restricted access 3. A Strange Absence
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

3 - AStrange Absence For those of us with training in the percussive rhythms of Guinea Coast music (cf. Richard A. Waterman 1952, discussion in Merriam 1953), much of our Guinea Coast experience is inapplicable to the blues. This is so not just because of the absence of drums and complex polyrhythms in early blues; there is, in addition, the very specific absence of asymmetric time-line patterns in virtually all early twentieth-century U.S. African-American music, except in cases where these patterns were borrowed from Puerto Rico or Cuba. Only in some New Orleans genres does a hint at simple time-line patterns occasionally appear in the form of transient so-called "stomp" patterns or a stop-time chorus (cf. Brothers 1994: 492 for an example). These do not function in the same way as African time-line patterns. New Orleans is, after all, a rather different culture. The nineteenth-century so-called Creole dances, such as "counjaille," "bamboula ," "chacta," and "juba," had an influence on early jazz (Borneman 1969: 103). Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues," based on a Creole song, is the most famous example. There are also other tunes in Morton's work exemplifying the fact that New Orleans is culturally also part of the Caribbean. In Ernest Borneman's opinion, what preceded New Orleans jazz before 1890 was "AfroLatin music similar to that of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad and San Domingo " (1969: 104). Surely, this music must have incorporated some notion of time-line patterns, while other popular music in late nineteenth-century New Orleans, based on European dance forms such as the mazurka, polka, waltz, schottische, and quadrille, and the standard European instrumentation and even line-up perpetuated in early New Orleans Jazz ensembles (cf. zur Heide 1994) obviously did not incorporate them. (On New Orleans dance music of the 18905 51 PHOTO 12. Fife and drum music played at a picnic near Senatobia, Mississippi, September 1970. Napoleon Strickland, fife; R. L. Boyce, snare drum; Jimmie Buford, bass drum; Othar Turner, dancing. (Photo: David Evans) see also Gushee 1994, where its transformation to jazz is dated rather specifically to ca. 1893—95). Borneman (1969: 100) eventually postulated that it was precisely during the years when New Orleans jazzmen migrated to Chicago to be recorded for the first time that jazz lost its "Spanish tinge" and was reduced to straight 2/4 and 4/4 time. However, in other more European-derived and only slightly Africanized traditions of the South, time-line patterns were absent from the start—for example, in post-Civil War fife-and-drum music, in spite of its variousverbalized rhythms such as "Granny, will your dog bite? No, child, no" (Evans i972a). A performanceby the last survivingexponentof this tradition, eighty-nine-yearold Othar Turner, videorecorded by us at Clarksdale, Mississippi, on August 2, 1997, vividly demonstrates how additive metrical patterns—no doubt African in concept—persist in the rolling drum rhythms within his various cycles; but there are no asymmetric time-line patterns. The absence of Guinea Coast timeOut of Africa 52 line patterns in U.S. African-American music, therefore, does not constitute a later-state "loss." What are time-line patterns? Under this term, coined by J. H. Kwabena Nketia in the 19505 (cf. Nketia 1961: 78), we understand mostly single-pitch structures struck on an object of penetrating timbre, such as a bell, the body of a drum, concussion sticks, and so forth, to serve as time-keeping devices,orienting musicians and dancers. It was A. M. Jones who first uncovered their structure, transcribing such patterns among the Babemba of Zambia (Jones 1954: 59) and later among the Ewe (Jones 1959: 210) with a transcription machine of his own invention. These patterns are characterized by an irregular, asymmetric structure within a regular cycle, and they range from ubiquitous eight-pulse cycles to the most complex asymmetries filled into a 24-pulse frame. A unique structure, whose invention could have coincided with the early stages of formation of the Kwa (I.A.4) and Benue-Congo (I.A.5) families of African languages on the Guinea Coast and in the Nigeria/Cameroon grassland areas, is a well-known twelvepulse pattern that has been called the "standard pattern," a term coined by A. M. Jones during lectures in the 19505 and introduced into the literature by Anthony King (1960). With the slave trade this pattern was exported to various places in the Caribbean, notably Cuba, and to Brazil, where...

  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access