Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview

The Shape of Time in African Music

Ruth M. Stone

The time is now.
All days are not equal.
AFRICAN TAXI MOTTOES

Summary For a century, comparative musicologists and ethnomusicologists studying African music have marveled at and speculated about the rhythms by which performers organize their musicmaking. This study examines the implicit ideas of temporality in the work of these scholars, relating these ideas to broader concepts of African time and suggesting that their configuration represents an alternative to Western linear quantitative time. While the focus is song time, other time levels are briefly considered as they relate to song time: event time, biographical time, life-cycle time, stylistic time, and historical time.

The study of African rhythm seized the imagination of scholars from the earliest European scrutiny of African music, and an important issue has been the search for an organizing principle. Whether identified as the downbeat of the big drum by W. E. Ward, the motor activity of the body by Erich M. von Hornbostel, the metronome sense by Richard Waterman, or handclapping by A. M. Jones, all assume an underlying equally spaced beat or pulse, as Alan P. Merriam aptly pointed out. Such an assumption should not surprise us because Western clock time, as well as much Western art music of the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries, is based upon the homogeneous division of time.

During my own research of Kpelle music in West Africa, particularly the Wọi* epic, I determined that the idea of a single organizing beat with equally divisible units is quite obscure in Kpelle conceptualization. A multiplex basis appears to ground the organization for the Kpelle.

Recent work on hemiola, inherent rhythms, the time line, mnemonic syllables, and transaction suggests that African music emphasizes qualitative over quantitative elements, the delineation of a three-dimensional space, and motion. A consideration of other aspects of time in African societies supports such conclusions.

African music compels not only the people who create it, but also those scholars who have tried to study it. The rhythm--apparently special and unusual--arrests our attention as we wonder how these artists achieve such constellations of sound, of movement. In this paper I will explore both scholarly and indigenous concepts used to explain time in African music and identify the most interesting and powerful ideas in light of data available. I will argue that African rhythm is organized on a multiplex basis derived from a motion-filled, threedimensional spatial conceptualization with a qualitative focus.

African musical performance is an exciting and often dazzling mélange of singing, dancing, speaking, masquerading, and acting. In a closely intertwined event these modes of communication fuse in a way that makes it difficult to separate and analyze. Ethnomusi

____________________
*
In the orthography, ọ = o, ṇ = η, y = λ and & = ε ọ is pronounced "aw" as in awful, ṇ is pronounced "ng" as in sing; & is pronounced "ch" as in the German ach; & is pronounced "eh" as in let.

-113-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Time, Science, and Society in China and the West
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 262

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.