Swing-based meter

The theoretical thrust of this complex empirical project has been to argue that stable patterns of non-isochronous beat subdivision timing (swing timing patterns) in Malian drumming can constitute metric structure. This contradicts the conventional explanation of swing timing as a phenomenon of expressive performance timing, which would -- so the assumption goes --deviate from some assumedly underlying reference structure based on isochronous metric subdivisions or pulses.

The equation of metric regularity with isochrony is a veritable axiom in a broad range of discourses, from Africanist musicology to Western music theory to music psychology, musical neuro-science and biomusicology. Virtually all Western metric theories assume the perceptual referencing function of meter to rest on the human tendency to search for, recognize and anticipate isochronous periodicities in patterned events going on in the environment. This assumption is inconsistent, however, with the rhythms found in music from Scandinavia, the Balkans, Turkey, the Near East, and India, among others. My work provides additional evidence for uneven (non-isochronous) pulses in musics from Africa and its diasporas, which is inconsistent with the isochrony-presumption.

You can download a forthcoming survey article (in press) here. For more details on my empirical work, see the following subpages.