IASPM Paper Preview: David Pearson, Musicology

Date(s) - 02/13/2015
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Thesis Room (3102)


Join us for a paper preview by Musicologist David Pearson. Information about the paper is as follows:

Bell Patterns, Polyrhythms, Propulsive Subdivisions, and Semitones: The Affective Dimension of Late-1990s New Orleans Rap Beats

In the late 1990s, Cash Money Records burst into the rap mainstream with a distinct musical style that has come to impact rap and pop music more generally. The polyrhythmic beats concocted by Mannie Fresh demonstrate a distinct representation of place by drawing on a long history of Black musical practices in New Orleans and in their engagement with local rap style and audience tastes. The bourgeois aspirations of the Williams brothers, founders and owners of Cash Money Records, illuminate the importance of Black ownership in negotiating success within the particular constellation of the late-1990s national rap market while maintaining a high degree of aesthetic agency.

A close musical analysis and musical transcriptions of beats on the first two albums of Cash Money rapper Juvenile will demonstrate the prevalence of a particular bell pattern, a polyrhythmic and polymetric sensibility, a propulsive use of intricate subdivisions that create punctuation, linear momentum, and circular motion, and an array of melodic motives that often emphasize semitone motion. Besides distinguishing New Orleans from other regional streams of rap, these musical devices create an affect that values the pleasure of dance and highlights the collectivity and conflicts among residents of New Orleans’ housing projects. Furthermore, they provide a sonic setting for lyrics depicting the grim reality of economic and social life conditioned by the centrality of the drug trade and an irreconcilable antagonism with the state repressive apparatus.



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