Rhythmical archetypes in jazz and rock…
|Wednesday February 2nd, 2011
|| Author: Yvetta Kajanová | Posted in: Musicology
Rhythmical archetypes in jazz and rock as cultural manifestation abandoning the national and aiming towards the universal
Issued in Kajanová, Yvetta: Chapter about Jazz and Rock [Kapitoly o jazze a rocku]. Bratislava – Ružomberok : Epos 2003, pp. 48-58.
If we try to explore the rhythm in jazz and rock as a driving movement with a proper and specific organization1, we encounter two types of problems.
First of all, the rhythm is tied by various musical and non-musical aspects – this is where the purely musical problems (such as musical thinking, special musical perception of time, or specific time organization) meet the psychological aspects (the emotionality), acoustical aspects (physical measurability of time) and sociological2 aspects (the specific proprieties of musical rhythm are in close relation to the geographically bound society). This explains the varying understanding of rhythm throughout the European music, African tribal music, etc. (see Sachs 1953, Seashore 1967). Hence in the course of the examination of the issue of rhythm all the above components are to be generalized, for instance by means of special methods of computer-aided or statistical analysis, and the entire issue is to be simplified in order for us to be able to focus on its singular part (see Dorůžka 1977, Tagg 1982).
The second type of problems relates to the effort of expressing the rhythm in writing in form of a musical score.3 In the course of our research into jazz and rock we rely on the traditional way based on empirical methods. It consists of listening to the music found on recordings and the subsequent attempt to translate this music into writing by means of the traditional European scoring method. We are aware of the imperfection of this scoring method as well as of the multiple scoring options for the execution of one single rhythmical passage. Hence the encountered rhythmical or musical phenomena are not always sufficiently expressed in the musical notation thereof, but the running of repeated comparative checks helps finding potential deviations, errors or nuances.
We have analyzed the occurrence of rhythmical archetypes for the individual jazz and rock styles, whereby we considered any shape of jazz or rock commonly referred to by professionals and reporters as being a style. Furthermore, we analyzed a total of 823 examples, of which 403 were to be in jazz styles (ragtime – Scott Joplin, traditional jazz – Buddy Bolden, King Oliver, James Johson, Jelly Roll Morton, Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, Bessie Smith, swing – Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Leroy Holmes, Buddy Rich, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, John Kirby, bebop – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, cool jazz – Modern Jazz Quartet, Stan Getz, west coast jazz – Dave Brubeck Quartet, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Jimmy Giuffre Trio, third stream – Stan Kenton, hard bop – John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd, Charlie Mingus, soul jazz – Ray Charles, free jazz – Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, jazzrock and fusion music – Weather Report, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Oregon, John Abercrombie, Flora Purim and Airto Moreira, Billy Cobham, Steps Ahead, Michael Brecker, Spyro Gyra, mainstream – Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis, Randy Brecker), and 420 examples in rock styles (rock and roll – Bill Haley and Comets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Hallyday, post rock and roll songs – Beatles, Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Animals, Alice Cooper, experimental rock – Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, hard rock – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Who, art rock – Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Queen, electronic rock – Jean Michel Jarré, Jon Anderson and Vangelis, Kraftwerk, punk rock – Sex Pistols, Ramones, Slaughter and The Dogs, Buzzcocks, The Unwanted, The Damned, new wave – Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Blondie, heavy metal – Black Sabath, Metallica, Iron Maden, AC/DC, hard core – Dead Kennedys, Sonic Youth, Exploited, Ramones, Beastie Boys, Body Count, speed metal – Sonic Youth, Exploited, Dead Kennedys, Napalm Death, Ramones, Metallica, trash – Napalm Death, soft rock – U2, gothic rock – Nick Cave, The Mission, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Diamanda Galás, Dead Can Dance, Lacrimosa…, new age – Sade, Enya, heavy metal of the nineties – Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…).
The examples representing the individual styles were selected at random. However the question remains how often do archetypes occur in individual songs, whether the frequency of occurrence differs in jazz and in rock, what is the probability of occurrence and how can the occurrence of archetypes be numerically proven.
For our purposes a song of duration of about 3 to 5 minutes was considered as being an example in rock music. As far as jazz and mainly its modern styles (from the bebop style onward) are concerned, the song duration found here is considerably longer, which is why any alteration of the rhythm pattern occurring after 5 minutes in one song was regarded an individual example. The duration itself is of utmost importance when observing patterns, since the general repetitiveness of patterns is the focus of the conducted analysis (see Zaminer 1972).
Rhythm in Jazz and in Rock Music
First of all let us try to summarize the known facts on rhythm in jazz. On one hand many textbook-style articles speak about a specific rhythm found in jazz calling it syncopated, while on the other hand some theoreticians consider the syncope being a phenomenon found exclusively in European music: “The syncope is naturally an entirely European matter and it is nothing but the exceptional shift of accent from the beat to the off-beat” (see Poledňák 1964, p.107).
Nevertheless they admit a certain similarity to exist between the syncope in European music and the employment thereof in jazz, which taken advantage of in the notation. For example ragtime was syncopated music and in sheet music the offbeat accents are being translated as syncopation (the accents instead of resting on the first and third beat get shifted to the second and fourth beat). But this is only an approximation, which does not express the underlying basis of jazz rhythm (see Gridley 1984). The point of the quoted author is, and we share this opinion, that European music syncope and the specific rhythm of jazz are two totally different phenomena. The ambiguity of this issue is linked to the following assertion: “This, of course, is not supposed to mean that the common syncope is not to be found in jazz“ (see Poledňák 1964, p. 107). Syncopation in European music is rather an exception than a typical feature of organization of the musical structure and time structure, which is the case in jazz or rock music, where it is employed mainly in the melody section (solo instruments) as the source for emerging specific rhythm patterns. And in jazz, it has a considerable share in the creation of the beat-offbeat phenomenon. Syncopation found in rock music patterns rather similar to the one found occasionally in European music.
The explanation of the phenomenon of beat and offbeat in jazz relied on the theory of rhythm zone shifts. “A slight movement ahead or a slightly delayed start of one rhythm zone compared to another rhythm zone creates inter-beat shifts of rhythm, or the so-called inter-beats, which are placed in-between two subsequent beats. …The improvising jazz musician synthesizes several shifted rhythm zones into one rhythmical execution /attempts of an exact notation of the jazz rhythm failed because of the much too complex symbol organization being only optically comprehensible/:
The German musicologist and Africa researcher A. Dauer conducts his work under the assumption that the rhythm of jazz music is based on rhythm zone shifts” (see Wasserberger 1965, p. 320, Dauer 1958, Viera 1970, Bader – Markuse 1994). The impulse to set up the hypothesis on beats and inter-beats as a rhythm feature specific for jazz was provided by the finding of parallel rhythm zones in both, African music and jazz. Nevertheless, the ambiguous terms of beats and inter-beats were to be abandoned and replaced by the now common beat and offbeat terminology (see Matzner, Poledňák, Wasserberger 1983, pp. 228-229).
Embryonic forms of the beat – offbeat phenomenon can already be found in Afro-American folk music, ragtime music and traditional jazz, which was catalyzed by the existence of syncopation, typical blues rhythm, dotted rhythm and other phenomena. Syncopation, blues rhythm, dotted rhythm and the splitting of beats to smaller rhythmical values are as typical features found also in rock music. The difficulties in the comprehension of rhythm in jazz and in rock are multiplied by the complementary understanding of rhythm4, polyrhythm5 and polymetrical part settings6.
The principle of beats and off beats in jazz, complementarity, polyrhythm, and polymetry are at the origin of rhythm patterns. The question remains, whether these patterns share the behavior of archetypes of the specific rhythm of jazz and rock. According to the definition of I. Poledňák, an archetype is a prototype, a protomodel, „the innate experience of a species, corresponding to typical extreme situations of life”…, “ritual formulas of behavior in people’s rituals”,…”archetypes are not to be reduced to archetypal forms, nor to a simple model, furthermore, their existence is merely potential and they undergo an alteration after each execution thereof, they are ambivalent and constantly call for new interpretations…” (see Poledňák 1984, p. 35).
The hitherto conducted research into jazz has focused on identifying the rhythmical formula for the individual style, considering the former an invariable element (see András 1964, Asriel 1985, p. 314-326; Berendt 1974).
The difficulty in examining the archetype of a rhythm pattern is increased by its tendency to vary constantly and to call for new interpretation, whether in the historical periods of the individual styles, or directly during the performance itself – the execution of the song. The way jazz patterns are handled differs from the way rock patterns are dealt with. While jazz is marked by the principle of improvisation and relies on constantly changing, developing, reinventing the pattern and hence on creating new shapes thereof within one song, rock music, as far as the work with pattern is concerned, exploits intensively the principle of repetition, although, truth is, even here certain nuances can be observed and repetitions are not always totally identical. Hence the repetition of a pattern actually becomes a new variation thereof, because seen in the context with the melody section or with real physical time it establishes wholly new relations. In rock music, the variable archetype patterns undergo their modification in numerous songs simultaneously, which those archetype patterns are scattered across, unlike in jazz, where this most commonly happens in one single song.
The patterns in jazz and rock are closely linked to specific musical styles, each of then having their specific boom period. These periods are not measured in centuries, which is the case in European music, but in ten- to twenty-year periods /traditional jazz, swing, rock and roll, hard rock, art rock/ or even less than that /punk rock, gothic rock/. The rule of thumb applies, that in case a certain pattern crystallizes out of a given style, it becomes associated to it and remains that way even after the given style has ceased to be the front line trend in the evolution of jazz or rock. The analysis of patterns of both musical directions could shed some light on the issue of style in jazz and rock, which as far as the modern faces of rock are concerned remains rather obscure and chaotic. Furthermore, it could provide some help in answering the question, whether, the latest developments in rock really are thoroughbred styles /gothic rock, hard core, trash metal, speed metal/ or whether they are but descriptive tools of reporters or the mere inventions of the fans (see Gammond 1991, Panek 1986, Ward, Stokes, Tucker 1986, Bilboard, Melody Maker, New Musical Express). Given the assumption that the rhythm is a specific element of jazz and rock music, the pattern archetypes should appear in both directions in their new “updated” shape.
By means of the structural rhythm analysis it is possible to refine the characteristic rhythm patterns employed during the individual styles periods of jazz and rock respectively and to identify the very basic rhythm pattern – the archetype, which characterizes respectively jazz and rock in general and becomes hence a primal image – a pattern, which stood at the origin of a given musical kind; which was present in the then musical thinking and common conscience. As for jazz, we are talking about the periods of Afro-American folk music, ragtime, and traditional jazz and as for rock music, it is the period of rock and roll and of the first bands /Beatles, Rolling Stones/. This musical pattern should hence reappear in each musical style as the basic starting-point pattern – the archetype, which jazz or rock is based on and which they both keep returning to in each period.
The second focus of our research was the tempo. We took it into consideration in case it represented a complementary characteristic of individual styles or in case it was treated in a given period as a stylistic element. We have also made the attempt to verify the thesis saying jazz musicians prefer the medium fast tempo, for it is best suited for improvisation /this ideal tempo, which, of course, varies according to the character of the piece, is referred to as the bounce/, while in classical jazz the moderate tempo prevails (see Kneif 1978, Panek 1986, Wicke, Ziegenrücker 1985).
Conclusion – First Results
We assumed that rhythm in jazz and rock is manifested thru patters, which represent the archetypes of each musical direction. We tried to determine the modifications of their shape and form in the course of history of jazz and rock. We assumed that if our hypothesis on archetypes of jazz and rock is valid, then there should be certain archetypes, which would be characteristic exclusively of jazz and rock respectively. They should have a specific shape not to be found elsewhere in music. In the course of the historic evolution, individual musicians of certain periods would come back to those patterns, finding a source of new impulses being typical for the give musical direction. And in this course, jazz and rock have often met and influenced one another and so have the rhythm patterns and the archetypes typical exclusively for jazz or rock. Despite all that, it is still possible to identify the rhythm archetypes typical exclusively for jazz or rock music according to the frequency of pattern occurrence in the styles and according to the pattern characteristics.
Example 2 – Jazz
Example 3 – Rock
As for jazz, the tendency to fuse jazz with rock, pop and folklore music began to over-intensify in the 1980´s … and hence also the patterns started to show non-original rhythms calling for an opposite direction impulse to reintroduce the typical jazz patterns back into jazz music. This is a plausible explanation for the efforts of the post-bop synthesis of jazz history in the 1980´s /Wynton Marsalis, Randy Brecker…/. Not unlike jazz, also rock music in the 1970´s assimilated massively patterns from other musical directions – jazz, European music /for example waltz in the group Yes/. This would explain the rise of the punk rock wave denying anything sounding jazzy or at least not rocky enough.
Pure rock styles deprived of all jazz patterns would then be the following ones: heavy metal, hard-core, speed metal, trash metal. The above mentioned basic rhythm archetypes undergo subsequent modifications to create new patterns.
Art rock and experimental rock (Frank Zappa, Velvet Underground) have absorbed rhythm patterns from various sources /European music, jazz/ and try to abandon the standard time signature of 4/4, which in general is typical for modern pop music. Patterns found in hard-core, speed metal and trash metal styles are practically identical. Hence it is not possible to differentiate among those styles from the point of view of the rhythm pattern analysis. The differences here can be found mainly in the ideological background, but the basic musical starting point remains the same, being in all three cases the style of heavy metal.
The cited rhythm archetypes have been found in 178 of the total of 403 jazz examples, which amounts to 44,1 percent. The patterns are hence repeated only in 44,1 percent of the analyzed jazz recordings, that the remainder is different, variable or a product of spontaneous creativity.
The probability of the occurrence of a jazz rhythm archetype is 4:10 according to the following calculation:
m=178, n=403, P(A)=0.441.
This means, that when 10 examples are examined, 4 will feature the jazz archetype and the following 6 will not.
The individual jazz styles, which massively assimilate other then pure jazz elements and challenge the musicians´ creativity, can be this way specified more closely. The occurrence of rhythm archetypes in the individual styles expressed in percentage was to be estimated on the basis of the preliminary tests and it would be desirable to obtain more accurate figures from calculations and to verify those in a large-scale research. We estimate a repetition of the rhythm archetypes of less than 40 per cent in the style of free jazz, which denied all and any conventional approaches, and less than 30 per cent in traditional jazz, where the typical jazz rhythm is only about to emerge. We expect a similar result – a less than 30 per cent occurrence rate of rhythm archetypes – in jazzrock, since rock rhythm archetypes prevail in this particular jazz style. Further more we estimate a pattern occurrence rate of about 50 per cent in bebop, cool jazz and west coast jazz styles, where jazz musicians tried to abandon settled-in stereotypes and started looking for new means of expression. We expect a pattern occurrence rate of about 60 per cent in hard bop, 70 per cent in soul jazz and have about 60 per cent in swing. In ragtime music, no archetypes could be found.
As far as rock music is concerned, the cited rhythm archetypes were featured in 293 of a total of 420 examined examples. Expressed in percentage, this means an archetype occurrence rate of 70.0 per cent and a probability of 0.70, which means, that if 10 examples are examined, 7 will contain a rhythm archetype and 3 will feature a different pattern. Hence the repetitiveness of patterns in rock music reaches 70 per cent compared to 44 per cent in jazz. This means, that in general the work with the rhythm pattern is far more creative in jazz than in rock music. We expect an archetype occurrence rate of roughly 90 per cent in post-rock and roll music, punk rock and heavy metal, of 80 per cent in hard rock, new wave, trash metal, of 70 per cent in rock and roll (here the rhythm patterns are refined whereby also jazz patterns appear), of 60 per cent in gothic rock, electronic rock and soft rock. We estimate an archetype occurrence rate of 50 per cent in art rock, hard core, speed metal and experimental rock. An occurrence rate of as little as 30 per cent is encountered in the new age style and with regard to the philosophical background of this style we believe this style not to be part of rock style family. Again, the archetype occurrence rate expressed in percentage was determined by estimation and is hence not precise.
Table 1 (It assigns the basic indications for comparative analysis.)
|The total number of searching pattern
|Occurrence of archetypes
|The number of searching styles
Table 2 (It assigns probability of occurrence rhythmical archetypes.)
|The probability of the occurrence in numeral coefficient
|The probability of the occurrence in percentage
Table 3 (It assigns occurrence of archetypes in individual styles of jazz in percentage.)
|0 % (occurrence of archetypes)
|West Coast Jazz
|Jazzrock and Fusion Music
Table 4 (It assigns occurrence of archetypes in individual styles of rock in percentage.)
|Rock and roll
|70 % (occurrence of archetypes)
Post-rock and roll music
|Punk rock, heavy metal
|Hard rock, new wave, trash metal, groove
|Gothic rock, electronic rock, soft rock
|Art rock, hard core, speed metal, experimental rock
When we realize, that at present jazz and rock music are being played by musicians all over the world disregarding nationality, then it must follow, that they had to accept the basic norms, which identify jazz and rock music and the rhythm archetypes are part of them. Each culture with jazz and rock music uses rhythm archetypes as elements of characterization with a certain degree of repetitiveness. This is a limiting factor to the introduction national rhythm into jazz or rock. To a certain extent, one can even admit that we are dealing with a denial of national elements of rhythm for the sake of universally valid understanding of rhythm. In this respect, jazz musicians often speak of jazz being a cosmopolitan, transnational music emerging out of a syncretistic process of many cultures. Since musicians of various nationalities and cultures are playing jazz and rock music, this syncretistic process goes on and grows despite the distances among the countries. The reason, why other than archetype-based rhythms are unable to make their way to the top of jazz and rock music, could be to a certain extent commercial – the market is addicted to the present shape of jazz and rock music, which became an industry. The repetitiveness of rhythm archetypes is hence a typical manifestation of jazz and rock only to certain extent, because the laws of supply and demand molded the patterns into their present shape. Never the less, this does not change the fact that rhythm archetypes in jazz and rock music exist. However, a high quantity percentage there of can lead to uniformity.
Rhythm is one of the specific elements of jazz and rock. The beat-offbeat principle of jazz, polyrhythm and polymetry are the origin of rhythm patterns. These patterns behave as archetypes of a specific rhythm in jazz and rock music. The archetype is a prototype, a model, and an innate experience of species. The analysis of the archetype of a rhythm pattern is obstructed by the tendency of the archetype to vary constantly. For jazz patterns a different working method had to be selected. While jazz is based on the principle of improvisation, rock music relies in the work with the pattern more on the principle of repetition. When a musical style engenders a specific rhythm pattern, the latter becomes a typical feature of that style. By means of rhythm analysis, the characteristic rhythm patterns used in the individual style periods can be determined along with the basic rhythm pattern – the archetype, which characterizes jazz and rock in general. This rhythm pattern hence becomes a primal image, a pattern, which was at the origin of given musical direction and which was present in the musical thinking and in the common conscience.
We have analyzed the occurrence of rhythm archetypes in jazz and rock styles. A total of 823 examples have been examined, of which 403 were jazz style examples and 420 rock style examples. In the course of the analysis we identified the jazz rhythm and the rock rhythm archetypes.
The cited rhythm archetypes have been found in 178 of the total of 403 jazz examples, which amounts to 44 percent. The patterns are hence repeated only in 44 percent of the analyzed jazz recordings, that the remainder is different, variable or a product of spontaneous creativity. The probability of the occurrence of a jazz rhythm archetype is 4:10, which means, that when 10 examples are examined, 4 will feature the jazz archetype and the following 6 will not. As far as rock music is concerned, the cited rhythm archetypes were featured in 293 of a total of 420 examined examples. Expressed in percentage, this means an archetype occurrence rate of 70 per cent and a probability of 0.69, which means, that if 10 examples are examined, 7 will contain a rhythm archetype and 3 will feature a different pattern. Hence the repetitiveness of patterns in rock music reaches 70 per cent compared to 44 per cent in jazz. This means, that in general the work with the rhythm pattern is more creative in jazz than in rock music.
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Panek, W. 1986. Maly slovnik muzyki rozrywkowej (Warszawa)
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1 “Nach Platon bedeute Rhythmus Bewegung. Die Bewegung setzt Zeit und Raum voraus. … Nicht jede Bewegung in Zeit und Raum ist Rhythmus. Platon bezeichnete den Rhythmus als eine georgnete Bewegung.” (see Bielawski 1990. p. 13)
2 Several authors (see Gabrielsson 1984, Motte – Haber de la 1968, Stockman 1981) emphasize in searching of rhythm its “motion character”, “motor and psychological aspects”, “feeling gesture”, “sensational character”… Connection of these aspects into musical rhythm creates different deviations in rhythmical understanding of certain region. It follows different remarks between rhythm of Africa, Europe, and India…
3 “Ein primären, pragmatischer Ansatzpunkt bestand in der Transkriptions- und Notationsproblematik. … Eine jahrhundertelange Auseinandersetzung über die Aufzeichnungsprozeduren fand ihren Niederschlag in zwei kritisch-analytischen Verfahren, in der elektronischen Aufzeichnung, mit einer Reihe von quantitativen Messverfahren und gleichzeitig in einer permanenten Quellenkritik, die sich insbesondere auf die rhythmisch-metrische Erfassung von Musik bezog.“ (see Elschek 1990, p. 28)
4 When rhythmical pattern is created by mutual complementary correlation among stresses of individual voices, it occurs complementary rhythm. The traditional jazz is a typical example.
5 In complementary rhythm is used one rhythmical pattern only. Polyrhythm is simultaneous using of two rhythmical patterns.
6 Polymetrical part setting is simultaneous running of two or more measures.