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Faculty of Music


Professor Justin London (Carleton College, USA; Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge)

Microtiming in Mande Drumming: Categorical Production and Perception of Non-Isochronous Rhythms

 This presentation will introduce Mande ensemble drumming in general and the Bamana piece “Ngòn Fariman” in particular.  The basic rhythmic patterns and strokes/handsets use in each drum part—the core metric accompaniment, the work-determinative “hook,” and the improvising and regulative lead drum—will be detailed.  The precise timings used in several performances of “Ngòn Fariman,” will then be documented.  Timing data is analyzed within and across several performances to provide evidence of discrete categories of beat subdivision (Long vs. Short) as well as evidence of expressive variations within each category.  The analysis of Ngòn Fariman shows us how familiar aspects of western rhythmic practice—a sense of swing or groove, rubato, and performer-specific timing signatures—are made manifest in other musical/cultural contexts.

JUSTIN LONDON is Professor of Music at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where he teaches courses in Music Theory, The Philosophy of Music, Music Perception and Cognition, and American Popular Music. He received his B.M. degree in Classical Guitar and his M.M. degree in Music Theory from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and he holds a Ph.D. in Music History and Theory from the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked with Leonard Meyer.

His research interests include rhythm and meter, music perception and cognition, the history of the Delta blues, and musical aesthetics. He is the author of several articles in the recent revision of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and the Cambridge History of Western Music Theory. His book, Hearing in Time, (Oxford University Press, 2004, 2nd edition 2012) is a cross-cultural exploration of the perception and cognition of musical meter. He is currently involved in joint research on the microtimings of African rhythm with Rainer Polak (Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln), on the parallel usage and meaning of pauses in speech and music with Sarah Hawkins (The University of Cambridge), and an empirical survey of rhythmic maxima and minima in a representative corpus of classical music with Wei Kunlin (Peking University).

Professor London has served on the editorial boards of Music Theory Online and the Music Theory Spectrum, and on the executive board of Music Theory Midwest, the Society for Music Perception and Cognition and The Society for Music Theory. He was co-director of the 2005 Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory on Rhythm and Temporality and in 2005-2006 he was a visiting scholar at the Centre for Music and Science of Cambridge University under the auspices of a Fulbright Foundation grant. In April 2007 he was a Guest Professor at the International Orpheus Academy for Music & Theory (on "Tempo, Meter, Rhythm: Time in Music after 1950") in Ghent, Belgium, and in 2012 he served as co-chair of the Interdisciplinary College (IK) for cognitive science in Günne, Germany. He served as President of the Society for Music Theory in 2007-2009.

Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 - 17:00 to 18:00
Event location: 
5.00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music