Swing ratio

Dear classmates,

Please read Honing&deHaas 2008 in preparation for Thursday.


Check back soon for guiding questions. Have a great week!


One thought on “Swing ratio

  1. Rather modest but canny, Honing and de Haas (2008) accomplishes two significant points: first, their “study provides further support for the hypothesis that expressive timing generally does not scale with tempo” (471)—the tempo-specific timing hypothesis—or, put from another angle, they find “no evidence for the swing-ratio to scale linearly with tempo” (471); and second and related, the ‘swing ratio’ is “systematically adapted to global tempo” (471). To this brief précis, I have little to add. The authors tightly circumscribe their project, perhaps cautiously—if not appropriately—so. My (musical) intuition could challenge the experimental design in one very obvious (and perhaps idealistic) way: the researchers ask ‘jazz’ drummers, who are ‘conservatory’ trained, to play alone to a metronomic prompt. These rather sterile conditions may hardly be conducive to a cookin’ groove with a live swing feel. I evidently lean on a hunch, and moreover, will seem to perpetrate an audacity by opposing it to experimental empiricism. Yet I am fairly certain that the idea of swing as at least in part a synergetic effect and/or affect has expression somewhere in the discourse, with Charles Keil perhaps. Point is: it seems a rather fair intuition to allow, and a fair caveat to sticker onto the present study. Additionally, the authors are probably aware of this drawback. Perhaps they could host a trio or quartet, and merely record the drummers via the high hat. Or perhaps they could do both: that is, the form of their study and the form of the addendum. The interaction of these two could elucidate my hunch in some respect.

    Finally, a comment of another kind: in this article, as in others, such as Butterfield’s, I come to a sense of an inverse proportion, rather vaguely conceived: the faster the tempo the less the swing—depending, of course, on one’s definition of ‘swing’. Interestingly, the converse seems to be true with samba batucada. With percussion cores, the faster the tempo (e.g., increasing to 130, or to almost 150), the more the unit pulse, sixteenth articulations approach a something like triplet eights with an unspecific fractio. What obtains, actually, I suppose, to be somewhere in between the two: neither regular sixteenths nor regular triplets. At slower and slower tempi (e.g., to 40), this levada, as sambistas sometimes refer to their groove, opens into a straighter and more regular sixteenth. In closing, I suggest that this direct swing-tempo proportion in some samba styles owes the larger part of its constitution to the instruments and performance techniques involved. The different stories of these two proportions tell perhaps another by their juxtaposition: with jazz drumming, the technique seems to straighten a deliberate affect, while with samba drumming, the technique seems to indeliberately bend; yet in both cases, tempo forces change.

    – S P G

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