Analyzes the rhythmic components in John Lee Hooker’s boogie. Hooker recasts a signature riff from a ternary to a binary beat subdivision, paving the way for the triple-to-duple shift that characterized mid-century American popular music. Further, the boogie’s hypnotic feel is attributed to two psychoacoustic phenomena: stream segregation and temporal order misjudgment. Stream segregation occurs when the musical surface is divided by the listener into two or more auditory entities (streams), usually as a result of timbral and registral contrasts. In Hooker’s case, these contrasts occur between the guitar groove’s downbeats and upbeats, whose extreme proximity also blurs their temporal order. These expressive effects are complemented by global and gradual accelerandos that envelop Hooker’s early performances.
In African-American music studies (jazz, soul, funk, rock), ‘groove’ is a concept with strong, positive connotations. Its principal meaning describes the music’s effect on musicians and listeners: music with a good groove incites people to engage emotionally with the music and to participate with their bodies. Groove makes people dance, bob their heads, and tap their toes. There have been two major scholarly approaches to the groove phenomenon: one focusing on groove as a process, another explaining it from a structural perspective. This double meaning has a basis in the parlance of musicians themselves: jazz musicians use the verb ‘to groove’/’grooving’ in order to denote the process or activity of playing successfully together in such a way that musicians and listeners participate both emotionally and bodily in the music. Music also use the noun ‘a groove’ in order to talk about a particular pattern of composition or arrangement. ‘Grooving’ (in the verbal sense) can happen on the structural basis of ‘a groove’ (in the substantive sense). The inverse is also true in a beat-oriented musical context: when musicians are ‘grooving’, they do it on the structural basis of ‘a grove’, which can be described in analytical way.
The rhythm (groove) of Western popular music cannot be described in just one string of notes or rhythmic symbols; all the interacting rhythms played by different instruments have to be included in the analysis. The instruments have different perceived beat-weights, that is, different strengths to establish meter. On a metrical level chosen by the listener there exists an off-beat—an event in the temporal middle between beats. If an instrument with a higher beat-weight is played on the beats, an off-beat feeling is produced. There is a qualitative difference in perceiving grooves with higher and lower ‘degrees of off-beat’. Finally, there seems to exist a relation between the perceived meters and the motor action of a listener, which he or she uses to perceive the rhythm. It is possible for a listener to move in different ways simultaneously and, according to his or her motor actions, peceive several meters at the same time.