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James abbington with students and graduates from

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Unformatted text preview: American slaves. Multimeter is a style in which the overall metric pattern consists of a series of measures that are each heard as having a different meter. Polymeter consists of two or more meters occurring simultaneously. Prolongation is a technique in which the duration of the beats gets progressively longer, obscuring the metric pulse. Additive is a technique in which there is no regular metric pulse because beats are continually added. Prolongation and additives represent what some consider to be the essential difference between African and Western rhythm: in traditional Western rhythm, there is a consistent regular pulse that is organized into a recurring pattern (meter) which is then subdivided into smaller beats. In African rhythm, there is a consistent pulse but it is organized into more fluid patterns that are perceived as accumulating rather than being subdivided. Predominance of Human Voice and Percussion The human voice was used extensively and in a great variety of styles. For example in Ghana, the Akan used an "open" vocal quality that is similar to Western European styles, while the Frafra used a more intense tone, and others preferred falsetto. (Roberts, p. 8). Additionally, when singing melodies, singers would employ different techniques to provide variation and ornamentation, such as extending vowels over several different notes, wavering the pitch in a manner which resembles trills or vibrato, treating pitch as a continuum in slides and glissandos (like a siren as opposed to discrete notes), and using "grace" notes which are very short notes preceding the main note. Hence the human voice was used in a great variety of ways to create music. In addition to voice, West Africans relied heavily on percussion instruments. Of the many different kinds of percussion instruments, some were instruments in the conventional sense, including many different drums, bells, gongs, rattles, and xylophones. But West Africans also used other means to contribute to the percussive texture, such as rhythmic use of vocal sounds and handclapping. Use of Call- and- Response 9 Crossroads: Music of American Cultures (Barkley) Kendall Hunt Publishers, 2013 In this practice, a leader sings (or "calls") a phrase and the group responds with the same phrase or an answering phrase. This method of performance was important in the European tradition of responsorial psalmody, which consisted of a soloist alternating with a chorus in the singing of chant. It also developed in the United States in a practice called "lining out" in which psalms or hymns were taught to the members of a congregation by a leader who would sing the phrase first and then the congregation would repeat it. The African practice differed from these two on several accounts. First, while the leader certainly fulfilled an important role, it was the response that was considered the essential part of the tune. Second, in European and American practice, the leader's phrase was a complete unit, while in the African tradition, the response provided the necessary completion of the phrase. And third, the leader's part and the responsive part might overlap. (Brooks, p. 15). Tuning and Tonal Systems A shared approach to tonality in African systems was the use of microtones within a tonal framework. Let us look at microtones first. In Western music, the octave has been divided into 12 equal parts, using 11 different pitches. This "equal temperament" tuning system is the basis for Western scales and harmonies. But in African music, the approach to the octave could be described as a continuum in which the entire span of frequencies is used. These microtones were used primarily by vocalists, who would use them to embellish and ornament melodies. The African tonal framework used heptatonic scales (seven- toned scales that...
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