UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Meter as process in groove-based popular music Attas, Robin Elizabeth Sturton


The various genres of North American popular music developed since the 1950s are distinctive for their use of short repeating accompanimental patterns called grooves. Such groove-based popular music often includes many distinctive metrical features that cannot be reflected in standard hierarchical representations of metric structure, such as polyphonic textures, anacrusis, and syncopation. As a result, one crucial aspect of an important modern musical practice has been analytically underappreciated. The processual theory of meter developed by Christopher Hasty offers an alternative analytical framework that, by characterizing meter in terms of particular and constantly changing durations unfolding in time, has the potential to illuminate the important metric features of grooves in a range of popular music genres. By using and further developing such a comprehensive metrical model, popular music scholars can move beyond an existing vernacular that is often inadequate for in-depth musical discussion, and connect analytical observations to an in-time, felt experience, whether in dancing, listening, or performance contexts. In order to fully explore the benefits of this approach to meter in groove-based popular music, this dissertation analyzes a diverse sample of the repertoire from several perspectives. After a general introduction and establishment of the methodological approach, Chapters 3 and 4 detail metric aspects of specific genres of popular music (disco and Motown), while Chapter 5 focuses on a specific technique of groove composition, the buildup, that occurs in a wide range of musical genres. Chapter 6 incorporates the information gained in the preceding chapters into an analysis of a modern groove composition by Janelle Monáe. Throughout, particular metric features of the groove mentioned above are described and theorized in detail, as is the definition of the groove itself. Metric theory is also augmented with deeper consideration of the interplay of repetition and forward drive; listener shifts in attention among durations of different sizes (level shift); and the role of timbre and production techniques in metric interpretations.

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