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Polyrhythms, negative space, circuits of meaning: making sense through Dawn of Midi's Dysnomia

  • Thomas Brett (a1)

Dysnomia is a 2013 recording by the jazz trio Dawn of Midi scored for acoustic piano, bass and drums. Eschewing jazz chords, improvisation, swing rhythms and theme and variations, the music is instead organised around repeating rhythmic loops and interlocking melo-harmonic fragments, as one groove assemblage segues into the next like an evolving DJ set. The music sounds equal parts minimal process, electronically sequenced and traditional African. This article engages the musical and philosophical concepts at play in Dysnomia to think through writing about music via three paths of speculative inquiry. The first part of the article considers works by Kodwo Eshun, Paul Morley and David Sudnow, idiosyncratic thinkers outside of the mainstream of academic music discourse who vividly approach writing about music through defamiliarising language and inventing concepts, generating associations based on comparative listening and describing the dynamics of musical process. In the second part of the article I draw on these writing techniques to direct my repeated listening encounters with Dysnomia and construct a prose interpretation modelled on the polyrhythms of the music. I conclude with a brief discussion of the phenomenological perspective on musical essences and suggest that music is a model for thinking through writing about music.

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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