“Disjuncture and Continuity in Verses of Rap”
Mitchell Ohriner (Shenandoah Conservatory)
Thursday, March 7, 4:30 PM, Stoeckel 106
Abstract & Bio:
In recent studies of popular music by Lawrence Zbikowski and others, a distinction is made between two performance forces: a collection of players whose combined patterns of pitch and rhythm constitute a groove, and one or more soloists who play against this groove. Rap music can be viewed through this prism as well: the “players” constituting the groove are often preexisting samples or electronically generated parts, and the rapper creates verses against this groove. But many rappers seek to reinforce the groove by fashioning patterns of rhythm, rhyme, and syllabic stress that complement the preexisting instrumental groove. At the same, constraints of rhyme and text encourage multiple such patterns to be presented within a single verse. This multiplicity of vocal grooves, in contrast to the invariance of the instrumental groove, draws attention to the boundaries of successive vocal patterns. This paper compares the delivery of two different rappers, Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) and Antwan André Patton (aka Big Boi) in terms of the salience of these boundaries between vocal patterns. Whereas Patton works to smooth these boundaries over, drawing continuity over an entire verse, Mathers uses abrupt disjunctures of vocal delivery to highlight disjunctures of tense and affect in his personae. In order to document these vocal patterns, several analytical methods are also presented, including the annotation of onset and volume in spoken language and the plotting of performed durations against the meter.
Mitch Ohriner is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Shenandoah Conservatory. He completed M.M. and Ph.D. in music theory at Indiana University and holds a B.M. in music composition from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His primary scholarly interests lie at the intersection of performance, analysis, and cognition, topics he has explored in his dissertation, “Durational Contours and Enacted Meaning in Recorded Performances of the Music of Chopin.” At regional, national, and international conferences he has presented work on these and other topics as diverse as the social contexts of Mozart piano concertos, rhythmic perception in Bartks music, and issues of agency in Schuberts piano sonatas. Collaboration and scholarly community building are at the center of his concerns, and while at Indiana he coauthored a study on the influence of timbre on melodic dictation outcomes and organized a two-day conference on performance and analysis that brought together performers, musicologists, and music theorists.
Mitchell Ohriner’s article “Grouping Hierarchy and Trajectories of Pacing in Performances of Chopins Mazurkas” has been published in Music Theory Online. He also contributed to the International Symposium on Performance Science 2011 (Toronto, Canada).