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The harmonic perspective of rhythm: applications for the expansion of musical awareness and the acquisition of rhythmically complex music.

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This study describes and evaluates a new paradigm for informed rhythmic practice: the harmonic perspective of rhythm. Normal, theoretically driven or written rhythmic conceptions have tended to rely on a limited grid based on one predominate metric cycle that is expanded by binary division into twos, fours, eights and so on, or by ternary division into threes, sixes, twelves, etc. The harmonic perspective, however, posits that, for much of the world's music, a broader, multidimensional grid is in use. Such a conception allows not only for a wider palette, drawing on metric structures of one through nine and beyond, but also for the simultaneous use of several of those structures, thus rendering those musics in question rhythmically multidimensional. This multidimensionality seems to operate on the level of feel—where two subdivisional references exhibit a unique pull from which different styles and/or performers find their own subtle, non-isochronous balance; on the level of basic compositional structure—where two or more metric structures co-exist in relative balance to create the background of the piece; and on the level of melody and improvisation, where performers draw on more than the usually considered, compositionally prescribed, metric structures for their expression. The viability of this perspective is established using examples from the African Diaspora. Practical exercises as prescribed by Puerto Rican percussionist and theorist Efrain Toro are presented, discussed and evaluated, and the applicability of the perspective to the learning of Indian rhythm is considered. The research is conducted as a subject-centred ethnography, combined with a self-reflexive/auto-ethnographic approach, where the researcher applies his own experience, observations, and insight to questions raised by the study. Foundational discussions of constructed versus experiential knowledge, the author's background, and Indian rhythmic systems precede and accompany the primary discussion.


Doctoral of Philosophy. University of KwaZulu-Natal, November, 2017.