Turn the Beat Around

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Turn The Beat Around (love To Hear Percussion)

Amazon Renewed Like-new products you can trust. Amazon Second Chance Pass it on, trade it in, give it a second life. In the next portion of this paper, I will focus on another feature—namely, the use of asymmetrical patterns. Although I will begin by looking at two musical examples, the majority of my discussion will focus on certain broader questions of rhythmic and metrical theory. Example 4. However, while electronic dance music often features even rhythms very prominently, this is not always the case. See Example 4 , a—e. Thus there is very little to suggest a quarter-note pulse in this track.

In some cases, especially in the former repertory, the number of pulses in the measure is a prime number, which means that the beat patterns comprising the meter must be irregularly spaced. In electronic dance music, however—as in much African percussion music—the measure contains a nonprime number of pulses. On the one hand, scholars such as Robert Kaufmann argue that regularly recurring asymmetrical patterns can become metrical, so that they do not seem syncopated.

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In this work, Lerdahl and Jackendoff posit the regular alternation of strong and weak beats as a precondition for meter. This question is equally applicable to EDM featuring such patterns. In much common-practice-era Western music, departures from the metrical structure end up reinforcing it; they pull against it just enough to call attention to it. Thus Jay Rahn writes:. In each case, they represent persistent deviations from the divisive patterns that accompany them. Ethnomusicologists have observed that African musicians say these sorts of asymmetrical time lines represent an audible point of reference for the ensemble as a whole.

That is, in some instances, African performers apparently find their point of rhythmic orientation within a dense texture not with respect to a pulsating pattern or a divisive, unsyncopated pattern, but rather in relation to a seemingly syncopated pattern that appears to deviate constantly from the meter of the piece. In comparison, meter seems to be more purely referential, a simple yardstick rather than the focus of compositional attention—in the words of Arthur M. Although almost all EDM can be transcribed in 4 4 or, less commonly, 4 2 , the ways in which the music is layered cf.

Rhythm begins to seem not so much like a foreground phenomenon embellishing some deep background structure, but rather as a structurally significant element in its own right. Writers studying other repertoires have suggested similar changes in focus. For instance, Dave Headlam, in a discussion of rhythm and meter in the country blues, writes:. Or is an irregular or, better, not necessarily regular rhythmic approach more appropriate, with any regular surface meter regarded as a compositional and performance by-product of the grouping structures?

Rather than describing these patterns negatively e. In fact, Rahn is one of a number of writers whose work suggests alternatives to grid-based views of asymmetrical patterns. In the rest of this section paragraphs 30—36 , I will explore three of these alternatives.

It is not my goal in discussing this research to suggest an all-encompassing model of asymmetry or, more generally, of rhythm and meter in electronic dance music, for much additional research would needed before such a model could be proposed. I believe, however, that the approaches of these authors will suggest some ways in which the construction of a broader model might proceed. Example 5. This property can also be seen in EDM, which contains many of the diatonic rhythms that Rahn discusses. In other words, each note within the pattern has a unique set of relationships with every other note.

In addition, in contrast to maximally individuated foursquare rhythms for example, half-quarter-eighth-eighth , notes within diatonic rhythms cannot be easily ranked in terms of metrical strength. For instance, attacks within maximally even asymmetrical patterns are almost as regular as metrical beats. Because of the slight irregularities of these patterns, however, each attack has a unique relationship to every other attack, which is not the case in completely even rhythms. These structural features distinguish this type of organization from that of meter, even though the rhythms produced by diatonic organization can coexist with a variety of metrical structures.

In a article, Handel considers how metrical structure interacts with a special type of grouping known as figural organization. The listener attends to the number of tones constituting each group, but not to the exact timing between the groups. This means that different rhythms can have the same figural organization. For instance, in a pulse pattern, the rhythms X. Example 6. Projected Potential Hasty, Example 7. Example 7. Example 8. Deferral from Hasty, Example 9.

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Example 9. Example Nonetheless, they still preserve some sort of separation between rhythm and meter. Another possibility is to reject this division altogether. This is the approach Christopher Hasty takes in his recent book Meter as Rhythm. Instead of seeing metrical accents as a series of timepoints, Hasty characterizes meter in terms of events. He claims that meter arises when the duration of an event is replicated through a process called projection. See Example 6 , a reproduction of his Example 7. In this diagram, capital letters A and B represent two events. At first, we do not know how long A will last.

When B begins, however, the duration of A becomes definite; it now has the potential to be replicated by B. This projective potential is shown by the solid arrow Q; the dotted line Q' shows the projected duration. He then uses these concepts to discuss different types of meter, claiming that certain types involve more complex perceptions than others.

Duple, or equal meter, is the simplest type because it involves the perception of a second event as a continuation of an initial event see Example 7 , part a, in which continuation is shown by the arrow Q. Triple meter involves a more prolonged sense of continuation, as shown in Example 7, part b; it is also more complex than duple because it denies a potential two-beat duration, as indicated by the crossed-out arrow Q in Example 8. Hasty describes this special type of denial as deferral.

In duple and triple, all suggested projections are realized although in the case of triple, the last projection is deferred ; in an asymmetrical meter, however, some projections will never be realized. See Example 9 , in which the potential duration Q', indicated by the dotted line, is denied.

In this way it can provide a convincing account of the richness that one perceives in the rhythmic surface of this music. Rahn provides a structural account of the special characteristics of these rhythms, while Handel and Hasty focus more on issues of perception. Handel suggests an alternate mode of hearing that may play a role in the cognition of such patterns; Hasty, on the other hand, applies the same perceptual principle projection to all meters, while also showing the unique ways it plays out in irregularly spaced meters.

While there are obvious differences between these approaches, they should not be considered mutually exclusive. In fact, I would ultimately conclude that such patterns are not generally metrical in electronic dance music given that they usually occur in conjunction with regularly spaced patterns that can be heard as metrical more easily.

Rather, as these three methods show us, these rhythms have a distinctive presence of their own and should be considered structurally significant in their own right. Displacement dissonances subvert metrical stability; inherently ambiguous patterns encourage multiple interpretations; and asymmetrical patterns counteract the regularity of persistent even rhythms. The common link between all these phenomena is an emphasis on interpretive multiplicity.


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In other words, electronic dance music encourages us to hear it in a variety of ways. As we have seen, this multiplicity functions on many different levels.

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Individual patterns are often intrinsically ambiguous. Furthermore, they frequently remain so even when used in combination: when there is no definitive metrical layer, the distinction between metrical and antimetrical layers may not be apparent. Even when all the elements of a meter are in place, reinterpretations can turn the beat around, showing the listener that the metrical structure was not quite what it seemed to be.

And finally, the persistent repetition of both asymmetrical and even patterns encourages multiple perspectives on rhythmic and metrical structure, thereby undermining any sense that there is a singular structure underlying the music. First, how might the instabilities and ambiguities that I have discussed be played out on a larger scale?

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