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Reply #1: right in their gross conclusion, but perhaps deeply ethnocentric [View All]

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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-07-05 08:49 PM
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1. right in their gross conclusion, but perhaps deeply ethnocentric
As I understand it, Macedonian music in particular is rhythmically organized around a concept of fundamental meter (takt?), and this is not inconsistent with the way rhythm is understood in Western European musics. The main distinction would be one of simple vs. complex meters.

I was surprised that the authors, Hannon and Trehub, cited works on Indian music, but did not note the difference between additive and divisive approaches to meter. Robert Garfias provides a good discussion of that distinction with reference to Indian talas in his online instructional chapter, How Music Organizes Time (pdf). Philip Glass once recounted a similar process of discovery and discovery yet again during his collaborations with Ravi Shankar. From personal experience I can say that whenever a Classical Indian musician has tried to demonstrate talas to me (and melodic construction in general), it truly has seemed like an additive principle, and not reducible to an "ordinary" concept of meter.

Nketia's The Study of African Music (1974), borrowing an idea from Brandel, argued that the additive principle was a hallmark of African music. As far as I know that has not been discarded, though it has been challenged, notably by Kofi Aguwu. Actually, I'm not sure I understand Agawu's point on this matter. I think he gives Nketia short shrift.

Be that as it may, I believe the proper scientific attitude towards meter should be that we do not know that it is a universal perceptual category. We have examples of what appear to be heierachical temporal structures in various music systems, but we do not fully understand the possibilities for interplay between these levels. It could be that the level which appears to be a fundamental category of perception in one system corresponds to a secondary level in another. Perception in terms of duration ratios may well be a universal, but beyond that the variation may be more extreme than the authors acknowledge.

Well, I haven't read all the cited works, and am by no means an expert on this topic. I would be glad to get an earful from somebody who is. It produced strong evidence for its main hypothesis. I should like to see further studies done along these lines.
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