rap: Social and Philosophical Examinations of Black Expressive Behavior. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2001.
Cook, Nicholas. The Schenker Project: Culture, Race, and Music Theory in Fin-de-siècle Vienna. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Cross, Ian. “Music and Cognitive Evolution.” In Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, ed. Dunbar, Robin and Barrett, Louise, 649–67. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Danielsen, Anne. Presence and Pleasure: The Funk Grooves of James Brown and Parliament. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006.
Danielsen, Anne. “Here, There and Everywhere: Three Accounts of Pulse in D’Angelo's ‘Left and Right.’” In Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction, ed. Danielsen, Anne, 1936. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010.
Danielsen, Anne. “Introduction: Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction.” In Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction, ed. Danielsen, Anne, 116. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010.
Doane, Ashley “Woody.” “Rethinking Whiteness Studies.” In White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism, ed. , Ashley “Woody” and Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, 318. London: Routledge, 2003.
Dunsby, Jonathan and Arnold Whittall. Music Analysis in Theory and Practice. London: Faber, 1988.
Dyer, Richard. White. London: Routledge, 1997.
Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi. “The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant's Anthropology.” Anthropology and the German Enlightenment: Perspectives on Humanity, ed. Faull, Katherine M.. Bucknell Review 38/2 (1995): 200–39.
Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi, ed. Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader. London: Blackwell, 1997.
Fink, Robert. “Goal-Directed Soul? Analyzing Rhythmic Teleology in African American Popular Music.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 64/1 (2011): 179238.
Floyd, Samuel A. Jr.Black Music and Writing Black Music History: American Music and Narrative Strategies.” Black Music Research Journal 28/1 (2008): 111–21.
Floyd, Samuel A. Jr. and Radano, Ronald. “Interpreting the African-American Musical Past: A Dialogue.” Black Music Research Journal 29/1 (2009): 110.
Gioia, Ted. “Jazz and the Primitivist Myth.” Musical Quarterly 73/1 (1989): 130–43.
Grant, M. J.Serial Music, Serial Aesthetics: Compositional Theory in Post-War Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Hacking, Ian. “Genetics, Biosocial Groups and the Future of Identity.” Daedelus 135/4 (2006): 8195.
Hodeir, André. “Deux temps à la recherche.” Musurgia 2/3 (1995): 3542.
Holtmeier, Ludwig. “From ‘Musiktheorie’ to ‘Tonsatz’: National Socialism and German Music Theory After 1945.” Music Analysis 23/2–3 (2004): 245–66.
Hoyt, Peter A.On the Primitives of Musical Theory: The Savage and Subconscious as Sources of Analytical Authority.” In Music Theory and Natural Order from the Renaissance to the Early Twentieth Century, ed. Clark, Suzannah and Rehding, Alexander, 197212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Hyer, Brian. “Tonality.” In The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Christensen, Thomas, 726–52. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Johnson, Julian. Who Needs Classical Music? Cultural Choice and Musical Value. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Kajikawa, Loren. “‘My Name Is’: Signifying Whiteness, Rearticulating Race.” Journal of the Society for American Music 3/3 (2009): 341–63.
Keil, Charles. Urban Blues, 2nd ed.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Keil, Charles and Feld, Stephen. Music Grooves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Kelley, Robin D. G.A Sole Response.” American Quarterly 52/3 (2000): 533–45.
Kerman, Joseph. Musicology. London: Fontana, 1985.
Kolchin, Peter. “Whiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America.” Journal of American History 89/1 (2002): 154–73.
Kramer, Lawrence. “Powers of Blackness: Africanist Discourse in Modern Concert Music.” Black Music Research Journal 16/1 (1996): 5370.
Latartara, John. “Laptop Composition at the Turn of the Millennium: Repetition and Noise in the Music of Oval, Merzbow, and Kid606.” Twentieth Century Music 7/1 (2010): 95115.
Lynn, Richard. Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis. Augusta, GA: Washington Summit Publishers, 2006.
McClary, Susan and Walser, Robert. “Theorizing the Body in African-American Music.” Black Music Research Journal 14/1 (1994): 7584.
Middleton, Richard. Studying Popular Music. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1990.
Monson, Ingrid. Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Montag, Warren. “The Universalization of Whiteness: Racism and the Enlightenment.” In Whiteness: A Critical Reader, ed. Hill, Mike, 281–93. New York: New York University Press, 1997.
Munro, Martin. Different Drummers: Rhythm and Race in the Americas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
Nakayama, Thomas K. and Martin, Judith N., eds. Whiteness: The Communication of Social Identity. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1999.
Perchard, Tom. “Tradition, Modernity and the Supernatural Swing: Re-Reading ‘Primitivism’ in Hugues Panassié's Writing on Jazz.” Popular Music 30/1 (2011): 2545.
Pressing, Jeff. “Black Atlantic Rhythm: Its Computational and Transcultural Foundations.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 19/3 (2002): 285310.
Quinn, Eithne. Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
Radano, Ronald. Lying up a Nation: Race and Black Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Ramsey, Guthrie. “Who Hears Here? Black Music, Critical Bias, and the Musicological Skin Trade.” Musical Quarterly 85/1 (2001): 152.
Ramsey, Guthrie. “Secrets, Lies and Transcriptions: Revisions on Race, Black Music and Culture.” In Western Music and Race, ed. Brown, Julie, 2436. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. London: Routledge, 1998.
Riley, Matthew. “Civilizing the Savage: Johann Georg Sulzer and the ‘Aesthetic Force’ of Music.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 127/1 (2002): 122.
Sandke, Randall. Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.
Schenker, Heinrich. Free Composition, trans. Oster, Ernst. 1935. Reprint, New York: Longman, 1979.
Schenker, Heinrich. The Masterwork in Music: A Yearbook, ed. Drabkin, William, trans. Bent, Ian, Clayton, Alfred, and Puffet, Derrick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Scott, Derek B.In Search of Genetically Modified Music: Race and Musical Style in the Nineteenth Century.” Nineteenth-Century Music Review 3/1 (2006): 323.
Shapiro, Peter. “Beats and the Brat.” The Wire 212 (October 2001): 3643.
Solie, Ruth A.The Living Work: Organicism and Musical Analysis.” 19th-Century Music 4/2 (1980): 147–56.
Sudhalter, Richard. Lost Chords: White Musicians and their Contribution to Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Tomlinson, Gary. “Musicology, Anthropology, History.” In The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, ed. Clayton, Martin, Herbert, Trevor, and Middleton, Richard, 3144. London: Routledge, 2003.
Wander, Philip C., Martin, Judith N., and Nakayama, Thomas K.. “Whiteness and Beyond: Sociohistorical Foundations of Whiteness and Contemporary Challenges.” In Whiteness: The Communication of Social Identity, ed. Nakayama, Thomas K. and Martin, Judith N., 1326. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1999.
Ward, Brian. Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations. London: UCL Press, 1998.
White, John. Intelligence, Destiny and Education: The Ideological Roots of Intelligence Testing. London: Routledge, 2006.
Wimsatt, William Upski. Bomb the Suburbs. 2nd ed.New York: Soft Skull Press, 2000.
Yancy, George, ed. White on White/Black on Black. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
Zbikowski, Lawrence M.Modelling the Groove: Conceptual Structure and Popular Music.” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 129/2 (2004): 272–97.
Zeiner-Henriksen, Hans T.Moved by the Groove: Bass Drum Sounds and Body Movements in Electronic Dance Music.” In Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction, ed. Danielsen, Anne, 121–40. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010.
Zuberi, Tukufu and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, eds. White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Society for American Music
  • ISSN: 1752-1963
  • EISSN: 1752-1971
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-society-for-american-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed