Dissertation Index

Author: Attas, Robin E.S.

Title: Meter as Process in Groove-Based Popular Music

Institution: The University of British Columbia

Begun: September 2006

Completed: April 2011


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.

Keywords: rhythm; groove; meter; disco; Motown; Christopher Hasty; metric projection; popular music analysis; process; Janelle Monae


Chapter 1: A Theory You Can Dance To
Chapter 2: Methods for Metric Analysis of the Groove
Chapter 3: Meter in the Disco Groove
Chapter 4: Meter in the "Motown Sound"
Chapter 5: Groove Buildups
Chapter 6: The Modern Groove
Chapter 7: "Keep on Dancing" (Conclusions and Future Directions)



Dissertation available electronically at: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/33822

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