rock music ("Linda A. Seltzer" )

Subject: rock music
From:    "Linda A. Seltzer"  <lseltzer(at)PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU>
Date:    Tue, 2 Jun 1998 17:29:39 -0400

The first issue is to be more precise about the musical terminology being applied to the discussion. Syncopation appears in many different types of music, including very religious genres of music in Western and non-Western cultures. Syncopation is the accentuation of a weak beat. I view this as occurring in rock music far less frequently than in other types of music. For example, in North Indian classical music it is highly common for performers to improvise by going away from the tala, or rhythmic cycle, and then returning. I have to guess at what the question actually and what the musical technique referred to actually is. I wonder whether Biggs is really referring to the tendency in jazz to start sounding a note just slightly before the beat, so that the note kind of glides into the beat. It's a more subtle effect than a suspension in counterpoint in Western classical music. This leads to a question of the relationship of meaning to musical gesture, and after the storm of discussion about Susan McClary's book several years ago, the tide among music theorists has generally become more favorable to relating music to extramusical meaning, although clearly not as simple sign. In some historical periods it would be appropriate to think of symbol, in the sense that the musical signal is underdetermined with respect to meaning. But I don't think symbol or symbolism are the issues here. I would not easily dismiss an argument that the starting of notes just slightly before the beat and the gliding into the beat would support the ability of rock music to stimulate one's physical energy, for sex or dance, work or sports. As a musician and not a psychologist, I can accept the idea of rock or jazz as stimulating sexuality, although not necessarily in a measurable way that can be reproduced in experiments. Whether music would have enough of an effect to incite a person to violence is another matter, but I suppose that it could contribute along with a lot of other factors. I would guess that the issue of violence is a lot different from the issue of sexuality as far is music is concerned. One could argue the opposite point of view, that rock music could relieve stress in people and reduce the tendency towards violence. Linda Seltzer Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) Information is available on the WEB at

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